We’ve entered a brand new period of new-but-not-so-different fanatic vehicles. Whether or not it’s a Blackwing, a GR86 or a Fairlady, “new” has taken on a distinct that means. Take the 2022 Subaru WRX. Its platform is “new” regardless that it debuted six years in the past on the usual Impreza. Its engine is “new” regardless that it shares most of its structure with the smaller boxer it changed. Its sheet steel is “new” regardless that, at the very least aside from the relatively intentionally in-your-face plastic fender cladding, it’s fairly onerous to inform the distinction.
Final yr, I praised the WRX’s poise and steadiness, and I dinged it for its perhaps-too-short gearing — oh, and the truth that it will possibly’t be geared up with the adaptive suspension or drive mode choice techniques that had been firewalled behind the brand new GT trim. “STI is coming,” I mentioned. Yeah, sorry about that.
You most likely know the remainder: Subaru got here together with the internal-combustion STI’s loss of life certificates and turned the entire system on its ear. So, that is it — the one technique to get a handbook, gasoline-powered Impreza with a turbocharger. And, thus far at the very least, Subaru has no intention of providing it with all of the bells and whistles that can be obtainable on the brand new, CVT-only WRX GT. Which means Subaru has put all of its AWD fanatic eggs into this single World Rally Blue basket.
They’re some fairly shiny eggs, at the very least. Its new 2.Four-liter boxer-four makes 271 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. Subaru says the bigger engine presents a much wider torque curve than the one it replaces. All of that goes by means of a six-speed handbook gearbox (on this case, anyway) and normal all-wheel drive.
And whereas the roads I traversed in northern California final yr had been removed from immaculate, they don’t have anything on the cratered ideas of outdated infrastructure that move for roads in higher Detroit. Subaru mentioned the WRX’s new, stiffer chassis allowed them to melt the experience. We already know that it didn’t uninteresting the WRX’s reflexes any; time to see if it paid dividends in experience consolation.
However first, I’ve to admit one thing: I’ve by no means actually been an enormous fan of the WRX. Positive, it’s nice on paper and I’ve at all times loved turbocharged sport compacts, however each time I’ve piloted a plain-Jane WRX, I’ve discovered it underwhelming. Blame it on the Impreza’s characteristically tough edges, the parasitic lack of the AWD drivetrain or the ho-hum interiors, take your choose, however I’ve simply by no means been that keen on the expertise.
Even after the NorCal jaunt, I wrote off my better-than-expected impressions to the truth that Subaru had an excessive amount of management over our driving surroundings. Right here, near house (and 500 miles from Subaru’s New Jersey headquarters), they’d haven’t any such alternative. Absolutely, I figured, the spell could be damaged. Not so.
In reality, the chassis and suspension enhancements are much more apparent right here. The WRX shrugs off Michigan’s damaged pavement admirably and with out extreme criticism from its traction or stability management techniques, even within the moist. And whereas first and second gear could also be quick, the all-wheel-drive system encourages you to make use of them to their fullest extent. Plus, Subaru did a wonderful job conserving the WRX’s drivetrain lash in examine, so that you received’t really feel such as you’re making an attempt to interrupt a horse if you must modulate the throttle aggressively at increased RPM.
For the primary time, driving a WRX really clicked. In reality, I started to take pleasure in it maybe slightly too a lot, digging in from nearly each cease and ham-fistedly making use of energy out of corners. The stereotypical midwestern AWD sport compact driver could also be a dying breed by easy advantage of the truth that the requisite vehicles are fewer and farther between, however a brand new one was very practically created deep within the Autoblog lab.
Now, the unhealthy information. The WRX has the identical infotainment choices because the Outback: a weird dual-screen setup for the bottom trim degree we haven’t sampled, and this Restricted trim’s portrait-style single touchscreen. Whereas actually higher than previous Subaru efforts, it’s nonetheless removed from good. In my first expertise with the system, I discovered the UI to be crowded and unintuitive, and it contains some quirky options that make the training curve particularly punishing. Display screen responsiveness is merely so-so, with some on-screen components requiring a number of presses to register. And in case you take too lengthy to navigate a sub-menu it is going to merely vanish, assuming that you just turned distracted and not wanted no matter introduced you there within the first place. Truthfully, the smaller screens and accompanying UI discovered within the Ascent, Forester and Crosstrek is likely to be higher.
The manual-equipped WRX additionally does with out the EyeSight suite of driver help tech (as does the handbook BRZ). So if you would like adaptive cruise management, lane-departure warning or slightly additional assist in detecting oncoming deer, it’s the CVT for you — at any time when Subaru will get round to constructing some, that’s. Its introduction was staggered (doubtless as a result of ongoing chip scarcity points) and we have but to listen to precisely when to count on the loaded-up GT mannequin aside from “quickly.”
Subaru will at all times be slightly tough across the edges, however the brand new WRX brings sufficient to the desk to make the trade-offs worthwhile. We’d nonetheless like to see the adaptive suspension migrate all the way down to the manual-transmission WRX, however as fastened metal setups go, this one’s onerous to beat. For my cash, I’m most likely nonetheless wanting on the BRZ sitting subsequent to it within the showroom, however for as soon as I wouldn’t fault you for going the opposite method. The WRX is now the king of Subaru’s rally-inspired sport compacts, and till an electrified STI arrives, that is most likely about as “new” as efficiency vehicles from our favourite all-wheel-drive model will get.