In the gospel of sports cars, it is written that anything fun must be limited to three-season use, equipped with a vestigial back seat (or lacking a back seat entirely) and priced beyond the means of the unwashed masses. The counter to this script is the Subaru WRX, an automotive single-digit salute in the face of convention.
Sure, it’s an absolute blast to drive, but it also hauls four adults in relative comfort given its sensible four-door sedan or five-door hatchback body style. Thanks to the sure-footed traction of all-wheel drive, it will happily take you through the worst that Mother Nature can dish out, especially if you opt for winter tires on all four corners. Finally, it’s priced so the masses can enjoy it without having to sell unneeded organs on the black market.
If the 265-horsepower WRX isn’t quick enough for you, consider the higher-performance STI, which uses the same turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, but boosts output to 305 horsepower. While WRX models get a five-speed manual transmission (with no option for an automatic), STI versions get a six-speed manual transmission, also with no automatic option. In addition to a stiffer suspension, STI models also benefit from a Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) to extract the best possible grip from the car’s advanced all-wheel-drive system.
For most, the WRX is a better daily driver, as it boasts a more compliant suspension and an engine that doesn’t expect to be revved to stratospheric levels to make power. If you’re looking for a car that turns the best lap time around your local road course, the STI is the one you want; if you’re looking for a car to drive back and forth to work, with the occasional track day thrown in, we suspect the WRX will keep you happy.
It’s not all good news in WRX-land, however. Following the cars’ 2011 refresh, Subaru took the Impreza on which it was based and put it on a divergent development path. As a result, the interiors of the WRX and STI (which, to be honest, were never class-leading) now look dated and downmarket compared to the competition.
Front seats are a bit of a strong point in both models, though the headrests do cant your head forward at an uncomfortable angle. This is especially bizarre in a car meant for track use, as wearing a helmet inside the WRX makes a bad situation worse. Blame contemporary safety regulations here, since reducing head and neck injuries takes precedence over occupant comfort.
Rear seats offer a surprising amount of head and leg room, especially in light of the WRX’s size. The hatchback version serves up a respectable amount of cargo room, too, though the rear seats don’t fold flat.
Perceived interior quality aside, the WRX and STI ask buyers to make a few other concessions in the name of performance. If you’re coming from a non-performance car, the exhaust in both (but particularly the STI) may seem a bit loud, and there is wind noise at speed from the mirrors, but both are minor points given the selling points these cars deliver.
For a more detailed look at the 2013 Subaru WRX and STI models, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection