The Subaru WRX STI has been a mainstay in the sport-compact scene for years, but the mid-cycle revisions that the current iteration received for 2018 bear witness to its more gradual evolution versus newer, more radical hot hatches on the market. Available only in a three-box-sedan body style—which it shares with the lesser but nearly as capable and less expensive Subaru WRX—the latest STI is a familiar and properly rapid road rocket with standard all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission, and a 305-hp turbocharged flat-four engine.
Within its competitive set, 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 lethargic turbo lag, and its hefty asking price does not include as many modern conveniences as you might expect.
What’s New for 2018?
While Subaru’s basic Impreza models migrated to the brand’s new Subaru Global Platform for 2017, the 2018 WRX and WRX STI soldier on with their existing architecture that dates back to 2015. A resculpted front bumper with standard adaptive LED headlights is among this year’s new aesthetic tweaks, as are dark-finished 19-inch wheels that frame 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 versus the previous partially mechanically controlled unit. The WRX and WRX STI also receive modestly updated cabins with sprinklings of nicer materials, additional sound insulation, and a handful of updated features. For committed enthusiasts, Subaru will offer an even zestier WRX STI Type RA model for 2018 with a bit more power, upgraded handling gear, and surely an inflated sticker price, but only 500 examples are to be built.
Trims and Options We’d Choose
At $36,955 to start, any WRX STI purchase is sizable. The only option on our test car for this review was a $2500 pair of Recaro sport seats (power adjustments for the driver, manual for the passenger) bundled with a proximity key and push-button start. We would probably curtail our spending there given the Subaru’s plebeian trappings.
If you desire additional niceties, another $2300 opens up the STI’s Limited trim level, which includes the Recaro bundle plus a power sunroof, navigation, a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Limited models also gain the option to replace the STI’s giant rear wing with a lower-profile piece. Stick with the base STI and you still get:
• Front and rear limited-slip differentials
• A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
• Dual-zone automatic climate control
• Red seat belts