The WRX STI needs a refresh: here's what we'd do to fix it.
The WRX and WRX STI were refreshed back in 2014 to coincide with the then-current fourth generation Impreza. The WRX moniker has since been detached and made into its own model, but the car is still essentially a hotter Impreza. The VA generation WRX received an upgrade in the engine bay: a 2.0-liter turbocharged FA20F flat-four. By comparison, the WRX STI still uses the old 2.5-liter flat-four EJ motor, which dates back more than two decades. It is time for Subaru to replace the aging WRX STI, and we have some ideas on how to do it right.
One of the reasons why the current WRX STI was a bit disappointing, was its departure from the concept car. Back in 2013, Subaru showed off an incredible concept version of the WRX at the New York Auto Show. The final production model ended up being far too tame and a disappointment overall. Subaru recently showed off the Viziv Performance STI Concept at the 2018 Tokyo Auto Salon. Like Subaru's previous concept cars, this Viziv Concept looks absolutely bonkers. We hope Subaru has the guts to make the WRX STI look like the concept car this time around.
The STI isn't a slow car by any means, but 305 horsepower isn't what it used to be; not when a garden variety Toyota Camry offers 301 hp. The first STI came to the United States back in 2004 packing 300 hp from its flat-four EJ motor. Fast forward 14 years and the STI has gained exactly 5 hp since it was first offered in the states. The competition has not only caught up, it has breezed past the STI. Rumors indicate a new 2.0-liter flat-four engine is one the way, which could benefit from hybrid technology. Either way, we'd like to see at least 350 hp, but 400 hp would be mighty fine.
This next improvement is easily the most difficult to stomach, but we believe Subaru should offer the next STI with some form of automatic transmission. Yes, we hate ourselves for even proposing an option other than a manual. Still, if we want the STI to continue in the future, Subaru needs to keep making money off of it. Offering some form of automatic will cater to buyers who don't want manual, which, love it or hate it, would be a lot. In our opinion, Subaru made a mistake by fitting the WRX with a CVT rather than a traditional automatic or dual-clutch. We hope Subaru can afford to develop a new transmission for the WRX platform, or borrow one from another manufacturer.
As much as we like to argue against the SUV takeover of the auto industry, we believe the STI name is ripe for a crossover or lifted wagon variant. This isn't necessary out of Subaru's wheelhouse. The Japanese market has received STI versions of the Forrester and there used to be an STI hatchback body style. The only dedicated high performance off-road cars on the market today are trucks like the Colorado ZR2 and F-150 Raptor. We'd like to see Subaru take the STI name and apply it to a model like the Forrester or Crosstrek. The resulting STI model would cater to crossover buyers and off-road enthusiasts.
Our final improvement is by the far the least eye grabbing, but we feel it is important. The WRX and STI are both very basic cars in terms of features, unless you spend extra to step up to the Premium and Limited trims. Meanwhile, the competition has things such as keyless entry with push button start standard on all models. Subaru makes buyers step up to the WRX and WRX STI Limited trims ($31,595 and $40,895) just to get rid of having to use an old fashioned key. The WRX is not a cheap car, so Subaru should toss in more standard features to help increase the value proposition over competitors like the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R, and Volkswagen Golf R.