Skip to main content

3 Reasons Why The New Subaru WRX Doesn’t Impress MotorTrend And Its COTY Pick

The 2022 Subaru WRX was nominated for Motor Trend's Car of the Year competition but failed to impress the judges. There are three areas of concern and why they dropped the performance car out of the race.

Is the 2022 Subaru WRX worthy of winning Motor Trend's Car of the Year (COTY) award? No, because M/T judges were not impressed with the next-generation WRX after it made the finalist cut for the 2023 COTY competition.

Which car did Motor Trend pick?

The new WRX was bested by a luxury car. MotorTrend named the 2023 Genesis G90 its 2023 Car of the Year during the Genesis press conference at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.

2022 Subaru WRX

The M/T judges found a few things to like about the new WRX. They said the next-generation WRX is "longer, lower, wider, and stiffer than the version it replaces." In theory, those are good things with its new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine upgrade over the 2.0-liter turbo Boxer. But not enough to give the WRX a thumbs up.

Among the slowest WRX models ever

But in practice, M/T says things are more complicated. "The new engine, despite being bigger than the 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four it replaces, only makes three more horsepower and is less efficient with the manual than before. Worse, it makes the new WRX among the slowest we've ever tested, including the plucky 2002 original."

2022 Subaru WRX

The WRX power band is too narrow

Ouch! M/T says the new WRX's FA24 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine's power band is too narrow, and "its engine is laggy and peaky." They appreciate the 6-speed manual gearbox but have issues with it too. "It's also rewarding to row through the mostly positive-feeling shifter, even if it's slightly clunky at times."

The SPT CVT automatic option isn't fun

They disdain the new WRX Subaru Performance Transmission CVT automatic. "The CVT version feels like a slightly edgier Legacy sedan," deputy editor Alexander Stoklosa said. Even worse, and speaking toward their performance of the intended function criterion, numerous editors said the CVT-backed WRX wasn't fun to drive. "It's a fine car, but not a good WRX."

The things MotorTrend likes about the WRX

The WRX stays with a formula that works. It comes standard with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive with all-weather performance. They say the new Subaru Performance Transmission CVT automatic makes it more practical as a daily driver in city traffic. And the 6-speed manual "is quite fun."

M/T Judges say they liked the new WRX sheet metal, but most found the new tablet-sized infotainment display's graphics and UX unrefined. The Subaru scored safety points for offering the latest version of its Eyesight driver assistance, though the system is unavailable on the popular manual-transmission version.

The bottom line

"Ultimately, the manual WRX lives up to its reputation for satisfying all-weather performance, but as a lineup, and crucially against our criteria, the new WRX doesn't rise above the fray," says M/T.

Our take

The next-generation 2022 Subaru WRX is the best model the Japanese automaker has produced. The new FA24 2.4-liter turbocharged engine is an upgrade over the 2.0-liter Boxer. Most performance fans will modify the new engine with aftermarket upgrades to get more horsepower. So the three-horsepower increase is not a big deal.

The Subaru WRX with the new Subaru Performance Transmission CVT automatic will appeal to a few drivers, but 90 percent of buyers will still pick the 6-speed manual option. Subaru has to include an automatic in the WRX lineup so they can use EyeSight to get the WRX the top IIHS safety scores.

Subaru's biggest failure was not bringing back the WRX hatchback trim level for the next-generation model. The hatch offers more utility and would have been a massive upgrade over the sedan. A hotter hatch trim level would have given the new 2022 WRX a significant boost over the outgoing model.

Subaru of America has learned its lesson from Impreza's declining sedan sales and now only offers the hatchback trim level. Will Subaru do the same for the WRX?

You Might Also Like: Life After The STI - Is The Next-Gen Subaru WRX’s Run Already Over?

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Subaru Report - We’ve got you covered! Check back tomorrow for more unique, informative SUBARU news, reviews, and previews you can trust.

Leave your comments below, share the article with friends and tweet it out to your followers!

Photo credit: Subaru USA


NMK (not verified)    November 19, 2022 - 5:56PM

The new WRX doesnt impress anyone really. Even in this car market where any new vehicle is hard to find, every local subaru dealership has several sitting on the lot. Nobody wants them. I did go test drive one, just for the hell of it as I do with cars all the time. It was slow and felt like an old ford explorer. It isnt that big of a vehicle but it feels giant. The manual trans felt like garbage.

KMN (not verified)    January 19, 2023 - 12:30PM

In reply to by NMK (not verified)

Incredible review. Your insight and analysis have opened my eyes to what a mistake I made last year buying one. A couple days ago I had a family member line up with me at a red light in our 2017 Crosstrek, and sure enough, it scorched me. Then I hopped in that car, and realized how much better the handling was and that I could actually see out the windows. It felt small, nimble and fast. And because my WRX is a GT, my SPT shattered like glass later the same day. Where were you last summer when I could have canceled my order & bought a 1999 Ford Explorer?

Brian (not verified)    November 20, 2022 - 3:39PM

Just over 300 miles on the new 2022 wrx. What I've read is the most underrated article ever. Of the several videos I've watched before purchasing this vehicle, the only complaint was from Gen z talking down on the cladding. This car is fun, is faster than previous models by far. I'm 48 years old and I'm thrilled to have it!!!!!

Vladmir Polchensky (not verified)    January 19, 2023 - 12:53PM

In reply to by Pat (not verified)


OK, so nobody is buying them because they're garbage. Yet wherever you live, you're regularly lining up with douchebag 22 WRX owners "challenging" you? What -drives- people like you to dance your fingers across your keyboard writing utter fiction? Any genuine, credible "car guy" knows rule #1 of drag racing - at a track or red light - is that if you want to compete & win, you need to abuse the CRAP out of your transmission/clutch. People like you, "regularly decimating" hordes of 22 WRX's simply must be replacing clutches and transmissions regularly.

I'm almost unquestionably older than you and sold my 11 STI prior to picking up my WRX GT. That car had $24k invested under it's hood alone. When some lesser (much lesser) cars lined up against me, I knew non-abusive launching and shifting would result in a loss. That's called reality. BUT on some rare occasions, when for example, I had an M3 and M6 line up, an AMG, even a Shelby Mustang, I prayed a bit - switched on launch control (Cobb AP) and let it rip, with a shuddering launch & a bit of 4 wheel spin. Each one went down by 100 mph.

But "decimate"? "Smoke"? These words are tossed around recklessly. In each case, they hung with me pretty good. Each was beaten, but by the time we pulled off and gave our cars a break, it was friendly and no excuses about poor shifts. I don't pretend to be a pro - like all the teens & millennials on these boards do - and F up shifts and do that, and I have been "smoked". If I talk to the guy, I tell them that I F'd up 3rd gear (usually the one) and they say "yeah, that was pretty obvious, too bad."

Guys like you are the lying douchebags of the world.

Francesco (not verified)    January 10, 2023 - 10:54AM

Independent reviewers are giving you a run for your money...

After ACTUALLY testing the car on the dyno, it is shown that the 2022 WRX outputs almost the same as the previous model year STI! (250hp at the wheels).
It is refined enough to live with it everyday and fun on backroads. And it achieves all of this at a great price-tag.

This WRX is going to become a classic, mark my words.

True WR Blue S… (not verified)    January 19, 2023 - 1:31PM

"Subaru has to include an automatic in the WRX lineup so they can use EyeSight to get the WRX the top IIHS safety scores."

Subaru considers the GT it's halo car, especially in Japan but also in the US. They invested heavily into the S4 and bringing it to the US didn't require any additional crash testing, though they likely did volunteer it.

At the same time, Subaru is a smart company. Much of the Eyesight capabilities cannot work with a manual...but most importantly, the VAST majority of enthusiasts buying 6-speed WRX's would not check the box & pay $1,500 (est.) for Eyesight. So investing engineering into a manual-compatible system would be an utter waste. ESPECIALLY considering the amount of money they are now diverting to E-cars.

And go ahead, bitch and whine about that, too. But when the dedicated "STI" comes along, as a full electric or hybrid and challenges Tesla's, all this complaining will fade into the dark past. The problem with the bench-racing keyboard warrior crowd is an utter lack of understanding product planning and the short and long term decision making that goes into it. Remember the Civic - went from a small, nimble, feisty hatch to essentially the new Accord...but the Accord was getting bigger, too. The new Civic was got bigger, quieter, and performance variants were weak...then the IRS went away and legions of fans left it. Yet you'd never know this occurred because an evolving fan base obscured it.

The WRX is much like my 2001 Audi S4. That car was a "troublemaker" - a car that shouldn't have had a market - a sedan when coupes were still alive - it was heavy, yet you'd never know it driving it. It challenged the contemporary Japanese competition in every way. So while the new WRX is too refined, no longer a bad-boy, which I understand, in 2022 it is refined in the way the 2001 S4 was. And no less fun. And my GT? After 21 years since I bought that S4, it packs a lot more tech, is lighter, has more HP/TQ, shifts faster than a manual, is lined with ultrasuede everywhere, and cost just $8,000 more than the S4. And I paid MSRP on the WRX...while I got a deal on the S4 lot car. Take that out and my WRX cost a mere $5,800 more.

It's a goddamn wonderful car. But you need to have been around long enough, and understand that history subtly repeats itself, and if you incorporate this thing called "perspective" you realize the sky isn't falling. And hate, as it always does, fades the more a person opens their eyes.