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Subaru News & Reviews

Subaru WRX STI: One grippy monster.

The 2021 Subaru WRX STI is the latest in a long line of muscular rally-inspired sedans from the Fuji Heavy Industries, LTD Company. Through the years, the brand has built a loyal following for its kind of high-performance sedans that can handle almost any road condition regardless of how wet, dry, sandy or snowy it may be. Napleton News had a chance to tool around in one for a week. Here’s our report.

The new Subaru WRX STI grinds it up in the dirt.

Tell us about the Subaru WRX STI

The Subaru WRX STI is a four-door sedan based on the mild-mannered Subaru Impreza.  The five-seater diverts from there, offering two trim levels that rise above all others in the fleet. The Subaru WRX is an Impreza with a 2.0-liter “boxer” flat-4 engine turbocharged to the tune of 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Since our tester was the WRX STI, it received a bigger kick in the pants with its turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer engine cranking out 310 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. If you aren’t too familiar with boxer engines, they are not like the inline four-cylinder engines that sit upright.

The Interior of the 2021 Subaru WRX STI

Nor are they V6 or V8 engines that are configured in a, uh, V-shape. A boxer engine features two offset cylinders on each side with a crankshaft in the middle that controls their movements. It offers a lower center of gravity than other engines and improves handling as a result. It’s Subaru’s prime means of motivation and they are sticking to it. From a competitive standpoint, the Subaru WRX STI competes head to head with the Honda Civic Type R or the Hyundai Veloster N.

Our Subaru WRX STI model was equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and Subaru’s Symmetrical All-wheel drive (AWD) for grip in all conditions. The tires were summer-only performance tires that provided awesome grip in dry conditions but tended to get a bit squirrely during torrential downpours, which seems to be a regular thing in South Florida. The handling was just like a Formula 1 race car that needs to switch from slicks immediately to intermediate rain tires after the first inkling of rain hits the road.

Brembo brakes stop the Subaru WRX STI

What about the Subaru WRX STI’s looks?

Think of it as short and stout, like a bulldog. Thanks to wide fender flares and large tire and wheel combos, it looks wild enough with its stance. But consider for a moment the gaping maw below the bumper as well as the enlarged intake scoop in the center of the hood. By comparison, the side flanks are relatively tame from the leading edge of the front door all the way back.

The WRX STI at speed.

The most notable addition to the WRX STI is the shopping cart handle that does double duty as a rear decklid spoiler. Sure it blocks our visibility through the back window, but it does its best to lend a cool look to the overall Subie vibe. All Subarus WRX models include flared fenders in front and 19 inches tires and wheels all around. The STI is equipped with Brembo front brakes with cross-drilled rotors as standard.

Inside the STI

The business side of the Subaru interior.

The initial feeling when getting inside is boy-racer and yes, it still is. But Subaru has done their homework in making sure that all controls are exactly where they should be. The optional Recaro sport seats are comfortable, with bolstering to keep you in place while corner carving, and the steering wheel feels comfortable when in your grasp. The gearbox is well placed and gated with the shift lever providing sure placement after every gear change.

The center console of the Subaru WRX STI

While that was all good and well situated, we thought Subaru was maybe scrimping a bit when insulating the cabin. Let’s post three categories:  Speed. Handling. Solitude. Ideally, we’d like all three. Speed, handling and solitude. Unfortunately, the STI offers the speed, with 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and the handling as evidenced when throwing the Subie into a turn and feeling the marvel of modern-day AWD as it pulls you around the corner. But every now and then, we like to hear ourselves think and this car is not made for that. Phone calls made to us while in the car were usually followed by “Are you driving with the windows down?” Call us old and cranky, but the WRX STI has a terrific knack for transmitting every decibel of road noise into the cabin. In that respect, it excels.

Standard Features on the WRX STI

The beauty of a package like the 2021 Subaru WRX STI is that it comes as is. There are no options! So, in this case, the STI includes the 310 horsepower / 290 lb-ft torque Turbo engine, a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission, 19-inch wheels and the larger Brembo brakes. The STI included a rear wing spoiler, leather Recaro seats, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert.

Behind the wheel.

A raucous and raspy note was first apparent was I pushed the starter button to fire up the four-banger. Gradually it settled down to a normal idle until I shifted into reverse, backing out of the driveway. Slamming it into first gear caused a lurch that one usually does as they have been suddenly awakened from a slumber. After that, it was smooth sailing as the engine warmed.

Poised and ready in the Subaru WRX STI

Approaching the boulevard allowed us to stretch the STI’s legs a bit. Rounding onto the main road saw us unleashing the power of the 2.0-liter Boxer. Banging through the gears had it moving quickly as we shifted through the double-H pattern to the top gear. Power caused it to jostle slightly from side to side. Or maybe that was us reacting to the torque produced from this 2.5-liter turbocharged engine.

Once the tires hooked up, the WRX just wanted to pull. And it did. With power hitting the pavement at all four corners, it grabbed and held on. It was so much of a show, neighbors claimed they could hear us driving away. We don’t believe them.

Unfortunately, it was over almost as soon as it started, thanks to a changing traffic light ahead. It reminded us of why we got into cars in the first place.

This post was published on October 13, 2021

Mark Elias

I've loved everything on wheels: Trains, Planes and definitely Automobiles. I am constantly in search of the latest in new technology, which makes our lives better each day, but will always respect the classics. You can't continue forward without first taking a look back at where you've been.

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