The Subaru WRX is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine. In standard WRX guise, it produces 268 horsepower, which is fed to all four wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. The WRX STi is powered by a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 305 horsepower. The STi features the same all-wheel-drive system and 6-speed manual combination that is so potent in the standard WRX. The Sport Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission is available on the WRX but not on the STi.
The WRX comes in three trims: Standard, Premium and Limited. Standard WRX models come with 17-inch wheels and a 6.2-inch Starlink multimedia touchscreen infotainment system, which features HD Radio, smartphone integration, a CD player, USB and iPod inputs, six speakers and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and audio streaming. Automatic climate control, rear backup camera, tilt/telescopic steering, full power accessories and cloth sport seats with driver's 6-way manual adjustability round out the base features.
The WRX Premium comes equipped with 18-inch wheels, heated front seats and mirrors, a power glass moonroof, fog lamps and an aero package that includes a rear spoiler.
Limited trim includes everything from the Premium trim as well as a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, leather-trimmed upholstery, and LED headlights. Subaru's EyeSight driver assist technology is available on the WRX Limited and includes active safety features like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning.
Beyond the bigger engine, the STi differentiates itself from the WRX with a more aggressive exterior, featuring a unique hood and more pronounced fender flares. The bumpers are also more aerodynamic, giving the STi the impression of a high-performance vehicle. Underneath, the STi backs up this impression with lower, stiffer springs, bigger brakes and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The STi comes loaded with features and is available in standard and Limited trims. Standard features include a 60/40 split folding rear seat, a leather wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, a 3.5-inch LCD screen mounted in the instrument cluster and a dual-zone climate control system.
A navigation and Harman/Kardon audio package are optional across the WRX range. A performance package deletes the sunroof but adds Recaro front seats, painted brake calipers and upgraded brake pads.
Safety features include big anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control, a host of airbags, and the confidence of Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive system.
The WRX and STi carry over into 2020 with mild changes. Performance Package WRX models get some welcome upgrades for those looking for a performance midpoint between the WRX and the STi. Added this year are 4-piston Brembo brakes up front with dual pistons out back and Recaro performance front seats with 8-way power adjustability for the driver. Premium models feature welcome lighting while all STi models now come standard with keyless access and push button start.
The Subaru WRX and STi compete against a variety of machinery across several segments. The Subarus are fast and handle well, with the STi being competitive with sports cars such as the Nissan 370Z. However, Subaru offers a degree of practicality that puts them up against many compact, similarly priced European cars like the MINI Cooper and BMW 2-Series. The WRX starts at just under $28,000, while the more powerful STi has a base price just under $37,000.