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The Evolution of Subaru WRX: A Look at Transmission Options and Performance

The Subaru WRX has become an iconic vehicle within the automotive industry. It has been praised for its impressive performance and reliability, making it one of the most beloved sports sedans on the market.

The WRX has undergone many changes throughout its history, particularly in regards to its transmission options. In this article, we will delve into the brief history of the Subaru WRX and explore the evolution of its transmission options.

Brief history of the Subaru WRX

The Subaru WRX was first introduced in 1992 as a variation of the Impreza model. It was designed to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and quickly made a name for itself in the racing world.

The first WRX model was powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 220 horsepower. The car could go from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds, which was lightning-fast for its time.

The WRX was designed with racing in mind, and it quickly became a fan favorite. The car’s success in the WRC led to an increase in demand from consumers, and by the late 1990s, Subaru had begun exporting the WRX to other countries.

The WRX was particularly popular in Europe, where it was known as the “Impreza Turbo”. Subaru continued to develop the WRX throughout the 2000s, introducing new engine options and performance enhancements.

In 2001, they introduced the WRX STI, a more powerful version of the WRX that was specifically designed for racing. The STI had a larger spoiler, a more powerful engine, and a stronger suspension system that allowed it to handle better on the track.

Today, the WRX is in its fifth generation and continues to be a popular choice for car enthusiasts all over the world.

Evolution of WRX transmission options

The Subaru WRX has always been known for its impressive performance, and one of the main components of that performance is its transmission. Over the years, Subaru has introduced several different transmission options for the WRX, each with its unique advantages and disadvantages.

The first generation of the WRX came with a five-speed manual transmission. This transmission was the standard choice for most sports cars of the time and provided the driver with a more engaging driving experience.

However, it made the car less accessible to drivers who were not comfortable with manual transmissions. In 2002, Subaru introduced the automatic transmission option for the WRX.

The automatic transmission was a four-speed unit and was initially met with mixed reviews. Many enthusiasts were disappointed that Subaru had strayed from the traditional manual transmission, while others appreciated the added convenience of an automatic option.

Subaru introduced the six-speed manual transmission in 2004 as an option for WRX STI models. The new transmission featured shorter gear ratios, allowing for faster acceleration and improved performance on the track.

The six-speed manual transmission quickly became the preferred option for STI drivers and remains a popular choice today. In 2008, Subaru introduced the first continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the WRX.

The CVT was a major departure from traditional transmissions, using a belt and pulley system to provide a smoother, more efficient drive. The CVT quickly caught on with drivers who valued comfort and convenience over raw power, but it was not well-received by enthusiasts who felt that it undermined the WRX’s performance capabilities.

The fifth-generation WRX, introduced in 2021, continued to offer the six-speed manual transmission as well as the CVT. However, Subaru made significant improvements to the CVT, including a more powerful engine and improved gearing.


The Subaru WRX has become a legendary sports sedan, and its history is filled with innovations and improvements. The evolution of the WRX’s transmission options is a testament to the car’s commitment to providing drivers with an impressive performance and a personalized driving experience.

Today, the WRX remains one of the most popular sports cars on the market, and its legacy continues to inspire drivers all over the world. 3.

Benefits of having a manual transmission

Manual transmissions were once the only transmission option to be found in vehicles. However, over time, automatic transmissions have become more popular.

Despite this, there are still many benefits to having a manual transmission. Firstly, manual transmissions give the driver more control.

Drivers can choose the exact gear they want to be in at any given moment, something that’s not possible with an automatic transmission. This can be particularly useful in situations where the driver needs to make quick decisions and adjustments.

For example, when driving up a steep hill, a driver may need to downshift to a lower gear to maintain momentum. Manual transmissions are also generally less expensive to purchase and maintain.

This is because they are less complex than automatic transmissions, and replacement parts are often less expensive as well. Additionally, manual transmissions usually require less maintenance overall, given they are less likely to break than automatic transmissions are.

Finally, manual transmissions can be more fun to drive. The requirement to shift gears manually can make driving feel more engaging and provide a greater sense of control.

It can be a great way to create a more visceral experience while driving. 4.

Comparison of WRX manual vs automatic transmission

The Subaru WRX is offered with both manual and automatic transmission options. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s a matter of personal preference as to which is better.

The manual transmission option is the standard for WRXs, and for good reason. It offers complete control over the car’s performance, allowing for easier shifting and quicker acceleration.

The driver can decide exactly which gear they want to be in at any given moment, allowing for a more engaging driving experience. Additionally, manual transmissions are generally less expensive and easier to maintain than automatic transmissions.

However, manual transmissions do require a certain level of driving skill. They can be difficult for inexperienced drivers, with the need to operate the clutch and shift gears simultaneously.

Additionally, driving in stop-and-go traffic can become fatiguing with a manual transmission. On the other hand, automatic transmissions are much easier to operate.

They don’t require the use of a clutch, so drivers can focus solely on accelerating and braking. This makes them a great option for drivers who like to focus on other aspects of driving and don’t want to be bothered with constant shifting.

Additionally, automatic transmissions can be more comfortable to drive in stop-and-go traffic. However, automatic transmissions can also be more expensive and complicated to maintain.

They require more maintenance than manual transmissions, and replacement parts can be more expensive too. Additionally, they can be less engaging than manual transmissions, making the driving experience feel less connected.

Ultimately, the choice between a manual or automatic transmission in a WRX will largely come down to personal preference. Drivers who prioritize performance and control may prefer a manual transmission, while those who prefer ease of use and convenience may prefer an automatic transmission.


In conclusion, both manual and automatic transmissions have their advantages and disadvantages. The Subaru WRX offers both options to allow drivers to choose what works best for them.

However, those who are looking for higher performance and full control will likely prefer the manual transmission option. Drivers looking for convenience and comfort may be better suited by the automatic transmission.

Regardless of what transmission model drivers end up choosing, the WRX remains an iconic vehicle in the automotive industry, offering an exhilarating driving experience that is tough to beat. 5.

Common transmission problems that WRX owners face

While the WRX is a well-built car, it is not immune to transmission problems. Here are some common transmission issues that WRX owners may face:

Clutch replacement: The clutch is an integral part of the manual transmission system.

Over time, the clutch may begin to wear out, leading to difficulty shifting or slippage. If the clutch fails completely, the car will be unable to move.

Clutch replacements are common maintenance items that come along with any manual transmission vehicle. Synchro issues: Synchros are small components within the transmission that help the gears mesh together smoothly.

If the synchros wear out or become damaged, shifting gears can become difficulty. This is a common issue in older WRXs, and transmissions that have been subjected to high performance usage.

Transmission oil leaks: A car’s transmission oil helps to lubricate and cool the transmission. Over time, the transmission oil seals may begin to wear out, leading to fluid leaks.

This can cause the transmission to run dry, potentially causing serious damage. Its important to keep an eye out for any fluid leaks and address them promptly.

6. Best practices for maintaining WRX manual transmission

Proper maintenance is key to ensuring that the WRX’s manual transmission stays in good condition.

Here are some best practices for maintaining the WRX manual transmission:

Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule: Subaru provides a maintenance schedule for WRX owners. Following this schedule can help to keep the transmission in good working order.

This will entail having regular transmission fluid changes, inspecting CV joints, and replacing filters and gaskets. Drive responsibly: The WRX is a high-performance vehicle, and it’s tempting to put it through its paces every time you are behind the wheel.

However, driving too aggressively or shifting recklessly can cause unnecessary wear on the transmission. Driving responsibly will help extend the life of the transmission.

Avoid aftermarket modifications: Modifying the car’s transmission can be a good way to increase performance, but it can also cause unwanted stress on the transmission. To avoid transmission problems, it’s best to stick with any modifications made by the manufacturer.

Conduct regular inspections: Its a great idea to have regular inspections performed by certified technicians, especially if you suspect any issues with the transmission. Regular inspections can help to catch any potential problems early on, preventing more serious issues from occurring in the future.


Maintaining a manual transmission like the one found in Subaru WRX requires proper attention and care. Following manufacturer recommended maintenance schedules and driving responsibly are key to preventing any issues.

If you do experience any issues, its important to address them promptly before they become more serious. With proper maintenance and care, the WRX manual transmission can provide many years of exceptional performance and enjoyment.

7. Recommended gear oils for WRX manual transmission

Gear oil is a crucial aspect of maintaining a manual transmission, and the WRX is no exception.

Here are some recommended gear oils for the WRX manual transmission:

Subaru Extra MT Gear Oil: The Extra MT Gear Oil is a factory recommended gear oil for the WRX. It is specifically designed to provide long-lasting protection and to improve shift quality.

This gear oil meets Subaru’s extreme pressure performance requirements and is recommended for all WRX models. Red Line MT-90: Red Line MT-90 is a synthetic gear oil that is designed to provide improved shift quality and protection against wear and thermal breakdown.

It’s a popular choice for many WRX owners due to its ability to maintain its viscosity over time. Motul Gear 300: Motul Gear 300 is another synthetic gear oil that provides excellent lubrication and protection.

It’s designed to resist high temperatures and protect against wear, making it a good option for WRX models that are high-performance tuned.


Short vs long shifter options for WRX manual transmission

Shifter throws, or the distance that the gear lever must travel to go from one gear to another, can be modified by installing either a short or long shifter. Here’s a comparison of short and long shifter options for the WRX manual transmission:

Short shifters: Short shifters reduce the distance that the gear lever must travel, making shifting quicker and more precise.

The shorter throw can help to improve the driving experience by making shifting feel more direct and engaging. Popular options for the WRX include the Perrin Short Shifter and the Cobb Tuning Short Shifter.

Long shifters: Long shifters, on the other hand, increase the distance that the gear lever must travel. This can make shifting feel more cumbersome, but it’s useful for drivers who prefer a more traditional feel or need longer throws for racing or off-road use.

A popular option for the WRX is the Kartboy Long Throw Shifter. In general, short shifters tend to be more popular for the WRX due to their ability to improve shifting feel and performance.

Nonetheless, it’s important to consider personal preference and driving style when selecting a shifter option, so it’s worth testing out both to see what feels better for you behind the wheel.


Gear oil and shifter options are essential components of any manual transmission and have a significant influence on your driving experience. Selecting the correct gear oil for your WRX’s manual transmission should be approached with caution and care, with Subaru Extra MT gear oil being a trusted choice.

Short shifters tend to offer more of a performance improvement but can sometimes be intrusive to driver comfort. Ultimately, the choice lies with personal preferences, and drivers should experiment with various short and long shifters to determine what suits their driving style and needs best.

9. Upgrade options for WRX manual transmission

For WRX owners looking to enhance the performance and durability of their manual transmission, there are several upgrade options available.

Here are some popular upgrades for the WRX manual transmission:

Upgraded clutch: Upgrading the clutch is a common modification for increasing the power-handling capability of the WRX. A performance clutch with higher clamp load and improved friction material can prevent clutch slippage and handle the increased torque of aftermarket modifications.

Popular options include Exedy Stage 1 and ACT HDSS performance clutches. Short-throw shifter: As previously mentioned, a short-throw shifter reduces shifter throws, making shifting quicker and more precise.

Upgrading to a high-quality short-throw shifter can improve the overall driving experience by providing more direct and effortless gear changes. Billet shift fork: The stock shift fork in the WRX manual transmission can be prone to wear and failure, especially under increased power and aggressive driving conditions.

Upgrading to a billet shift fork, such as the one offered by PPG, provides increased strength and durability, reducing the risk of failure and improving shifting performance. Gearset upgrade: For intense racing or high-performance applications, upgrading the gearset can provide significant benefits.

Aftermarket gearsets, like the PPG or Albins gearsets, offer stronger and more durable gears, optimized ratios, and improved power handling capabilities. These upgrades can enhance the overall strength and reliability of the transmission.

Limited-slip differential (LSD): Installing an aftermarket LSD can greatly improve the traction and handling characteristics of the WRX. An LSD helps distribute power more evenly between the wheels, reducing wheel spin during acceleration and improving cornering capabilities.

Popular LSDs for the WRX include the Drexler, Quaife, and Wavetrac differentials. It’s important to note that when making transmission upgrades, it’s critical to ensure that all components work together harmoniously.

Consulting with a professional or experienced tuner is highly recommended to ensure the right combination of upgrades for your specific driving goals and requirements. 10.

How shifting habits affect WRX manual transmission lifespan

The lifespan of a WRX manual transmission can be greatly influenced by the shifting habits of the driver. Here are some ways that shifting habits can impact the longevity of the transmission:

Smooth shifting: Smooth and deliberate shifting is vital for preserving the health of the transmission.

Abrupt and harsh shifting, such as forcefully slamming the gear lever into place or grinding gears, can cause damage to the synchronizers and gears over time. It’s crucial to master the technique of smooth shifting to minimize wear and tear on the transmission.

Rev matching: Rev matching is a technique used during downshifting to match the engine speed with the speed of the lower gear. By blipping the throttle while downshifting, the load on the transmission is reduced, preventing excessive wear on the synchros.

Rev matching ensures a seamless transition between gears and minimizes stress on the transmission components. Proper clutch usage: The clutch is an essential component of manual transmission and requires proper usage to avoid premature wear.

Avoid “riding” the clutch by keeping your foot on the clutch pedal when not shifting gears. Additionally, avoid excessive slipping of the clutch during starts and engage the clutch smoothly to prevent unnecessary wear on the friction material.

Avoid aggressive launches: Aggressive launches, particularly with high RPM clutch drops, can subject the transmission to significant stress and increase the chances of clutch failure or gear damage. While the WRX has a robust drivetrain, repeated aggressive launches can shorten the lifespan of various transmission components.

Regular maintenance: Regularly maintaining the transmission by changing gear oil, inspecting for leaks, and ensuring proper fluid levels is crucial for its longevity. Following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and using high-quality gear oil suitable for the WRX’s transmission help to ensure smooth operation and optimal performance.

Ultimately, it’s important to foster good shifting habits, prioritize smoothness and precision, and treat the transmission with care. By doing so, WRX owners can significantly extend the lifespan of their manual transmission and enjoy reliable performance for years to come.


Upgrades for the WRX manual transmission can enhance performance and durability, with options like an upgraded clutch, short-throw shifter, billet shift fork, gearset upgrades, and LSDs improving various aspects of the transmission. Additionally, shifting habits have a direct impact on the lifespan of the transmission, with smooth shifting, proper clutch usage, rev matching, avoiding aggressive launches, and regular maintenance all contributing to its longevity.

By choosing the right upgrades and adopting good shifting practices, WRX owners can optimize their driving experience and ensure the transmission remains in optimal condition. 11.

WRX racing with manual transmission

The Subaru WRX has a strong presence in the world of racing, and its manual transmission plays a significant role in its performance on the track. Here are some key aspects of WRX racing with a manual transmission:

Gear ratio selection: The manual transmission in the WRX allows for greater control over gear ratios, which is crucial for racing.

Depending on the track layout and driving style, racers can choose the most optimal gear ratios to maximize acceleration and top speed. The WRX’s transmission offers the flexibility to fine-tune gear ratios, providing an advantage in different racing scenarios.

Launch control: Many modern WRX models are equipped with a launch control feature. Launch control optimizes the engagement of the clutch and manages the engine’s RPM during aggressive starts.

This helps racers achieve the fastest possible launch off the line, enabling them to gain an advantage over competitors in drag racing or during the early stages of a race. Rev matching and downshifting: In racing situations that require rapid deceleration, effective downshifting can be critical.

Skilled racers employ rev matching techniques to ensure smooth downshifts, minimizing stress on the transmission and preventing wheel lock-up. Proper rev matching ensures that the engine speed matches the lower gear’s speed, enhancing stability and enabling quicker exits out of corners.

Track adaptation: Manual transmission allows racers to quickly adapt to changing track conditions. The ability to shift gears on-demand provides greater control over the WRX’s power delivery, enabling drivers to fine-tune their approach to different corners, straights, and elevation changes.

This adaptability is especially valuable in road racing, where every split-second decision can make a significant difference. Driver engagement: Racing with a manual transmission offers a high level of driver engagement compared to automatic transmissions.

The requirement to manually shift gears allows racers to feel more connected to the car and its performance. The immersive experience of shifting gears adds to the excitement and thrill of racing, making the WRX with a manual transmission a favorite among motorsport enthusiasts.

It’s important for WRX racers to consider their skill level and driving preferences when deciding between a manual or automatic transmission. While manual transmissions offer greater control and engagement, they require more practice and skill to master.

Racers must be proficient in clutch operation, shifting techniques, and racecraft to harness the full potential of the manual transmission on the track. 12.

Differences in WRX manual transmission based on model year

The WRX manual transmission has seen some changes and improvements over the years. Here are the key differences in the WRX manual transmission based on model year:

Second generation (2000-2007): The second-generation WRX featured a five-speed manual transmission as standard.

These transmissions were known for their durability and ease of operation, providing good shift feel and reliability. However, some early models had synchro issues, leading to improved synchros in later years.

Third generation (2008-2014): With the third-generation WRX, Subaru introduced the option of a stronger six-speed manual transmission for the WRX STI model. The six-speed transmission featured shorter gear ratios and improved shift feel compared to the five-speed transmission, enhancing overall performance and driving experience.

Fourth generation (2015-2020): The fourth-generation WRX and WRX STI continued with their respective five- and six-speed manual transmission options. However, Subaru made significant revisions to the transmission for the WRX, improving shift feel and reducing internal friction.

The WRX STI’s six-speed manual transmission also received attention, with a revised gear linkage system for smoother and more precise shifts. Fifth generation (2021-present): The current fifth-generation WRX offers the choice between a six-speed manual transmission and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The manual transmission received further enhancements for improved shift feel and durability. The CVT, although not a traditional manual transmission, features a manual mode with paddle shifters for drivers who prefer the convenience of an automatic but still want some level of control.

Throughout the years, Subaru has continuously refined and improved the WRX manual transmission based on customer feedback and advancements in technology. These changes have resulted in smoother shifting, enhanced durability, and improved overall performance.

It’s worth noting that specific details and specifications may vary by region and trim level, so it’s always recommended to consult with a Subaru dealership or review the manufacturer’s documentation to get accurate information on the manual transmission options for different WRX model years.


Racing with a WRX manual transmission offers racers the opportunity to optimize their performance through gear ratio selection, launch control, rev matching, track adaptation, and driver engagement. The manual transmission epitomizes the essence of motorsport, allowing drivers to feel more connected to their car and elevate their performance on the track.

Over the years, Subaru has continued to refine and improve the WRX manual transmission, enhancing its shifting feel, durability, and overall performance characteristics. Understanding the differences in WRX manual transmissions based on different model years helps racers make informed decisions and find the optimal setup for their racing endeavors.

13. WRX manual transmission vs other rival sport sedans

When comparing the WRX manual transmission to its competitors in the sport sedan segment, several factors come into play.

Here’s a closer look at how the WRX manual transmission stacks up against its rivals:

Performance and engagement: The WRX’s manual transmission offers a high level of driver engagement. With its precise and direct shifts, the manual transmission enhances the overall driving experience, providing a greater sense of control and connection.

This is particularly beneficial for enthusiasts who prioritize an engaging driving experience and want to feel connected to the road. Rival sedans offer a mix of manual and automatic transmission options.

Some competitors, like the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R, are also available with manual transmissions. Each may have its unique qualities, such as shift feel, gear ratios, and clutch engagement, which can vary depending on individual preferences.

Acceleration and power delivery: The WRX’s manual transmission allows for quick and aggressive shifts, optimizing acceleration and power delivery. The ability to modulate throttle input and shift precisely contributes to faster acceleration times.

This can be advantageous in scenarios like drag racing or when needing quick bursts of power on the track. Comparatively, rival sport sedans with manual transmissions may offer slightly different acceleration characteristics based on factors like engine power, torque, and gearing.

The performance of rival sedans can vary significantly, and it’s important for buyers to research and test drive different models to determine which best meets their performance needs. Pricing and value proposition: The WRX manual transmission is often regarded as an affordable option within the sport sedan segment.

Subaru’s reputation for reliability, practicality, and all-wheel drive capability makes the WRX an enticing choice for enthusiasts on a budget. Rival sedans may offer varying price points, and pricing can depend on factors such as brand reputation, equipment levels, and available features.

It’s essential for buyers to consider their budget and desired features when comparing the WRX manual transmission to its competitors. Modifiability and aftermarket support: The WRX is renowned for its modifiability and the extensive aftermarket support it enjoys.

The manual transmission allows for more flexibility when it comes to upgrading clutch components, gearsets, and other transmission-related parts. This opens up a wide range of possibilities for performance enthusiasts to take their WRX to the next level.

Rival sedans may also have a strong aftermarket community, but the extent of modification options can vary. It’s important for buyers to assess the available aftermarket support, the ease of obtaining parts, and the overall modifiability of different rival sport sedans.

14. Advantages of a WRX manual transmission for off-road driving

While the WRX is predominantly known for its sport sedan capabilities, it also offers advantages for those interested in off-road driving.

Here are some advantages of the WRX manual transmission for off-road enthusiasts:

Greater control: Off-road driving often requires precise vehicle control, and a manual transmission offers that level of control. The ability to select the ideal gear for different situations allows drivers to navigate challenging terrain, steep inclines, and uneven surfaces with greater finesse.

The WRX’s manual transmission enables drivers to modulate power delivery and adjust to varying traction conditions, enhancing overall control off the beaten path. Improved low-speed crawling: Manual transmissions excel in low-speed crawling situations.

The ability to finely feather the clutch and select the appropriate gear ratio enables drivers to tackle difficult obstacles or navigate through tight and technical trails where slower speeds are necessary. The WRX’s manual transmission allows drivers to maintain low-speed control and torque delivery, making it suitable for off-road driving in diverse conditions.

Durability and reliability: Manual transmissions are generally more robust and reliable than their automatic counterparts. The simplicity of a manual transmission often means fewer components that can fail or require maintenance.

In off-road environments where ruggedness and dependability are crucial, the WRX’s manual transmission can handle the demands of rough terrain, occasional slippage, and adverse conditions with greater confidence. Engaging driving experience: Off-road driving is as much about the experience as it is about conquering challenging terrain.

The WRX’s manual transmission adds an extra layer of engagement and enjoyment when traversing off-road trails. The manual transmission requires the driver to be more hands-on, adjusting gears and clutch engagement to navigate through obstacles.

This provides a heightened sense of control and involvement with the vehicle’s performance. It’s important to note that the WRX, while capable in off-road conditions, is not specifically designed as an off-road vehicle like some dedicated SUVs or trucks.

Modifications, such as increased ride height, more aggressive tires, and improved suspension components, may be necessary for more intense off-road adventures.


When comparing the WRX manual transmission to its rivals in the sport sedan segment, factors such as performance, engagement, acceleration, pricing, modifiability, and aftermarket support come into play. The WRX manual transmission offers an affordable and engaging option that can be modified to suit a driver’s performance needs.

For off-road enthusiasts, the WRX’s manual transmission delivers a

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