This Is Why the 2022 Subaru WRX Has Those Ugly Plastic Fenders

  • The Subaru WRX’s fenders are more aerodynamic than painted ones
  • The Porsche Cayman GT4 uses the same technology
  • Real fender vents help remove air from the new WRX’s wheel wells

Finally, after months of waiting, we finally have some explanation from Subaru on the plastic fenders. It’s a huge critique constantly leveled at the 2022 Subaru WRX. For many, it’s a huge sticking point that holds back what is otherwise a great sports sedan. But is Subaru’s explanation enough?

Why do people hate the new WRX?

The plastic fenders on the new 2022 Subaru WRX
The 2022 Subaru WRX’s plastic fenders | Subaru

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Part of the reasoning behind the hate for the new WRX is the way these fenders interact with your eyes. The black plastic creates negative space between the tops of the fenders and where the tires end. As a result, the 2022 Subaru WRX tricks your eyes into thinking the sporty sedan is more Subaru crossover than WRX. We’ve yet to confirm if the same effect happens in person, but it certainly does in photos, especially on lighter-colored cars.

Then there’s, well, the look of them. It’s not like plastic is some quality material being used on the car (though carbon fiber wouldn’t look much better). Folks say it looks cheap, and they’re right. That plastic will fade in the sun. We don’t mind the introduction of some rally-ish toughness to the WRX, but this may not be the best way to accomplish it.

The 2022 Subaru WRX looks like a crossover for a reason

A white 2022 Subaru WRX shot from the front
The rest of the WRX’s design is rather tame | Subaru

Road and Track spoke to Subaru project manager Michael Redic to get some insight. Redic says the 2022 Subaru WRX has plastic fenders because “it’s designed to help improve airflow.” The idea behind that improved airflow is present on other cars, too. Just in much less visible ways. The BMW M4-killing Porsche Cayman GT4 uses golf ball-like dimples on the underside of the front nose to help smooth air.

Apparently, that’s much the same idea on the WRX. There’s a sort of texturized surface to the fenders, which you can see in Doug DeMuro’s video above. Like the Cayman, these dimples help with aerodynamics. DeMuro makes the obvious point about these. Is the gain in aero performance worth it? This isn’t a Formula 1 wing, where minor changes can mean wins or losses. Unless there’s a real, tangible benefit, it’s very likely buyers would rather have painted fenders.

How much will the 2022 WRX cost?

A red Subaru WRX shot from the front 3/4 on a rainy day
The WRX shares an engine with the Subaru Outback | Subaru

However, there is one real aerodynamic benefit to these fenders, but it’s a principle that would work with paint or plastic. The vents on the fender of the 2022 Subaru WRX are functional and remove air from within the wheel well. That’s serious supercar tech, and it works. The resulting vacuum in the wheel well can reduce pressure and have the added effect of pulling hot air from the brakes out from under the car and in the wheel wells.

No matter what, we fully expect to see buyers of the roughly $30,000 2022 Subaru WRX to be painting their fenders just as soon as they can. As Doug said, there’s just not enough benefit in the fenders to really assuage people’s issues with the looks. Who knows? Maybe Subaru will change them for 2023 with the introduction of the STI.

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