Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.5L Boxer-4
Power:
305 HP / 290 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,384 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
11.3 CU-FT
MPG:
17 City / 23 HWY
Base Price:
$34,795
As Tested Price:
$35,495
Despite my best efforts to convince myself otherwise, I think I'm finally getting too old for this car. I remember the days when I would go ga-ga over the winged Subaru WRX STI sedan, my inner boy racer caring only about its turbo thrills and not taking into account things like price, packaging or interior quality/comfort. Even now, as someone who generally appreciates offbeat color choices, I'm having a hard time getting behind the Tangerine Orange paint of this Special Edition tester, a unique version of the STI sedan limited to just 100 cars. (West Coast Editor Michael Harley recently spent time in the Special Edition WRX sedan, which will see a production run of 200 units.)

To give it The Full Halloween, this limited-edition Subie comes with black accents on its mirrors and fender badges, not to mention black alloy wheels and special graphics on the rocker panels. Special Edition cars also come standard with foglights, and there are orange accents found throughout the interior. All in, this flashier Subaru will set you back $34,795 plus $700 for destination, or $500 more than the standard version.

No, $35,000 isn't chump change, and many will argue that there are far better vehicles to be had at that exact same price point. And while my aging brain is beginning to think more toward that side of the rational thought spectrum, there's still a lot about this car that makes my more youthful self endlessly happy.

Driving Notes
  • God bless the sweet, sweet turbo thrust of the boxer four. No power upgrades have been given to the Special Edition STI, the 2.5-liter flat-four producing the same 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque it always did. And while there's noticeable turbo lag down low in the rev range, once you get close to the 4,000-rpm full-torque point, this thing just pulls.
  • Thing is, despite it having 40 more horsepower and 46 more torques than the standard Impreza WRX, the STI doesn't feel noticeably quicker, and some independent testing has actually suggested the less-powerful standard Rex will hit 60 miles per hour sooner. The WRX uses a five-speed manual transmission with taller gearing than the STI's six-speed unit, so you can hold onto each gear for much longer. You could drive a WRX in second and third all day long, but in the STI, there's more cog swapping to be done.
  • Working the manual shifter in the STI continues to be a joy, however, with short, notchy actions between the gears, and good throttle and clutch pedal feel that allow for solid gear engagement each and every time.
  • Where the STI shows its improvements over its less-powerful sibling is in the corners, when its stiffer suspension and driver-controllable center differential settings all work together to give you exactly the sort of driving dynamics you're looking for. During everyday scenarios, the suspension is decidedly harsh, but I'd much prefer to spend five hours behind the wheel of this Subie than a similar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
  • A lot of that last comparison with the Evo has to do with the Subaru's better interior refinement, but even then, that isn't saying much. Driving this STI reminded me just how cheap the cabin of the previous-generation Impreza really was, with hard plastics found throughout, very little in the way of emotive styling and a generally drab appearance, even with these bright orange accents. There's a ton of wind noise that makes its way into the cabin, and so many parts of the interior just feel cheap – too cheap for a car with a price tag so high.
  • As for creature comforts, well, there aren't really any. The Special Edition cars don't come with Subaru's frankly horrible old-style navigation interface, using the normal radio display instead, and while there's Bluetooth functionality to be had, it's hardly intuitive.
  • There are good points, though. I love the sport seats fitted in the WRX and STI – they're comfortable and supportive, and generally speaking, there's a good deal of passenger volume inside this compact sedan. Rear passengers weren't exactly impressed with the fit and finish of the cabin, either, but at least nobody complained about headroom or legroom.
  • The STI's biggest downfall continues to be its price – it simply just isn't refined enough to warrant a $35k MSRP anymore, even with the excellent Symmetrical all-wheel drive fitted to each and every Subaru (except the BRZ, of course). That's especially true when you consider that the normal WRX is actually a much better overall value at a lower price point. Still, this sort of coin will buy you a fully loaded Ford Focus ST with change to spare, and despite the Blue Oval bruiser only having front-wheel drive, I'd take its more livable interior and more refined driving dynamics each and every day over the added benefit of AWD.
  • Mad little turbo cars like this will always put a smile on my face – my love for the hot hatchback has been well-versed here on the pages of Autoblog. But cars like this Subaru increasingly need to validate their price tag beyond just their performance capabilities, and entertaining as it is, the STI simply doesn't.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 94 Comments
      DRO3000
      • 1 Year Ago
      The STi was never about creature comforts. If a nice interior and AWD performance is what youre looking for, go spend another $20k on an S4
      RWD.Master
      • 1 Year Ago
      Quite exciting car, but god it's ugly
      CarCrazy24
      • 1 Year Ago
      They need to bring the new version out already, it's looking quite dated now. The regular WRX at $25k is a much better value, plus you have $10k left over to upgrade your car well beyond STi standards.
      MANARC100
      • 1 Year Ago
      despite everything being true that was written there is a simple fix to the power. Just get a Cobb Accesport and the car wakes right up. Also this car with its high price, old styling and cheap interior continues to be pretty much sold out as they come off the boats. Subaru does a good job of matching supply with demand. I have a 2012 Limited and enjoy it though it will be out of my system by the time the next car i get comes around.
      Will Kaplan
      • 1 Year Ago
      The STi is what it is. It has NEVER had a nice interior or creature comforts or a quiet or comfy ride, and hopefully never will. I would much rather Subaru spend the money on performance upgrades over "luxuries" that will just add weight and complexity. While the WRX/STi are without question badly in need of a refresh, one that is hopefully coming soon, I cannot endorse what this reviewer wants them to do. If anything, I want them to take the car closer to its roots, as a rawer, more barebones performance machine. That won't happen of course, but I'll settle for an engine that can make some serious power without blowing a ringland. If the FB engine is anything like the FA, this will be the case. Throw in some seats like the Evo Recaros, a better stereo, and 350hp stock, and I'll be happy. (Oh, and BETTER QUALITY PAINT PLEASE!)
      Design1stCode2nd
      • 1 Year Ago
      The stock car does need a little modding to really improve it, but with a couple grand or so you have a very nice performance car that if you get the hatch can handle 99% of what most people need. I do agree the WRX is the better value and will get you 90% of what most people would use in an STI. I’ve had my 08 almost 5 years and I want a more refined car (luxury and technology) for my next purchase but I don’t want to lose the performance or functionality of my hatch in the process. Other than a Porsche Panamera Turbo or an S7 nothing really offers that and both of those are way, way out of my budget. The closest I’ve found is a CTS-V wagon but it doesn’t have AWD (preference) and finding one with a manual that isn’t $5-10k more than a sedan or coupe is almost impossible.
        Lab Rat
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Design1stCode2nd
        You can always get the bucket seats out of a Legacy Limited... haha
        v8eater
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Design1stCode2nd
        335 xDrive
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Design1stCode2nd
        [blocked]
          Erik Tomlinson
          • 1 Year Ago
          I considered an S4 before I bought my 2012 STi... but then I actually sat in the S4 and noticed when I had the seat adjusted for me you would basically have to not have legs to fit in the back. I can fit four adults in the STi relatively easily, especially considering the exterior dimensions of the car! There's also the issue of Canadian pricing for the Audi - the S4 can easily cost 30% more than the STi once you add equivalent mechanical wizardry options in.
          spinnetti
          • 1 Year Ago
          True (I have 2 A4's, and even the new A4 is too big for me), but the A7 just looks badass on the road... I've had a couple Lex LS400's too (still have one), but its just too damn big to drive every day. Smaller is better in my mind... Will be looking at the S3 sedan when its out.
      Luis Vendrell Dumeng
      Owning a 11 WRX STI I can tell you that there are not many stock or even light modded hatches that can mess with it. My STI is Lightly COBB modded (Stage 1 w/ Cobb intake) and can blow out a 400 whp car really easy because of it being as light as it is even with a stock interior. This also depends on the quality of gas you feed it. I've done it and it all about who is at the wheel. The transmission is not glass in stock form unless you like to slip the clutch too much. The new STI's are very nimble and controllable unlike previous years. I have made a few vette owners scratch their heads after a quick drag from the light. ;) This review is totally bias towards the reviewer and not a public review.
      Michael
      • 1 Year Ago
      As a STI owner I really don't get how people are saying the interior is uncomfortable. Those seats during my 4 hour road trip were a dream and as for cheap interior what are you looking for. Do you want them to put in cheesy aluminum pieces or do you want to see phony wood grain? People just have to find something to complain about.
        Staxx
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Michael
        Some people have different tastes. I feel like the STI interior is cheap, it's the same interior as the base Impreza. Get into an Audi or BMW at the same price points and you can feel the difference with the interiors. Tighter tolerances on all the dash components, leather/suede everything (Though STI seats do have that). Yet I have a friend that doesn't feel the difference, simply because that's stuff he doesn't care about anyway. Some people care, some people don't.
      domingorobusto
      • 1 Year Ago
      As it's always been you're paying for the drivetrain, which is why you buy an STI over the WRX. You buy an STI because you plan on modding it in the future and the STI transmission, differentials, and axles aren't made of glass over 350 WHP like the WRXs are. And it's why the STI costs so much. It's not a cheap task to build an AWD transmission that will reliably hold up to 500 hp. You don't buy an STI to have interior refinement. You buy an STI because you can buy a car that can legitimately run with cars costing twice as much while retaining some useability. It's the compromise you make to have a car with that much drivetrain awesomeness for under $40k. Because besides the Evo, what is there that can challenge this car on an autocross course for under $40k? Nothing.
      The Friendly Grizzly
      I haven't seen carrot-colored paint since the late 1950s Beetles.
      bannex
      • 1 Year Ago
      Anybody else confused by the focus st comparison? I mean not even in the same ballpark...
        Retro
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bannex
        I was almost understanding his perspective until he compared a [gasp] FWD pseudo-sporty car to an actual race-capable AWD sports car. I mean, is he going to say next that while the new Vette is nice, he'd rather have that Fusion SEL because of the trunk space?
        th3byrdm4n
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bannex
        Have you driven one? My buddy got a moderately equipped Focus ST a couple months ago and we did a canyon road trip.. It's zippy on the power delivery, has great dynamics around the bends and the the rest of the interior is very nice to be around. The Subi will grip the road and gnaw corners better, but I think the author's point was you can get much better hot-hatch package with the ST (or even non-STi WRX), then with the STi.
        PAULNYC
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bannex
        Totally Agreed!! There is no confusion at all. STI with Ford Focus ST:)))) That's like comparing Bose HTS with Samsung HTS
      AcidTonic
      • 1 Year Ago
      We get it you don't want a fast rough car...... You mentioned it pulled hard after 4000rpm...... No mention of it's cornering prowess, no mention of tossability, no mention of fast sprints to 60 even in the rain. You just kinda ignored the whole point of the car..... Going fast, modding, and turning corners. At least mention how easily these cars reach 400hp compared to a full bolt-on Focus ST barely getting to 300hp. This car can *use* the power once you add it.... that's kinda the point but you missed it. What a horrible review for a tossable handling car..... You reviewed it like a GT cruiser and it's not nor meant to be. The whole point is it hangs with cars costing twice as much. Again you just wanted a smooth cushy daily driver. We get it. You don't.
        oRenj9
        • 1 Year Ago
        @AcidTonic
        The WRX/STI aren't the corner carvers people make them out to be. They suffer from fairly severe understeer. I can think of tons of cheaper cars that I've driven that can turn into a corner faster than an STI. The fun of tackling the back roads in a WRX is the ability to make use of 100% of your torque much sooner than most any car, and holy hell can the EJ25 be a torque monster. The torque of a V8, the gearing of a four-cylinder, and the grip of AWD make for a hell of a combination.
        libertedelacroix
        • 1 Year Ago
        @AcidTonic
        I completely agree except for one caveat: the price. Sure, this car comes loaded with performance out of the box, and tuning this beast is easy and cheap (can't say the same for my Audi), but for the price this thing does not offer nearly enough refinement. Once you get to the mid $30k range, you better offer either A) more refinement B) more performance (bigger brakes, more HP, etc). I will give an example. No one says the Mustang GT has the best interior, most creature comforts, state of the art tech, high quality materials, or anything close. But consider the price/value ratio: For just under $30k, you get one of the best V8s to date with over 400 hp- no modding required. Sure it has a LRA, no AWD, and other tech goodies. But their engine is above others in its class (once again, I reference Audi since it's my favorite brand, and their V8s are nothing impressive outside of the noises it makes). I think that was the point this author was trying to make. We already have the Evo, which is better styled, better performance, better interior, and those cars can be tuned to over 500whp on the stock block.
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