For a long time, too long, the WRX was a domestic market only offering from Subaru. To a certain segment of the car buying public in America, that was a huge mistake. I am a member of that segment of the car buying public in America. Within months of the WRX finally hitting our shores, three fellows in my rally club owned them.
Subaru corrected that and never looked back. They’ve injected the WRX and the badder STI with a deliciously frightening consistency that has served people from horrid weather states and, most importantly, gearheads very well.
And so, here we are with the new for 2018 WRX and STI looming on the horizon. What do we get? What’s new? What’s better? What’s faster?
Briefly, you can summarize it like this:
Subaru has revised the front styling for a more aggressive look (carrying on with that “I’m angry” trend you see everywhere these days). The suspension was optimized for better handling and ride comfort. There are new 19-inch wheels, upgraded Brembo brakes, and a revised Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. New available Recaro power seats? Check. Performance Package option for WRX models? Check.
And, finally, upgraded interior materials and a quieter cabin? Check.
That last one, is, believe it or not, a rather important point. Subbies have always suffered from, how shall I put this, going with the lowest price point on interior materials. I don’t really have a problem with that, but some people do. The first guy in that rally club I mentioned earlier to get a WRX put it this way:
Me: “Hey Kimball, heard you got a WRX.”
Kimball (half-crazy TVR owner and rally ace): “Yup.”
Me: “What’s it like?”
Kimball: “It’s like the fastest rental car you’ve ever driven.”
In other words: Plastic. Everywhere you looked, plastic plastic plastic plastic plastic plastic. Plastic sourced from lunch boxes. Plastic found from guitar picks. Plastic derived from 50s vintage countertops. Plastic.
Did I care? No. Did any of my rally buddies care? No. These things go like a gunshot and grip like a limpet. On gravel. In the rain. At night. But, like I said, I don’t really have a problem with interior finish, just some people do. The WRX is the lesser of the two performance models, but it only pales in comparison to the mighty STI. Up against most other cars, it lacks very little indeed.
The WRX has a 268 horsepower, 2.0-liter direct injected turbocharged Boxer flat four engine sitting up front. These things have an addictive low center of gravity. You combine that with what’s a couple of inches off the street with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and Active Torque Vectoring, and the rally-bred WRX is a performance and value benchmark in the high-performance AWD sport-compact segment. Period.
The WRX comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission and offers an optional performance automatic transmission, the Sport Lineartronic CVT with manual mode. I have never driven the current CVT, but I’ve actually heard good things about it.
Suspension-wise, the WRX features new front and rear suspension tuning for improved steering stability and ride comfort. Subaru improved shifter feel for the 6-speed manual transmission, with a new synchro design and reduced friction, along with smoother clutch take-up. The electric power steering has been revised to provide an even smoother, more natural feel, while integrating the steering motor.
Furthermore, an electronic control unit reduces the car’s total weight.
But wait, there’s more. There’s a new optional Performance Package for the WRX Premium which features Recaro 8-way power seats (drop the power, and save me some weight please), red-painted brake calipers, and upgraded Jurid brake pads. The Performance Package deletes the moonroof to reduce weight (thank you) and includes standard 18-inch wheels.
But why stop there? If you’re going to go crazy, why not go clown-with-a-rocket-launcher-crazy?
Allow me to introduce you to the Subaru WRX STI.
STI, Subaru Tecnica International, is the company’s internal sporting division. It is to Fuji Heavy Industries what AMG is to Mercdeces-Benz and the M Division is to BMW. It is the “get out of my way, I’ll show you what I mean by fast” detachment of the company.
The Subaru WRX STI gets a comprehensive handling enhancement for 2018. This includes the revised suspension tuning as featured on the WRX, upgraded brakes, the first-ever 19-inch wheels available on an STI, and a revised DCCD system. The DCCD system used a combination of mechanical and electronic center limited slip differential controls – before that is. It’s fully electronic now for a quicker and smoother feel when in the driver’s seat.
The yellow-painted brake calipers mean you’re running the Brembo Performance Brake System. It has stronger monoblock 6-piston calipers in front, monoblock 2-piston calipers in the rear, and larger, drilled rotors at all four corners for better heat dissipation. This design has greater surface area for improved braking and fade resistance.
The STI is motivated by a 305 horsepower, 2.5-liter turbocharged plant. All those ponies are judiciously applied to the road via the DCCD regulated Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, Active Torque Vectoring, and Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control. In other words: Bang, go, brake, corner, bang, go, brake, corner, bang, go, brake, corner, trophy please.
They’re literally that faultless and easy. It almost feels like you’re cheating. But not really. Trophy please.
I’ll take my STI in World Rally Blue with gold wheels. Just like Petter Solberg.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.