Mountain Wheels: Heavily upgraded Subaru WRX and BRZ will delight performance fans |

Mountain Wheels: Heavily upgraded Subaru WRX and BRZ will delight performance fans

Lower, more powerful and considerably day-glow orange, the 2022 Subaru WRX provides 271 horsepower and mixes speed with all-wheel drive agility.
Andy Stonehouse/Courtesy photo

After a long drought with one of Colorado’s most popular brands, I am in the middle of a Subaru explosion, so let me share news about two of the early arrivals.

The 2022 model year brought major changes and some serious upgrades to two of the company’s sportier automobiles, one with a bit more year-round appeal and one that offers some long-awaited extra power for old-school sports car enthusiasts.

The fifth-generation 2022 Subaru WRX is entirely new, built on a new global platform that gives it a lower center of gravity and an even sportier feel. Better yet, it’s also equipped with a 271-horsepower, 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine that means speedier and more powerful cruising, which often seems to be the objective of the people who buy the model, especially in the flaming Solar Orange Pearl color I had for a week.

It’s still not quite WRX STI racing territory — with the current model still making 310 horsepower — but Subaru has decided to offer the best of both worlds with a new, higher-end WRX GT model that gets Recaro-brand race seats, 18-inch wheels, sport-tuned automatic performance transmission, three-mode adjustable dampers and a high-output mode select. All of that will be priced at $41,895.

Starting price for the more standard (but still very appealing and accomplished) base WRX is $29,105. I drove a mid-level Limited model, priced at $38,245, and found that it had almost everything I needed. That included a close-set and super-efficient, six-speed manual transmission.

There’s no getting around how orange the paint color is, and during a very long day of dry but traction-sand-dusted back roads between the Poudre Canyon, Masonville and Estes Park, I blissfully encountered almost no traffic and had the roads to myself.

That fulsome power and 12.0 psi of boost makes this a pretty speedy vehicle indeed, so much so that it will hit the revolution limiter relatively easily while passing the cars you do encounter. But it’s not blindingly, STI-styled fast, so it can still be used as a comfortable but somewhat compact family vehicle.

WRX’s physique gets more chunky on each iteration. In 2022 it has a hood scoop, broad nostril-styled boxes around the fog lamps and a substantial rocker panel flare. The tail is increasingly taller and blockier, with quad pipes to show off the power.

Inside it has aluminum pedals, a flat-bottomed race wheel and great visibility through those open, aircraft-style windows in front of the side mirrors — helpful when the car is drifting sideways, as many owners like to do, even on dry pavement. The symmetrical all-wheel drive system and the high-performance winter tires I sampled meant traction is designed to keep that from ever happening, with glue-like cornering and enhanced stability.

The Subaru’s 11.6-inch Starlink Multimedia Plus system is styled like an upright tablet and is a little giddy in its design, but impressive. Hitting seat heat or temperature takes you to a separate seat heat and temperature page. I’d also kick in the $1,875 to get the upgraded Harmon Kardon stereo, about the only major option across much of the line.

It was certainly not the right time of the year to also get a 2022 BRZ, the rear-wheel drive pure-sports machine, but I managed another day of dry roads to get a feel for the most substantial changes to the specialty automobile.

First and foremost, the (starting at) $27,995 BRZ finally gets a factory power boost. Its decidedly non-turbo 2.4-liter engine now comes with 228 horsepower and a 15% increase in torque, which does not entirely transform it but makes it more of a pleasant driving experience when not pushing it to the redline on a race track.

Mostly, that extra power helps the car feel competitive and at least a hell of a lot less cranky than it often did at altitude. Floor it very heavily and you’ll appreciate that extra power on the highway or when completing a pass.

It remains a very light, surprisingly cargo-capable 2+2 vehicle, with aluminum used for hood, roof and front fenders, producing a curb weight of less than 2,900. That means it’s probably not the kind of car you want to be driving on I-70 during a substantial snowstorm, even with winter tires — though I have seen at least one hardcore BRZ enthusiast on Summit County roads during the winter, so I guess that’s a possibility.

You do have to do a sports car-styled sideways load to get yourself situated in the very low and heavily bolstered cockpit, where you always seem to be staring at the rear axles of lifted F-250s.

Andy Stonehouse

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