While Mitsubishi’s EVO enjoys retirement, Subaru’s rally-bred counterpart lives on in the form of the 2022 WRX RS sedan, boasting superior handling, neat tech upgrades, and dare we say it, some questionable aesthetics.
The RS is the middle tier trim level of the sedan variant, but is the highest trim level that has a manual transmission option. This will enrage enthusiasts who want a manual gearbox as well as the active dampers in the range-topping tS, but alas, they can’t have both.
The WRX is also available as a Sportswagon, replacing the Levorg, also to the chagrin of enthusiasts. The wagon is also available in three trim levels, the base model, the GT and the tS. The tS variant in both offerings features a host of STI goodies too.
Those questionable aesthetics we spoke of come in the form of the look of the car. Its new styling cues aren’t exactly pretty and they’ve been the centre of much discussion online, mostly around the matte black plastic skin on the majority of the car’s body kit.
It gives a faux-carbon fibre look, that does feel a little cheap. The rear of the car is chunky too, and by chunky, we mean booty for days. One look at the back from a certain angle and you’ll know what we mean.
The entirely black rear bumper protrudes a fair bit from the rest of the rear fascia too. We know it’s all done with functionality in mind, as cooling management and aerodynamics are affected by it all, but damn it can be hard to look at.
Subaru does score some bonus points though for the neat “lava” details in the rear tail lights, and while both the those and the head lights feel a tad small for the body shape, we do kind of get it. We just don’t like it, but to each their own.
Inside, the cabin is comfortable and roomy. The seats have enough bolstering to be sporty but not too much, so that it’s impractical. The front and second row outboard seats are all heated, and the finish of the interior is sport, with a hint of luxury.
There’s plenty of leg and headroom in the second row too, and we were able to fit a rear-facing infant seat in without compromising the front seat’s position and comfort. There’s plenty of visibility from the driver’s seat as well, which is a plus.
But we need to address the elephant in the room, and that is the portrait-oriented entertainment unit, skirted by two vertically oriented air vents on the centre console. It’s cool, it’s fancy, it’s huge at 11.6-inches, and it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
We tested the latter, but were super disappointed in the result. Yes it works well and as intended, but Android Auto is naturally landscape rather than portrait, so you’re left with a huge portion of the screen serving absolutely no purpose.
Outside of smartphone issues, the standard layout is excellent and works well, and the satellite navigation is easy to use (plus it utilises the entire screen). A 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system also features, as does a sunroof.
The instrument cluster is still mostly analogue, with the tacho and speedo surrounding the portrait digital readouts. The manual also goes without drive modes (which the auto gets).
Under the hood, to put it bluntly, is a magnificent powerplant. The 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder boxer fed by a turbocharger outputting 202kW to all four wheels, supported by 350Nm of torque is just excellent.
By 3,000rpm, you’re at max torque so there’s no need for unnecessary flat-footing. But when you do, it’s thrilling and exhilarating. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual which feels very mechanically notchy, more bonus points.
It’s the best handling WRX yet. This is where all the Subaru R&D money went and it’s clear as day. Side by side with the previous models, the 2022 WRX RS is a whole new beast to tame. It handles and drives better than any previous generation offering too.
The handling is supple and compliant, especially the steering. It’s super responsive, turning when you want it to, pointing the front end where you want it. And boy does it remain planted, body roll is minimal and you’re held in by the excellent seats.
Driving it fairly spiritedly, the engine doesn’t struggle in the slightest, hitting optimum boost and torque in the low to mid rev range. Pair this with the superb handling and you have the perfect combo of power and performance.
Our combined economy during our time with the WRX RS saw 10.8-litres/100km, not far from Subaru’s claimed 9.9-litres/100km and not bad at all for how we drove it. Drivability aside, the WRX RS is still plenty practical too.
There’s 411-litres of boot space and a 60:40 split when dropping the second row. As previously mentioned, there’s plenty of room for a rear-facing child seat so you’ll have no issues fitting a forward facing seat or a booster in.
The new WRX hasn’t been ANCAP tested (at least at the time of this article), but all variants of the WRX have carried a 5-star rating since 2014. Unfortunately, the manual models carry less safety features than the automatic ones.
Features such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure assist, sign recognition and adaptive cruise control are all missing, but are all on the auto. Subaru are yet to integrate the more advanced safety features into their manual models.
Aside from that, you do get driver fatigue monitoring, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist and a pretty decent rear camera. ISOFIX points on the outboard rear seats as well as three top-tether points are available across the range.
The 2022 Subaru WRX RS starts from $50,490 excluding on-road costs and options, putting it in the same price range as the 2022 Hyundai i30 Sedan N Premium, which is front-wheel drive and has a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.
It comes with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and 12 month or 15,00km servicing. It’s a car so good we’d buy one. Performance is almost unparalleled. If you can get over the looks, then you’re looking at the right car.
The driveability far outweighs the aesthetics, and for what it’s worth, it’s prettier in the flesh than in photos. It’s no STI, so some manual only enthusiasts may be disappointed, especially since the best bits are on the auto-only tS.
If you want all the goodies, and to get as close to an STI as possible, then consider the Sports Lineartronic Automatic driven range-topper. It’s leaps and bounds superior to any other CVT you’ll have ever experienced.
Our 2022 Subaru WRX RS was supplied by Subaru Australia. To find out more, contact your local Subaru dealer. Pictures courtesy of Brakefast Media.