2022 Subaru WRX tS review (video)

Brett Davis

Sadly, there is no new WRX STI. But Subaru does offer this as an alternative. It’s called the WRX tS. And it showcases at least two STI badges. So that’s good, isn’t it?

Of course it’s not good. But this is all we’re left with in terms of a top-rung WRX. It sits atop the base WRX and WRX RS in the three-tier lineup, with the Sportswagon sitting slightly to the side in WRX, WRX GT and tS forms.

Prices start from $44,990 for the base WRX manual and top out with this tS auto starting from $56,990. Going for the wagon adds $5000 at the entry end and just $500 at tS level, strangely (all excluding on-road costs).

2022 Subaru WRX tS – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.4-litre turbo flat four-cylinder
Output: 202kW@5600rpm / 350Nm@2000-5200rpm
Transmission: CVT auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×8.5, 245/40
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1585kg
Power-to-weight: 7.84:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 8.5L/100km
Economy during test: 9.8L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 63L/95 RON[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 23.76kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.46 seconds*
0-100km/h: 6.68 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.23 seconds*
1/4 mile: 14.86 seconds at 158.7km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.625g
100-0km/h braking: 2.97 seconds at 38.40 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.120g
Decibel at idle: 44*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 83*
Priced from: $56,990[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2022 Subaru WRX tS – THE PACKAGE

We must admit, the new design is growing on us. Even those controversial black wheel arch extensions have won us over. We think it looks enthusiastic and aggressive, with hints of Subaru’s heritage glowing through, such as with that big bonnet scoop. It’s not boring to look at, put it that way, and it definitely has a distinct personality and Subaru flavour.

However, the quad-outlet exhausts are a bit ambitious in our opinion, as the performance (or sound) is not at the typical calibre of vehicles with quad-outlet pipes. But the black plastic cladding around the lower skirting is a handy touch, because you can hit the dirt and not worry about getting stone chips on the paintwork. The black plastic also features a special golf-ball-like pattern and has proper aerodynamic purpose.

Speaking of which, those grilles just behind the front wheels are there for a reason, too. When the suspension compresses, the air within the wheel arch is exhausted through these vents, helping with stability. At the back is a ‘vent blank’. Subaru has told us there is no need for a similar vent on the rear wheel arches because there is already a functioning vent in the rear bumper for that purpose. In some markets the vent blank is a reflector, due to certain regulations overseas.

The new model is underpinned by the Subaru Global Platform which is shared with pretty much every model in Subaru’s showroom now, except the BRZ. It’s very rigid and provides a good basis for solid driving dynamics, and it’s stronger and safer and supports a variety of advanced safety technologies. Going for the tS gains you access to the full suite in this department.

You get the complete Vision Assist package, incorporating blind-spot monitoring and front-view monitoring (camera), lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking in forward and reverse, side-view monitor (camera), and Eyesight Assist. The Eyesight package includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping aid and lane departure warning, and pre-collision braking.

Other standard features include speed sign recognition, tyre pressuring monitoring, active torque vectoring, and driver monitoring capable of sending off a warning if it senses a distracted driver – it’ll even tell you to concentrate on the road if you yawn, which can be a bit over-the-top at times.

As with most Subarus, the interior is very practical and spacious for its class. There’s lot of storage around the place, and the general quality and fit and finish is top notch for this price point.

We’re not a fan of operating system for the 11.6-inch touch-screen, although the screen itself is large for this segment. Some of the menus and functionality is a bit crude in our opinion, and you are shut off from accessing some aspects while driving, for safety reasons. But it offers everything you need, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a 10-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system in the case of the tS variant.

Rear passengers get their own climate vents and charging ports, and even seat heaters. Legroom is good for this class, and there’s enough length to fit in a rear-facing baby seat. In fact, we can’t think of many other vehicles in this class that offer more room in the back.

Boot space is also pretty good, measuring in at 411 litres. There’s always the wagon model too if you really need more volume. A 17-inch steel spare wheel sits under the floor.

2022 Subaru WRX tS – THE DRIVE

Firstly, let’s start with the engine. This is a relatively new unit, codenamed the FA24. It’s part of Subaru’s latest engine family which means it comes with direct injection and dual variable valve timing, or Active Valve Control System (AVCS) in Subaru language. The compression ratio is pretty high, at 10.6:1, and the bore and stroke is in a favourable oversquare design (94mm by 86mm).

Combustion capacity is up from 2.0L to 2.4L now, and the turbocharger appears to peak at around 13.5psi (93kpa), according to the on-board boost gauge. Unlike some modern turbocharged petrol engines the new WRX does not require a minimum of 98 RON fuel. Instead, it can cope with 95 RON, according to the official spec sheet.

Despite all the makings for a great performance engine, the on-road results are not that impressive. With 202kW at just 5600rpm, and 350Nm between 2000-5200rpm, it is only 5kW more powerful than the previous 2.0T, with identical torque output. According to our Vbox, the best 0-100km/h this particular test car could do was 6.68 seconds.

That was achieved by building the engine revs on the brake pedal before setting off, essentially pre-loading the driveline and allowing the turbo to spool up. By simply flatten the throttle pedal, the car conquered 0-100km/h in 6.99 seconds.

Now, obviously 0-100 times are not everything and they do not paint the full picture in regards to a vehicle’s performance. But the measurement can give you a pretty good idea how a car goes up against its rivals, tested across the same benchmark. Our time means it is about as quick as a Kia Cerato GT sedan (6.74 seconds) that features a 150kW 1.6-litre turbo engine and front-wheel drive.

Not a slow car, but we feel the WRX should be a lot quicker considering it produces a lot more power and torque and is equipped with all-wheel drive. The WRX nameplate has always been recognised as a quick little car, too. So to see it perform at a similar level to a warm hatch is somewhat disheartening in our opinion.

Fortunately, one area where the new WRX tS really shines is with handling. The tS comes with adaptive dampers and offers the driver a number of driving modes, including a customisable mode allowing you to mix and match different settings. Honestly, all modes performance really well.

We think the natural handling of this chassis really helps. But with the adaptive dampers in particular, you can alter the car so it suits rougher roads or really smooth roads, and then get the most out of it. The steering offers a traditional mechanical feel, with lots of feedback coming through to bolster your confidence in the car.

The tS comes with 18-inch machined-face alloy wheels wearing 245/40 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres. Grip levels are extremely high, especially with Subaru’s renowned all-wheel drive system at play. You can nail the throttle at the mid-point of a corner and it really tugs you around with no hesitation or nervousness.

And we can confirm the same characteristics can be experienced on the dirt. We spent considerable time on some open dirt roads, including wet sections, to try and fully understand what this renowned drivetrain can do. And yes, the result is outstanding. It doesn’t matter if the surface is loose, the mechanical grip and power distribution mechanism is seriously amazing. It’s great to see the rally roots are still here.

2022 Subaru WRX tS – THE VIDEO

2022 Subaru WRX tS – THE VERDICT

Subaru is potentially patronising its loyal fans by displaying STI badges on what is really just the premium trim level of the regular WRX. This could be quite off-putting to some, and it could prove just how out of touch Subaru has become with its traditional WRX STI fans. Even if it is trying to win over new buyers in the process.

Like with the WRX Sportswagon we recently reviewed, the best thing to do here is to ignore the badge, including the WRX one, and simply take this as a sporty sedan that offers excellent safety, practicality and build quality. It goes alright but handles really well, especially in the wet or on the dirt. Pricing is also quite attractive when you measure up all the equipment and specs against its nearest rivals.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Dynamic handling with tS-specific adaptive dampers
– Class-leading AWD grip and subsequent all-weather safety
– Spacious and practical inside for its class
– Excellent build quality
– Decent starting price
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Doesn’t deserve STI badges
– Slow for its power/torque output and for its class
– CVT auto tries to be a conventional auto – so just be a conventional auto?[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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