Confession time. I don’t do so well with the whole “daily driven” concept. I’m simply too OCD. Can’t get dirty. Always on top of maintenance. Then the mods start. Before you know it, my daily isn’t really a daily anymore. And the ones I’ve picked, like the 328i, were kind of…boring? But what if they made a practical car that was cheap to own, provided driving enjoyment, and was able to easily get out of any bad weather vibe. Did I just name a Subaru WRX?
Does a daily need to be dreadful?
The 2022 Subaru WRX GT overview
We do it to ourselves, no? The special car goes in the garage, and the daily gets left out in the cold. “I’ll get my kicks on the weekend”, but meanwhile you’re spending all your driving time behind the wheel of old faithful.
But me, I’m Goldilocks. Not to rough, not too bad on gas. Not too expensive so I am able to leave it outside without a heart attack. Really, it needs to be just right.
The WRX is.
Where’s the Mitsubishi Evo? The Focus RS? The graveyard. And sorry, how much is a Golf R? The Subie lives in a spot within the market that no other car occupies. It’s a tenacious little son of a gun, and it won my heart.
Performance Score: 8. Subie-do
Let’s dispense with the suspense, shall we? The WRX is not going to give you nose bleeds on your way to 60 miles an hour. All-season tires reduce grip in the corners. It’s very likely the slowest car I’ve ever reviewed. But that means you get to push it to achievable limits on the street, and that can make it more fun than cars with double the power.
Blindfold a car enthusiast, sit them outside, and ask them what cars drive by. Bet they can pick out a Vette. A BMW (Poppity-pop-pop-pop!) And of course, a Subaru boxer-four. I know that thrum anywhere.
Finally banished completely from the WRX (the STi still had it) is the old EJ four-cylinder, replaced by the FA. The last generation WRX also had the FA, but here it’s been refined and massaged to squeeze out a few more horses, 271. A solid wave of torque envelopes you as you surge off the line, but the car reveals its limited power once you dig into the upper ranges. Passing on the highway is a wee bit more tense than I like. An electronic throttle with three settings isn’t very helpful – the first two only exacerbate the sluggishness of the engine.
Four exhaust pipes out the back can fool you into thinking the WRX will be loud. It is not. In fact, it sounds pretty much like a regular Impreza. No turbo whistle or exhaust boom whatsoever. Come on Subaru, we know who’s going to buy this car – give us some more noise!
Guess I’ll need to add an intake and exhas…see, there I go again.
This is by far the worst part of the WRX. Subaru puts in a CVT, or Continuously Variable Transmission, that really neuters the engine. I’ve never met a CVT I liked, and certainly not one in a performance car.
They call it the Subaru Performance Transmission (SPT), and it has paddle shifters that mimic an eight-speed transmission. But there’s really no point to pull on them, so eager is the WRX to get back into regular “D” mode. It hangs onto revs like an Italian mom on your wedding night, and provides no snap during acceleration.
It does work well with the all-wheel drive system, seamlessly putting power down where it needs to go.
Thankfully a stick is offered, though not on the GT trim. That’s fine, but it’s a shame because I think I like the idea of an automatic daily.
Chassis and Steering
If the CVT is the worst, the chassis is the best. This car is so light and tossible, yet so well-behaved on the highway.
The WRX is let down a bit by steering that’s numb right off-center, but once you build some speed (or the road becomes dirt) it comes alive and provides great feedback. It’s not as precise as something in a Mercedes, but you want that play here as you saw at the wheel and hang out the tail for some sick drifts, bro.
The chassis provides a comfy ride down the highway, with well-controlled body motions. It’s a much better setup than in the Z, despite economy car roots.
The GT trim is the only WRX to get an electronically adjustable suspension that hilariously cuts the pizza even more ways; Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport +. The ride in Sport + isn’t very nice at all, and there’s not much difference between Comfort and Normal. Put your WRX in Sport on day one, and you can leave it there until you sell the car.
I do hope the lower trim WRXs doesn’t use “comfort” as their base tuning.
They say that a car without huge discs is simply “traffic”, so fine, the WRX won’t make you go “whoa” over its braking setup. And yea, the calipers are nothing special, with no branding (or painting) on the calipers.
Don’t need it. The brakes work great, with even pedal response and gradual push back. It’s pretty hard to get any car I test to show brake fade on the street, so short of saying “watch this” and slamming the brakes over and over, you won’t find any.
The Subaru WRX comes with summer rubber, but the one tested here had a set of all-seasons for winter driving. Great for taking it off-road, these Michelin PS tires hindered responses on pavement a bit.
This top GT has a few bits like the aforementioned electronic suspension that are nice to have but definitely not needed. It’s a good way to cut down on the MSRP.
Utility: 9. No wonder dogs love them
The WRX is perfect for a young family, an old family, your single brother who just won’t “grow up”, and everyone in between. It’s a car your mom can get in and drive without turning to you and saying “is it supposed to do that?”
There’s a huge trunk with fold-down seats, and a nice back seat that has some cool-looking bolstering and Alcantara mixed in. I’m actually not sure about that fuzzy finish, because it tends to make you hot, and I don’t mean the glow-up kind.
In the front, the GT comes with a set of Recaro sport buckets that are very good if I weighed 20 pounds less. Try before you buy, but I do recommend them (they are only available on the top trim, so you can’t get them with a manual).
Feels bigger than the M3 in here, with nice big windows and tons of room for everyone. Your brother doesn’t have to grow up yet.
Economy: 4. Eco-no-my
You take a big hit for the all-wheel drive system. The EPA says 21 MPG combined, but I saw closer to 19 during the car’s stay.
I’d like to call out the fact that the manual offers better economy (by 1 MPG), so add another strike for the CVT. You want a four-cylinder to be economical, but despite power levels around that of a 330i, the WRX achieves almost 10 MPG less.
The Subie actually has a larger gas tank than that 3 Series too (16.6 gallons vs 15.6), so fill-ups are no thrill.
Features and Comfort: 7. Big boy toys
GT stands for Grand Touring of course, and the WRX comes with everything you’d expect of a modern car. Judge for yourself whether or not you need things like steering assist or Subaru EyeSight, but I think the car makes more sense in lesser trims.
Old School meets new cool
Once you settle into those Recaro seats, you’ll see some things that will be familiar to anyone that’s driven a Japanese car in the last oh..30 years? Things like real dials! They are clear and easy to read, with a nice digital readout in the middle to pull up some important info. What’s nice here is that unlike the Z, the WRX is not tied to its legacy, so Subaru isn’t really beholden to keep things they don’t need.
Maybe now is a good time to mention one big issue for me, which is the way they mount the gas peddle. Instead of being attached to the floor, it hangs from above, and it’s tiny. I like to rest my foot on the floor and “roll” it onto the gas, but that’s not possible in the WRX because the pedal hangs so far above the carpet. It’s an issue that plagues many cars, but particularly Japanese ones.
Elsewhere, there is a gigantic center screen that’s laid out in a portrait orientation, which is great for navigation and not needing to reeeach over to tap some buttons. Subaru’s infotainment system isn’t terrible, being better laid out than Kia’s. But there are still too many haptic buttons I need to look at versus simply feel for.
Finally, the flat-bottom steering wheel feels great and aside from a gigantic airbag hub, looks the part. Actually, you could say that about the entire interior. It’s not luxury, but it looks the part and gets the job done.
No claps for cladding
The WRX suffers from an issue many modern cars do, which is all this unpainted contrasting lower body cladding. BMW M might paint theirs gloss black, but it’s the same thing.
On an Outback, it makes a little more sense. You planned on taking yours into the brush off-road, right? On a WRX, I think the body would be better painted a single shade. Or, you know…painted at all.
Otherwise it’s typical WRX, with a big hood scoop that shakes at 60 mph, quad exhaust tips that give mini-M3 feels, squared off rear fenders, and a small deck lid spoiler. It’s a subtle look that moves away from the boy-racers of yore. It’s also the best-looking WRX to date.
The 2022 Subaru WRX has everything you need to get your daily driving fix
Don’t mistake “daily” here as a derogatory word. It simply means that as the car you spend the most time in, no slack should be given for a lackluster driving experience.
This more mature WRX may have crept up in price from the last generation, but it’s a justifiable approach as the Civic Type R and others have jumped even more, while offering none of the WRX’s dual threat personality of rally and street. Perhaps only the VW GTI offers more refinement for this price. I dare not even mention a car like the 2 Series Gran Coupe, even though I just did.
I’d take a WRX home. High praise around these parts.
So don the backwards baseball cap, put Limp Bizkit on the stereo, and keep on rollin’ bay-bay.
Now, hand me that coffee can exhaust…
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