While some manufacturers’ motorsports endeavors focus on race tracks, Subaru cut its teeth and built its reputation in some of the harshest conditions out there in rally car racing. The WRX and WRX STI are the direct descendants of these rally cars, and deliver a thrill-a-minute performance that few other affordable small cars can match.
Based on the Impreza sedan, these siblings put emphasis on performance and function over graceful styling and amenities, though interior refinement has been significantly improved with the current generation car. The WRX continues to be offered in two strengths: WRX and extra-potent WRX STI.
The WRX features a 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder with 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which provides enough acceleration to handily out-pace its rivals from Volkswagen, Ford, and Mini. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual, or a CVT with up to eight “ratios” to mimic a traditional automatic transmission. For 2017, the six-speed manual has been upgraded to improve shift feel.
The WRX STI gets a monster of a four-cylinder engine; 305 hp and 290 lb-ft are at your right foot’s discretion. There’s no CVT here, just a six-speed manual transmission.
Both the WRX and WRX STI feature Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive for all-weather traction, and have selectable drive modes. The WRX STI also boasts multi-mode driver controlled centre differential, inverted KYB shock absorbers, plus standard Brembo brakes.
Both variants of the WRX are available in three trim lines: standard, Sport, and Sport-tech. For 2017, all models now receive an auto up/down passenger’s side power mirror, plus a new cloth headliner with a more refined fabric weave.
Although the WRX and WRX STI boast addictive performance and near-telepathic handling, these rally-inspired machines are also reasonably equipped. Heated sports seats come standard, as do alloy pedals, a chunky flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, and a 6.2-inch display audio system with smartphone integration and reverse camera. Enkei wheels are featured on the WRX and WRX STI; the former uses 17-inchers, while the latter gets bigger 18-inch units.
Sport trims double down with more content including a power driver’s seat, sunroof, LED headlamps, fog lights, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection. The STI adds the signature high-profile rear spoiler, too.
Sport-techs add leather, proximity key with push-button start, a larger 7.0-inch display audio system with navigation, premium 440-watt sound system and 18-inch Enkei wheels. The WRX STI Sport-tech’s wheels are forged and made by BBS. New for 2017, Sport-tech trims get Siri Eyes-Free, and Mirror Link for Android phones, plus Travel Link and SiriusXM Traffic integration for the navigation system.
Pricing for the WRX starts at $29,995, with the WRX Sport-tech selling for $36,095. The WRX STI sells for $37,995 and tops out at $45,395 for the WRX STI Sport-tech.