If you were shocked to see the Subaru WRX return as an all-new model for 2022, I can only imagine you were even more surprised to see there’s a wagon version sitting alongside it dubbed the Sportswagon. That’s right – the terribly-named Levorg is gone, and the WRX wagon is back.
85mm longer and 35mm taller than the WRX Sedan, the Sportswagon is, as the name suggests, vying to be the ultimate practical sports car. Oxymoronic? Sure, but in a world with jobs and families and responsibilities, a fast wagon is the perfect way to have your cake and eat it too.
Like the Sedan, the WRX Sportswagon is offered in three trim levels. The base variant starts at $49,990 before on-road costs, the middling GT model tested here charges $55,490, and stepping up to the top-spec tS variant will cost you $57,990. If you’re wondering why the base price of the Sportswagon is $5000 more than the Sedan, that’s because – rather tragically – the wagon is automatic-only. As a direct comparison, the Sportswagon is just $1000 more expensive than its respective Sedan equivalents.
What will no doubt be a motivator for some to get the WRX Sportswagon over the Sedan is its more… restrained styling. Gone is the controversial black plastic cladding around the wheel arches and the Honda Civic taillights; the WRX Sportswagon is a handsomely restrained piece of design. It might look a bit too plain and basic to some, but to my eyes – admittedly as a wagon fan – there’s a nice subtle aggression to it. It’s a bit of an ‘if you know, you know’ car, which a fast wagon ought be.
Of course, its added size means it’s been designed from the ground up to be a practical vehicle. Open the hands-free powered tailgate and fold down its rear seats and it will swallow anything short of a grandfather clock. It certainly laughed back at me when I worried about how some 1800mm garden stakes would fit; with ease was the clear answer.
This GT specification is unique to the Subaru WRX Sportswagon, and presents a more luxurious – rather than sporty – package than its RS Sedan equivalent. Leather upholstery clads its more accomodating bucket seats, and is continued up onto the door cards and dashboard. Of course, there’s red contrast stitching throughout to remind you this is no ordinary family wagon, along with the aluminium sports pedals and faux-carbon trim.
As with the WRX Sedan, the Sportswagon still features analog dials flanking a 4.2-inch trip computer screen which does look dated these days, although at least Subaru has given it a massive 11.6-inch portrait-oriented infotainment screen. Mind you, it looks a lot better than it works – trying to adjust the heated seats while on the move is far more complex than it should be, and the added size makes it no more configurable than any other infotainment system.
At least its facial recognition system – something I’m surprised not to see other brands adopting – is a clever bit of it. When configured for each driver, all you need to do is slot behind the wheel and the seat and mirror positions, as well as climate and radio settings, will automatically adjust to your preferences as the sensor above the central screen scans your face. If you’re regularly sharing your car with a partner, teenage child, or anyone else, it’s ultra convenient.
For shuttling passengers around, it’s ideal as well – the added height means there’s more headroom all around, and even the most tall won’t begrudge its standard sunroof. Mind you, it could do with perhaps a bit more interior storage – half the centre console cubby is taken up by a gigantic CD player (I do think CD audio quality is the best, but c’mon, it’s 2022!) and the slot below the screen is too small to fit a phone. There’s no wireless charger either, nor USB-C ports, so it’s safe to say it’s deceptively behind the times.
At least the all-important engine up front is thoroughly modern. The ‘FA24’ engine might come from the Subaru Ascent – a three-row SUV sold only in North America – but there’s no denying it feels at home in the WRX. Making 202kW and 350Nm, the numbers this 2.4-litre turbocharged flat-four produce are hardly groundbreaking, but its wide peak torque spread from 2000-5200rpm makes it feel smooth and of the times.
However, there’s still some top-end power and a rush of boost to remind you this is no average turbo four-pot, but a Subaru boxer engine. Mind you, that’s about the only reminder of that fact as it sounds as anonymous as this wagon looks to most people in traffic. There’s no flat-four rumble here, only the sound of a hardcore punk band that has turned instead to corporate rock.
Only adding to that is its CVT automatic – not that Subaru calls it a CVT, but rather a ‘Subaru Performance Transmission’. I’m sure it’ll fool some – it does a good impression of a conventional automatic, especially when using the nicely tactile paddle shifters – but for the average WRX clientele, there’s no pulling the wool over their eyes.
With that said, it’s not like a manual would make this car any more appealing – the manual gearbox in the WRX Sedan isn’t the finest example out there in my opinion, and it would only make this niche wagon even more of a hard sell.
Besides, it’s best to look at this as a big cruiser anyway, and there are many reasons why beyond the lack of a manual. The steering is certainly geared to the open road as when you want to push this thing harder, the tiller feels as lifeless as an outer-city bar on a rainy mid-afternoon. The wagon also has to make do with narrower wheels and tyres, and Yokohama BluEarth GT rubber rather than the Sedan’s Dunlop SP Sport Maxx treads. The GT Sportswagon even makes do with the older SI-Drive drive mode setup with just three settings – Intelligent, Sport, and Sport# – and no suspension adjustment or Individual drive mode like tS models offer.
But then, this just reminds of how the Hit the highway and it’s a real charmer. The ride quality is brilliant, the engine feels effortlessly torquey and remains frugal for a turbo lump of its size, and the array of driver assistance technology including lane-centring and Subaru’s brilliant EyeSight adaptive cruise control which is still among the smoothest systems out there makes it a great cruiser.
Yet, when called upon, you can still have enough fun in it. Like the Levorg before it, the WRX Sportswagon has a healthy amount of body roll through the bends that allows you to control its weight transfer; combined with the added weight at the rear, it’ll deliver just the right hint of oversteer to make you feel as though you’re really pushing it when there’s still more it’ll take thanks to the brilliance of its all-wheel drive system.
It might sound as though I’ve thrown out too many downsides, but the reality is that these characteristics – as I’d truly consider them – make the Subaru WRX Sportswagon a more personable car than the Sedan. Where the WRX Sedan feels like a fun car that’s actually a bit too dull, the Sportswagon feels like a dull car that’s been made fun.
Were it my money, the wagon is what I’d buy. A grand more for a vastly more practical car seems a no brainer to me. It, like the Sedan, may not be the perfect WRX, but when you view it in the context of today’s market it actually offers something I’m sure people will want. It’s just as practical as any SUV, but it drives far better than one and is much, much faster. When you think about it that way, there’s actually a good subset of people who that clearly comes to mind – Subaru buyers. Funny, that.
2022 Subaru WRX GT Sportswagon List Price: $55,490
- Performance - 8/108/10
- Ride & Handling - 8/108/10
- Tech & Features - 8/108/10
- Practicality - 8.5/108.5/10
- Value for Money - 8.5/108.5/10
Pros: Comfortable ride, punchy turbocharged engine, ultra practical, looks better than the Sedan
Cons: Touchscreen controls are harder to use on the move, no manual or traditional automatic gearbox, muted steering feel
In a nutshell: A fast wagon is the best way to have your cake and eat it too, and the 2022 Subaru WRX Sportswagon certainly lets you do just that. It’s unassumingly inoffensive to the average person, yet those that know will be well aware it’s a quick bit of kit. It’s worth every one of the $1000 it costs over the sedan.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Subaru Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.