Used 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Limited
Pros & Cons
- Standard all-wheel drive
- roomy seating front and rear
- punchy turbocharged engines
- highly capable handling in WRX and WRX STI trims
- wide variety of styles.
- Outdated four-speed automatic transmission
- below-average fuel economy
- below-average interior materials
- substandard sound systems.
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2011 Subaru Impreza's impressive performance and range of styles make it an appealing choice for a wide variety of compact car consumers.
Browsing through the 2011 Subaru Impreza lineup is akin to strolling down the cereal aisle at the supermarket. There's something here for everyone, ranging from the sensible base Impreza 2.5i hatchback to the wickedly fast WRX STI sedan. With such a wide-ranging lineup, it can actually take a bit of time to figure out what kind of Impreza you want.
The 2011 Subaru Impreza incorporates a number of changes that you'll want to pay attention to. Every Impreza trim level except the base model gets as standard equipment an updated audio system that features iPod integration and Bluetooth connectivity, though sound quality itself still ranks as subpar. There's also a new option for an inexpensive and removable (but dealer-installed) TomTom navigation system.
Those who crave performance will want to check out the 2011 Subaru WRX, which gets not only the STI's wide-body fenders but also improved handling thanks to wider wheels, wider track dimensions and stiffer subframe bushings. And then there's the STI itself, which gets a firmer suspension calibration and lighter wheels to sharpen its handling as well as a few more standard features (such as heated seats). This year is also the first year of the current-generation Impreza where you can order the WRX STI as a sedan in addition to the pre-existing hatchback.
This comprehensive lineup means the Impreza competes against a wide variety of other models. Base Imprezas go up against compacts such as the 2011 Honda Civic, 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3 and 2011 Volkswagen Golf. The Impreza is neither as fuel-efficient nor as value-driven as its rivals, but it does offer standard all-wheel drive, a notable advantage for those who live where rain and snow are a way of life. The Outback Sport hatchback, with its increased ground clearance and extra body cladding, can even serve as an alternative to a compact crossover SUV.
The performance-tuned WRX belongs to the sport compact club that also includes the 2011 Mazdaspeed 3, 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and Volkswagen GTI. Though lacking in features and refinement, the WRX is like Olympic runner Usain Bolt, as it boasts swift acceleration that beats them all. The WRX STI is a rally-bred performance machine that remains a compelling choice for Fast & Furious types drawn to big turbos, all-wheel drive and limited-slip differentials. Of course, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is an omnipresent thorn in the STI's side; enthusiasts are encouraged to test-drive both of these road rockets to see which suits them best.
As you've gathered by now, there are plenty of flavors of the Subaru Impreza. Whether you're a snow-belt resident looking for a basic compact with the advantage of all-wheel drive or a serious performance enthusiast seeking the sweet sensation of turbocharged thrust and agile handling, there's likely an Impreza worthy of a test-drive.
2011 Subaru Impreza models
The 2011 Subaru Impreza is available in four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Trim levels include 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, Outback Sport, WRX, WRX Premium, WRX Limited, WRX STI and WRX STI Limited. The Outback Sport is hatchback only, while the WRX STI Limited is sedan only.
The 2.5i comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a tilt steering column and a four-speaker stereo with CD player. The 2.5i Premium adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port.
Options for the base 2.5i trim include a rear spoiler, a unique grille insert, foglights, an audio subwoofer, satellite radio and a package that bundles a center armrest with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a compass and a security system. The 2.5i Premium can be had optioned out with many of the aforementioned, as well as a sunroof package that also includes foglights, heated front seats, heated mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
The Outback Sport is similar to the 2.5i Premium trim level but has 17-inch alloy wheels, a raised suspension for more ground clearance, foglights, roof rails, bumper under-guards, unique exterior trim, special interior upholstery and a standard All Weather package (heated front seats, heated mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer).
The WRX is essentially a high-performance version of the Impreza that comes with a five-speed manual transmission (no automatic is available), a turbocharged engine, summer tires, a more aggressively tuned suspension, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column and special WRX trim and body styling. The WRX Premium adds the extra items from the 2.5i Premium as well as the sunroof package. Options include a dash-mounted navigation system, short-throw shifter and a turbo boost gauge. Stepping up to the Limited adds leather upholstery and xenon headlights.
The WRX STI is equipped similarly to the WRX, but ups the performance ante even further. It gains a six-speed manual transmission, 18-inch wheels, high-performance tires, Brembo brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials, SI-Drive vehicle settings, an even more aggressively tuned suspension, a bigger hood scoop, xenon headlights, sport seats and faux-suede and leather upholstery. The WRX STI Limited adds foglights, 18-inch BBS wheels, the sunroof package and leather upholstery. A navigation system is optional on the STI trims as well.
Performance & mpg
Every 2011 Subaru Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive. The 2.5i and Outback Sport models are powered by a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission with hill-start assist is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional.
In performance testing, this normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine with the manual powered the Impreza from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Though it benefits from all-wheel drive, estimated fuel economy is subsequently below average for a small car with this type of power -- the manual gets 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, while the automatic drops the highway number to 26 mpg.
The WRX has a turbocharged version of the 2.5 that cranks out 265 hp and 244 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is the lone transmission choice. Its 0-60 time in testing was a snappy 5.3 seconds, while fuel economy estimates are 18/25/21. The WRX STI gets even more turbo boost for 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. With its standard six-speed manual, the STI achieves fuel economy of 17/23/19 and, more important, reaches 60 mph in a blazing 4.5 seconds.
Standard on all Impreza models are antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints to help mitigate crash-induced whiplash. In Edmunds brake testing, a 2.5i came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet, a good effort. The WRX stopped in 114 feet and the STI did the task in 106 feet -- both very good.
In government crash tests, the 2011 Subaru Impreza scored a perfect five stars for frontal crash protection, five stars for front occupants in a side crash and four stars for rear occupants in a side crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Impreza its highest-possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
The base 2011 Subaru Impreza rides and handles satisfactorily for a compact car, and its tenacious all-wheel drive is a boon for driving in bad weather. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter boxer has more aural character than your typical economy-grade four-cylinder and also delivers adequate punch, at least when the manual transmission is specified. But performance is noticeably blunted when the 2.5 is paired with the lazy, antiquated four-speed automatic.
On the other hand, the turbocharged Impreza WRX is an impressive performance machine for the money, featuring upgraded power and considerably more athletic moves through the corners thanks to its firmer suspension and summer performance tires. The WRX STI kicks it up a few more notches thanks to limited-slip differentials front and rear, powerful Brembo brakes, a six-speed manual transmission and a turbocharged rush of acceleration whenever the throttle is wide open. Ride quality for the WRX models is acceptable considering the performance, but some drivers might object to the extra levels of road noise.
Whether you opt for the sedan or hatchback, the Subaru Impreza provides a spacious cabin with loads of head- and legroom. The hatch obviously provides more cargo room, with a maximum 44 cubic feet of space. Seat comfort in the 2.5i models is only so-so, and the driving position suffers from the lack of a telescoping steering wheel (it only comes on the WRX and higher trims). The seats are also much better on the performance-oriented models, though the STIs lack lateral support relative to their rivals.
The interior design is pleasant enough, but quality of the materials is on the cheap side for the compact class -- especially when you're paying $35,000 for the STI. The stereo and climate controls are simple and straightforward. Opting for the factory dash-mounted navigation system increases the complexity of the stereo, as its menus and graphics aren't the cleanest around. There is a new option, however, of a removable TomTom navigation system (dealer-installed) which might prove more user-friendly. Sound quality of the audio systems, even the upgraded ones, is disappointing.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
Remember the raw, visceral, ball-breaking Subaru Impreza WRX STI? The STI that was an honest challenge for Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution?
The STI that was both fast and engaging to drive? The STI that took textbook track drivers — all straight braking and late turn-in — and dirtied them up with ditch hooks, Scandinavian flicks and handbrake turns? Remember that car? Well, then you probably won't like this.
It's been emasculated.
And by emasculated we mean made slower. You see, with the 2011 Subaru WRX STI, Subaru promised a car that would distinctly separate itself from the base WRX. And now the gap has officially closed.
When we last tested Subaru's WRX STI back in 2009, it hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and snorted through the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds at 101.8 mph. In this test, conducted in ideal conditions and with the same driver behind the wheel, the 2011 STI hit 60 in 5.5 seconds and whimpered through the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds at 97.4 mph.
Confounding the problem further, the 2011 Subaru WRX STI uses the same engine rated at the same power as the earlier car, its gear ratios and final-drive ratio are the same and it isn't significantly heavier. What's more, this performance is actually slower in the quarter-mile than the 2011 WRX we tested in September.
What's the Same
There are no real powertrain changes to discuss. Under the hood is the same 2.5-liter turbocharged flat four-cylinder engine that's powered the car since its inception. Yes, there have been modest changes to its power, torque and redline along the way, but there's nothing new to say about the powertrain for 2011 (at least that Subaru will admit).
It's rated at 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque and it's backed by the same six-speed manual transmission, which, in case you forgot, feeds power to all four wheels.
Subaru's Driver Controlled Center Differential, which utilizes both a mechanical (planetary gear-type) differential and an electronically controlled clutch to distribute torque, is still present. So are helical front and Torsen rear limited-slip differentials.
Every STI is also fitted with the utterly infuriating SI-Drive, Subaru's means of tweaking throttle response to suit its driver's needs. The system, however, provides barely adequate response even in its most eager setting (Sport Sharp), which must be engaged every time the ignition key is cycled.
We once had a wise college professor who shared this idea with us: "A difference, to be a difference, has to make a difference." He was right.
Accordingly, we're not sure Subaru's changes to the 2011 Subaru WRX STI make a difference. After our first drive of the car in Colorado last summer we wrote that the suspension changes are "subtle but effective." Truth is, however, that the changes only truly register in certain situations and they don't show a significant improvement in our instrumented testing.
Still, underneath, they are substantial. Replacing the previously rubberized rear mount on both front lower control arms is a heim joint (pillow-ball mount if you're Japanese), which reduces deflection at this pivot. This, claims Subaru, increases steering control at high load. Stiffer bushings supporting the rear subframe are also new. Ride height is lowered by 10mm, spring rates are up 15.6 percent in the front and 53 percent in the rear and antiroll bars on both ends are thicker.
It's a comprehensive redo that should register a more significant change. The same Dunlop SP Sport 600 tires sized 245/4018 are fitted to lighter (4.4 pounds per corner) BBS forged wheels.
As with most all-wheel drivers, 1st gear is gone too fast to make any useful observation. In 2nd gear, however, acceleration feels suspiciously off pace and by the time 3rd arrives there's a distinct sense that all the horses haven't shown up to the party.
Handling is a mixed bag. We can appreciate the impressive ride/handling balance Subaru has achieved, as the increase in spring rates hasn't translated into a proportional increase in ride frequency. And there are undeniably instances where fewer steering corrections are needed to hold a line, which is likely a product of the heim-jointed lower control arm. But, honestly, the differences as a whole are small enough that only those intimately familiar with the current STI will notice.
Still, we found the car capable — even at its lower ride height — of tackling rough roads (including gravel) without so much as a wimper. Blast sideways through a washboard-riddled turn and the STI's chassis doesn't even breathe hard. Our test car also endured repeated powertrain-abusing launches as we attempted to match previous test numbers.
The history of WRX STI tests performed in the last three years at Inside Line is a narrative of diminished performance. Our first full test of the current-generation STI proved the car capable of outpacing the car it replaced.
But then things began to change. Our long-term STI, which lived with us for more than a year, accelerated quicker at the end of its loan than it had at the beginning (the best numbers from its two tests are below). That car was 0.3 second quicker to 60 mph and 0.3 second quicker in the quarter-mile than this 2011 model.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that over the course of these three STI tests we witnessed trap speed drop by exactly 5 mph in cars that differed in weight by only 57 pounds. The only legitimate explanation for this reduced performance is a loss of power.
2011 STI sedan (3,408 pounds)
2008 long-term STI (3,372 pounds)
2008 STI Full Test (3,351 pounds)
2011 WRX sedan (3,185 pounds)
|0-60 with rollout||
|Quarter-mile time @ speed||
13.8 @ 97.4
13.5 @ 101.8
13.3 @ 102.4
13.8 @ 98.2
|60-0 mph (ft)||
|Slalom 6 x 100 ft (mph)||
|Skid pad, 200-ft diameter (lateral g)||
Performance in our standardized handling tests didn't improve despite the numerous suspension changes. Lateral acceleration actually decreased from previous STI tests (0.90g vs. 0.89g) and slalom speed fell somewhere in the middle of the other STIs at 70.3 mph.
At 112 feet, the 2011 Subaru WRX STI also required longer to stop than any other (current-generation) STI we've tested.
The Official Word
Subaru of America (SOA), for its part, offers no explanation for these results. In a statement issued after receiving our test results it says, "the numbers are within a few tenths of previous tests; we will investigate this matter."
And when asked about the motivation to buy an STI in light of the WRX's strikingly similar performance, SOA offered the following:
"The motivation to purchase an STI is to experience true rally car performance in a street-legal sports car. While similar in styling, the WRX STI and WRX share just a few minor suspension pieces under the skin. The WRX STI delivers a race-bred transmission, driver-adjustable differentials and Subaru SI-Drive, to name just a few. It provides a unique blend of power, grip and handling in a vehicle that delivers daily driver versatility."
We're told Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru's parent company, is conducting its own tests to verify our results.
Our tester — outfitted with the Limited package (leather and a moonroof) and navigation system — rang up a total of $39,870 including destination fees. That's $8,150 more than a similarly equipped WRX Limited.
At the end of the day the 2011 Subaru WRX STI is still a capable car. There's a genuine sense of control when driving it hard, it rips out of slow corners with enough authority to detach your retinas and the fact that it can now be had as a sedan only adds to its appeal.
Equally as important, it's still fun — an engaging driving tool that's at home on most any surface. There's lots of car here. But the question remains: Why is it less car here than before?
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of this evaluation, which originally appeared on insideline.com.
Used 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Limited Overview
The Used 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Limited is offered in the following styles: WRX STI Limited 4dr Sedan AWD (2.5L 4cyl Turbo 6M). The Used 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Limited comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual. The Used 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Limited comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
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Should I lease or buy a 2011 Subaru Impreza?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.