By Cars.com EditorsJune 10, 2014
About the video
Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays says the 2015 Subaru WRX STI -- the even-more performance-focused sibling of the WRX and Impreza -- is plenty quick and built for spirited driving. But does this "mean little sedan" justify its $35,000 starting price?
(hood slams) (upbeat music) (tires squeal) Hi, I'm Kelsey Mays for cars.com. Ever since the fourth generation Subaru Impreza arrived in late 2011, performance enthusiasts have been hankering for its turbocharged WRX and even quicker WRX STI siblings.
Well, here it is the WRX STI, and it sure packs a punch but maybe not enough to justify its price. We'll tell you why. The last STI came as a sedan or a hatchback. The new STI is sedan only. Not a lot of visual differences versus the WRX, which kind of already looked pretty extreme. Fits the STI a little more, things like quad tailpipes, big fenders, stuff like that. An obvious difference between the two, one thing is, this rear wing sits much higher off the deck lid than the spoiler on the WRX. There's also 18 inch alloy wheels on the STI versus the seventeens on the WRX. The seats have standard Alcantara inserts with red and black leather bolsters. Full leather seats are optional. The flat bottom steering wheel from the WRX carries over to the STI, but the STI is the only Impreza model to get dual zone automatic climate control instead of the single zone offered elsewhere. So if you have a spouse who's always too hot or too cold, and you have to convince them that the STI is the only way they'll be comfortable. Go nuts. Subaru's S I drive controller sits down here. It can map accelerator response to normal, sport or sport sharp modes, a little bit less intuitive to control, just because it's down here versus the steering wheel buttons for S I drive on the WRX. Now, one of the things that continues to make the STI very unique is this driver controllable center differential right here for the all wheel drive system. It's got three automatic modes, even more manual modes, and it can vary the center differential from a full 50 50 lock. That means half your power is going up front, half power is going to the rear. All the way to a fairly open differential, not very interventionists there with more of the power going to the rear wheels. Now, if you have it in automatic modes, we've noticed that the car tends to understand a little more, has a little bit more nose heaviness, kind of dialed in. If you get it over to the manual modes, though, the WRX STI behaves a lot like a rear wheel drive car. You can really swing the tail out wherever and whenever. Same power situation as before with a horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that's turbocharged. Good for 305 horsepower, 290 pounds torque. Fire it all up and the STI is plenty quick, but only after a lot of turbo lag at the beginning as another editor noted, it's quick, but doesn't feel that much quicker than the WRX. I got to say, I kind of agree. Six speed manual has short throws, but kind of a tall wonky shifter. I'd trade it for the shorter shifter in the BRZ, the Subaru BRZ any day. It does have evenly spaced gears all the way from first through sixth gear though. So no big surprises there. The steering in the STI is a hydraulic setup, not electric power steering, like in the WRX and the regular Impreza. A lot of fun on that front. You just point the nose and it goes right there, instinctively. Ride quality is another strong suit. The WRX STI rides lot like the regular WRX. And that's generally a good thing. Now, our car does have winter tires. Summer tires are standard. Those are certain to change road noise and ride quality. So keep an eye out for those on your test drive. Put all the pieces together and the STI is a pretty mean little sedan, but it's also a pricey one. Pricing starts around $35,000 climbs to north of $40,000 for a fully equipped STI. That's a lot of money, even though it's roughly the same as the outgoing STI, because the base WRX starts around $27,000. At heart the STI still looks like a heavily modified economy sedan. It would fit the bill, if the bill were a little smaller, as it stands, Subaru makes the STI a bit of a hard sell. (engine revs)