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Decisions, decisions: 2015 Subaru WRX or WRX STI

By Zach Vlasuk on February 26, 2014 3:32 PM
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Now that we've had a chance to test the 2015 Subaru WRX and higher-performing WRX STI, helping you decide which model to choose seemed like the logical next step. Because when you get right down to it, each model appeals to a specific type of sports car buyer.   

Dollars and Cents

The primary difference between the WRX and STI is price. Starting at just over $35,000, including destination fees, the 2015 Subaru STI commands an $8,200 premium over a base WRX. Then again, since the STI offers a more extensive list of standard features, the price variance between comparably-equipped models drops to roughly $7,000.  For example, both Subarus include a backup camera, aluminum pedals, a 6-way adjustable driver's seat, a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and satellite radio as standard fare. 

Apart from 18-inch BBS wheels and a handful of miscellaneous items, you can outfit a WRX with the same level of feature content as an STI. 

Under the Hood

2015 Subaru WRX

2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder: 268-horsepower/258 lb-ft of torque

2015 Subaru WRX STI

2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder: 305 horsepower/290 lb-ft of torque

Looking at the performance specs above, a 12-percent differential in power might not seem like a compelling disparity. And rightly so; with the WRX and STI holding down 0-60 mph times of 5.4 seconds and 5.1 seconds, respectively, standing-start acceleration performance between the two cars is nearly identical. Plus, the WRX's brand-new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder returns admirable mpg figures of 21 city/28 highway, while the STI's carryover mill makes do with last year's rather underwhelming 17/23 rating. Lastly, it's worth noting that both models employ the same close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. 

Everyday Driver or Weekend Track Weapon? 

Budgetary limitations aside, the key deciding factor in selecting the right model comes down to ride quality. Since the WRX and STI utilize completely different suspension components and geometry, handling performance and ride compliance is unique to each car. Around town, the WRX is markedly more comfortable than the stiff-legged STI. In fact, we'd go as far to say that driving the new STI on anything but smooth pavement can be downright brutal. On the racetrack, however, the STI is clearly the superior machine. Fitted with race-spec componentry like hardened suspension bushings, a 6-way adjustable center differential, and reinforced cross members, the 2015 STI is one of the few production sports cars that comes suitably equipped for aggressive track use right out of the box. And while the WRX is certainly no slouch in the handling department, seasoned track drivers will prefer the STI's purpose-built suspension, chassis, and more communicative hydraulic steering system (WRX uses electric-assisted steering). 

Given these points, when monetary restrictions are removed from the equation, deciding between a WRX or STI can be summed up in two questions: Do you plan to use your Subaru as a daily driver? Choose the WRX. Will your next vehicle be used almost exclusively as a track/canyon toy? The STI is the way to go. 

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