Don't pay a markup, just get one of these instead.
After decades of keeping its specialty models limited to Japan, Subaru has finally decided to treat the US to an ultra limited-edition version of the WRX STI called the S209. Limited to just 209 units, this is the rarest STI we've ever had in the US and it is also the most powerful with 341 horsepower on tap. This, of course, means the S209 is madly expensive with a starting price of $63,995 ($27,400 more than a standard STI).
The S209 may be worth it for the most loyal of Subaru fans but that price puts it dangerously close to some much higher performance sedans from Europe. In fact, if you are willing to throw your money around on the used market and you don't care about being one of only 209 people to own a limited edition car, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives.
The S209 costs an entire WRX more than the standard STI model. So while you could easily go buy a brand-new WRX STI for less than a new S209, there are plenty of options on the used market. The current generation STI was introduced in 2015 and early examples can be found with high mileage for under $20,000. Even the rarified Type RA model from last year, which was initially sold with a dealer markup, can now be found starting at around $40,000. The standard STI still produces a healthy 305 hp, making it easily worth the cost savings over the S209.
The Ford Focus RS was always forbidden fruit in the US but for just three glorious model years, it was offered in the US market. In the short time since the RS has been off the market, it has already become a great used bargain. Prices for used Focus RS can be found starting at around $25,000 and with 350 hp, the 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine actually produces more power than the S209.
The WRX STI is an excellent performance sedan, but not everyone will take their car to the racetrack. So if you just need an affordable sedan with a little luxury and a decent amount of speed, you should look at the Buick Regal GS. The Regal GS is now in a new generation but we prefer the previous generation built from 2012 to 2016. It is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 259 hp, so it's almost as quick as a WRX. Since used Regal GS can be found starting at $10,000 with the most expensive CPO examples topping out at under $25,000, the GS is the best bargain option on this list.
The STI is typically the car you buy when the more expensive European options are out of your budget. But since the S209 is so expensive, you can actually get a used Audi RS3 for less. The RS3 is far more powerful with a 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder dishing out 400 hp. Prices now start at under $50,000 or around $53,000 with a CPO warranty.
The F80 generation BMW M3 has been on the market since the 2015 model year and is about to be replaced by an all-new model. As with most German luxury cars, the M3 depreciated heavily and you can now find an early 2015 example for less than $40,000. The car's 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-six produces 425 hp going out to rear-wheel-drive, making it much quicker than any STI.
The STI lost its biggest competitor when Mitsubishi killed off the Lancer Evolution back in 2015. A successor may never see the light of day but that shouldn't stop you from buying a used Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The Evo 10 can now be found starting at under $20,000 and even the Final Edition models can be had with low mileage for under $40,000. Power from the 2.0-liter turbo-four (291 hp) doesn't match the S209, but the Evo is much cheaper to buy and just as cool.
If you are shopping for a Subaru WRX STI, you probably want a performance sedan that is also reliable and easy to maintain. The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has proven to be neither of these things but is the far more exciting car. Power comes from a 2.9-liter twin-turbo, Ferrari-derived V6 producing 505 hp. Used Giulia Quadrifoglio cars are already selling in the low-$40,000 range but CPO examples seem to be slim pickings at the moment. Given Alfa's reliability track record, we suggest buying one with a warranty or not buying one at all.