When I first stated apexjunky, we had two cars in our stable – a 2015 WRX Base, and a 2015 BRZ Limited. Kristen and I had gotten the SCCA autocrosser ” Let’s go Nationals!!” bug, and honestly we were excited to drive our cars. At the time, the BRZ wasn’t as competitive in CS, since the TRD spring and sway bar allowance made it hard to keep up with things, and the class was still dominated by the NC Miata. Since neither of us had actually driven a 4wd car before, we decided to take the jump into waters unknown. What followed was an absolutely incredible 2015 and 2016 season. At the end of 2016, I came across a great deal on an beautiful Crystal White Pearl STI (linked is a feeble explanation as to why I bought this despite writing why people shouldn’t buy a STI over a WRX).  This stirred up quite a lot of jokes and taunting from my fellow racer friends as you can imagine. So fast forward to today and we now we find ourselves in July 2017, where the STI has now been traded in as of July 22, 2017 and back to a beautiful facelifted World Rally Blue WRX. This time it’s a 2018 WRX Premium with Recaro Sport Package. 

Driving Impressions comparing a 2017 STI to a 2018 Recaro Package WRX

Kristen and I had about a two hour drive with traffic on the 5 heading down to National City after the numbers had been sorted and the deal had all but finalized barring a few signatures and down payment. One of the things that struck me instantly when I first test drove the STI was how aggressively the shocks were valved and how stiff the car was for a stock car. It truly showcased a huge departure in terms of what I’d driven before. In fact it would suffice to say that this was one of the stiffest cars I’d driven stock for stock.

Let’s go over some basic stats for those that have been hiding under a rock:

2017 STI 2018 WRX Recaro Performance Package
Engine  EJ257 305hp FA20 DIT 268hp 
Transmission  6-Speed Close Ratio  6-Speed
0-60  4.6 seconds  5.1 seconds
Fuel Economy 17/23 21/27

So on paper it’s clear that the WRX is slower than the STI, but honestly the FA20DIT is so much more responsive and useable in the lower RPM range than the EJ257 ever was (stock for stock). EJ makes power up on top whereas the FA20DIT utilized the latest tech of direct injection to create very little turbo lag in the lower RPMs. As a result of this, on a tighter circuit, you’ll find the WRX laying down similar, if not better times than the STI. The car is overall slightly softer, and the steering ratio is much better. 

The STI is pretty incredible. Throttle sharpness settings allow dial in the car’s power delivery of the classic Subie-rumbles and the adjustable DCCD allows for a variety of situations, although I always left mine in “Auto -“. The brakes were decent I suppose, although the pads were quite frankly pretty awful. In fact even with the NS400’s on the car and Motul 600F, I still ran out of brake running the ACS Roval. 

The WRX by comparison is albeit softer all around, which yields a more practical commuter/road trip car. The better MPGs are also a no brainer. I averaged 30mpg driving back home from National City (to San Clemente) and that’s pretty normal. Best I ever managed in the STI was 27 on an amazing day with the right backwind! 

SCCA Classing

Sure the 2018 is not slated for classing yet, but I have it on good authority that it’s it’s very likely to stay in DS. The car’s power Recaro’s along with the 18×8.5 wheels provided with the Premium edition with the foglights should put the car right in the high 3300lb curb (estimated – haven’t confirmed weight yet). Base model is 3267lbs. The STI was classed in BS, and I fought gearing issues constantly, which was super frustrating. Here’s a well driven run in a relatively tight Southeast lot course. 

Compared to a run in the WRX on what was a VERY fast west lot course: 

What’s interesting is that both cars had the familiar chassis. The STI really made it’s highlights on the top end and the ability to adjust the drive train settings. In the rain I also was able to change the throttle mapping (Intelligent, Sport, Sport #). This made it so I could use the same amount of throttle as I would expect to be able to use and adjust the mapping based on grip levels. At the time of the video, the car had the OEM Dunlops Sportmaxx’s. The WRX video shown above the car was on 255/40/17 RE71R. 

Let’s take a look at how the 2018 WRX Recaro Package fares in 100% dealer-spec trim. 

All these three vids showcased inherent issues with the chassis – get the corner wrong and it’ll push like a son of a bitch. This is more apparent on the cars with OEM tires. Overall though the WRX seems to actually work a lot better for the autocross environment. Better responsive FA20DIT compared to the EJ257 allows better corner exit speeds. 

The Frustration Points of the WRX

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the car and some of it’s quirkiness, but there are some pain points. There are not in any particular order.  

  • Rev-hang city
    • This doesn’t really present an issue when driving the car hard and there are some benefits to those less of the petrol-head variety. Car Throttle seems to have done a decent job in putting together explaining what rev-hang is and why gear heads hate it. 
  • Candlestick Headlights
    • Subaru. It’s 20 freaking 17. Would it kill you to splurge an extra 5 cents per car to give all your model LEDs instead of these god awful candlesticks that you call headlamps and fog lights? My wife’s ST2 packaged Ford Focus ST has Xenons for Christ’s Sake and that car was almost 6k less than this thing. Seriously guys. Now I have to go spend an additional 300 bucks on a proper kit form Subispeed. 
  • Lack of Dual Zone Climate Control in non-limited Models
    • Seriously? 32k and my passenger can’t adjust their own settings? Seems a little asinine if I’m honest. 

In Conclusion

Look. In a perfect world I’d have about a fleet of 30 cars and trucks in various stages of prep and about 12 million dollars on hand , but the reality is that’s not going to happen. In the real world, where childcare is close to 20k a year (oh yes that is not a misprint), and and rent is close to 2k a month in Orange County for a small one bedroom, the reality is that every little bit helps. The WRX allows me to engage in the occasional hoonage and will make it so that the school run won’t be boring for either one of us. Plus I mean look at it. It’s WRB! 

Eventually a tune will and a few hundred bucks will sort out the main issues I have with the car, which are definitely minor and personal preference. I’m happy to be back in the WRX despite the class paradigm shift that is happening in DS.