New & Used Subaru WRX: In Depth
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The Subaru WRX and STI are performance-oriented, turbocharged versions of the Impreza four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models. Both models are powered by turbocharged four-cylinder engines and all-wheel drive, instead of the conventional big engine and rear-wheel drive layout. The WRX is an exciting daily driver, but the STI is a legit race car straight from the factory.
See our full review of the 2014 Subaru WRX for more, including pricing with options, gas mileage ratings, and specifications.
They may be derived from the Impreza, but the WRX and STI are no economy cars. They're rivals for the likes of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, another compact sedan with a high-performance turbo four and all-wheel drive; the duo are long-running adversaries, the rally-flavored version of Camaro versus Mustang.
The WRX first arrived in 2002, and the STI followed two years later as a 2004 model. They were originally offered as two- or four-door sedans, and the current five-door hatchback version arrived in the 2008 model year. Many running changes were made over the first few models years, including fender flares for 2005 and new front-end styling in 2006. In the last year of the former generation, a WRX STI Limited model was also launched to add a bit of luxury to the severe standard model. Its amenities included leather upholstery, an optional moonroof, trunk spoiler, and fog lights.
The second-generation WRX, which arrived in 2008, wasn't well received by its fans in the first model year. They viewed it as underpowered and too softly sprung. Subaru listened to its buyers, and for 2009, the WRX's 2.5-liter turbocharged flat four engine got a boost of 41 horsepower, to 265 hp--and the STI was boosted to 305 hp. A five-speed manual gearbox remains standard, with an optional (and somewhat outdated) four-speed automatic offered as well. Maximum performance requires revving the engines, as both models exhibit a fair degree of turbo lag.They may be compact cars, but neither the WRX nor the STI is a fuel sipper. For many years, the STI has only ranked at an EPA 17 mpg city, 23 highway. Still, fuel efficiency is the job of the base Impreza; the WRX and STI are bought for performance. The current generation gets high marks for ride and roominess, as well as its acceleration and roadholding. Downsides are a high level of cabin noise and an occasionally balky shift linkage on the manual.
For 2011, Subaru gave the WRX a new look, with flared fenders, which helped the whole design "pop," while sound systems were also all-new that year, adding standard USB and iPod connectors plus available satellite radio. While the rest of the Impreza lineup was thoroughly updated for 2012, the WRX and STI continued essentially unchanged into 2013.
The WRX and STI continue to be built on the older design. A new version is expected to arrive for the 2014 model year. As usual, it will be based on the latest Impreza platform, and will offer power and performance figures similar to those of the current WRX.