Subaru's WRX and WRX STI performance flagship sedans are best known for their razor-sharp roadholding, but for 2018 this pair gain a raft of refinements and new safety features, plus a few chassis and styling tweaks.
The STI gets the only notable performance-oriented change, in the form of standard Brembo brakes with six-piston front and two-piston rear calipers and cross-drilled rotors; LED headlights are also now part of the standard package. In the WRX, models with the manual gearbox get a new shift lever and better transmission shift and clutch feel.
Otherwise, many of the updates are shared by both WRX and STI models, including better noise reduction in the cabin and revised suspension tuning, while the WRX also gets improved steering feel. Both also get a new front bumper and grille, bigger battery and interior door trim.
Inside, all cars get new door trim and a new gauge cluster with a 5.9-inch colour multi-function display and a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders. Additionally, the STI gets red seatbelts.
In the WRX, the Sport trim is revised to include a 10-way power driver's seat, steering-responsive LED headlights and LED fog lights.
The WRX Sport-tech adds 18-inch wheels and new Starlink connectivity apps including Yelp, Best Parking and Glympse. In Sport-tech models with the manual transmission Subaru now offers an RS package that bundles eight-way power front seats finished in leather and ultrasuede, ultrasuede rear seats, upgraded brake pads and red calipers. Sport-tech cars optioned with the automatic transmission becomes the first WRX ever to get Subaru's EyeSight active safety suite.
On the STI side of the ledger, the Sport trim now includes 19-inch wheels, 10-way power driver's seat and wiper-activated automatic headlights. Fog lights have been deleted to make room for the new front bumper's additional air intakes.
Sport-tech models come with a choice of rear wing or lip spoiler, along with Recaro front seats finished in leather and ultrasuede and eight-way driver power adjustment. The new Starlink apps are also included here.
For the longest time, Subaru practically had the market for quick four-doors to itself with the WRX and STI, but in recent years it has come up against new competition in the Volkswagen Golf R and the Honda Civic Type R, which made its first appearance in North America as a 2018 model. While these super-Subarus are a lot of fun to drive quickly, not every driver would enjoy them as daily drivers, especially the harder-edged STI, but the promise of added refinement makes us think these 2018 models would be easier to live with.
What hasn't changed are the WRX and STI's fundamentals. The WRX uses a 2.0L turbocharged horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine making 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the STI gets a 2.5L engine good for 305 hp and 290 lb-ft. Both come standard with a six-speed manual transmission and the WRX can be optioned to a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission.
A sample of the WRX's standard features includes 17-inch wheels (18s for the STI), windshield wiper de-icer, automatic climate control, backup camera, heated front seats, Bluetooth and cruise control. Sport trim adds blind spot and rear cross traffic detection, 10-way power driver's seat, automatic LED headlights and fog lights. Sport-tech models get navigation, passive keyless entry and leather seating and, with the automatic transmission, can be optioned with EyeSight.
In the STI, Sport trim also adds a sunroof.
Fuel consumption estimates are 11.3/8.5 L/100 km (city/highway) for a WRX with the manual transmission, and 12.6/9.6 L/100 with the automatic. An STI is rated 14.1/10.5 with its manual gearbox.