Subaru WRX Wagon Returns Elsewhere With CVT
Subaru hasn’t sold the WRX as a wagon since 2015. While fans have been clamoring for its return ever since, the automaker’s willingness to play along hasn’t gotten much further than its Viziv concept vehicles.
But that doesn’t mean other markets have to do without. The manufacturer is currently prepping the 2022 WRX Sportwagon for the Australian market. Though it’s difficult to be broken up about it being trapped in the land down under, considering it’s going to be offered exclusively with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
While we already knew the second-generation Subaru Levorg would be having its standard 1.8-liter turbo yanked out for the 2.4-liter FA24F to become the WRX Sportwagon (in Australia) and WRX GT (in New Zealand). Many fans were hoping prior claims that it would be CVT only were just rumors. But Subaru has confirmed the model is being prepped for the relevant markets without a manual option.
As a positive, the model lacks the controversial black plastic that surrounds the North American model’s wheel wells. The Levorg-based WRX uses the same motor as our sedan (271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque) and offers a more cohesive exterior design. However, it also gets the “Subaru Performance Transmission” (CVT) designed to mimic a DTC with no substitutions.
Subaru is understandably trying to keep pace with its consumer base around the globe and said that maturing the WRX along with the fandom was important. While the goal has always been to deliver a daily driver that can double as an all-weather performance vehicle, the manufacturer has said it believes the current generation bridges that gap best thanks to years of experience. Despite this resulting in a fatter, homelier car with a predictably massive screen taking up valuable cabin space, everyone still really seems to enjoy driving it.
The WRX was always a playfully ugly design, and the polarizing looks typically stopped mattering once you got behind the steering wheel. But the new one elevates the vehicle’s practical tendencies even further by making it more like the rest of the Subaru lineup. So then why in the hell would the company not be pushing the wagon?
I understand that the model has a limited development budget. But the way in which those funds are utilized might leave you scratching your head. For example, the vast majority of WRX drivers (around 80 percent, according to Subaru) option their cars with a manual transmission. However, Subaru spent a fortune improving the continuously variable transmission (CVT) nobody liked on the previous generation, leaving less cash for any hypothetical hatchbacks.
This was undoubtedly done in an effort to draw in more drivers who don’t know how to work a clutch. But something tells me the money would have been better spent bringing back the wagon. Enthusiasts rarely look favorably on CVTs (even good ones) and the brunt of the WRX’s competition are imported liftbacks often sold with automatic transmissions. If it wants to steal their customers, it needs more than a car you don’t have to shift yourself.
Then again, I’m not on Subaru’s marketing team and the automaker has been teasing Levorg performance wagons for several years. We figured they’d get roped into the WRX lineup eventually, though I cannot pretend that has made the automaker’s plan for the nameplate any easier to comprehend. With the overwhelming majority of its sales taking place inside of North America, it seems like Subaru would do everything to maintain volume there — including bringing back the WRX wagon with a manual transmission.
At any rate, the Aussies should start seeing deliveries of their Sportwagon this spring.
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Last chance to get a manual. Better buy up, folks. Next gen will be a hybrid with CVT, and then you get a 1-speed transmission from then on. Adios, fun.
Nothing surprising here. Levorg was a car specifically for the Japanese domestic market (2nd biggest market for Subaru) as a replacement for Legacy wagon. 5th gen. Legacy was targeted for US market, and since it became too big for the home market, they basically split the line. Sedan friendly US market gets the Legacy and WRX. In Japan where wagon is more popular, they get Levorg (hence RHD and CVT only, given Subaru's resouce). It's CVT only because (A) the 80% manual take rate for WRX is a US specific situation and not so back home and (B) the Japanese law now requires auto emergency braking for all new cars, and Subaru EyeSight isn't stick compatible. Last gen. WRX was also a CVT only affair in Japan, and you needed to step up to STI to get a stick. Now, we're not sure Subaru will even be able to sell WRX STI back home.