2018 Subaru WRX and WRX STI Preview

Christian Wardlaw | Jan 06, 2017
  • Minor styling changes
  • Subtle interior updates
  • Enhanced equipment levels
  • Upgraded structure for better crash protection
  • Revised transmission, suspension, steering systems
  • STI gains improvements to all-wheel-drive (AWD) and braking systems


2018 Subaru WRX STI front quarter right photo2018 Subaru WRX front quarter right photo

When Subaru introduced a redesigned 2017 Impreza, which is now on sale, fans of the WRX and WRX STI rightly expected that their favorite raw, raucous, and rally-inspired performance sedans would graduate to the new platform for the 2018 model year.

Yeah, umm, not so much.

Instead, as Subaru is announcing in conjunction with the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, the 2018 Subaru WRX and WRX STI will continue on their existing platforms and with their current exterior styling and interior design. They will, however, receive several updates that should keep loyalists happy.

Exterior Features

2018 Subaru WRX STI grille photo

You’ll need to squint to identify the 2018 WRX’s exterior changes. The grille is bolder, the wheels are bigger, and the headlights offer available LED illumination that responds to steering input by bending the light into dark corners.

This year, a set of 18-in. wheels comes standard on the WRX, featuring a new double-spoke design. The WRX STI gets standard 19-in. wheels wrapped in 245/35 performance tires. These are the largest wheels ever fitted to the WRX from the factory.

New roof rack mounting brackets are also standard for the 2018 WRX, making the car compatible with all manner of racks, carriers, and bins sold by Subaru dealerships.

Interior Features

2018 Subaru WRX STI interior photo

Inside, the 2018 WRX gains higher-quality materials, revised interior door grips, and a rear-seat armrest with cupholders. The multi-function display grows from 4.3 inches to 5.9 inches wide, and Subaru claims the cabin is quieter thanks to thicker door glass, new door seals, and a foam-filled windshield header beam. Subaru also says that the remote trunk opener works faster than before.

Optional Features

2018 Subaru WRX red-painted brake caliper photo

Standard equipment enhancements on the 2018 WRX bring heated side mirrors to all trim levels. The WRX Premium has a new StarLink infotainment system with a 7-in. display, while the WRX Limited gains a power lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering-responsive LED headlights. Those headlights are included for all WRX STIs. The STI Limited adds 8-way power-adjustable Recaro performance seats.

Optional for the WRX Premium, a new Performance package equips the car with the power Recaros, plus red-painted brake calipers and upgraded brake pads. This package also deletes the car’s power sunroof in order to save weight.

Under the Hood

2018 Subaru WRX STI wheel photo

In terms of engines, Subaru carries them over for 2018. That means the WRX is equipped with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 268 horsepower while the WRX STI rips down the road courtesy of a turbocharged, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine churning out 305 horsepower.

A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard for both the WRX and WRX STI. For 2018 it boasts a new synchro design resulting in reduced friction as well as a revised clutch with smoother take-up, according to Subaru. If you don’t have any idea what that third pedal on the left is for, you’re getting a WRX with a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT comes with a manual mode, but it’s not the same thing.

Both versions of the car have AWD with active torque vectoring. In the WRX STI it also includes a Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) and Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control. For 2018, the DCCD is fully electronic for improved response, Subaru doing away with the mechanical elements of the limited-slip differential.

Revised suspension tuning improves the ride and handling of both cars, Subaru says, and the WRX’s electric-assist steering is revised for a more natural feel, according to the automaker. The WRX STI gets a major braking upgrade, the Brembo components including 6-piston front and 2-piston rear monoblock calipers (painted yellow), larger drilled rotors at each wheel, while larger brake pads are better able to resist fade.


2018 Subaru WRX STI headlight photo

Though the 2018 Subaru WRX and WRX STI are based on the previous-generation Impreza platform, and while they look pretty much the same, they’re improved under the sheet metal. Subaru has strengthened the car’s front structure with the goal of enhancing occupant protection in the event of a collision.


2018 Subaru WRX STI instrument display photo

Equip the new WRX Limited with Subaru’s EyeSight system of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies and it comes with Vehicle Hold and EyeSight Assist Monitor (EAM) features. The Vehicle Hold function holds the car still on hills and at intersections, while the EAM projects EyeSight system status alerts on the dashboard where they are easier for the driver to reference.

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