The Subaru WRX is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged "boxer" 4-cylinder engine. In standard WRX guise, it produces 268 horsepower, which is fed to all four wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. The WRX STi is powered by a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder and output of 305 horsepower. The STi features the same all-wheel-drive system and a 6-speed manual combination that is so potent in the standard WRX. Sport Lineartronic -- continuously variable automatic transmission -- is available on the WRX but not on the STi.
The WRX comes in three trims: Standard, Premium and Limited. Standard WRX models come with 17-inch wheels and a 6.2-inch Starlink multimedia touchscreen infotainment system, which features HD Radio, smartphone integration, a CD player, USB and iPod inputs, six speakers, and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and audio streaming. Automatic climate control rear backup camera, tilt/telescopic steering, full power accessories and cloth sport seats with driver's 6-way manual adjustability.
The WRX Premium comes equipped with heated front seats and mirrors, a power glass moonroof, fog lamps and an aero package that includes a rear spoiler.
Limited trim includes everything that comes with the premium trim as well as an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat, leather trimmed upholstery, and LED headlights. Subaru's EyeSight driver assist technology is available on the WRX Limited and includes active safety features like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning.
Beyond the bigger engine, the STi differentiates itself from the "regular" WRX with a more aggressive exterior, featuring a unique hood and more pronounced fender flares. The bumpers are also more aerodynamic, giving the STi the impression of a high-performance vehicle. Underneath, the STi backs up this impression with lower, stiffer springs, bigger brakes and larger alloy wheels.
The STi comes loaded with features and is available in standard and Limited trims. Standard features include 18-inch wheels spread over massive 13-inch front brakes, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, a leather wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, a 3.5-inch LCD screen mounted in the instrument cluster and a dual-zone climate control system.
Optional across the WRX range is a navigation and Harman/Kardon audio package.
Safety features include big anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control as well as the confidence of Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive system.
For the first few minutes you drive it, the Subaru WRX STI can be kind of a pain in the ass. The clutch is really heavy. The suspension is super stiff. You definitely won't master a smooth one-two shift. But as soon as you open it up and crest 4,000 rpm in third gear, all is forgiven. Sure, it's rough around the edges, but driving the STI just warms my cynical old heart. It's certainly getting on in years, but the STI is the same little firecracker it's always been. And in this time of increasingly refined sports cars, its visceral quality arguably stands out even more than it did initially.
The current WRX STI launched in 2014, meaning it's been around so long that I've had the privilege of writing about it at three different jobs. What's new for 2020? Not much, save for standard pushbutton start and some redesigned gray wheels -- unless you're one of the 500 lucky ducks who manage to pick up the limited-run Series White version seen here. All of these special STIs are painted Ceramic White, complemented by a set of 19-inch matte-bronze BBS rollers. Overall, I really love the way the Series White looks. Don't tell 14-year-old me, but 34-year-old me might prefer this white-and-bronze scheme to the STI's classic blue-and-gold WRC livery.
The STI continues to use Subaru's 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer-four engine, with 310 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. That latter doesn't completely hit until the aforementioned 4,000 rpm, which is when this car really wakes up. A lot of turbo fours are happy to do their business at the bottom of the tach, delivering healthy low-rpm thrust that's perfect for moseying around town. The STI, on the other hand, just feels like a stiff Impreza until you really get it going. Above 3,500 or 4,000 rpm, it's a totally different animal. It's just a shame these high-strung flat-fours still don't sound great when revved high. Don't believe me? Just ask a Porsche 718 Boxster or Cayman owner.
The Good ~ Big turbo power results in even bigger smiles. ~ Customizable center differential. ~ Open, airy cabin. ~ Series White trim looks awesome.
The Bad ~ Super dated multimedia system. ~ No advanced driver-assistance features. ~ Poor fuel economy.
The Bottom Line The Subaru WRX STI is an always-on rally car for the road, and while it's often punishing, I wouldn't have it any other way.
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