UPDATE!! I PURCHASED A 2023. HERE'S MY REVIEW AFTER OWNERSHIP.
^^^^^^ ALSO SEE POST ^^^^^
I have a 2018 STI, and have owned a 2015 STI and 2013 WRX. A couple days ago, I drove a 2022 WRX. I couldn't find a lot of testimonial comparisons between the VA STI and the VB WRX. Also, to put this in completely relevant context, I'm 37 years old with a toddler, so my expectations probably differ significantly from some of the younger members. This will be thorough. Here are my thoughts:
Opinions on everything are subjective, but to me, the car is mostly ugly. Yet, I like 3/4ths of it. The WRX has never looked that great and my 13 WRX was especially no exception. It looked like an angry squinty mule, and I loved it. My current 18 STI is probably the most handsome WRX/STI I've owned, but it also looks awkward from several angles, even with the wing gone. The 2022 WRX is not Subaru's attempt at beauty like the 2022 BRZ. That was not the intention here. The front end looks aggressive, and the side cladding gives a mean rugged impression. Marketing: You won. Again. However, the rear end is just offensive. Every single time I look at it, I can't bring myself to accept it. Who signed off on this?
The WRX I drove was white, which is an unacceptable color (for me) given the aforementioned features. I was up front with the salesman about this. I didn't want to give him a false impression I was going to buy that particular car, but when he looked up my past purchases, including our most recent 22 Forester, he took me serious as a potential customer. We order all of our cars, and the only colors I would choose on the VB are gray, gray, gray, gray, or gray. But maybe, just maybe, black, if it wasn't for me not giving two shits and using an automatic car wash, with brushes.
As for driving, as many reviewers have commented, I went in expecting to dislike the car, but ended up really liking it:
I wasn't eager to start it up, since I'd heard from so many journalists how lacking the sound was. I can't understand what they are talking about, because it was just as loud as my STI on startup, if not louder. If anything, it was louder than I wanted it to be, with the four-cylinder loud warmup cabin drone/buzz.
To say this car has any iconic "boxer rumble" is a huge stretch of the imagination, after owning three EJ's. To me, it has a typical four cylinder "performance" sound, with a maybe just a little more grunt. Once warmed up and on the road, enjoyed the sounds overall from the cabin, and couldn't care less about how terrible it probably sounded from the exterior. (As with any lifeless high pitched FA. Sorry.)
The gear box was stiff and precise, but felt less connected and engaging than my STI. The shifter sat pretty high, even with the factory short-throw and STI knob. (An absolute must with any WRX)
It did, however, need less finesse to upshift and downshift, making it easier to drive. I like it better than my 2013 WRX, but less than my 2015 and 2018 STI's. It wasn't as connected, but far from sloppy.
The clutch on the car felt much softer than my STI. The pedal was lighter, but it had a nice amount of tension and the engagement point was about mid-way though the pedal, and easy to feel. Between the clutch and the shifter, I had to pay far less attention to the car then I do my STI, which made it a lot easier to drive. After living with a VA STI since 2015, this was a big plus for me.
The car had plenty of power, but from the reviews, I expected it to come on quicker. It had less turbo lag, but you could never mistake it for anything but a turbocharged four cylinder. Once boost kicked in, the acceleration continued throughout the rev range. Unlike others, I didn't feel like the car needed a higher RPM. The WRX/STI has never been known for a high rev range.
At lower speeds, there didn't seem to be as many hiccups between the transmission and engine. Just to entertain myself, I gave the WRX the beans from a stand-still, and it bogged and jerked to life at its own sluggish awkward first gear pace. It just further proved these cars aren't meant to be launched without significant abuse.
Overall, there was more mid-range power to play with, leading me to have to think less about when to shift. I didn't feel like I had to micromanage the car as much as my STI.
I liked the ride quality. The WRX felt firm, but not jarring like I'm used to. It was more springy, instead of slapping into every road imperfection. The suspension didn't feel as smooth and refined as other journalists made it seem, and you would never mistake this for a Camry. It paired well with the steering, which had enough tension at lower speeds, but allowed you to loosen your grip on the highway. The steering felt very direct. It was more loose than my STI, but the WRX would still snap in any direction you wanted it to.
By contrast, I have to always keep a firm grip on the wheel in my STI and make constant corrections on the highway. The WRX didn't completely let me fall asleep at higher speeds, but it also didn't want to constantly disagree with me at 70 mph. It was nice to be able to not have to brace myself for every bump and to relax my hands a little. It was again an aspect that provided plenty of fun, but demanded less attention.
There is a whole segment of people in the VB facebook community (I know...) who declare this car as just as capable of a performer as the STI. The car feels lighter on its feet, no doubt, but it doesn't have that dug in planted feel when you push it through a sweeping turn. It was definitely plenty of fun, tossable, and eager to take accelerating turns, but it didn't feel nearly as confident.
I don't know which is quicker in a straight line in 2nd or 3rd gear, which are the only two gears I use to push the car a bit hard. The two cars delivery power slightly different, so it's hard to tell. Both are mid range happy, but the WRX seems to have a wider range both up top and down low in the rev range.
But, there is absolutely no mistake when I mash the pedal on curves or an onramp, the STI feels drastically more glued to the road. It gets heavier, tighter, and has noticeably less body roll. I did NOT feel this in the WRX, no matter how much the fanboys say it's better. I have no idea why people feel on the internet are so self conscious about how others view their cars' performance. I tried to keep my analysis comes from a pretty neutral place as someone who is very interested in the VB for a potential near future purchase. That, and I just don't care about which car is better or faster. The WRX absolutely may feel more fun to some, maybe even me, but by no means did I think it was the same animal.
Faster or not, I really didn't want to take this car back to the lot. I took a lot of time with the WRX... probably too much... to see how it did under normal in-town driving, cruising on the highway (it was still noisy despite the reviews), and admittedly tossing it around/romping it through some corners. I took my time to make sure I did plenty of up shifts and down shifts. I even mashed the brakes a few times to see how it did, which was plenty adequate. If you're running out of brakes and you're not on the track, you need to quit driving like a reckless dirtbag.
The WRX I test drove already had 100 miles on it, so I didn't feel like a complete jerk, but I took a pretty bold amount of time with it. Sorry, but that's what you get if you want me as a (likely) potential 6th Subaru buyer in ten years. I never smelled clutch or brakes, so it could have been worse. This was an informed consumer drive, not a joy ride.
I parked the car and spent about ten minutes going over every little detail. I didn't get the "more premium" vibe everyone else talked about. Granted, my car has a Recaro package and this was a mid-level trim. We would be in the market for a limited trim, which has a few minor interior accents, better seats, and a Harmon Kardon stereo. (Of note, I have found seats and small differences to make a drastic difference on the look and feel of an interior, especially compared to my nearly identical base 2015 STI interior, to my Recaro 2018 STI.)
The controversial center tablet was fine. I don't get the complaints. Although, I do not recommend trying to figure out the climate control settings while on the middle of the highway. The heated seat menu wasn't as damning as journalists made it out to be. The vents seemed higher quality, although the one to the far left doesn't have that much adjustability to bring it in closer to your body or face. It just kind of blows down your left arm.
I strongly dislike the carbon fiber patterned door handle and steering wheel inserts. I was happy when that went away from my 2015 STI to my 2018 STI. I don't understand the complaints about piano black. Clean your car, stop spilling your drink on it, or maybe just don't be so anal. Either way, the carbon fiber "not even trying anymore" stamped look is even worse than the "this is a really bad impression of real carbon fiber" look. You don't need carbon fiber in your ***king cabin anyway...
The doors and door handles felt solid. The buttons throughout the car had a very impressive silent non-plasticky quality feel. The cubby in front of the shifter has plenty of room for your phone, and is much larger than my STI or the ridiculously tiny area in our Forester. The cup holders seemed fine, although I like the pull-shut cover on my STI. (Surprise though... I never use it.) The most depressing part about the interior was the coin tray insert behind the shifter where you can tell the drive mode and diff settings would have been on my inevitable 2023 STI. (and I do mean inevitable)
The visibility was great, which is what my wife and I really love about modern Subarus, and one of the things that brings us back. That, and the same familiar minimalist cabin setup we enjoy. The formula just works for us. I sit up high, and the hood slopes in such a way where I could really see down in front of the car a lot more. Yet, the dash doesn't have the nice digital center cluster, so up top is just looks kind of flat and lifeless. Luckily, you can see both sharp hood contour lines centering the large bulge from the hood scoop. It looks pretty mean from the driver's seat.
The steering wheel is leather wrapped and feels decent. The buttons have a quality feel. This model did not have a sunroof or have power seats that the Limited trim comes with. There was plenty of headroom and the seats still had adequate adjustability to easily get into a comfortable driving position. The arm rest on the door is nicely angled at an incline toward the steering wheel, which provided a comfortable resting position. People complain about the center armrests that have always been for looks only on the WRX/STI models I've owned. Maybe I'm used to it, but I didn't even think about it until I parked the car and looked everything over.
I didn't bother even turning on the stereo. The stereos in our WRX, (2) STI's, and former Crosstrek were mid 90's terrible, so I expected nothing different. The Limited trim comes with the HK system, which we're really pleased with equipped in our Touring trim Forster. The gauges are nice... but the only problem is they're identical to my STI. It would be nice to have something different to look at for the next five years, so I'm hopelessly crossing my fingers there will be a change for 2023. Apparently they didn't expect 2018-2021 VA STI owners to buy the 22 WRX... or did they?
For whatever reason, the car felt smaller than my STI, when sitting in the driver's seat. Even while driving. I know this isn't actually the case. This made the car feel a little more like a compact, and possibly cheaper as a result. I still feel like a lot of that will change with the top trim level, and a slight legal tint on the windows. By contrast, the back seats and rear passenger's compartment felt huge. It was like being in two different vehicles. There were 2 USB chargers back there, but the plastic trim pieces on the doors felt noticeable cheaper. This would be a problem I'd never have to live with.
Overall, I really really really liked the car. I was expecting at best to view it as tolerable for my next car. When I equip all of the options, it will fit the bill to be a really fun car I can transfer my car seat to, get better
gas mileage, and be more comfortable for my 30 minute commute to work. The 2022 WRX is by far an easier car to operate, but it still feels like a very capable performing vehicle. I honestly think I would possibly enjoy it more than my STI's, since the car demands less focus to drive perfectly, and although you still feel every bump in the road, it doesn't punch you in the kidneys.
As I said before, the warranty in our STI is up next Spring, and we plan on ordering whatever we want in January or February. The cash is there, but I like my cars to come in when it isn't constantly frigid outside, and the timeline should put delivery in for March or April. The WRX is the only car that completely checks all of the boxes for us, so we're not considering much else. I've really enjoyed every Subaru and WRX/STI I've had so far, so why change? (Aside from one long story suspension issue Subaru made right...)
I was pleasantly surprised with how impressed I was with this car. If we do purchase a WRX, every single box checked for the options and trim we want, will put a dark gray metallic at $40,000. That includes completely unnecessary items like factory mud flaps, and a beloved front lip. That's a bit pricey for a WRX, but I'll be in my 40's when we get rid of the car. Amenities and warrantied factory add-ons become increasingly pleasing to me as I get older. In the dark gray, I think it will be just mature enough to be an acceptable "cool dad" car. It's definitely a strong possibility.
On the other side of the coin... I have an acquaintance who says he can get me a 23 Type-R when they come in for only (lol but reality) $5,000 in markup. He's going to call me if they do have one en route. (In any color but than bright blue) If his unlikely promise turns out to be true, it would be hard to pass up, would it not? That wing in my 40's though... eh. I'm not counting on it. No heated seats? I think I would probably keep that $5,000 in our savings and drive something in which I wouldn't be embarrassed to drive to a future parent-teacher meeting.
Thanks for reading.