The Subaru WRX STI has been a mainstay on the sport-compact performance scene for years. Available only in a sedan body style the STI is a seriously rapid road rocket with standard all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission, and a 305-hp turbocharged flat-four engine. Within its class, however, this Subie lacks the Honda Civic Type R’s flypaper-like grip, the Ford Focus RS’s heady thrust, and the Volkswagen Golf R’s near-luxury refinement. For all its heightened responsiveness and rally-bred chutzpah, the STI can feel stiff on the road, its engine is susceptible to significant turbo lag, and its hefty price does not include as many modern conveniences as you might expect.
What's New for 2018?
Tweaks for 2018 include a resculpted front bumper with standard adaptive LED headlights, dark-finished 19-inch wheels, and updated Brembo brakes with bright-yellow calipers. The greatest mechanical change is a new, fully electronic center differential, which Subaru claims will bring improved handling and stability. There's also a modestly updated cabin with sprinklings of nicer materials, additional sound insulation, and a handful of updated features. For committed enthusiasts, Subaru offers an even zestier WRX STI Type RA model with a bit more power and upgraded handling gear—but only 500 will be built.
- Base: $36,955
- Limited: $41,755
- Type RA: $49,855
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Along with some initial lag from the STI's big turbo spooling up, the engine’s lack of low-end grunt manifests in a short, punchy power delivery that can be cumbersome around town. The 2.5-liter flat-four’s output is a decent 305 horsepower at 6000 rpm, yet its full 290 lb-ft of torque doesn’t come online until a lofty 4000 revs. Thus, working the STI’s standard six-speed manual gearbox is a must to keep the car pulling strongly. The more radical RA model produces 310 hp and the same 290 lb-ft of torque. Like many hard-core all-wheel-drive sport-compacts, the STI is seriously quick on a variety of surfaces and is best enjoyed when driven aggressively. Unfortunately, when it’s time to cruise, it's a bit rough edged. The firm suspension keeps excessive body motion in check at the expense of ride comfort, but this hottest Subaru is still livable as a daily driver—for enthusiasts.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The WRX STI’s cabin is pretty basic in quality, layout, and feature count. Despite the red seatbelts and red accents on the optional Recaro seats, the ambiance is rather dark. The STI may not be luxurious, but it is pleasantly functional, with well-placed controls, bright gauges, and intuitive ergonomics. The optional Recaro seats aren’t cheap, but their extra supportiveness is appreciated when driving the STI hard, with little tradeoff in comfort. The STI is fairly capacious, thanks to a roomy trunk and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. However, all of the Subaru’s competitors offer greater versatility for swallowing cargo.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The WRX STI comes standard with a mid-level version of Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system. While not the most advanced or highest-resolution setup on the market, it operates intuitively and has a range of modern features, even though Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not among them. STI models come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, which can then be upgraded—via the Limited trim level—with navigation and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. Along with two USB ports, all STIs feature SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth smartphone integration with a host of apps.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.