2020 Subaru WRX STI Review - Aging Yet Still Fun

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

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.
2020 subaru wrx sti review aging yet still fun

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.

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.

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.

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.

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]

Join the conversation
2 of 21 comments
  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on May 20, 2021

    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.

  • Stuki Stuki on May 20, 2021

    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.