Subaru WRX STI
(2008 - 2014)

  • Still immense levels of performance.
  • All-wheel-drive makes for superb traction and dynamics.
  • Spec R Recaro style seats and extra features feel special.
  • Huge aftermarket support and fanbase.
  • Many on the used have been badly modified, abused and mistreated.
  • Expensive maintenance and running costs.
  • Can be prone to mechanical issues if neglected.
  • Arguably the least loved of the STI generations.
Overview

Every generation of Subaru WRX deserves individual limelight, as does each era’s most-potent STI variations. There’s certainly enough rich diversity in Fuji’s most iconic rally-bred heritage to warrant considerable dissection, particularly if you’re tyre-kicking particulars on the used market.

The generation-three WRX STI appeals on a number of fronts. It followed on from the gen-one originator (from 1998 in Oz) through to the more advanced and tougher-engineered gen two as a sort of nicer, more-livable era that still maintained a manic bent.

But it’s notable for a few reasons. Lobbing in 2008, it was the first STI offered as a hatchback and, eventually, both hatch and sedan guises. And both offered pump-guard widebody and bewinged excess that stole many petrolhead hearts. Its ‘EJ257’ 2.5-litre turbo boxer engine sailed north of Japan’s so-called gentlemen’s agreement 206kW power cap. Oh, and you could have an automatic transmission, from 2010 (MY11), if you really wanted one (and, really, you don’t).

The WRX STI adopted the 2.5 engine (up from 2.0) in the late-2005 ‘hawkeye’ facelift of the gen-two sedan, in an already healthy 206kW/392Nm tune. When gen three arrived, outputs spiked to 221kW and 407Nm. Unless you opted for the eventual five-speed slushbox offering, that dropped torque to 350Nm.

The rally-bred hardware and electronic trick bag, becoming increasingly smarter in evolution, was fulsome. The STI featured a six-speed manual backed by a driver-controllable centre differential called DCCD – to adjust fore/aft torque to taste – and a sophisticated Vehicle Dynamics Control. Its new SI-Drive system brought newfound dynamic brainpower, and from its bespoke suspension and quick-ratio steering to big Brembo brakes, it was specified in the right places for serious quick business. Be it on road or on gravel.

At a tenner under $60k when it arrived, the gen three was also pricier than its forebear. But there was more. You could also sump up and extra five grand for the harder-core STI Spec R, bringing a smattering of extra niceties such as BBS alloy wheels, leather/Alcantara-trimmed Recaros, and electric sunroof and touchscreen sat-nav.

Its 5.2-second claimed 0-100km/h best, two-tenths up on its forebear, is a handy measure by today’s standards. Let alone the benchmarks around 14 years ago. At the time it was six-tenths quicker than the regular WRX (5.8sec). The automatic STI, for its part, was a more flaccid 6.0sec proposition.

But for all the pace on offer and all the dynamic trickery under the wide-bodied skin, the gen-three’s softer edges, more pleasant daily-palatable manner did lack some of the rawer engagement and character of the older gen-two machinery. Still, there plenty of the right stuff on offer despite the STI’s newfound maturity.

The sedan version, initially as Spec R only, would return in MY11 and STI’s dual-body style, two-transmission line-up was broader than ever. On a strict diet of 98RON fuel, it’s not cheap to run these days. But the same goes for any properly quick option you might consider as an alternative.

Gen three was put to pasture in 2014, and with it the Impreza nameplate detached from the go-fast WRX stables. For its gen four, its maker decided to simply call the successor the Subaru WRX.

Fast-forward to 2022, and Subaru is set to retire the STI variation altogether.

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What goes wrong
  • It is critical to look for signs of accident damage and there are reports that the paint can be on the thin side, and in rare circumstances (generally if the car hasn’t been cared for), can flake and peel off.
  • There are also reports that the gas struts for the hatchback tailgate are starting to run out of gas, however that is easily fixed.
  • Inside there are reports of loose nuts in front row seats that are known to make the rails squeak when adjusting or moving in the seat.
  • There are rare reports that the spot welds around the firewall/footwell/pedal box are known to be fairly weak and contribute to instances of clutch pedals squeaking.
  • There can be minor rattles and squeaks from the various pillars on the car, however this is usually only heard after certain modifications have been made for example if someone has bolted gauges on the A-pillar.
  • And there are reports that the infotainment systems can just be a nightmare but they are getting old now and fixing it generally means fitting a new head-unit. However this will also allow the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • Mechanically, this generation STI is one of those cars where your ownership experience can be hugely affected by the previous owner or owners.
  • If the previous owner was gentle on the car and serviced it regularly, your experience might be faultless and extremely enjoyable.
  • However, if the previous owner drove it beyond the way it was intended and maybe participated in frequent track days and/or performed various questionable modifications, then it may potentially be a very different story.
  • Broken pistons and engine blocks, big end bearings and blown head gaskets are all fairly common with engines that are pushed too far or poorly tuned.
  • It’s very important to recognise that many of these have been modified so make sure if the vehicle in question has been tuned or enhanced, ask to see the invoices for the modifications and make sure the parts are from trusted brands. Potentially even more importantly, if it has been tuned, make sure the tuning calibration has been done by a reputable tuner.
  • The day-to-day servicing costs on these are not cheap either. Servicing schedules are at reasonable 12,500km but the major service is due every 112,000km and the service at 125,000km requires a timing belt and can be eye wateringly expensive.
  • Many in the industry regard the STI to be the most expensive Japanese domestic car to properly service and maintain.
  • Thankfully, the 6-speed manual in these is far stronger than the earlier 5-speed, in fact the 6-speed conversion is a popular upgrade for the earlier models.
  • Steering and suspension components are on par with most other manufactures, but the Brembo brakes are more expensive than the average car and they can wear out quickly, especially if you’re participating in track days or regular enthusiastic driving.
  • Overall in terms of what goes wrong, there is a direct correlation between the reliability and the amount of modifications.
  • A completely standard daily “grocery getter” that experiences the odd spirited drive, should show pretty good reliability.
  • However, if the example you’re looking at is heavily modified, it is most likely going to be a nightmare and your significant other will probably hate it too.
  • It should also be noted, in the research we performed we found that 2008 model STI’s had five times more complaints about them than any other year model . If you’re looking at an MY08, have an extensive and thorough inspection done before you buy it.
Model range, pricing & features

WRX STI

  • Price when new: $54,990 - $61,990
  • Price used: $23,500 - $45,500

The WRX STI was introduced in February 2008, featuring the EJ257 2.5 litre 4-cylinder engine making 221kW of power and 407Nm of torque, which was mated to a 6-speed manual. A 5-speed automatic was made available with a facelift in September 2010.

The WRX STI was initially available in a 5-door hatchback, and was also made available in a 4-door sedan with the September 2010 facelift.

Being the top-of-the range amongst the Impreza and Impreza WRX range, the WRX STI model included a comprehensive range of safety, interior and convenience features. From September 2010, the WRX STI gained bluetooth connectivity and USB input. DVD satellite navigation was available as an option.

Adds:

18-inch alloy wheels with “STI” logo
Brembo brakes
Front and rear independent suspension
Full-time all-wheel drive system
Electronically controlled front helical limited slip differential (LSD)
Electronically controlled rear torsion limited slip differential (LSD)
Reinforced engine mount
Front and rear stabliser
Dual active valve control system
Body coloured door handles
Mesh front grille with “STI” logo
Bonnet scoop and front wide fender air outlets
STI body kit with front spoiler, side skirts and rear spoiler
Rear diffuser
Twin dual exhausts
UV rear privacy glass
5-star ANCAP safety rating (tested 2008)
6 airbags: driver and front passenger; front side and full-length curtain airbags
Front seat height adjustable seatbelts
Front seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters
3-point seatbelts – all seats
Driver’s seatbelt warning/chime
Adjustable front headrests
Rear seat headrests
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Traction control system (TCS)
Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE)
Anti-theft security system with engine immobiliser
DataDot technology
Central locking
Power door locks
Xenon HID headlights
Auto-levelling headlights
LED side mirror indicators
Rear LED tailights
Variable intermittent windscreen wipers
Intermittent rear window wiper
Trip computer
Cruise control
Leather multifunctional steering wheel
Tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel
Leather gear shifter and park brake
Alloy sports pedals
Climate control air conditioning
Electric folding mirrors
Electric windows – auto up/down on driver’s side window
Sports bucket seats with embroidered “STI” logo
Alcantara/leather seat upholstery
10-speaker audio system
AM/FM radio
6-stacker CD player
MP3/WMA compatibility
AUX input
12V power outlet (in the centre console storage)
60:40 rear split folding seats
Centre console storage
Door pockets with bottle holders (all doors)
Front and rear cup holders
Seat back pockets (front passenger seat)
Interior lights: map lights, foot lights, boot light
Vanity mirrors

September 2010 update:
Bluetooth connectivity
USB Input

WRX STI Spec R

  • Price when new: $60,990 - $66,990
  • Price used: $25,000 - $65,500

The WRX STI Spec R was offered in addition to the WRX STI, with the main differences being the WRX STI Spec R got 18-inch BBS alloy wheels and Recaro sport bucket seats (which became optional after the September 2010 facelift).

From September 2010, the WRX STI Spec R also gained a power sunroof, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system and RCA input.

Adds:

18-inch “BBS” alloy wheels
Recaro sports bucket seats – became optional from September 2010

September 2010 update:
Power sunroof
7-inch touchscreen infotainment system
Bluetooth connectivity
USB Input
Satellite navigation
RCA input

Should you buy it?

Well the problem with this generation STI actually has very little to do with the car and more to do with whoever owned it before you.

When these were new and asking north of $60,000, those buying them generally looked after them, but the problem is, as these have become more affordable, they’re more likely to be mistreated, modified incorrectly and in some cases, blatantly abused.

Trust us, we’ve seen some horrible examples and abused STIs or an STI with a questionable history is to be avoided at all costs unless you’re buying one as a project car.

But, if you can find a great example with a full service history that has clearly been looked after, then it’s yes but please, be careful.

The STI really should be regarded as a truly superb performance car and with a few minor intelligent mods, both the hatch and sedan can be genuinely incredible, hence why so many are used in club racing and rally events around the world.

Plus, it is just comfortable enough to be used on a daily basis and if maintained correctly, driven with respect and not tuned to the point of insanity, should be completely reliable and provide genuine longevity.

But, we can’t say this enough, before you buy one, you need to find out as much about the cars history as possible, it needs to have a full and thorough service history and make sure you have it inspected by a qualified and licensed mechanic for a full pre-purchase inspection before you hand over your cash.

Yes the STI can be awesome but they can also be a complete nightmare, do your homework and only buy one that you know, to the best of your knowledge has been loved and cared for.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 years/100,000kms

Servicing:

6 months/12,500kms

Tech specs

Body Style:

5-door hatchback (WRX STI, WRX STI Spec R)
4-door sedan (WRX STI, WRX STI Spec R) – from September 2010

Engines:

2.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol (WRX STI, WRX STI Spec R)

Power:

221kW (2.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol)

Torque:

407Nm (2.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol)

Transmission & drivetrains:

6-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive (AWD) – WRX STI, WRX STI Spec R
5-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive (AWD) – WRX STI, WRX STI Spec R (from September 2010)

Fuel Consumption:

10.3 – 10.6L/100km

Length:

4415mm (5-door hatchback)
4580mm (4-door sedan)

Width:

1795mm

Height:

1475mm (5-door hatchback)
1470mm (4-door sedan)

Kerb Weight:

1505 – 1535kg

Disclaimer

Information correct as of April 29, 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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