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  • The Subaru WRX S4 is a compromised sports sedan for JDM enthusiasts
  • The S4 skips the stick and only offers an automatic transmission
  • Adaptive dampers are off the table for Japanese buyers that want a stick shift

While many a Subaru die-hard stews over the highly controversial looks of the 2022 Subaru WRX, the Japanese market is getting more special sauce that won’t reach American shores. Meet the Subaru WRX S4, a sort of smoothed-over JDM-only sports sedan that we most certainly won’t be getting in the USDM market any time soon, if ever.

What is the 2022 Subaru WRX S4?

A front shot of a Subaru WRX driving across a dry lakebed, with another model close behind
Our version of the new ‘Rex will be here next year | Subaru

Initially, we thought the Japan-only WRX S4 was going to be our first look at the new STI. As of yet, Subaru hasn’t unveiled the WRX’s faster JDM counterpart, but this clearly isn’t it. However, this car does bear the STI badge, and per Subaru, it isn’t a full-on STI. That means this is something like the BMW M240i, which is a sort of 99%-done M car. Think of the 2022 Subaru WRX S4 as a sort of 99%-done STI, if that helps.

On the outside, many of the changes are aesthetic. Of course, there’s some badging, one of which says “S4” on the trunk, but this is no Audi sports sedan, as just inches away there’s also an STI badge on the trunk as well. Badging is great and all, but the rear wiper is something we won’t be getting. It’s being omitted from the USDM 2022 Subaru WRX.

The WRX S4 gets some changes from the WRX GT

A pair of 2022 WRX models in black and orange shot on a highway turnout
The US-spec Subaru WRX | Subaru

Underneath, things are extremely similar to the US-spec 2022 Subaru WRX. Up front, there’s the same 271 hp turbocharged 2.4L flat-four. As with the US-spec 2022 Subaru WRX GT, there’s also an automatic transmission. It’s an 8-speed CVT (continuously variable transmission) with a selectable manual mode. Rounding off the list of mechanical bits is a first for the WRX: adaptive suspension. Unfortunately for the Japanese Subaru lovers that pine for a stick shift, Subaru has made the S4 auto-only, just like with the WRX GT.

So, in reality, this is a closer and much more detailed look at the WRX GT we’ll be seeing Stateside soon. However, there’s also different trim levels for the JDM Subaru WRX S4, unlike the GT. Those are as follows: GT-H, GT-H EX, STI Sport R, and STI Sport R EX. Both the STI Sport R trims get some more special interior bits, like Recaro seats, leather and suede upholstery, carbon fiber trim, and some aluminum pedals.

This JDM sports sedan special is forbidden fruit

An orange non-JDM 2022 Subaru WRX sports sedan mid-drift on a desert lakebed
We’re still getting a US-spec JDM sports sedan | Subaru

Subaru WRX vs. Subaru WRX STI: Is the Subie Halo Car Worth It?

Clearly, this is supposed to be a less hardcore, more comfortable version of the 2022 Subaru WRX. It’s just a shame those Japanese buyers are in the same boat as us for once. Those adaptive dampers are off-limits for those who want to row their own gears. Frankly, given the backlash we’ve seen over that decision, it won’t be surprising if the stick shift and adaptive dampers make their way into the new STI on its debut.