If there ever was a vehicle that you can buy new right now that brings back an enjoyable analog experience, it’s the Subaru WRX STI. This week, to take somewhat of a break from vehicles loaded up with tech gadgetry that basically drives the car itself and provides a nearly endless amount of active safety tech, I get my hands on the 2021 Subaru WRX STI Series.White.
The Subaru WRX STI remains mostly unchanged in a generation that has been around since 2012 with only some tweaks along the way. Touting the same 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer (horizontally opposed) 4-cylinder engine that now produces 310 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque through a 6-speed manual transmission before it is sent to all four wheels. Power is distributed through an adjustable center differential and as usual, the WRX STI feels as if it is on rails. Putting that feeling to a test will drink a surprising amount of fuel for such a small engine to the tune of 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.
There’s much I’ve said about the WRX STI in my countless reviews of the vehicle and those sentiments ring true once again where I’m reminded of how pure performance cars once were. There’s no active safety tech to fiddle with nor an automatic transmission to sap your fun. It’s just a short-throw manual transmission with a short-travel clutch and an engine that prompts you to rev to its limits through each gear shift. The turbocharged boxer engine is much of what I remember where it has a rather narrow power band but tends to give all its almost up to its 6,400 rpm redline. Power comes on strong but not until you rev it nearly halfway through its range. The engine is almost a torque-less wonder in the low RPM range, further forcing you to drive like a hoon to have any respectable reward in having fun. Zero to 60 mph? Yes, in about 4.6 seconds – if you really know how to drive this thing and modulate the clutch and throttle upon a manual-induced-clutch-dumping launch. Slowing things down is assuring thanks to its Brembo brakes clamping down on sizable cross-drilled rotors.
There’s something special about the analog feeling. The steering rack is even part of the analog equation with old-school hydraulic assist. The Recaro bucket seats firmly hold you in place and the instrumentation on the soft-touch dashboard is simplistic and easy to reach. The 7-inch infotainment touchscreen is probably the most advanced thing you’ll find on the Subaru WRX STI, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The dual automatic climate controls are among the easiest to control with the proper physical control knobs and buttons. Subaru knows what they have and instead of calling it a dinosaur I like to refer it to as a seasoned vet who knows its dedicated purposes of being slightly versatile in being a sedan with a usable backseat and trunk but a bit on the stiff side for its ride quality to be mistaken for anything remotely luxurious.
The aggressive looks with the massive rear wing, a large functional hood scoop to feed the top-mounted intercooler fresh air, and the 19-inch forged BBS wheels finished in an attractive bronze all play a part in the youth-inspired appeal of the WRX STI. In all, its looks don’t appear very dated but relevant to be something different and continue that different tradition of offering an analog experience in a current automotive landscape that’s adorned with tech that takes the old-school enjoyment out of sporty sedans in this special segment.
The Subaru WRX STI also remains quite affordable, which is expected from its basic principles that I give kudos to Subaru for retaining. The WRX STI at its top specialized Series.White trim level, which includes all that you find on the Subaru WRX STI Limited, tests out at $43,959, which includes a $900 destination and delivery charge.