The Subaru WRX STI Desperately Needs A Refresh To Be Relevant


The STI just doesn't have that "special feeling" that it once had.

The Subaru WRX STI is a legendary nameplate that dates back to 1992. Back then, the STI produced around 245 horsepower. By 2004 it was producing 300 hp with its turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four boxer engine, an insane amount of power at the time. For reference, back then a new Corvette only had 350 hp, a 350Z only 276 horses and the M3 sported 333 hp on tap. That meant that the much less expensive Subaru could actually beat these sports cars thanks to its amazing AWD traction.

Unfortunately, the STI hasn't really improved over the years like we would have hoped. Back in 2008 it produced 305 horsepower. In nine model years since then, the STi hasn't gained a single horsepower and the rest of the world has moved on.

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So, how bad has Subaru fallen behind in the AWD performance segment? The Ford Focus RS is currently the darling of this segment, and it produces 350 hp from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbo. Mercedes can even get 375 hp out of a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the CLA45 AMG. The STI used to be able to match an M3 in performance, but a new M3 produces well over 100 more hp than a new STI. Unfortunately 305 hp is just not enough to get us excited anymore. When you factor in that a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan gets 287 hp from its 3.5-liter V6, the STI really doesn't sound all that impressive by today's standards. Even the Ford Fusion Sport has 325 horses on tap.

Luckily, the STI is down but not out. We don't think that Subaru should give up on a segment in which it was once the dominant player. We're currently seeing an influx of these economy-brand performance cars, such as the Focus RS, Golf R, and Civic Type R. Although, Ford, Volkswagen and Honda all have much bigger budgets for research and development, so we aren't too surprised that Subaru has fallen behind. It may not be right away, but we have confidence that the STI can dominate once again. The problem starts with the STI's EJ257 engine. This is basically the same engine that it had back in 2004, and the power has barely changed in over more than a decade.

The 2017 WRX, on the other hand, has a very new and modern powerplant. The WRX uses a 2.0-liter FA20F engine with direct injection and twin-scroll turbocharging. This engine produces 268 hp and has a much broader torque curve than the STI. The 2017 model year WRX and STI just received a small refresh, but the recent reveal of the 2017 Impreza shows that Subaru has more up its sleeve. The new Impreza greatly improves on interior technology, an area where the automaker has lagged in the past. We hope that the STI gets refreshed with some of the technology from the new Impreza, and hopefully a revived hatchback body style.

The Subaru WRX STI is not the hardcore monster that it was once seen as, but that doesn't mean that it's doomed forever. If Subaru can tune the FA20F engine to around 350 to 400 hp, it could bring the STI right back into contention with new models like the Focus RS and Civic Type R. We know that Subaru's budget is much smaller than that of many of its competitors, but we really hope that the company has something up its sleeve to bring the STI back into relevance.