A few days ago at the Detroit Auto Show Subaru finally released the new WRX and WRX STI. Unfortunately, the two cars are not as new as we hoped. Many suggested that Subaru was going to offer the new WRX and STI based on their new platform. This is unfortunately not the case. Instead, the all new 2018 Subaru WRX is nothing more than just a slightly updated 2015 car. It looks the same, and we would bet it also feels the same. Most of the changes have been done in order to make the car more usable on a day-to-day basis. Subaru worked on the quality inside the cabin and on the ease of use.
The prices have not been revealed just yet mostly because the car is still a few months away from release. It will become available in showrooms in the early spring. Its price will more than likely be similar to the older model, but it remains to be seen how similar it will be.
Now that the Lancer Evolution is gone, and most of the market has been flooded with hot-hatchbacks, the Subaru WRX STI is one of the few remaining true high-performance sedans with deep roots in the World Rally Championship. Unfortunately, while the current model still sells relatively well for how much money Subaru invested in it, its engine is already ancient, and while the running gear is still capable, the car is nowhere near as good as some of the current hot hatchbacks like the Golf R or even the all-new Focus RS, so in order to compete with these cars Subaru will have drastically to rethink their ongoing generation of the STI.
The newest official information suggest that the biggest changes for the future 2018 Subaru WRX STI are refreshed design – especially front look, an upgraded performance, refined interior and new Brembo brakes.
The good part is that the first step towards that has already been made because the all-new Impreza is going to be based on an entirely new modular chassis which Subaru says it is more than 50% more structurally rigid than before and with the help of new materials it should also be lighter.
This means that the upcoming 2018 Subaru WRX STI is going to be an entirely different beast than the current model, and we hope it will be the car to bring the high-performance sedans back on the market.
After many rumors about a new WRX and WRX STI, all of these have been dismissed by an unnamed Subaru engineer. He suggested that the car’s development cycle takes between 4 to 5 years and considering the current car has been released back in 2014, don’t expect a new one anytime soon. This is bad news, especially for all those people hoping for an all new model. This inside source also said that the problem is not the money put into developing a new car but rather the time. They need time to test and get on the market a great product. However, while this sounds like it might be true, things might not be as they seem.
Chassis and Platform
The chassis of the new WRX is the same as before, so the torsional rigidity and the center of gravity remain unchanged. However, the running gear has been revised. The suspension should now be able to handle small and large bumps better. The current car can be shaken by small bumps making it feel less controllable than it really is. On top of that, the power steering has been revised. Even though it still is electric, Subaru tried their best in order to give the car real feedback. Unfortunately, the WRX didn’t receive the larger brakes or the fancier limited slip differential found in the STI. This will more than likely never be available in the car, at least not in this generation.
We all know the current WRX and WRX STI are both based on the previous-generation Impreza. The cars get the same chassis as the base car but with different engines and running gears. Despite the different name, the result is nothing more than just a hotter Impreza. The earliest we may see a new car would be with the 2018 Subaru WRX STI while the production model might be sold as a 2020 model. Why not release it sooner? We are quite sure that the development time is more than adequate, especially since the WRX and the STI are usually released with the Impreza.
2018 Subaru WRX STI Design
On top of the new engine, the car is also going to receive styling cues closer to those found in the new Impreza. However, the flamboyant design with the massive hood scoop and wing is going to stay which is always nice in a class where cars usually don’t follow this trend.
An untrained eye will think that the 2018 Subaru WRX looks identical to the one before it. However, this is not really the case. The changes have been kept to a minimum, but they did try to make the car as close in appearance to the new Impreza. The grille has been moved downwards while the headlights have been angled towards it. The bumper also features larger intakes as well as angled fog-lamps housings. The result is a sleeker looking performance sedan that manages to keep its age relatively well hidden. The rear of the car is mostly the same as before. The spoiler is a slightly different shape, and the tail lights are fully LED lit. Subaru also added, as an option, LED headlights on some models. These swivel when taking a corner and should provide much better visibility during nighttime driving.
The WRX STI always looked quite cool with its big rear wing and its flared wheel arches, but there are a lot of cars like it currently on the market. The upcoming 2018 Subaru WRX STI is expected to follow a different path with a more subtle design in order to allow it to compete with all those European sports cars. Also, unlike the current model which is only available as a sedan, it seems that Subaru might offer the STI in two body styles which would be the first time when this would happen.
The hatchback is going to be the sportier looking of the two with a slightly more aggressive back end but the sedan, while identical in the front, the lower back, likely sloped roof and slightly shorter body should make it the better selling one, and it should allow Subaru to get back up there with the best in its class.
Even though the interior of a sports car is less relevant than the way it drives, the WRX was always criticized for being too dull. Subaru listened and the current model as well as the 2018 Subaru WRX have been vastly improved. For the new model Subaru added larger infotainment screens on both versions of the WRX. The base model now gets a 5.9 instead of a 4.3 inch screen while the top end Premium gets a 7 instead of a 6.2 inch unit.
Both of these also sport a higher resolution so the infotainment system should be much easier to use. The WRX also comes as standard with new camera-based technologies also dubbed EyeSight. These will monitor the road ahead and they will feed the driver information via a head-up display. A brand new Performance Package is also available. This will come with brand new Recaro electric seats, red brake-calipers and high performance brake pads as well as new 18 inch rims.
However, with this package Subaru will also delete the sunroof which is a rather odd move, especially considering the car is not exactly light.
One of the largest disappointments ever with the current STI and even with the older generations has been the interior which has always been sub-par, both in terms of materials and style.
There reports suggest that the new 2018 Subaru WRX STI is going to have one of the best interiors in its class, and we say this because this will be the first Impreza to have a more European-look inside the cabin with much better materials, a better driving position and a design that will not be as dull as before.
The Engine range
It is not that surprising that the 2018 Subaru WRX gets the same engine as before. The 2 liter turbocharged flat-four continues to make 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Most of that torque is available at less than 2,000 rpm which is much better than the STI engine. The six-speed manual is still offered as standard while a CVT is optional. The manual gearbox has been slightly upgraded with a new clutch and a revised internal design which should make it a lot smoother than before.
This question has been asked by many people, and it has been left unanswered by the unnamed Subaru engineer. On the other hand, some rumors suggest that the car is actually going to receive a hybrid powertrain offering around 320 horsepower. While this would be great for the environment, it would likely become too expensive and not that great to drive which would both become real problems for the production model.
The 2 liter engine would be a major improvement, especially since the STI is currently rocking an engine more than a decade old. The new 2.5-liter engine would provide more than 320 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The main advantage over the older unit would be the torque. The new engine is expected to provide most of the torque from as low as 1,500 rpm. On top of that, it would greatly improve regarding reliability which the current engine is lacking.
Its 2.5-liter flat-four engine is not going to show up either. This is because the EJ unit currently found on the STI is one of the oldest engines currently on the market and this shows especially in its torque curve with its peak, despite being a turbocharged engine, being at 4,000 rpm. The new generation of the car is expected to retain the 2.5-liter displacement but this time around the engine will be part of Subaru’s newest generation which debuted on the new WRX.
This is not only more reliable but also quite a bit more powerful in the low to mid-range. The new engine is expected to make closer to 350 horsepower and more than 320 lb-ft of torque, all available from as low as 2,000 rpm or less. This should allow the new 2018 Subaru WRX STI to hit 60 MPH in less than 4 seconds and likely hit a maximum top speed north of 160 MPH, which is a lot better than before.
A 6-speed manual gearbox is likely going to be the only offering for the new STI but thanks to its highly improved all-wheel drive system, limited slip differentials, and torque vectoring system, the STI should be a lot easier than before to drive fast.
2018 Subaru WRX STI Price
Unfortunately, we are still a few years away from its release, and when the car becomes available on the market by 2018, most of its competitors will have been updated once again so Subaru will have to do something very impressive with their $35,000 sedan.
When will it be released then?
So far it seems that the 2018 Subaru WRX STI, or at least the pre-production concept, might hit the showrooms in the late 2018 or early 2019. The production car is expected closer to the end of 2019 or early 2020. This would make for a five-year development cycle which is incredibly long, especially considering the WRX and WRX STI, despite the different names, are just versions of the Impreza.
The biggest competitors:
While in the past the only real competitor for the 2018 Subaru WRX STI was the Lancer Evolution, things changed quite a bit in the recent years. Hot-hatchbacks became faster, more powerful and a lot more refined than they used to be. On top of that, the Lancer Evo has been completely discontinued. This means that the current two major rivals for the WRX STI are hatchbacks which are quite unusual. Luckily, though, Mitsubishi is expected to return with a new Lancer Evolution in the next couple of years.
Competitors: VW Golf R, Mitsubishi Lancer and Ford Focus RS.
Even though Mitsubishi doesn’t have an Evolution currently on the market, they do plan on coming back. However, unlike many of their rivals, the new Lancer Evo is actually expected to hit the market as a hybrid. The car might get a 1 to 1.5 liter turbocharged petrol engine coupled to two electric motors. While the petrol engine will provide power to the front wheels, the electric drivetrain will drive the rear wheels. The result should be a car with a nearly perfect torque vectoring system and as much as 300 horsepower which is right around where its rivals are.
This is currently the most desired car in its class by a really big margin. Even though it starts around $35,000, there have been cases where people paid as much as half a million dollars in order to get an earlier version. The main reason for this is the way it drives. The Focus RS, unlike its previous models, is an all wheel drive high-performance road racer. It is powered by a 2.3 liter turbocharged inline four which churns out 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
This is more than both the current WRX STI and the future Lancer Evolution. The Focus is faster off the line, and it also has a higher top speed. However, despite being all wheel drive, some said that its chassis is far from perfect which makes the WRX STI a better choice for those looking to get the most visceral driving experience out there.
Volkswagen Golf R
Probably the most unusual rival for the 2018 Subaru WRX STI, the Golf R evolved quite a bit throughout the years. Unlike the WRX or even the Focus, the Golf is built with more car and with better materials. Despite that, it costs just as much as the RS, but it is less powerful. It gets a 2 liter turbocharged inline four which offers 292 horsepower and over 250 lb-ft of torque. All the power is sent via a six-speed dual-clutch to a 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Thanks to it, the Golf R accelerates just as fast as the Focus RS, and it is also a lot more comfortable to drive. It gets the best seats, one of the better driving positions and an already proven reliability. The major drawback for the Golf are the optional extras which will drive the price well over $40,000.
As a final note, no matter the choice for a high-performance four-door car under $40,000, some compromises will have to be made. The Subaru offers the great driving feel; the Golf offers the best interior and the most refined powertrain while the Focus is the fastest. It still is early to say much about the Lancer, but it might surprise all of us.
About Subaru company
Unlike many other car companies, Subaru didn’t start as a small company built by one person. Instead, Subaru is actually part of Fuji Heavy Industries, and it has been first launched back in the 1950s as a response to other Japanese car manufacturers. Their first model was 1500 which was a Peugeot built under license. Their cars evolved quite a bit throughout the years, and they have been influenced quite a bit by Nissan. However, since 1972, nearly all of their cars used a layout unique to Subaru. The flat-four engine mounted longitudinally in the front coupled to an all wheel drive system which gave Subaru cars unique handling characteristics.
The only real car to depart from this type of system was the BRZ which used rear wheel drive only. However, all of their other models stuck to the all-wheel drive design and flat-four engine which are two of the main selling points for Subaru. Thanks to the fact their all wheel drive cars were highly successful in rallying; Subaru decided to get the technology to the street with the STI brand. Subaru Tecnica International has been around since 1988, and they basically make road versions of their rally cars, at least up until a few years ago. More recently STI has been just a badge that was used on their higher performance Impreza which no longer shares parts with their rally cars.