Subaru WRX: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Between Manual and Automatic Transmissions

Are you looking at purchasing a Subaru WRX? Are you a car enthusiast curious about the differences between manual and automatic transmissions? Look no further, as we provide you with the comprehensive guide to help you choose between a manual or an automatic Subaru WRX.

Understanding Transmissions: Manual vs. Automatic

Before we dive into the specifics of the Subaru WRX, let’s first understand the main differences between the two types of transmissions. Manual or stick-shift transmissions are known for providing better performance, control, and gas mileage, but can be challenging to learn and may not be ideal for commuter driving.

On the other hand, automatic transmissions provide a smooth and effortless driving experience, making them more accessible for the average driver. They are also low-maintenance and require fewer repairs, but can offer less control over the vehicle’s performance and may have higher fuel consumption.

History of the Subaru WRX

The Subaru WRX is a high-performance vehicle manufactured by the Japanese automaker, Subaru. The WRX has been in production since 1992 and was initially created for the World Rally Championship (WRC) car racing. With its impressive power output, superior handling, and all-wheel-drive capability, the WRX quickly became a popular choice for drivers who value performance.

Automatic Transmission Options for Subaru WRX

While the WRX is known for its manual stick-shift transmission, Subaru also offers automatic options for some of its models. In the past, automatic transmissions for the WRX were only available in the United States as an optional extra, starting from the 2002 models.

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The first automatic transmission WRX was the 2002 wagon design, followed by the 2003 sedan and wagon. The automatic transmission option continued to be available until 2014, where the last model to offer an automatic option was the 2014 WRX (CVT).

Pros and Cons of Manual and Automatic Transmissions

Both manual and automatic transmissions have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the key points to consider:

Manual Transmission Pros

  • Better control and performance
  • Generally less expensive to purchase
  • Better gas mileage

Manual Transmission Cons

  • Learning to drive a stick-shift can be challenging
  • Purchasing may require frequent clutch replacement
  • Not ideal for commuting in heavy traffic

Automatic Transmission Pros

  • Easy to use and operate
  • Low maintenance and fewer repairs
  • Comfortable and ideal for commuting

Automatic Transmission Cons

  • Can be more expensive to purchase
  • Not as fuel-efficient as manuals
  • Limited control over gear shifting and performance

Availability of Automatic Subaru WRX Models

Currently, Subaru offers automatic transmission options for the WRX Premium and Limited models. The 2020 and 2021 models come equipped with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) option, providing a smoother and faster gear-shifting transition than its predecessors.

However, the CVT does come with some drawbacks. It may feel less engaging to drive, and some avid car enthusiasts have criticized it for not providing enough control over the vehicle’s performance.


Q: Can you modify a CVT transmission?
A: While it is possible to modify CVT transmissions, it requires specialized tools and expertise aftermarket, which can be expensive.

Q: Are manual transmissions more reliable than automatic?
A: Both transmissions have their pros and cons when it comes to reliability. Generally, manuals are known for being more durable, but this can vary depending on the vehicle’s make, model, and usage.

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Q: How long do Subaru WRX transmissions last?
A: With proper maintenance, Subaru WRX transmissions are expected to last between 150,000 to 200,000 miles.


Choosing between manual and automatic transmissions is a personal decision, and neither is superior to the other. The Subaru WRX is renowned for its manual transmission, but with more recent models offering automatic transmission options, drivers can now choose which transmission type best suits their needs.

Consider your priorities, whether it be performance, ease of use, or fuel efficiency, and test drive both manual and automatic WRX models before making your decision. Regardless of which transmission you choose, the Subaru WRX is a high-performance vehicle that delivers power, speed, and comfort.

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Alton Brobst

As a longtime Subaru enthusiast, Alton brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our blog. From his early days of tinkering with engines to his current role as a certified Subaru technician, Alton has seen it all when it comes to Subarus. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys hiking and exploring the great outdoors.

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