By on June 26, 2017

2018 Subaru WRX STI, Image: Subaru

When Subaru launched the fifth-generation Impreza with a CVT, a collective sigh of relief was heard after enthusiasts learned it would still provide a standard five-speed manual transmission. However, it didn’t guarantee that the next incarnation of the WRX wouldn’t abandon the clutch pedal to maximize sales and minimize zero to 60 times.

After all, most people don’t purchase manual transmission vehicles anymore and the WRX already comes with a CVT. It would be easy for the automaker adopt a dual-clutch as a pricier option on sporting Subarus and leave the variable tranny in the base trim. Nobody was so worried about it that they lost sleep on the matter, but there was just enough doubt to have us all occasionally wringing our hands.

However, thanks to the not-quite-bulletproof history of the dual-clutch design and a keen awareness of their consumer base, Subaru is sticking with the manual. Masahiko Inoue, project manager for the Impreza, confirmed the performance versions of the model will persist with the now-antiquated technology many of us prefer.

The assertion was confirmed by Subaru Australia’s managing director Colin Christie, who claimed the brand has specific models with an obvious need for the manual transmission. “You look at products like the WRX and the STI — the STI is a manual-only model — we’d expect that to continue into the future,” he explained to Wheels. “The WRX now has a CVT and a manual, and the sales are about 60 percent CVT now to 40 percent manual.”

While the transmission bias is likely to be skewed more in favor of the automatic in North America, ditching the clutch pedal would almost guarantee certain prospective buyers would do their shopping elsewhere. The WRX is one of the few models left on the road that draws in driving enthusiasts who want to do the shifting themselves. Its current CVT isn’t abysmal but the consensus among most avid drivers is that the six-speed provides the superior setup. There aren’t a great many vehicles like that still populating dealer lots.

However, the manual may not last forever. Christie admitted to being surprised at the number of people, specifically young men, willing to purchase the WRX with a continuously variable transmission. “A lot of people who come in and [test drive] the manual and the CVT are choosing the CVT,” he said. “I’d imagine that over time you’d see more and more automatic-based or CVT-based product in the market.”

Thankfully, buyers will still have a choice with the Global Platform-based WRX — whenever it decides to show its ugly face.

[Image: Subaru]

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18 Comments on “Don’t Worry, the Next-generation WRX Will Keep Its Manual Transmission...”


  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    CVT is the performance choice. Faster. Higher MPG.
    Do enthusiasts buying performance vehicles dislike being faster?

    • 0 avatar

      No. But the difference in performance between the manual and the CVT is so trivial that to someone who loves driving, it just doesn’t matter. There’s a skill and a grace to shifting that makes driving that much more of a ballet.

      To look at it another way, the more you have of any resource or attribute, the less valuable is each additional increment. For someone who genuinely loves driving, losing shifting is a high price to pay for a fraction of a second less time 0-60.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        This. Not sure why this isn’t obvious. Presumably you’d buy a WRX because you like driving and can understand that “performance choice” in the sense of straight line speed is a bland one-dimensional way of looking at a sporty car.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Guy

      There is a fun factor with a manual that lost with an auto, especially a CVT. I would gladly take a 0.2-0.3 second slower 0-60 time with a manual.

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      Actually the cvt is slower, has less whp when dynoed from factory due to different engine casting, and gets worse mileage than the manual wrx.

      They need put in a dual clutch then we can really see if people favor peformance over rowing your own gears.

      dual clutch > manual > cvt

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      drag race 0-x isn’t the only, or most relevant measure of a WRX’s transmission performance. At wheel torque modulation is typically more immediate with a clutched manual transmission than a CVT. When using the loud pedal to rotate the car, or even to wring out any available traction on turn exit, having *control* of the power delivery at your hands and feet is an improvement. Not making claims about top end traction enhancing electro-hydraulic computerized wizardry capability, the FORS is a different beast. In a WRX though, the CVT is NOT the performance choice. If all you need is straight line performance, buy the Dodge.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The CVT is slower and the EPA gives it worse fuel economy ratings.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Either way, I’m not worrying. Will never buy my Subaru #5 because of the crappy, inconsistent quality. How fortunate Subaru is to have a reputation that can be claimed as “good”, or a group of increasing sheep-customers who blindly accept this.

  • avatar
    raisingAnarchy

    Fortunately, the CVT is not quicker than the manual version of the WRX in any measure, according to Car and Driver. I wonder what the CVT/Manual take rates are in the US?

    “At the test track, this CVT-equipped WRX lagged the stick version, the quarter-mile taking 14.3 seconds at 99 mph, or 0.7 second and 3 mph behind the manual. Unable to launch the auto WRX as hard as the manual, we saw the zero-to-60 time stretch from 4.8 seconds to 5.5 seconds.”

    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2015-subaru-wrx-automatic-test-review

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    What nutter even asked “lets put a CVT in a WRX?”

  • avatar
    nels0300

    “CVT is the performance choice”

    Aaaaaahh ha ha ha ha ha……aaaaaahh ha ha ha…

    AAAAH…HA HA HA HA…..AAAAAHHHH….. (choking, coughing)….

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      It does sound ridiculous. But I remember reading something about F1 banned CVT’s from being used due to the CVT being mapped to stay in the top torque curve. The cars also sounded a bit odd.

  • avatar
    DAC17

    I just want them to make a hatchback model!

  • avatar
    Promit

    Yeah yeah yeah, whatever – what I want to know is, where is my damn hatchback? No hatchback, no sale Subaru.

  • avatar
    juliobro

    I don’t think it’s a question about preferring a CVT, I would think that’s out of the question for most enthusiasts. The real question is if a dual-clutch WRX/STI would be preferred; I think Subaru has applied that tech or something similar in their rally cars. I’m an engineer and, for one, I think the dual-clutch system is the way of the future and would be welcome by enthusiast. You keep a manual-type transmission, exchanging a stick and clutch system for paddles that take a lot less effort and are, seemingly, much easier to use. Also, tranny problems are less because it’s a safer system.

    The experiment should be Subaru selling a dual-clutch system, sayyy…on the STI, then see how enthusiast like it. When the thing suceeds, then the WRX will have it, and the stick-clutch could be a special option, as I’m sure the dual-clutch will take over.

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