PLEIADES ICE PROTO POWER: In a page taken taken out of fervent, almost blind religious following, one quirky mainstream automotive brand has developed two divergent sets of die hard devotees. The busier side of the Subaru brand showroom attracts the outdoor adventure lifestyler headed for light off road treading, with visions of Subaru Brat. The other side of the store finds the proto rally tuner enthusiast with visions of the winningest WRC Group N homologated WRX STI staging at the Olympus Rally. (This is not to discount either the Toyobaru BRZ rear wheel drive coupe and Solterra SEV located in the corners.)
As disparate as these two Subaru Sub Cults seem, there exists a symbiosis of flat four cylinder engines and all-wheel drive. Since sharing goes both ways, now there is an all new 2022 Subaru World Rally EXperimental peformance sedan, which has adopted the outdoor adventure cues from the other side of the dealership floor.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
WHAT: 2022 Subaru WRX 5th Generation high performance all-wheel drive 2+3 compact in the brand’s homologated World Rally eXperimental line with no Subaru Tecnica International series planned. The latest VB Series WRX replaces the WRX VA series and now runs aboard a distinct variant of the modular Subaru Global Platform.
• Powertrain: 2.4L DOHC 16V DI intercooled turbocharged gas Horizontally opposed-4 = 271 hp/ 258 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
• Drivetrain: 6-speed manual helical transaxle + Symmetrical viscous coupled locked center differential all-wheel drive
- 50:50% nominal to 80:20%, 20:80% F:R torque split (manual transmission)
40:60% nominal to 50:50% F:R torque split (Performance CVT)
- 50:50% nominal to 80:20%, 20:80% F:R torque split (manual transmission)
• Drivetrain (Optional): Performance CVT w/ 8 ratio steps & steering wheel shift paddles
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE(S): Further distanced from any connection with the Impreza economy car, the 2022 Subaru WRX wears head to toe wide dark grey cladding, typical of Subaru off-road crossovers. Emphasized & squared at the fenders and rear quarters renders width and the illusion of a lift. A bow-tie front fascia emphasizes straked corners while the clad rear lower fascia houses dual double exhaust tips outboard and substantial middle diffusing. Despite a still tall greenhouse, the rear backlight is more sharply raked while an a cinched trunk lid bows outward. The resulting near fastback profile dispatches the previous WRX VA‘s econo box on steroids look.
“LEgacy reVOlution touRinG” Sedan: Many new WRX cues have been cribbed from the Asian market Levorg sport wagon of which there exists a WRX variant. Powerful dark lateral character split the deeper hexagon grille and the trunk lid lip while spanning to connect new full boomerang housed head and taillamps; WRX grille inserts replace lattices with thicker chain links. Beltline body creasing is more subtle followed by a lower door lateral scoop. Two tone body color & darkened wing mirrors remain door mounted. A subtle body colored trunk lid spoiler is dedicated to the proposition of tastefulness in a street racer.
WHY: Pleiades ICE proto rally car matures to outdoor adventure portrait.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since spring 2022
WHERE: Subaru new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Ota, Gunma Prefecture, Japan
HOW ROADWORTHY: The larger uptuned boxer four from the Subaru Outback XT wagon comes with compulsory forced induction. Faster with acting electronic wastegate control builds air intercooled exhaust boost quicker for improved low speed torque. No longer must engine speed be kept over 3500 rpm to thrust forward. Despite the flatter torque curve there is still boost lag deep into the throttle for a more measured amount of whiplash. Manual gearbox shifter gating is tighter than before, but still exhibits some slop holding up gear skipping downshifts.
• Drive Modes: Track mode (deactivates traction control)
Open axles imply more power trimming and brake torque vectoring in the name of traction leading to understeer rather than the VA STI‘s locking limited slip differential throttle over-steer.
HOW LIMBER: Lengthened suspension travel and a direct body mounted rear stabilizer bar on the 2022 Subaru WRX provide for a flat cornering attitude while inflicting less jarring punishment. Dual pinions on the electronic assisted steering rack render greater reaction to smaller inputs with a communicative amount of resistance. If only more of the summer Dunlop rubber grip were conveyed to the helm. Braking requires long pedal travel before significant bite and an unusually hard wall.
HOW FAR: 24 combined miles per gallon; 431 mile highway range
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ Sized larger compact family and hence more adult accepting than the VA WRX. A one inch increase in wheelbase translates to a 1.5″ inch boost to 2nd Row legroom. Greater roof raking takes a bite out of headroom, though.
HOW USEFUL: √ Slight incline folding 60/40% split 2nd Row seatbacks; √ Wide 2nd Row trunk pass-through; √ Door mount wing mirrors; √ Cargo space (nominal): 12.5 cubic feet; ♦ Tow Rating: Not Rated. -1 Tall trunk load liftover, Narrow load aperture
HOW SAFE: √ 8 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick (2021 MY); √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid; √ LED headlamps w/ auto height adjust; √ Auto high beam headlamps; √ Hill start assist (brake engagement)
+1 Low cowl, door mount wing mirrors enhance forward view; Narrow B pillars; Tall sized sedan backlight;
Partial Autonomous Driving:
-1 Eye Sight Level 2.0 autonomous driving assistance only available on CVT equipped models
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Conditions inside the redesigned 2022 WRX are less spartan than before. Tiered dash and door soft panels are deftly mixed with metallic and simulated carbon fiber accents. Switches and dials (optionally) have been incorporated into an oversized touch portrait media screen. Personal electronics storage and connectivity have entered the 21st century. The biggest improvement has been the integration of the multi-function displays into either the new TFT twin dial instrument cluster or the media display. The trademark upper center dash display has been banished. Red stitching has been deftly applied to the seats and a new D-shaped steering wheel leather rim which hangs on to the hanging chad MFD buttons. Panel gaps have been reduced. But there are still hard coarse plastics on the center console tunnel, pillars and rear parcel shelf. And the seats which are solidly bolstered have less give in the cushion than preferred. The latest WRX STI still gets its cabin full of exhaust and tire noise the good old-fashioned way…by minimized insulation.
√ Heated 6-way driver’s, 4-way front passenger manual adjust sport bucket seats, w/ ballistic cloth upholstery; √ Comfort keyless entry & push-button ignition; √ 4 power windows, front w/ full up & down express; √ Auto climate control; √ Leather tilt/ telescoping D-shape steering wheel; √ Aluminum pedal covers.
- +1: Sport seats with everyday livability; available oversized touch media display consolidates secondary system switchgear; Previous drive seat heater settings retained
- -1: One touch turn signals (require opposite flick to disengage); Front seat heat controls buried in media display
Cool Gizmo(s): √ available 11.6″ Starlink touch media display
Details Done Right: √ Simulated metallic & carbon fiber cabin accents; Soft panel layered dashtop and door panels; √ Contrast red stitched steering rim, shifter boot and seats; √ Flush door and center console toggle switchgear; √ Berber floor mats.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 No rocker panel scuff covers; Hard plastic center console casing; Thin trunk liner carpet.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 11.6″ Starlink portrait oriented, split display touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Rotary audio volume dial, selection, defroster & Home screen switches ; √ Bluetooth, hands-free communications; √ SMS messaging; √ Magellan app voice command/ guidance 3-D HDD GPS navigation; √ 6-speaker, 160 watt HD radio, streaming audio √ Android Auto + Apple CarPlay; √ Starlink Apps; √ USB-A x 4 (Row 2 x 2), 12V x 2.
- +1 Deep lower front center stack wireless device storage;
- -1 No 2nd Row electronics power source; -1 Limited text message response list
Applications by Starlink (mobile device powered): ♦ Chimani, landmark travel info; ♦ Ebird ornithological identifier ; ♦ Eve Connect remote home security & climate monitor;
By Subscription: √ SiriusXM (90 days included); √ Travellink (1 year trial included)
HOW MUCH: $32,600 = as tested 2022 Subaru WRX Premium
WHAT’S MISSING: More soft surfaces, less mono-dark industrial materials, more 21st century infotainment & instrument displays such as Outback’s available Starlink 11.7″ portrait media display.
ANY COMPETITION: Mazda 3 Turbo AWD: quieter, more comfortable grand tourer; Mini John Cooper Works Clubman: +1 Steering feel, go-kart handling, superior build, cabin materials; Volkswagen Golf R: +1 Solid build, digital cockpit, forgiving ride compliance, luxury amenities
BOTTOM LINE: Latest Subie WRX proto rally portends outdoor adventure.
Contributing Editor: T. Paluch