The Complete Comparison between the Subaru WRX and the Subaru STI. Subaru’s presence in the realm of performance sedans should not be underestimated. Subaru’s racing heritage has been fruitful, to say the least, since the early 1990s. The WRX was debuted as a production car in the United States in 2002, followed by the STI in 2004. Since then, the WRX and STI have become mainstays of the US JDM scene. In a ferocious duel between the Subaru WRX and the Subaru STI, the question naturally arises: which is the better buy?
Subaru has issued four separate iterations of the WRX to yet, with a fifth on the way. Although there are four generations of STI, the first generation STI was exclusively sold in Japan. A few key differences between the WRX and STI justify the pricing difference.
The STI is undeniably the more performance-oriented alternative, with stiffer springs, a larger engine, fatter tires, and larger brakes, among other features. Having all that, the WRX isn’t a slouch. Despite being less suited for track days, the WRX can nonetheless easily destroy mountain roads.
The trade-off comes down to a few distinct factors that may or may not matter depending on what you’re looking for in a performance Subaru. The following are the major considerations that we will concentrate on:
- Performance Comparison: Subaru WRX vs. Subaru STI
- Price Comparison: WRX vs. STI
- WRX vs. STI – Versatility
At the end of the day, they’re both fantastic cars from one of the world’s most successful rally racing categories. Subaru has truly broken the code when it comes to daily-driven performance sedans.
History of the Subaru WRX vs. STI
Before we get into the specifics, let’s first discuss why the WRX and STI are so popular. Subaru was poised to win races in the late 1980s. Subaru didn’t have much success with their Leone or Legacy-based rally vehicles prior to 1992. Subaru’s racing section, Subaru Technica International, was founded in 1988, and they were sick of losing by then.
That’s where the Impreza chassis came into play. Subaru Technica International launched the Impreza 555 Group A car at the Rally Finland stage in 1993, finishing second. The Subaru Impreza 555 was based on the GC8 Impreza WRX, which debuted in November 1992. Subaru went on to win three straight manufacturers titles in 1995, 1996, and 1997, as well as a total of 46 rallies. Everything is built on the WRX chassis.
Overall, the Subaru WRX is one of the most successful rally cars ever. The WRX chassis evolved over time, leading in the GD chassis, which ran from 2000 to 2007, and the GE chassis, which ran from 2008 to 2015. From 2015 until 2021, the VA chassis replaced the GE chassis. A new generation of WRX is set to appear for the 2022 model year, with the VB chassis designation.
Performance Comparison: Subaru WRX vs. Subaru STI
The difference in performance is one of the key differences between the Subaru WRX and STI. There are a few significant hardware differences between the two. The engine is the most important. However, there are also significant performance differences, such as suspension components, transmissions, and brakes.
EJ Engine vs. Subaru FA Engine
The Subaru WRX and STI are both famed for their turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder engines. That’s how it’s always been and appears to always be. The EJ205 and later the EJ255 were previously used in the GD chassis of the Subaru WRX. The most recent WRX uses the new F20F engine, which was initially built for use in the Subaru BRZ. The EJ engine used in previous generations of WRX was a showcase motor for Subaru and powered the WRX for decades. It is still used to power the STI today.
The FA20 is a one-of-a-kind engine option for the WRX. Rather than developing an EJ for WRX use, Subaru updated the FB boxer 4-cylinder. Their goal was to reduce weight while preserving durability when compared to the EJ. Because of the sequential turbo, which minimizes turbo response time, the FA20F delivers torque far faster than the more powerful EJ.
The EJ257 engine, a modified version of the EJ255, powers the VA generation STI. The EJ257 has a revised cylinder head and block design as well. The 257 also got stronger pistons, valvetrain improvements, and a custom tune.
Both engines are turbocharged four-cylinder boxers. The primary distinction between the two is displacement. The FA20F has an 84mm x 90mm stroke and bore, whereas the EJ257 has a 99.5mm x 79.0mm stroke and bore. As a result, the FA20F has a 2.0L displacement vs the 2.5L EJ257.
The increased displacement of the EJ257 directly translates to increased power. Despite being a fairly outdated engine, the EJ still produces 310 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. The FA20F generates 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
Suspension Differences Between the Subaru WRX and the Subaru STI
On paper, the suspension arrangements of the WRX and STI are extremely comparable. Both have independent suspension in all four corners, which is a hallmark of rally cars. While both have four-wheel independent technology, how it is calibrated makes a big difference in ride comfort.
The WRX is fitted with sport-tuned suspension to provide a thrilling, family-oriented driving experience. In this regard, the WRX’s suspension is far better suited for city driving or comfortable high-mileage interstate cruising. The suspension on the WRX is substantially softer and more forgiving than that on the STI. But don’t get it mixed up. The WRX will remain firmly planted through turns.
The STI, on the other hand, has essentially similar hardware but has been adjusted for extra rigidity. As a result, the ride becomes more rigid, resulting in a harsher ride. The beefier STI sway bars add a perceptible level of stiffness as well, especially while changing lanes on the highway. The STI is track-oriented, which displays as spine pain over deep potholes and road irregularities.
STI versus Subaru WRX Brakes
Brakes are an essential component of any vehicle’s overall performance. Excess strength is only useful if you can come to a complete stop just as soon. Because the STI is designed for racing, it has better brakes. The WRX and STI both have disk brakes, but that’s about where the similarities end. The WRX comes standard with steel disc brakes, which are comparable to those seen on most family cars.
Brembo brakes with vented discs, 6 piston front calipers, and 2 piston rear calipers are used on the STI. Overall, the difference between the two is night and day. In reality, you’ll only ever need Brembo braking power on the track. If track days aren’t in your plans, the stock WRX brakes should suffice.
Differentials between the Subaru WRX and the Subaru STI
While the drivetrains of the WRX and STI are identical, one of the key variances is the differentials used by both. Both the WRX and STI use front and rear differentials to send power to all four wheels. Simply put, the STI differentials are superior. In addition to front and rear LSDs, the STI includes a sophisticated central differential that allows the driver to manage the power mix between the front and rear wheels. The center differential is known as the DCCD, or “Driver Controlled Center Differential,” and it allows for real-time changes to the front/rear power split.
Transmission Options for the WRX and STI
The WRX comes with two transmission options, but the STI only has one. The WRX and STI both come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. However, there is a distinction between the 6-speed in the WRX and the 6-speed in the STI. The WRX has a cable-shifted TY75 transmission that was designed specifically for the FA20 engine. The STI employs a TY85 close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission, which provides a more precise shift feel.
In addition to the 6-speed manual transmission, the WRX is available with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT transmission. A CTV operates differently than a standard automatic transmission. CVT transmissions, rather than having fixed gears and gearing ratios, employ two hydraulic adjustable pulleys driven by a chain belt to find the best “gear ratio” at every rpm. This means that there are no individual gears to choose from. The CVT determines the appropriate gear ratio for the particular situation by using sensors and hydraulic actuators.
Most automotive purists laugh at the thought of a CVT transmission in a performance vehicle, citing its sluggish history. The CVT option for the WRX, on the other hand, is one of the best on the market. WRXs with CVTs additionally have paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. While shifts aren’t as quick as they would be if the WRX had a dual-clutch gearbox, the CVT is adequate for daily driving. Despite being the less preferred choice, the CVT transmission costs $1,900 and is only available on WRX models higher than the Base.
Price Comparison: Subaru WRX vs. Subaru STI
The pricing differential is at the forefront of the WRX vs STI debate. The starting pricing for a 2021 WRX is $27,495 MSRP. A 2021 STI will set you back roughly $10,000 extra, with a starting price of $37,245.
The standard equipment fitted to the STI accounts for a large portion of the additional cost. Many of the upgrades involve both internal and external technology. For example, the STI comes standard with a steering-responsive headlamp system, heated front seats, keyless entry, and a 7-inch multimedia screen. All of this is in addition to the WRX’s performance enhancements.
The STI Limited trim level includes even more standard features. And features a front lip and a customized rear wing spoiler, as well as a power sunroof, leather upholstery, and Recaro seats with alcantara. The STI Limited costs a few thousand dollars more than the STI Base, at $41,945.
The base WRX lacks many of the modern conveniences seen in the STI. The base model WRX lacks creature luxuries like as powered seats, push-button start, GPS, and dual temperature control. It does, however, contain a few settings that you might now expect. A rearview camera, electronic cruise control, and a 6.5″ multimedia screen are among the features. The WRX Limited, the next step up in the lineup, essentially adds all of the included comforts available on the STI base for an additional $5,000 above the starting MSRP.
Versatility of the WRX vs. the STI
Both the WRX and the STI are meant to be all-rounders, with the WRX somewhat outperforming the STI in this regard. When we discuss about flexibility in this area, we’re trying to answer the following questions: Which car will be the jack of all trades? Which of the WRX and STI will I choose to drive on a daily basis?
It’s difficult to dispute that the WRX isn’t the more comfortable car, especially on long drives. The WRX is the favored choice for long-distance travel due to its basic comfort seats and less performance-oriented suspension tuning. Having said that, the WRX lacks interior elements that may make long trips more enjoyable. The lack of dual-zone climate control and an improved multimedia screen on the base model limits the WRX’s comfort.
In general, the STI inside is the better place to be in terms of features. As previously noted, the STI includes power seats, dual climate control, and a bigger screen. Overall, it has a more quality feel about it. What it lacks in electronics, it makes up for in ride comfort.
It’s vital to remember that the STI was designed with the track in mind. As a result, it does not accurately transmit road irregularities. For others, the performance seats detract from the STI’s use on a daily basis. The stiff Recaro racing buckets keep you tight through the bends but lack the cushioning to be truly comfortable on long treks.
Passenger and storage space
The WRX and STI have nearly comparable interior capacity for both passengers and cargo. It makes a lot of sense in practice. They’re both based on the Subaru Impreza chassis and have little structural changes. They feature the same amount of storage capacity and legroom as any other midsized family sedan.
Technically, both the WRX and STI have 12.5 cubic feet of trunk storage space. That should be plenty for a couple of golf bags or many week-long luggage. Both automobiles’ back seats fold down to increase storage space even more. Loading cargo is also made easier by the WRX and STI’s large trunk openings. Because the STI’s big wing comes dangerously close to touching the back glass, the trunk doesn’t open as wide as the WRX’s.
Inside, both the WRX and STI are quite roomy. Legroom and headroom in both automobiles should be adequate for anyone who isn’t a giant. According to multiple sources, a 6′ rear passenger can fit comfortably behind a 6′ driver in either car with a typical seating posture. Despite the rear sloping roof, headroom is not an issue.
Related : The Subaru WRX Intake Guide Upgrade
Daily Motivated Performance
We have discussed the hardware differences between the WRX and STI performance. There is, however, a distinction between on-paper statistics and actual performance. The WRX and STI are both unquestionably fast cars. Most non-fans are unlikely to notice a substantial difference in performance between the two. However, for those in the know, the STI is undoubtedly the superior performer.
The enhanced chassis stiffness of the STI is perhaps the most significant change in performance dynamics between the two. This comes down to a firmer suspension tune and larger rear sway bars with pillowball-style linkage. These features enable the STI to corner flatter, eliminate body roll, and maintain superior traction during turns. That’s a distinction you’ll notice both on and off the track.
The additional 40 horsepower provided by the STI is also evident. While the STI’s mid and top-end speed is unquestionably superior to the WRX’s, the WRX’s sequential turbo featured on the FA20F engine offers the WRX greater low-end torque characteristics. It is also considerably easier to maintain boost in a WRX due to the significantly shorter lag time.
The STI’s bigger and more efficient brakes provide significantly more stopping power than the WRX. This is a crucial distinction if you intend to do any type of performance driving. This also applies to the use of the street. Stronger brakes are always preferable, and the difference between the STI’s Brembo kit and the WRX’s basic setup is night and day.
Inadequate Weather Performance
Because both the WRX and STI are rally-derived, they are equally at home in inclement weather. Both vehicles have full-time all-wheel drive and four-corner independent suspension. That makes for a capable vehicle in the snow, rain, mud, and dirt.
In most circumstances, a WRX equipped with the proper tires will tear over most terrains and weather. The lack of an LSD in the rear of newer WRX models limits its performance in severely dangerous conditions. However, barring clearance concerns, a WRX with snow tires is just as capable of trekking through snow as an all-wheel-drive SUV.
In a straight WRX vs STI combat in bad conditions, the STI will always win. While the WRX is very capable, the STI is a beast. The STI’s center differential is the most noticeable feature. The Driver Controlled Center Differential on Subaru vehicles allows the driver to select between several condition modes. It can also detect road conditions and alter the power split on its own. The DCCD technology enables the driver to adjust the front-to-rear torque distribution to maximize all-wheel-drive performance under different driving situations. As a result, the STI’s poor weather performance is genuinely unprecedented.
Summary and Conclusion of the Subaru WRX vs. STI
If I were to use a non-car analogy to describe the difference between the Subaru WRX and STI, it would be something like this: the difference is comparable to the difference between a Rolex and a TAG Heur watch. Both tell the time and have a long history. A Rolex, on the other hand, is slightly more accurate, more expensive, and more desirable.
Finally, the WRX and STI are in a same predicament; they are extremely equivalent cars that can accomplish very similar things, but the STI is superior overall. The following questions should be asked before deciding between the two: Will I be doing a lot of performance driving? Is it worth it to spend an extra $10,000 on a car that just barely outperforms a comparable model? If the answer to either or both of those questions is no, then the WRX might be a better buy.