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The main differences between the WRX and WRX STI are driving dynamics and power. Neither car is wanting, but the STI is more powerful and aggressive. It should be, because it costs about $8,000 more.
’15 Subaru WRX STI in action.
STI at Home on Track
Subaru held California media previews for both models. STI drive-time included laps at Laguna Seca raceway near Monterey. It’s a twister course with a legendary hairpin turn. The STI gamely dives into it without breaking a sweat.
The WRX also enjoys life in the fast lane, although there were no racetrack hot laps for the press preview of this car. Instead, a driving route covered some of the Napa Valley region's most curvaceous roads. They almost were enough to make a driver dizzy, even before the wine-tasting later on.
But the car stays poised as it effortlessly enters one curve after another at reasonable but aggressive speeds. The WRX comfortably did those acrobatics mostly in third gear, not whining about it; instead relying on its wide torque band.
Such gracefulness shows how far driving dynamics have come. Drivers doing hard-turn maneuvers like that 10 or 15 years ago would feel like they were in a canoe at high seas during a storm.
The cockpits of both vehicles are driver-oriented. The steering wheel is downsized a bit. Gauges are easy to read and enhance the overall design. Interior lines are crisp and work with each other.
Both cars offer SI-DRIVE that allows a selection of driving characteristics ranging from every-day to all-out. The former offers a more relaxed throttle response. It’s nice to have a choice for commutes and such.
But in building such well-engineered cars, Subaru seems like it stopped at the infotainment systems. They’re about a generation behind. Screen buttons are so small, they’re hard to use. That seems like a Subaru trait across the lineup.
The WRX and WRX STI appeal to pretty much the same demographic group, generally 30-something males. On the residual value front, Subaru says both cars are popular as used vehicles.
If you want great fuel economy, buy aPrius, not a compact performance car.
Estimated fuel economy for the WRX is 21/28 mpg (11.2-8.4L/100 km) city/highway. That’s with the 6-speed manual transmission. The STI’s estimated mileage is 17/23 mpg (13.8-10.2L/100 km) city/highway. No bragging rights there. All-wheel-drive takes some of the blame for the lower fuel-economy numbers. Still, AWD offers more advantages than disadvantages, and Subaru distinguishes itself by putting AWD on all its vehicles.
STI pricing ranges from $34,495 to $38,495 for the Limited version. The base price is the same for the outgoing version.
The WRX starts at $26,295, about $200 more than the previous generation. Add $795 destination charges to both models.
These are delightful ready-to-rev cars from an engineering-centric Japanese automaker. The outgoing WRX, dating to 2009, carried the Impreza name, but Subaru dropped that moniker to make the new WRX stand out. It does that nicely.
Todd Hill, the STI’s line manager, describes the STI as “an everyday sports car; one you can use all the time.” You couldn’t say that about earlier STIs.
About 10 years ago I drove one from Detroit to Chicago and back. You could feel every bump in the road, even on reasonably smooth surfaces of I-94.
Afterwards, I mentioned to someone that overall the car was pretty cool. Not knowing where I had taken it, he said, “Yeah, but I wouldn’t want to drive it to Chicago.”
I could make it there and back in the new STI without any complaints about the ride or much else, except for maybe that clunky infotainment system.