2018 Subaru WRX

2018 Subaru WRX STI Review

You might expect some rough edges, but the real surprise is how domesticated this car really is.
4 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

The 2018 Subaru WRX is among the swiftest and best-handling compact cars around. It's not especially quiet or comfortable, but it's a reasonably priced performance car you can drive daily.

You might reasonably expect some rough edges in a car born of Subaru's decades-long participation in rally racing, a form of motorsport largely run in dirt, mud and gravel. But the real surprise is just how domesticated these cars really are. The WRX and even-faster WRX STI are powered by turbocharged four-cylinder engines optimized for performance but capable of decent fuel economy. The WRX delivers 268 horsepower and an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined with the manual transmission, while the STI wrings out 305 hp and 19 mpg combined.

The WRX also offers a good serving of modern tech and convenience, either as standard equipment or options, including a choice of two multimedia systems, two audio systems, smartphone app integration, navigation, and driver aids such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. These attributes, plus comfortable seating, a roomy cabin and excellent visibility, make the WRX a legitimately practical daily driver and family car.

But there's no denying that the WRX can be a loud and raucous car. You'll hear plenty of road noise and feel plenty of road surface inside the cabin, especially in the STI, which can drive from dealer lot to weekend rally race and be instantly competitive. Key rivals such as the Volkswagen GTI and Ford Focus ST far surpass the Subaru for daily civility. To be fair, Subaru says it has made efforts to quiet the 2018 model with thicker glass, seals and insulation. We haven't yet driven the most recent model to hear the difference.

Notably, we picked the 2018 Subaru WRX as one of Edmunds' Best All-Wheel-Drive Sedans for this year.



what's new

The WRX receives a handful of useful changes for 2018, including an updated front-end design, revised suspension and steering tuning, and thicker glass, seals and insulation aimed at better suppressing road noise. Subaru also adds a few new features to its EyeSight safety package.

we recommend

With its 305-hp engine and sport everything — brakes, suspension, seats, steering — we would love to recommend the WRX STI, but we can't. Out of the box, it's a competitive weekend race car that you can drive to work during the week, but its high-strung manner and unforgiving suspension limit its appeal. Instead, we'd steer you to a WRX Limited. While the Premium trim costs less, moving up to the Limited beings a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, as well as a range of options, including navigation and various driver safety features.

trim levels & features

The 2018 Subaru WRX is a five-passenger sedan offered in five trim levels: base, Premium, Limited, STI and STI Limited. The base model comes ready for action with 268 horsepower and performance tires, while the Premium adds larger wheels and heated front seats. The Limited adds luxuries such as leather upholstery and has more available options. STI models start with Limited equipment but add a 305-hp engine and performance brakes and suspension. The STI Limited goes all in with sunroof, navigation, driver aids and more.

Base WRX models start with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (268 hp, 258 pound-feet of torque), a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive. The standard equipment list also includes 17-inch wheels, performance tires, heated side mirrors, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connection, and a six-speaker media system with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, CD player, USB and auxiliary inputs, and smartphone app integration.

The WRX Premium adds 18-inch wheels, foglights, a sunroof, heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icers, and a 7-inch touchscreen.

The Limited builds on that with LED headlights and foglights, automatic high beams, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, leather-trimmed upholstery, keyless ignition and entry, and an optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters.

Options for WRX Premium models with manual transmission include the 7-inch touchscreen, an upgraded Harman Kardon audio system, and a new Performance package that bundles Recaro front seats (including an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat), upgraded brake pads, and red-painted brake calipers. This package deletes the sunroof, however, in the interests of weight savings.

A manual-equipped WRX Limited is eligible for options including navigation, upgraded audio, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, while Limited models equipped with the CVT can add Subaru's EyeSight system, which bundles features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and adaptive ("bending") foglights that help illuminate corners and curves. The EyeSight system is not available with the stick shift, though.

STI models come equipped like the WRX Premium but with a bigger engine, 19-inch wheels, and no sunroof. The base STI adds a more powerful 2.5-liter engine engine (305 hp, 290 lb-ft), Brembo brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials, and more aggressive suspension tuning. Options include Recaro sport seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, and keyless ignition and entry.

The STI Limited adds back the sunroof plus keyless ignition and entry, an eight-way power driver seat, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and the premium audio system with navigation. The lone option is a low-profile trunk lip spoiler. EyeSight is not offered for the WRX STI.

Several dealer-installed options are available for the WRX and STI, including a performance exhaust (base WRX), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, short-throw shifter, carbon-fiber trim, unique shift knobs and interior lighting accents.

trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 Subaru WRX (turbo 2.0L inline-4 | 6-speed manual | AWD)

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.0 / 5.0

Driving

4.5 / 5.0

Acceleration4.5 / 5.0
Braking4.0 / 5.0
Steering4.5 / 5.0
Handling5.0 / 5.0
Drivability2.5 / 5.0

Comfort

2.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort4.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort2.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration2.5 / 5.0

Interior

4.5 / 5.0

Ease of use3.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Roominess4.5 / 5.0
Visibility5.0 / 5.0
Quality3.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
Though its acceleration numbers may be hard to duplicate in the real world, the 268-hp WRX provides continual thrills in a straight line or around corners. It doesn't disappoint in the areas that matter most to enthusiast drivers.

acceleration

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A deluge of midrange power makes it easy to keep the 2.0-liter turbo engine in its sweet spot. The 0-60-mph time of 5.4 seconds is a second quicker than most rivals but requires a violent, high-rev launch technique.

braking

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The WRX stopped from 60 mph in 110 feet, typical for a sport compact with performance tires. The brakes show good resistance to fade, but pedal response is unremarkable.

steering

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The steering feels direct with lots of feedback, one of the better electric-assist systems out there. Midcorner response and feel are especially impressive. Not hyper or fidgety on the highway.

handling

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Grip is truly impressive (0.94g on the skidpad), allowing for a rapid pace on our mountain road test route. All-wheel drive keeps the car planted no matter how hard you push.

drivability

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The heavy clutch becomes tiresome in traffic, and the engagement point can be tricky. The throttle causes jerkiness in certain situations. Not the easiest car to drive smoothly when equipped the manual transmission.

comfort

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Excessive and tiresome noise inside the cabin could be a deal-breaker for many, even compared to other sport compacts. The supportive and highly adjustable front seats, however, are fantastic. They stand out in this segment.

seat comfort

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Supportive seats offer consistent comfort during a full day of driving. The eight-way power driver's seat adjusts broadly and is friendly for tall and short folks alike. Lacks lumbar adjustment.

ride comfort

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Drivers unaccustomed to sporty cars will find the WRX stiff, but it's actually well-damped and comfortable for its class, and good enough to mask the incessant bobbing of choppy L.A. highways.

noise & vibration

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This car is louder than average on the inside with an abundance of road and wind noise. After a day behind the wheel, our ears were getting tired. Even worse, the weak base stereo can't compensate.

interior

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What the WRX lacks in good looks, it makes up for in usefulness. The WRX's spacious cabin is simple to use and offers good visibility. Would be even better if offered as a hatchback like competitors, but even as a sedan it's hard to beat.

ease of use

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The climate control system couldn't be simpler. The radio faceplate is easy to use, but the display is too small for iPod or satellite radio readout. You must use the redundant audio screen in the dashtop trip computer.

getting in/getting out

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A tall roofline and sporty seats with slim side bolsters make it relatively easy to get in and out, despite the WRX's sports car nature. Same goes for the backseat.

roominess

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A 6-foot-tall rear passenger can sit behind a 6-foot driver. The driver's seat offers more adjustment, and therefore room, than expected of a compact car. Headroom may be tight for those with long torsos.

visibility

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The low dash and hood create an expansive view of the road reminiscent of Japanese cars from decades past. The tall windows and huge mirrors further benefit visibility. The rearview camera is standard but tiny.

quality

edmunds rating
Approaches level of the VW GTI and Ford Focus ST (although still falls short). Soft-touch materials, no flimsy bits and the switchgear feels nice to use. Rivals cost less and give you more, but if you prioritize performance over equipment, the WRX represents excellent value.

utility

Although no longer offered as a hatchback, the WRX still offers a decent-size trunk and split and folding rear seats to accommodate the active lifestyles of many WRX owners. Abundant dealer and aftermarket accessories, such as roof-mounted bike racks, further enhance the WRX's utility.

small-item storage

Modestly sized glovebox and armrest compartment, but usefully sized cupholders and center stack bin.

cargo space

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The 12-cubic-foot trunk has a large opening and the rear seat is a 60/40-split folding arrangement. Useful for packing tools and toys for other outdoor/lifestyle pursuits.

technology

Offers a suite of tech options and features typical for this class, including two different sizes of touchscreen display, a navigation system, a premium audio system upgrade and app-based cloud services such as remote lock and unlock, roadside assistance and emergency notification.

audio & navigation

Base infotainment includes a 6.2-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and CD player. Top-level system comes with 7-inch touchscreen, navigation and more. New Multimedia Plus system sits in between — 7-inch screen, voice commands, Siri Eyes Free — and comes standard on Premium and above.

smartphone integration

No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but Pandora and Aha music app streaming comes standard on base models. Siri Eyes Free and MirrorLink (a universal smartphone interface) are standard on the Premium trim and above.

driver aids

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are bundled together, while more robust features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking are available in the optional EyeSight package.

voice control

New Multimedia Plus infotainment includes voice commands, including hands-free text messaging feature, and Siri Eyes Free. The top-level system offers the same, with voice commands also available for navigation functions.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.