Joshua S bought this used Subaru WRX in 2018 for $37,000 (including all on-road costs). Joshua S would buy this car again because: “Growing up in the Gran Turismo generation, the WRX STI was the poster car of my childhood. Four years of ownership has lived up to that expectation so far. The VA chassis is a modern car with all the features.” It has the features and creature comforts you’d expect, yet maintains a raw, analog driving experience that you’ve come to expect from the WRX STI.
In today’s world when cars lose their third pedal and go more electric, a 6-speed manual gearbox, an old-school turbo shove as soon as you hit the boost, a signature Subaru exhaust rumble and tons of mechanical grip. Owning it feels special. Through an incredibly refined AWD system. It ticks all the boxes of being an affordable dream car for me to maintain in the long term. “
So far, the EJ257 hasn’t blown and I haven’t been subjected to the head gasket nightmares that plague Subaru Facebook groups and car memes pages. That said, my car only has 72,000km at the time of writing.
Now that’s out of the way, the only reliability issue I’ve had aside from routine maintenance and consumables came from the previous owner’s tune. It will show up with the occasional boost cut under full throttle in third gear. Was a little annoying, but was corrected by a repossessed one by a reputable Subaru tuner.
Great for years of wear and tear. There’s the occasional trim rattle and the leather is a little worn around the bolsters, though that’s pretty consistent with other cars of this age/mileage.
It was a lot of fun. Once I was off my Ps I was keen to treat myself to my first turbo car that wasn’t P plate legal and after months of seeing lots of abuse, I did 46,000km and a full service. Set on it with a date.
The previous owner had it lightly modified with an Invidia Q300 turboback exhaust (and a tune to match, of course). What surprised me was that he somehow got a set of six-piston front and two-piston rear Brembos from a GD WRX STi Spec C Type Ra-R and Enkei wheels from a JDM Legacy tS. Great for the Subaru train spots out there.
In my ownership, it started as a daily but has been relegated to weekend car status since mid-2020. I had the paint corrected and ceramic coated, and then I threw a Subaru and STI parts catalog on it. It includes lip kits, dual console boxes, locking nuts, flexible tower bars and the list goes on.
There are at least 40 different STI logos somewhere on the car. I also added an intake and catch can when the re-tune is complete.
In the everyday category, I found it to be well appointed and reasonably practical, carrying four adults in relative comfort. The boot is reasonably large and fits more stuff than most hatchbacks. I daresay it could pass for a family car. More on weekend category in other sections.
It’s a car that gets a lot of looks (probably because of the awkward route) and the occasional thumbs-up from passers-by and other cars. The Subaru community is a supportive group and it’s a fun car to bring to meetings and cars and coffee events.
I have been taking it to an independent performance car specialist for maintenance and have found that the maintenance costs are very good for the consumables expected for this type of vehicle. Other than how to source replacement rotors for Brembos I haven’t had much of a surprise in my ownership.
There is plenty of aftermarket support for both performance and visual modifications if you so desire.
Given the COVID tax for JDM vehicles and now the ‘scarcity’ tax now that STI has been discontinued, I almost feel like the price I paid was a steal.
Being the STI Premium, it comes with creature comforts like heated leather seats, a sunroof, a Harmon Kardon sound system and plenty of airbags and passive safety equipment. It also has LED headlights, but oddly with halogen high beam bulbs (which do almost nothing) that can’t be replaced as the whole unit is sealed.
I feel the seats are under-bolstered and lack thigh support for this type of vehicle. The Recaros from the facelift Spec R are nice, but I wish the STI came with something similar to the Recaro Sportster CS seats found in other competitors.
The EJ257 engine with the VF48 turbo is a bit of an old school unit, starting slow and then kicking in on boost from around 2500rpm. With the current tune, it has around 200kW at the wheels and the SI drive is tweaked with three separate tunes (fuel economy, sport and a power tune).
It’s got enough torque to give you a ‘buckle to the back seat’ feeling and it’s such a rush to keep revs in that 3500rpm – 6000rpm boosty sweet spot in Spirit Drives.
I wouldn’t call it terribly fast, but especially on twisty roads I’d rather invest in a better driver mode than more power. The short-ratio six-speed manual feels solid and the shifter is relatively short.
Fuel economy has been surprisingly decent depending on how much fun I’m having. In daily duty with a combined urban/highway route I’m seeing 10-11 liters per 100km. I’ve somehow seen it drop to the low 7s and low 8s during long highway stretches, but head north of 13L/100km when driving spiritedly.
It has everything I need, except it has the worst head unit.
The MY15 WRX was Subaru’s pre-Starlink days and the head unit is an aftermarket-looking double-den shared with early 2010 Subarus and Toyotas. It’s a touchscreen with Bluetooth, USB audio (which only recognizes iPhones) and a GPS, though the UI is shocking.
Input commands require you to push the touchscreen at least five times and the GPS text is barely readable unless you keep your eyes on the screen.
I would be genuinely concerned if the owners used GPS or made calls while on the move. The head unit is in the box. Oddly, the reverse camera is only plumbed to the small MFD screen and not to the head unit, although it goes straight to the head unit in Foresters and other variants.
Starlink units in later model years are much more user-friendly, although many aftermarket units are even better.
The MFD screen has some useful inputs and a digital boost gauge. The Harmon Kardon sound system sounds sweet and very stale. From MY16 onwards the WRX STI gets a side-view camera, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, although mine misses out on having a MY15.
A side view camera would have been nice to allay my insecurities about the wheels being fast.
The ride is firm but not too harsh for this type of vehicle. Most (if not all) bumps are felt through the cabin, but they aren’t rear-breaking or harsh. I’ve done a lot of road trips and found this to be a good place to stay for a long time. It’s definitely worth the daily.
I previously owned an FN2 Civic Type R and have found the ride in the STI to be much more accommodating.
Handling is excellent. I usually keep the DCCD in its “auto-” setting, which allows the car to keep to its own devices, but prefers less lock on the center diff. This makes the torque distribution appear more rearward biased. It’s really playful in this setting especially for this size.
In my opinion, a rear-biased AWD system will always be cooler in a compact car. The quick-ratio steering rack feels on the heavy end, but it’s direct and communicative.
Although I did notice the occasional rack rattle on mid-corner bits at speed. It corners flat and has very little body roll even with the stock suspension. I don’t feel a strong incentive to upgrade to coilovers to ‘improve handling’. It is very well set up on the road as it is.
The chassis, suspension, steering and AWD mechanics work well together to deliver a drive that inspires confidence and feel. Its handling is very neutral and predictable in both wet and dry conditions.