Subaru is known for many things. But among those at the top that help maintain a loyal fan base are its associations with rallying and all-wheel drive traction. And now, the two supposedly meet in wagon form. But what’s it like in reality? We spent a few days with the 2022 Subaru WRX Sportswagon to find out.
Arriving alongside the all-new Subaru WRX sedan (a review of which is coming soon) is the WRX Sportswagon. In Australia, the Subaru WRX Sporstwagon is available in three trim levels – base, GT and tS – and we spent some time with the top-of-the-range tS to see if it can live up to the reputation of those imposing 3 letters.
Firstly, we wanted to get the elephant out of the room. What particularly loyal fans of the Japanese car brand will immediately notice is the omission of an STI-spec car. Subaru hasn’t fully explained why this is, although has previously touched upon it, saying the move to a new global platform (which introduces regulations on fuel economy and omissions, and which is used on the 2022 WRX Sportswagon) has meant they have had to say sayonara to STI. At least, for now.
All is not lost, however, as if you opt for the top-of-the-range tS then Subaru does offer a sort of apology/compromise in the form of STI branding on the seats and steering wheel. It’s certainly cool, make no mistake, but for the true Subaru purists, it might leave a sour taste in the mouth.
So, onto the actual review of the WRX Sportswagon tS. What exactly is it? Well, what it isn’t, stresses Subaru, is an evolution of the Liberty or the Impreza wagon. Instead, it is a brand new beast, although some may liken it to the Levorg. The Levorg is no longer sold in Australia, but the WRX Sportswagon could be seen as similar.
The 2022 Subaru WRX Sportswagon, therefore, is a performance-oriented practical people-mover that is only available with an automatic CVT transmission. That’s right, there’s no manual gearbox on offer. Considering the Subaru WRX Sportswagon shares the same 2.4-litre direct-injection, turbocharged boxer engine with its WRX sedan sibling (and the sedan comes with a manual), this makes the omission in the WRX Sportswagon a little confusing.
What’s it like on the inside?
In two words, incredibly comfortable. The portrait-orientated screen in the centre console is large and clear, making it easy to see whilst driving. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are supported, and, unlike some other car makers that have jumped aboard the technology-focused touchscreen train, Subaru has retained some physical controls for climate control and volume. Some controls have moved to touchscreen-only, such as the heated seats, but at least the on-screen buttons are large and responsive to touch.
The seats do a good job of keeping you planted whilst you rack up the miles, and they proved to be exceptionally comfortable throughout the duration of my loan, thanks in no small part to the ultra suede upholstery exclusive to the tS model.
However, having also driven the WRX sedan, I have to say I prefer the seats in the latter. I felt they did an even better job of keeping you locked in position, and this could be because the sedan is clearly the one to really bring home what it means for a Subaru vehicle to bear the WRX moniker.
Plenty of space for activities
There is, of course, the argument that anyone who buys the WRX Sportswagon is going to do so more for practicality than performance – and with a claimed 492 litres of cargo space with the rear seats up and 1,430 litres when they’re folded down (folding them down couldn’t be easier) there’s plenty of space for your luggage, shopping or whatever else you can think of.
One area that did cause me a little bit of grief, at least when compared to my own 2008 Liberty, was adjusting to the size of the Sportswagon. Everything felt so much larger from inside the cockpit, so viewing angles out of the windows took some getting used to. Fortunately, Subaru has equipped their new wagon with plenty of cameras around the car, which come in handy when reverse and parallel parking. There’s a camera view of the front passenger side wheel, so you can see how close (or not so close) you are to the curb.
On the whole, though, the Subaru WRX Sportswagon tS’ interior is a great place to find yourself. Materials are of good quality and everything feels incredibly well put together. It certainly helps to justify the AU$57,990 starting price tag, that’s for sure.
Exceptional delivery of power
With interior comforts taken care of, onto the main event. How does the Subaru WRX Sportswagon tS perform? The quick answer is, exceptionally well. The 2.4-litre turbocharged flat-four engine gives out 202kW of power at 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque between 2000 and 5600rpm. While they’re not crazy numbers, it’s the fact that the torque is delivered low down the rev range that makes the WRX Sportswagon a rather impressive performer.
For those looking for a 0-100km/h time, you’re out of luck. Subaru doesn’t claim one itself, although I did manage the spring in a little over 6 seconds.
This thing really does pull and in quite literally the blink of an eye, you’re hitting cruising speed on the motorway. As expected, Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system makes an appearance, offering exceptional traction to ensure you feel safe every time you push your right foot down to the floor.
A little light-footed
But, while I was impressed with how the Subaru delivered its power, I was less impressed with how it made me feel when driving. The steering on the WRX Sportswagon was too light for me, personally.
The inclusion of different drive modes did help, as putting it into Sport did tighten things up a bit (compared to Comfort and Normal), but still not quite enough for me to feel truly connected to the road beneath me. And, the driving modes are only available on the tS model.
Subaru also gives you a wealth of driving aids, delivered through its EyeSight system. This system sees a couple of cameras placed behind the rearview mirror, which constantly scans the road ahead for any potential hazards or oncoming collisions.
If it spots something that could result in your brand-new Subie ending up looking a little worse for wear, the system will take over and apply the brakes, or get you back into your own lane. I did feel a couple of times the EyeSight system was a little overdramatic, but all in all, its inclusion did make me feel extra safe on the road. Not because of my driving, of course, but because of the numerous obstacles faced by Sydney traffic.
Fewer thrills than the sedan
In essence, then, whilst the Subaru WRX Sportswagon should be a ‘hot wagon’ and therefore, a car that should be right up my alley, it didn’t exhibit any of the loony characteristics a ‘hot’ car should have. It didn’t make me smile as much as I expected it would. And certainly less than the thrills I experienced in the WRX sedan.
That’s not to say it’s a bad car. Far from it. It handles well and offers a comfortable ride. But I expect those looking to buy a Subaru bearing the WRX badge will be looking for something they can confidently throw into corners and have a bit of fun with. What they’re actually going to get is a comfortable cruiser that will happily whisk the family away for a weekend.
2022 Subaru WRX Sportswagon specs:
Engine: 2.4-litre 4-cylinder direct-injected, turbocharged Boxer
Max Power: 202kW at 5600rpm
Max Torque: 350Nm @ 2000 – 5200rpm
Fuel Consumption: 8.5l/100km (combined)
2022 Subaru WRX Sportswagon price list:
WRX Sportswagon AWD Sport: from $49,990
WRX Sportswagon AWD GT Sport: from $55,490
WRX Sportswagon AWD tS Sport: from $57,990