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May 22, 2018

Review: 2018 Subaru WRX STI

Subaru Tecnica International or STI turns thirty this year, and while they’ve been responsible for Subaru’s motorsports activities, they’ve also become synonymous with go-faster Subarus. A great example is the WRX STI. The latest model, codenamed “VA”, manages to find itself embroiled in a turf war, not against its perennial rival, the Mitsubishi Evolution (rest its soul), but the Honda Civic Type R, Ford Mustang EcoBoost, and Volkswagen Golf R. Can the veteran still muster enough muscle to take on the youngsters?

If it’s all about driving excitement, then it definitely can. When pushed, the WRX STI obliges with its strong power, copious amounts of grip, and the unmatched rumble of its Boxer engine. At the knife’s edge, this Subaru becomes the ultimate racing machine, lighting up its tires and the driver’s face in equal measure. That said, because of its unique four doors with a trunk packaging, there are broader expectations of what it can do. But more on that later.

It’s worth noting that the WRX STI features enhancements that add some aggressive to its overall design while peppering it with luxury and convenience features unheard of before in Subaru’s rally-bred war machine. Outside, it gets an angrier face, steering responsive LED headlights, and massive Brembo brakes finished in neon yellow. The absence of the high-rise rear wing means that this is the Premium model and for that, it gets a powered driver’s seat, leather and Alcantara upholstery, and blind spot indicators with cross-traffic alert along with better looking gauges, red seatbelts, one-touch up/down on all windows, and a folding rear center armrest with cupholders. Honestly, the only thing missing would be the yummy 19-inch rims, although one could imagine what that’ll do to the ride.

As it is, the WRX STI has a very stiff ride. It’s so frigid that it’s impossible not to have passengers constantly complain about how their heads bob up and down at every road rut or how they always feel like they’re about to lose their lunch when traveling at modest speed on EDSA. For all of the suspension’s stiffness though, the body structure itself doesn’t feel as rigid and for that, interior rattles and shimmies are a constant reminder that this is a Subaru of old. Things are particularly bad around the steering wheel area where the rack shakes whenever the car goes over bumps with a slight angle dialed in.

It most definitely fails as an everyday commuter car, but at the sight of open roads and an open throttle, the adjectives associated with the WRX STI change. From stiff and unforgiving, it becomes effortless and fast. Brutal and unforgiving as it is, hard driving is what the WRX STI is built for.

Bringing the WRX STI to the modern age, Subaru has finally updated the all-wheel drive system. Whereas the center differential was controlled by mechanical and electronic means before, this one has gone full digital. Because of this, its on-road responses are quicker and much more fluid than before. Normally, hard launches would result in a slight slippage of the wheels before the car regains composure. Not anymore. Bury the throttle, let go of the clutch, and it rockets hard effortlessly with no nervous ticks. The steering still feels a bit twitchy off-center, but the ancient hydraulic steering manages to be quick, weighty, and communicative. The chassis itself is finely balanced too with zero percent lean and one hundred percent body control. Undoubtedly though, the best bits have to be the brakes. 6-pot front, 2-pot rear Brembo brakes need some prodding to get them to bite, but when they do, they bite really, really hard.

In terms of engine, the WRX STI continues with its aging turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The cabin-permeating boxer rumble remains one of its charms, but otherwise, it’s starting to feel long in the tooth. Its power delivery is largely like a light switch: on and off. At lower revs, there’s almost nothing going on. But at the moment the turbo spools up, all 305 horses come rushing in and along with the shove, they become hellbent on trying to snap the driver’s neck or rearrange the passengers’ innards. The Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), a driving-mode selector, mitigates some of this weakness but it must be noted that the engine feels choked when left at Intelligent and too brutal at Sport Sharp. It feels most relaxed when left at Sport mode. Fuel economy remains a respectable 6.17 km/L at 15 km/h.

Putting the EJ25 engine to work requires an active right arm and accepting that every day is leg day in the WRX STI. Though the engagement is precise, at times, the clutch pedal effort feels like resistance-band training. The clutch’s engagement point is a bit high in the pedal travel too, making it tough to engage without lurching. The shifter itself is precise, but stiff. It actually requires a bit of an effort as not to upset the passengers, though it must be said that everything works well at speed.

And there’s the rub. The WRX STI works perfectly when it’s driven hard, but not so much at any other time. Gone are the days of proving which turbocharged sedan or hatchback is more hardcore since they’re all equally capable as the last. Today, the battle rests on which one proves to be more flexible, more balanced, more refined, and simply, more livable on a daily basis. Subaru may have added more luxury and convenience features this time around, but underneath the slick new suit, it’s raw and somewhat juvenile. Thirty years on, STI continues on making fiery, driver-oriented performance sedans and this latest one’s no different. Awe-inspiring as it is, this one-trick attitude cannot be relied on forever. The latest WRX STI may still stir up a driver’s soul and imagination, but its rivals also serve as a reminder that Subaru better come up with an updated model real soon.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Premium
Ownership 2018 Subaru WRX STI Premium
Year Introduced 2014 (Refreshed: 2017)
Vehicle Classification Sports Sedan
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.5
Aspiration Turbo
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders F4
BHP @ rpm 305 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 407 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 97~
Transmission 6 MT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 6.17 km/L @ 15 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,595
Width (mm) 1,795
Height (mm) 1,475
Wheelbase (mm) 2,650
Curb Weight (kg) 1,528
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Inverted Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented and Cross-Drilled Disc, Brembo
Rear Brakes Vented and Cross-Drilled Disc, Brembo
Tires Dunlop Sport Maxx RT 245/40 R 18 W (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No, with Rear Camera
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Blind Spot Indicators with Cross Traffic Alert
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps Yes, Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric (driver)
Seating Surface Leather/Alcantara
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes, Dual
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. "It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow."

    So Mazda 3 Speed pa rin ang king of sport compacts.

    1. LOL. Most fun to drive and most luxurious daw eh... The best in all aspects daw kahit sa engine performance... Talo pa daw ang civic RS at ford focus na may mga turbo...

    2. Luxurious yan for a keyboard warrior not living in a gated subdivision worth at least 50M. Hahaha

    3. Heto nanaman ung mga epal na mazda fanboys. Comparing a mazda peasant car to a performance car. Hahaha

  2. I'm surprised that this car costs 2.8m while some "standard" C segment sedans/hatches are better equipped than this. So you really pay 1.3m for that engine, brakes,and body kits alone. I, a former Subaru fan would even buy the Civic Type R over this.. On the other hand, I'm pleased but surprised at the same time that the pedestrian Mazda 3 2.0 has the same tires as this Subaru WRX STI, explains why the handling is so good on that car. Subaru needs to step up their game like what they did to the recent Impreza to compete with the newcomers.

    1. Not quite.

      STI has 245/40 18 while Mazda3 has 215/45 18.

      Unless you’re talking about the tire brand?

  3. This is the only Subaru worth buying. The rest are just poorly made, unreliable cars.

    1. I'm surprised that Subaru is near the bottom of car reliability rankings

    2. I'd trust Consumer Reports rankings over this as the criteria includes owner satisfaction as well.

  4. I've always admired Subaru. But it ended when they joined the cvt bandwagon. This sti is still a (remaining) gem in their lineup.

    1. On the contrary, Subaru ranked no. 6 in Consumer Reports' 10 Most Reliable Car Companies for 2018.

      What are you guys even smoking?

    2. That's 2017 moron probably based on 2016 data

  5. As an aftermarket guy.. Subaru wrx sti's are still the best in terms of tuning,, very easy to gain hp,, but for daily driver? Nope.. Get wrx or bagged your suspension to make it a daily driver during weekdays and track car during weekends.. Haha

  6. Yes this is the best car among those and I have used this car for myself. For small maintenance I had always gone for this free repair manuals Subaru.

  7. No front fog lamps?

  8. And I'm witnessing my hero being let down bit by bit with the comparison to its newer, equally capable rivals. Sana magkaruon na ko.


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