Secondhand Saint: Subaru WRX and STi (GD Chassis 2002-2007)Posted: June 27, 2011
If you are someone who has practical needs but also desires some serious performance, then you should look no further. Subaru’s WRX line offers everything you could want from a car. It offers all of the practicality, affordability, and reliability of any normal Japanese sedan but also with outstanding performance and handling that is sure to make your driving experience less about getting from point A to B and more about the area in between. Being an owner of an 04 STi I can attest to just how much fun these cars are. Also, if you live somewhere that has varying weather, no need to worry because Subaru’s all wheel drive system will handle even the worst conditions with ease. In a WRX snow is something to be excited for, not something to be feared or dreaded. I would even go so far as to say that if you don’t go hooning around in the snow in your WRX it is the same as if you never walked your dog, it’s just not fair.
As an overall package it is hard to top any WRX variant, however there are some known problems to be careful of. The big one is the 5-speed transmission in the WRX, especially in the earlier 2.0L cars, it is very fragile and has been known to break easily and consistently. If you are looking to buy one of these cars, just be careful with the transmission or have it rebuilt with more solid parts. There is also an issue with the 2.5L motor’s oil pump, its kind of weak, so either replace it with a better one or just be sure to not be driving around with the revs below 2000rpm too much. Finally, for those who modify, there is the problem of having cast pistons. Because of this WRXs and STis need to have their motors rebuilt with stronger forged internal parts if you desire more than 400whp for certain, however anything over 350whp is considered at greater risk.
Modification wise, WRXs are very well set up though. There are a plethora of parts available and they aren’t all too expensive when compared to similar performing cars from Europe. Being turbocharged it is easy to gain a very nice chunk of power from basic modifications alone. “Stage 2” is widely considered a sweet spot for the average enthusiast on these cars because it offers a healthy power gain over stock but doesn’t require too much money and won’t compromise reliability. “Stage 2” on a WRX usually consists of a turbo-back exhaust, a modified air intake, and some sort of ECU chip or tune with some people adding on headers and a better intercooler as well. Typically Stage 2 WRXs will make 220-250whp depending on specifics, and Stage 2 Stis will put down 280-310whp depending on specifics. Such setups have proven to be quick enough for most people to continually enjoy in their WRX. If you want more than that then the next step is to throw on a larger turbo along with any supporting modifications needed for proper function. The only limit to the power potential from this point becomes your wallet, but I should caution that it is at this stage where reliability often gets seriously compromised, usually because people try to cut corners in some regard, if you’re on a real budget but want modded setup, I would advise to stay with Stage 2 at least until you have the funds to do everything 100% properly because it can get expensive, we’re talking tens of thousands in some cases.
As far as handling, these cars already do it well from the factory, but if you desire more there are many parts out there to make your Subaru stick to any road like glue. Pretty much every major suspension company makes parts for Subarus. One thing that is a must for anyone buying a WRX, especially a wagon, is to get a thicker rear anti-roll bar. It will really tighten up the way the car handles.
Whether you wish to modify your WRX or not, the car offers a balance of usability, affordability, high performance, and fun that only a few other cars can even come close to, and it is the price that really makes these cars shine so brightly. Decent bugeye WRXs can be had as low as 6 grand and the newer 2.5L WRXs can still fetch over 20 grand if in good enough shape. STi’s can be had in decent shape with some miles for as low as like $12k or $13k and up to around $27k for pristine 07s with low mileage. Overall if your price range is anywhere in the 6-17k range you should look at WRXs, and up to around 25k for STi’s of this generation. A general rule of thumb is if you can afford a solid STi, you should go for it over a similar WRX because it has better brakes, suspension, transmission, and higher power up front that would save you money and effort.
In my opinion Subaru WRXs are some of the best overall cars that money can buy because they are an absolute blast to drive while still fulfilling all of their transportation requirements as a car for people in the real world. So if you are someone who enjoys driving at all, then you should put the WRX or STi on your list because on the street it is hard to find a better package than this.