The Impreza WRX STI is the performance flagship of Subaru's compact Impreza lineup. Available as a sedan or a hatchback, the STI is a rally-bred, enthusiast-focused machine that features a 305-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder.
With an all-new design expected to debut in the near future, the current STI mostly stands pat for the latest model year. The only change of note is the the addition of Subaru's new Starlink infotainment infotainment. Standard on navigation-equipped models, Starlink allows users to use a smartphone to access Aha radio and receive audio updates from Facebook and Twitter.
First introduced for the 2008 model year, the STI has since received a minor facelift and a thoroughly revised suspension. The latter was the more substantive of the updates and included stiffer springs, tweaked front control-arm bushings, thicker front and rear anti-roll bars, firmer rear subframe bushings and a 0.2-inch lower ride height. The changes managed to improve the car's already-superb balance and better its ride quality, although the steering remains a bit light for a performance car.
Providing power is a 2.5-liter boxer four that produces 305 horsepower at 6,000 rpm along with 290 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm with the help of a turbocharger. The only transmission is a six-speed manual. Fuel economy for the STI is 17 mpg in the city cycle and 23 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. In reality, STI drivers likely rarely see these figures as this car was built to be driven. Hard.
Brembo-supplied brakes allow the STI's decelerative prowess to equal its accelerative abilities; they consist of 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers up front and 12.6-inch calipers and two-piston calibers at the rear.
As with all other Subaru models except the rear-drive BRZ, the STI sends power to all four wheels through the automaker's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. A mechanical limited-slip type center differential augments an electronically controlled center differential to enhance torque transfer performance. The default torque split is 41:59 front/rear, although the center diff can also be set to an even 50:50 distribution.
A standard "SI-DRIVE" system allows the driver to tune throttle response by switching between three different modes.
Like the standard WRX, the STI is based on the last-generation Impreza model. Visually, it sets itself apart from the old Impreza with an aggressive front fascia, a bodykit and an oversized rear spoiler. Around back, quad stainless-steel exhaust pipes signal that the STI means business.
While the latest Impreza has moved forward in terms of material quality, the STI's interior feels slightly behind the times. The overall design is pleasant enough, but there aren't quite as many premium materials as one might expect at the car's price point. STI-specific touches include a unique gauge cluster, aluminum pedals and numerous STI badges.
Overly fussy and generally confusing to use, the optional navigation system is one of the worst units in any modern vehicle. At least the setup gains more functionality for the latest model year with Subaru's new Starlink infotainment system. Through a user's Bluetooth-connected smartphone, Starlink provides access to Aha radio, which offers tens of thousands of stations of Web-based content like Slacker, MOG and Rhapsody.
Starlink can also help keep Subaru owners stay connected to the social network via Facebook and Twitter news feeds in audio.
Trim Level Breakdown
The STI is available in base model and Limited form.
The entry-level trim comes standard with Alcantara/leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with AUX/USB inputs and full iPod integration, Bluetooth connectivity and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
The Limited trim adds full leather upholstery, a sunroof, foglights and 18-inch BBS aluminum-alloy wheels.
A navigation system is the only notable option, although numerous dealer-installed accessories are available.
STI Special Edition
As this model year is the last for the current-generation STI, Subaru is sending off the sedan in bright orange style with a Special Edition model. It includes a wild a wild "Tangerine Orange Pearl" paint job with contrasting jet black graphics, wheels and side mirrors. The interior features orange stitching on the seats, doors, floor mats and shift boot.
Only 100 STI Special Edition sedans will be built.
All Impreza WRX STI models come standard with dual front, front-side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and electronic brakeforce distribution.
Subuaru appeals to two very different groups - families seeking safe and reliable transportation, and younger buyers seeking fast, fun, all-wheel drive performance vehicles. The Impreza WRX STI Sedan is aimed at the second group, finding its biggest competition in the rival Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Some may also consider the Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 and the Ford Focus ST.