The 2015 Subaru WRX STi is the latest rendition of Sub’s sports and rally car. Simply put, it’s madness on four wheels with seating for five. Our test drive involved pavement, dirt, brake turns, and more for a week of good times in one of the world’s best on/off road sports machines.

2015 Subaru WRX STi - 11 - AOA1200px

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Subaru
  • Year, Model: 2015 WRX STi
  • Class: Sport sedan
  • Powertrain: 2.5L boxer four, 6spd manual
  • Base Price: $35,290
  • MSRP as tested: $35,290
  • Availability: Now

Overview

The 2015 Subaru WRX STi is the latest generation of the automaker’s most popular and storied sports car. Sure the BRZ gets headlines once in a while, but the STi is the one winning championships in rallycross circuits. We found out why, first hand.

Before we talk about the 2015 WRX STi, a few caveats are in order. First, this is not a touring car or even an everyday sedan that happens to be sporty. It’s a true sports car with everything that implies. If you want comfort, great fuel economy, and low maintenance costs.. this is not the car for you. If, however, you want oodles of power, an extremely tight suspension and the handling that comes with it, and don’t mind spending hundreds per tire for kevlar-lined dirt track readiness.. the STi is perfect.

Above all, though, you’d better be ready to take a beating and have a lot of fun doing it. That’s what this car is all about. It’s madness and it’s perfect.

Exterior Design of the 2015 WRX STi

When the 2015 WRX debuted at the Detroit Auto Show last year, it met with mixed reviews and interest from fans and the press. Many long-time WRX fans were up in arms over the new design and, specifically, the dropping of the station wagon hatchback style it’s sported for most of its life.

2015 Subaru WRX STi - 9 - AOA1200px

Subaru dropped the wagon style for several reasons. First, it saves money and vehicle weight. Second, it allows for that massive, massive aero fin on the rear deck. Finally, it lowers weight distribution on the car so that it has a slightly lower center of gravity. All of this translates into a better sports car, Subaru says, and we agree with that. It comes at the cost of versatility, but frankly, not enough that it wasn’t worth paying. We also note that WRX fans don’t seem to mind the dropping of the Impreza name, another notable point that indicates Subaru is making this a focused performance car.

The Hidden Monster Under the STi’s Hood

When you open the 2015 Subaru WRX STi’s hood, you see an intercooler and some hoses and pipes. A few intake manifold bits, coated in red paint, stick out from underneath that array of aluminum and rubber. Down in there, buried, is a 2.5-liter BOXER four-cylinder engine and a six-speed transmission. STi fans will note that this is not really anything new. Horsepower is rated at 305, a phenomenal number for a little four banger. This combination has stood Sub well and it continues to do so. Most of the improvements to the innards of the 2015 STi are in the all-wheel drive powertrain and the chassis itself.

Before we talk about those, though, let’s look at this 305 horsepower mini-monster. The best EPA rating for the 2015 WRX STi is 23 mpg on the highway. Honestly, most people won’t see that because it’s impossible to drive this car with a light foot. The 17 mpg city number may be more realistic, but is still going to require that you not punch it out of the light. That will be a serious battle with instinct, but you might be able to pull it off if you do the old “pretend there are eggs in the front seat” thing. Try not to think about how they’ll roll back, not forward, on acceleration.

2015 Subaru WRX STi - engine - AOA1200pxOne final note on engine power: drive mode settings affect torque output and this little turbocharged 2.5 can put out a lot of muscle in a short amount of time. Acceleration is very good and the car’s power to weight ratio of about 1:11 (hp:lb) is phenomenal.

As for the drivetrain, well, Subaru did a lot of improvement there. The 2015 WRX STi has a third differential in the AWD and it’s fully adjustable, on the fly. The driver can use a toggle switch beneath the shifter to raise or lower torque vectors fore and aft to balance the car as needed. The Subaru WRX STi will do this automatically in Auto mode, of course, and most will find that this works well the majority of the time. When going on-off-on the road, however, being able to change the distribution in anticipation of terrain change gives a lot more control to the driver. Toggles are quick and shown in the center of the instrument cluster so the driver doesn’t have to look down to make them. Further, that center differential makes a lot of difference in the understeer the previous WRX had.

Chassis improvements reduce ride quality for everyday driving, but greatly impact road-hugging and dirt track performance for the better. WRX fans will feel this difference in the 2015 Subaru WRX STi and enjoy it.

Inside the 2015 Subaru WRX STi

Most of the interior in the STi is standard for the trim level. An optional 6.1-inch navigation system also upgrades the 2015 STi’s stereo to nine speakers (from six), adding a subwoofer from Harmon/Kardon. A worthy upgrade if you want to blast tunes while you fly. Also worth getting if road noise annoys you as the primary drawback to the 2015 WRX is its huge amount of road and wind noise in highway driving.

2015 Subaru WRX STi - interior 3 - AOA1200pxThe basic layout inside the 2015 Subaru WRX is largely identical to the Impreza sedan. It has a compact, but roomy (for the class) rear seat, good leg room, split-fold rear seating, and a huge trunk. Although the front seats are sport captains, they are very comfortable, even for those of large stature. Elbow, leg, head and hip room are all good. The seats hug without cramping and are some of the better sport seats we’ve seen in any mid-level sports car.

It’s also notable that the 2015 Subaru WRX STi achieved high marks in crash testing, an unusual feat in the sports car segment.

Daily Driving in the 2015 WRX STi

As a daily driver, the 2015 Subaru WRX STi offers the basic ergonomics and versatility most people will need out of a compact four-door. There is plenty of room for passengers, gear and groceries, etc. Just don’t expect everyone to compliment you on the ride quality. The WRX is a true sports car, so the road translates directly into the car with little buffering. Steering is stiff and responsive, but has little assist from the hydraulic system, giving a prime feel for the road, but a fatiguing long-distance drive. The primary focus of the WRX STi is performance, not comfort, and that shows in a daily drive.

Fun Driving in the 2015 Subaru STi

Performance means good times, though. Nothing about the 2015 Subaru WRX STi is boring when you’re pushing it or even just casually doing sprints and dirt rally runs. The 2015 STi loves corners, eats up dirt, sends up rooster tails and dust clouds in a 180 turn, and never once gives you the impression it will slip or slide on or off the pavement. Subaru kept the well-positioned hand brake and automatic vectoring that shuts off power to the rear when you engage the handle for slides or brake turns. The lightly forgiving clutch and fast shift throw add to the good times. Getting 0-60s under 5 seconds and quarter miles at 13-ish are very possible in the 2015 STi.

Competition

Direct competition for the 2015 Subaru WRX STi is pretty slim. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf R will likely compete well, though we haven’s seen one yet (we have seen a GTI and that bodes well for the R). Otherwise, there aren’t many competitors in this field. At least not with all-wheel drive. In two-wheel competition, the aforementioned GTI and the respectable Ford Focus ST and perhaps even the Fiesta ST are worth mentioning.

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Strong Points

Fast. Really fast. Really, really fast. Really, really really fast. Really.

Fun at every turn. And straightaway. And pavement to dirt transition. And..

Weaknesses

Obviously not for everyone, though you might get away with the ol’ “Look, it’s a family car, honey!” since it has four doors.

Road noise is very high, even for the sports car segment.

Conclusions

The 2015 Subaru WRX STi is a true sports car that remains strongly rooted in performance without compromising for comfort or daily usability. As did its predecessors, though, the WRX keeps the everyday capabilities of a four-door, making it a sports car that can still do double duty as a daily drive. This is who it primarily sells to, of course, and those fans will be happy if they can get past the loss of the wagon design. Those looking for all the things that have made the WRX a popular sports car for the past decade or so will not be disappointed in the improvements made to eke even more out of the 2015 Subaru WRX STi.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The STi was a press loan from the manufacturer for about a week. A total of 449 miles were put on the car to include in-town, highway, freeway, dirt road, offroad, and other test conditions.

 

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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