By on May 19, 2021

2020 Subaru WRX STI

2020 Subaru WRX STI Fast Facts

2.5-liter turbocharged “boxer” horizontally-opposed four-cylinder (310 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 290 lb-ft @ 4,000-5,200 rpm)

Six-speed manual; all-wheel drive

16 city / 22 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

14.3 city, 10.8 highway, 12.7 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $36,995 (U.S) / $47,895 (Canada)

As Tested: $43,959 (U.S.) / $49,999 (Canada)

Prices include $900 destination charge in the United States and $1,825 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Most people slow down a bit, in terms of being the life of the party, as they approach their dotage. Others keep rocking straight into the retirement home.

Count the Subaru WRX STI among that latter group.

Every bit of the car reminds you that it hasn’t changed much since 2014 when the WRX split from the Impreza, yet it’s so fun to drive that you just don’t care.

Fun, though not always smooth. I’ve always thought of the WRX/WRX STI as kinda like bulldogs – a bit ugly but tough, and fun if you’re willing to put up with some roughness around the edges.

2002 Subaru WRX STI

Here, that roughness manifests itself in terms of exhaust noise and a light-switch of a clutch that makes smooth engagement tricky. Sure, maybe we just don’t drive manuals enough anymore, or maybe I am just not as smooth as I’d like to be, but this Subie too often made me feel like I was a teenager learning how to master a manual again.

Once rolling, however, it becomes a moot point, since the STI remains a hoot. Acceleration is swift and cornering is nice and sharp, though with some understeer if you push hard enough.

2002 Subaru WRX STI

That performance covers a lot of sins. Predictably, the STI rides really stiffly and the seats are similarly firm – those with bad backs or sensitive stomachs may want to steer clear. The cabin looks every bit of the height of 2013, with the big news for 2020 being the addition of keyless starting as standard. At least the controls are easy enough to use and laid out in a logical manner.

2002 Subaru WRX STI

Then there’s the large wing, which while no doubt helpful with performance, also sends a signal to bystanders that perhaps you’re compensating for something. The loud-but-crude exhaust doesn’t help shake off the stigma, either.

To be fair to Subaru, any embarrassment at being seen piloting this thing may be a function of age. Not the platform’s, but mine – twenty-five-year-old me probably would be happier to be seen behind the wheel of this boy-racer sedan that forty-year-old me. Such is life – lots of people switch from cheap swill that’s generously labeled as beer to moderately-priced quality brown liquor as they age. Just like some sports-car buyers trade Fast and Furious-ready styling for more mature duds as they move up the pricing ladder.

Then again, this car does bring out your inner hoon, and that, of course, brings grins. If you can deal with the stares.

2002 Subaru WRX STI

Available features include Brembo brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials, 19-inch BBS wheels, summer performance tires, LED adaptive headlights, driver-controlled center differential, sport suspension, dual-zone climate control, dual USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, Bluetooth, keyless access and starting, heated front seats, Bilstein dampers, body-side molding, and Recaro seats.

The STI remains what it has been for years now – a brute-force fighter that doesn’t care about looking good or being comfortable. It just wants to play.

Play well it does. But the price is a bit steep. Should you be willing to pay it, you’ll have plenty of fun – even as aged as this STI is.

What’s New for 2020

Keyless entry and starting, a bump in the base price of $400.

Who Should Buy It

Performance enthusiasts who are willing to sacrifice comfort and style for fun.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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21 Comments on “2020 Subaru WRX STI Review – Aging Yet Still Fun...”


  • avatar
    jack4x

    Hey Tim, like the review but is the summary box missing? Especially curious about the as-tested price since you call it out specifically as high.

    Thanks.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I so wanted one of these in my 20s. Now in my 40s I’d rather have a Golf R.

    But everyone who gets one of these immediately needs to do a trunk swap to foist the horrible wing off on some WRX bro. (You need to swap the whole trunklid and hinges because the winged lid is so much heavier. Make sure to keep your STI badge.)

  • avatar
    ajla

    If you’re a crusty old man you can get a wing delete from the factory.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I haven’t driven the STI, but I have driven the more basic model, and Tim’s right – the fast-‘n-furious act wears thin pretty quickly. That’s why you can usually find plenty of almost-new examples of these out there, probably bought by old farts like me who fell in love with the performance but fell out of love with the livability. My a** ain’t as padded as it used to be.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Having been exposed to enough egg shaped crossovers, my eyes aren’t offended by the styling and the fact that most of the true STIs i’ve been seeing lately have been driven by middle aged men. It’s actually kind of endearing, as the world goes electric and clutchless.
    A 55 y/o urologist friend of mine bought an STI last year. The Focus RS was too stiff and Type R too ugly (even compared to the STI) and too expensive.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I like this. For its simplicity and for being old-ways. And I can turn a blind eye on the mileage… But mileage and premium gasoline together??? not so much

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This engine was old back when I had one in a 2013 Forester, and it’s a bit cranky. I put regular gas by accident once and it ran like crap. It really does want the good stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        It’s a different engine from your ’13 Forester from 8 years ago – the Forester utilized an FB-series engine and the ’20 STI utilizes a 4-valve EJ engine (an older design to be sure but much different in detail). As a comparison, Mazda’s turbo engine requires premium fuel to get full output from that engine.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    My wife sold her WRX (non-STI) when she turned 62. I guess she was starting to mature! Actually, she retired and no longer needed the AWD to aid in her winter commutes.

    Though she generally likes her Mini Cooper S, she does say that she misses the WRX now and then though.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Is this hit with a US gas guzzler tax? That mileage.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The base WRX holds some appeal to me in a value/performance/stealth/manual (base – no wing) sort of way. Just have the dealer add the tweeter option to the base stereo.

    If the next gen keeps the manual trans and the not-fuel economy-focused AWD, it will stay on my radar.

  • avatar
    stuki

    On a car like this, I’d keep the wing. It’s not harming anything, and it’s not that impossible to find stretches of road fast enough to make it useful when you have 300hp in a fairly small car.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the wing makes sense before the suspension stiffness, in terms of speed.

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