By on January 27, 2022

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.

[Images: Subaru]

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38 Comments on “Subaru WRX Wagon Returns Elsewhere With CVT...”


  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    It’d compete here with the Xtrex.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If the CVT won’t hurt sales, then Subaru makes more money by not offering two transmissions.

    People forget that car mfrs and sports teams are businesses first – what the fans want is secondary.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Back in ’05, when I bought a Focus ST, I fretted about why Ford didn’t do a wagon version. I mean, they already made a Focus wagon, and the 150 or so ST wagons they made would have sold like gangbusters!

      (A ST/SVT Focus wagon would have been hella cool, though.)

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I don’t think there’s any big mystery why the wagon version isn’t coming here – Subaru stopped selling the WRX wagon 15 years ago, presumably due to slow sales. Overseas markets like small wagons; Americans don’t, unless the small wagon in question is jacked up, and has a bunch of ugly black plastic cladding on it.

    (And, yes, CVTs suck.)

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Bring back the manual transmission! That nobody buys…….

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      According to the story, about 80% of people who buy WRXs opt for a manual. I’d foresee a similar take rate for WRX competitors that offer automatics (GTI/GLI, Elantra N, etc.).

      I don’t have an issue at all with automatic compact performance cars – I own one (Jetta GLI with DSG). But the automatic in my car is a terrific unit – it shifts so quickly that the automatic version will actually outrun the manual. It doesn’t just make the car more convenient to drive – I think it makes it drive better. I don’t think you can say that about any CVT, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Posky

        Volkswagen has previously told me that the manual/automatic breakdown for the fast Golfs is around 50/50. Though I think VWs DSG is much nicer than Subaru’s CVT, which could explain why so many more VW fans go with the automatic.

        I can’t speak to other makes or models without digging around through old notes. But Subaru saying that at least 80 percent of WRXs are ordered with a clutch struck me as quite high.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @Matt

          I’d have expected the manual take rate to be higher, but it probably does make sense, as you say – the automatic is an extremely attractive option with that model.

          Just ran a search on Autotrader for the 2015-current GTI within 500 miles of me, and found 98 manuals and 80 automatics.

          Same search for the current-gen GLI yielded 35 automatics and 13 manuals.

          Seems us GLI folks prefer the automatic.

  • avatar
    Fred

    The Imprezza 5 door is $1300 cheaper with the 5 speed manual. Just saying. Also this emphasizes the lack of development on this model, why isn’t this a 6 speed?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Help please B&B. Despite this being the absolute worst time to shop new vehicles, we may just be doing that. Requirements: CUV type height (for entrance/exit and road clearance), heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, room for 5 (in a pinch) in the back and no MT (sorry but my better half will be driving it in city/urban traffic) and hopefully a cost of around $30k Canadian. Would like to keep it for about 12 years, with about 10,000 to 15,000kms annual use. Checked the Maverick to get what we want out of their existing inventory they are all around $45K. Every vehicle with the exception of Mazda or VW that I have researched has a CVT. Not enamoured of the instrument panel or greenhouse/headroom of the Mazda CX-30. VW, no! Toyota CorollaCross is alleged to be experiencing CVT issues (surprise!). So am thinking Subaru Forester. But they have CVT’s.

    The vehicle will never be used for towing, never overloaded and certainly not ‘raced’.

    Any thoughts/suggestions.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Check if the CC CVT issues are legit or not. That would be my pick if the CX-30 doesn’t suit, otherwise maybe a low-mid trim CX-5.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Arthur – I can only suggest based upon my experience with the CVT in my wife’s 2011 Outback Premium. We purchased this car in 2013 pre-owned with 40k miles on it – it now has 176k miles on it. It has been used routinely to carry equine feed, dog food, water softener salt in the cargo area for our farm. The equine feed/dog food load is usually 500# plus and, if anything, levels the ride-height and smooths the ride – acceleration with this loading is noticeable but not at all horrible. The CVT? Never an issue with the CVT – I do a drain/refill of the fluid every 60k miles and nothing more than using around 6 quarts of Valvoline CVT fluid for a total of $50-$60 USD. It is the older CVT and does not have the fake shifts of the newer Subaru units – doesn’t bother me as it reminds me a bit of the old Buick Dynaflows of my youth but has much, much better performance. The only driveline issue with this vehicle started at around 140k miles – the known issue with the torque converter failing to unlock direct drive on a rapid stop. Eh, we learned to ease up to a stop and it’s not a big issue – when I get $528 USD in spare cash I’ll just replace the torque converter but I’ll wait till spring. I guess my $0.02 worth is that Subaru CVT’s are reliable, more reliable than several conventional automatics, definitely better than the Jatco’s in Nissans, and not bad performers at all in my usage.

      • 0 avatar
        Tagbert

        Is the CVT used in that Outback the belt-type CVT or is it more like the planetary gearbox used in Toyota and Ford hybrids? The latter is know to be very reliable. The former, it probably depends on the manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Help me Obi Wan KenoB&B, you’re my only hope.

      Your market’s pricing and Loonie conversions throw a lot into the equation that we don’t necessarily experience in Freedomville™ but generally speaking yes the Forester is your friend (until its starts p!ssing you off as my brother’s Legacy has at 60K). But from what I know of you, you could easily trade at 50Kish if you start having to replace undercarriage components early as he had to do which were not covered in the extended warranty (protip: the first diff service at 40K was something around $800 Freedom Units, which was enough for me to buy a FWD Toyota and nix the 2% a year I could use AWD). I don’t think a Mazda or VW anything will treat you any better and a Subbie would be easier for you to resell vs those marques.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        28 – “protip: the first diff service at 40K was something around $800” – WTH, was it broken or was this just to change the differential oil? Some Subaru stealerships are aware that their clients are mechanically-declined and really soak ’em for the “recommended service”. Differential oil change X2 is about $50 in oil and an hour of time.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          They call it something else but its primarily about the undercarriage as it was explained to me. Maybe they top of other stuff with it I’m not sure.

          My brother’s gripe was more recently he needed a muffler, I think tie rods or control arms and something else that was kind of early for replacement on a normal car. I think his 40K service was something like $1,500 because he needed tires as well.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I’ll second the suggestion for a CX-5. Based on the interest in heated seats, I’d say the Touring Preferred would be where you’d want to be. Bonus, if it matters, is the interior electric gate release.

      The infotainment system has a small learning curve, but it’s pretty easy after that.

      The only thing I’m not so sure about is cylinder deactivation. I remember hearing about issues with the first year it was out, but that it was addressed. I’ve also read that the cylinder deactivation was dropped.

      I had a 2019 model and my mom has a 2021. I liked it muchly. The 2021 has memory seats which my 2019 didn’t have, if memory serves.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @Arthur:

      No interest in the domestics?

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Freedmike; Up here an Escape and a Compass start at just under $30k. So Ford and Chrsyler are out of the running. GM has the Equinox at just under that price, the Encore which few endorse and the Trailblazer. An old V8 guy like myself just cannot fit his head around buying a vehicle with a 3 cylinder engine.

        As for the Mazda and the Subaru, both come standard with AWD which is a feature that I do not require.

        The Mazda at least has a ‘real transmission’. As for CVTs we had one for 4 years with 80,000kms and no problems whatsoever. So I got the exact same model as my current daily driver, which is 1 year old with 20,000kms and in the cold weather I have to drive very slowly around the block a few times or else the tach rises dramatically without any requisite increase in speed.

        Thanks for all the recommendations. Please feel free to add more.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          @Arthur

          I’m still skeptical long term but I don’t think the CVT is the death sentence it was in the late 2000s.

          I have similar feelings on AWD but I can’t imagine its going to hurt resale in Canuckistan. I’d still go with the Subbie but the Mazda may be a fine choice. I wouldn’t touch GM, the Escape, or the Compass.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Arthur

      CX5 I dont like. Had a rental and put 1500 miles on it. Radio controls on the knob wheel then>> look at tv screen , never worked for me. If you were to ‘scan’ for a radio station and didnt press select fast enough. The next station would appear and it was IMPOSSIBLE to go back 1 station.

      2- CX5 75 MPH on the expressway. Going around a slight curve with radar cruise ‘on.’ My lane was clear. This system picked up the car in the next lane over and my car DROPPED ANCHOR at 75 MPH. Full second or 2. Car behind me almost hit a tractor trailer.

      I have a 18 forester. Fantastic car. tranny is not an issue. It has the simulated shift point action. My Owners manual does require tranny fluid change at 40,000 miles. ( and 2022 forester still has a CD player. Nobody else does.)

      Equinox has the worse radio ever. Rapid depreciation. Poor quality. RUN from this one.

      RAV4-Fugly

      Bronco sport ??? I d check that out.

      Humbly submitted.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        Maybe not available in Freedumbville™, but yes, the NA Mazda 2.5l in Canada has cylinder deactivation on the 2022 models. And for some years past. Turns it into a two cylinder on light load. Undetectable in a 2019 Mazda3 AWD I drove. My 6 turbo doesn’t include cylinder deactivation.

        Having had Subarus for 20 years and switching to Mazda entirely because of the damn CVT, I’d have to say that my observation is that the Mazda is a distinct upgrade in construction quality all round. The dealer, however, is a distinct downgrade in my case, and are doing their vile utmost to prevent me buying another Mazda. The car itself is lovely, has had zero problems and gets better mileage, but the dealer drives me to distraction with petty charges. $30 shop supplies? Going to my old independent is not much of an option during Covid.

        • 0 avatar
          tankinbeans

          It’s available in the USA. I found the little screen showing when cylinders 1 and 4 were off. The deactivation and reactivation are indeed undetectable, at least to me. I’d only read about some issues with actuators failing on the first shipments leading to engine replacements.

          The screen was neat, in a “how is this going to actually help me save gas kind of war.” I suppose if you’re Wayne Gerdes and pay unsafe amounts of attention you could probably keep it running on 2 cylinders more so than it normally would, but for everyday driving… I have the same opinion of the instant economy readout.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Cylinder deactivation in a 2.5 I4 seems a tad off, but if it works I suppose we’ll start seeing it everywhere. I’d be curious to know the mileage, somehow I feel its not so much or we would have heard about it.

    • 0 avatar
      B-BodyBuick84

      This might sound like an absurd suggestion coming from a man with a username such as mine, but I’d highly recommend checking out a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. My girlfriend was on the fence about trading in her Honda Fit and as a car guy/ backyard mechanic I accompanied her on several car shopping excursions. The Eclipse really stuck out to me, three points specifically;
      1)The CTV transmission behaved very well and was equipped with a dipstick tube and a drain bolt in the pan for easy servicing, I even crawled under to check and yup, it has one. Mitsubishi CTV’s have no discernible issues as far as I can tell, they actually have a pretty decent unit concerning reliability.
      2) The S-AWC system really blew me away. Due to covid all test drives are without any salesmen present in the vehicle. In a small muddy field off the road, I took it through what I thought was a small to medium puddle,turned out to be a large, deep, girlfriend screaming as water-crept-halfway-up-the-doors kinda puddle. In Gravel Mode it drove in and out without a hitch.
      3) The obvious one, but the 10 year, 160,000 KM warranty. If you’re truly planning on keeping a vehicle as long as you state, then at the very least you’ve got peace-of-mind for a very large chunk of ownership.
      Off the top of my head, acceleration was very peppy, the ride was smooth and handled potholes well, the backseat was decently comfortable for two adults but would be tight (though doable)for three. Front seats were comfortable, though to be fair, I’m not sure that’s saying much coming from a Honda Fit. I believe it was the lower mid-spec SE trim we tested, and it did have heated seats, heated steering wheel, and blind spot warning/ lane change assist. I think it was even priced at 29,800 or thereabouts.
      Hope this helps Arthur! Good luck, and let us know how the search goes!

      • 0 avatar
        Skippity

        I agree with B-BodyBuick84. And if you can go a bit over 30CAD the bigger 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          B&B Thanks and please keep those suggestions coming. Hate to be so negative but regarding some recommendations. 1) Mitsu the closest dealer is now over 45 minutes away, otherwise I surely would have added them to my list. 2) Mazda CX-5 has an MSRP of just over $31k. Plus freight/delivery, tax (13% on top of the total) and any other fees the dealership might feel like tacking on in this market. Still a base CX-5 might price very close to a CX-30 with the options we ‘require’. 3) Bronco Sport base has an MSRP of $33,000 plus the above mentioned fees.

          Darn cars a getting expensive. So yes, I may have to go ‘over budget’.

          I bought a new Corvette for $10,600 and paid just under $7k for a ’59 Eldorado Biarritz convertible which I flipped in one day for the Corvette (probably the last time I made money on a vehicle). The ‘vette is now probably priced about 50% higher than what I paid and a comparable Caddy is now probably well over $100k.

          • 0 avatar
            B-BodyBuick84

            Completely understandable, definitely one of the biggest issues Mitsubishi has isn’t actually with the vehicles themselves, but the lack of dealerships compared to other brands. Hope you find something suitable soon, it’s a crazy time for cars right now! If enough time passes and you find yourself still looking, however, I’d suggest taking the 45 minute drive and at least test driving one. If nothing else, it seems to match your requirements pretty well.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m getting Accordish vibes from the white wagon.

  • avatar
    zipper69

    Looks not unlike the Buick wagon of a few seasons back, anybody know how that sold?

    It was a nice looking vehicle.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    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.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Varezhka – I believe that you’ve hit on the push of all Subaru products to CVT – the EyeSight System. EyeSight is a big deal for Subaru safety advertising and doesn’t work with a manual shift vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        How well does EyeSight work when driving directly into the late afternoon sun? I assume everything shuts down—lane-keep, adaptive cruise, auto-brake, the whole shebang! (A new Honda Civic would have the same issues, as everything is controlled by cameras, and no radar units except for parking sensors. Maybe!)

        • 0 avatar
          Varezhka

          sgeffe,

          It is a camera based system, so as you have guessed may be less effective depending on the lighting condition. They are still known to be one of the better systems out there though.

          There’s also a second generation EyeSight available for the Levorg and home market Outback that includes LiDAR and mmWave radar on top of an improved camera system. Not sure when that’s coming this side of the shore.

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