The Subaru WRX STi holds mythic status among car enthusiasts. In 2017, it was the fastest four-door car on earth, crushing the Nürburgring racetrack in six minutes and 57.5 seconds, only a half second more than the Porsche 918. A decade and a half earlier, it crushed numerous World Rally Championships until around 2003 when Subaru admittedly started to fade. Given this mythic status, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that this is the car that you NEED to own, right? NOPE.
The only people who should buy this car are those who value performance above all else. Period. I may be a heretic for admitting this, but many of the track/rally centric abilities of this car actually impeded daily driving. In this review, I will review the car’s interior, performance and handling before concluding on why the Subaru WRX STi may not actually be the car you were hoping for.
I hope to begin this review by discussing the STi’s interior and I will admit, it is arguably prosaic and perhaps spartan at best. Hard plastic, dull interiors and simple design are Subaru hallmarks. The model I drove was an RA type, limited edition with only 75 made in Canada. One of my largest interior critiques with the car was its miniscule main screen that is difficult to see when driving due to glare. Secondly, for my model, the sound system was absolutely abysmal and every song sounded like a garbled mess. Lastly, I am really not a fan of Subaru’s double screen layout where performance information is placed on the top, middle portion of the car. It may be great if you’re rallying in the backwoods of Germany and need the navigator to see it but it’s kind of pointless if you’re driving to class in Edmonton. I would’ve preferred if they had just kept everything on the dash screens. While some car enthusiasts discount the fact that WRX interiors are sub-par, I haven’t, as I feel it’s germane to any car analysis.
When it comes to handling, however, Subaru’s Symmetrical full-time all wheel drive system keeps the car planted through the corners. The AWD system applies the power perfectly giving the car very neutral handling abilities. The 2.5L BOXER engine (305HP/ 290 ft-lb of torque) is powerful, but it’s not the putative rocket ship it’s made out to be. The STi also has a good clutch and the shifter has clean feeling, short throws. However this is unfortunately where all the positivity ends. There is a reason why the WRX STi won the Nürburgring in 2017 and it has NOTHING to do with comfort. I will come out and admit that the suspension on the STi is brutally stiff. Every pothole and divet in the road would send your grandparents to the hospital, it’s that bad. Every time I see a pothole, I have to prepare myself mentally for the feeling of the seat cushion compressing my spine an inch or two. A stiff suspension is great for the track but not in a pothole ridden city like Edmonton. Another issue I found is rev-hang. The STi loves to hang out north of 3,000 RPM which is fine, but you don’t need to red-line at the stop sign next to a Winners. Again, great for the track, not great for daily driving. Lastly the car includes a driver controlled center differential. It allows you to control the differential electronically. While this is a good feature, I can promise you there will be no situations where you will ever need to use it. You don’t need to send 90% of your power to the front wheels on the way to Calgary, it just doesn’t happen in the real world.
I will likely suffer severe disapprobation at the hands of Subaru enthusiasts, however, I wanted to share my true opinions on the car and break past this unassailable shroud that STi’s are flawless or perfect. In some ways if you’re a track or rally driver, this car is perfect. However, one has to be aware of its shortcoming, especially viewed from the angle of being a commuter. While it is really well balanced and powerful, this comes at the expense of comfort and interior fanciness. It also suffers from rev-hang and has a horrifically brutal suspension system. At the end of the day, I’m not saying not to buy the car, rather I’m saying who should buy the car. The Subaru WRX STi is good at one thing, and one thing only: winning races.
Written and Photos by Alex C.