The 2015 Subaru STI is still not living up to its name

2015 Subaru WRX STI and 2004 Subaru WRX STi

The general package of a sharp handling, all wheel drive sedan with a healthy 300 turbocharged horsepower is still surely a very, very good thing. As an object unto itself, the new 2015 Subaru WRX STI continues to offer a fun and engaging driving experience, as it always has. The problem for me, and much of the Subaru-loving community, is that the STI has been exactly the same for over ten years now– to the point where it has gotten boring, and boring is the worst crime a car such as this can commit.

I’ve owned my 2004 Subaru STi for over seven years, and I’ve never, even once, wanted to “upgrade” to any newer STI. This is because ever since 2004 Subaru’s focus has been on softening the STI, and not making it faster, more hardcore, or better in any meaningful way. In fact, values of 2004 STIs are starting to increase now because enthusiasts have recognized the 2004 as being the pinnacle, so far, of the STIs available to us here in America.

So when I say that the new STI does nothing for me when I look at it, that poses a major problem for Subaru. I remember the excitement my 2004 STi brought me when I first got it, and I know it still brings that sort of excitement today. Whether it’s the looks or the performance, the 2015 STI cannot even come close to the level that my STi was on when it first hit US shores back in 2004. While the 04 STi was slaying the Porsche 911s, BMW M3s, Ford Mustang Cobras, and Pontiac GTOs of its day, the new STI is barely capable of out running the current V6 Toyota Camry.

Despite the old car and the new car having exactly the same sort of performance, side by side, in competition with other cars of their respective eras, the new STI is not even half the car that the 2004 STi was, and that is the big problem.

2015 Subaru STI and Mitsubishi Evo X
Let’s be honest, the 2015 Subaru WRX STI bares more than just a little resemblance to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

For those familiar with economics, the issue with the STI is a lot like the concept of inflation. Basically, if you have ten dollar bill today, and you put it away in a drawer for ten years, when you go to spend it after a decade, you won’t be able to buy as much with it as you would have been able to ten years earlier. The ten dollar bill itself hasn’t changed, but the world has changed, and the bill’s relative value in the world has changed.

In the last ten years Subaru hasn’t really changed the STI in any meaningful way whatsoever. It is the same exact object in 2015 that it was back in 2004. The difference is that in 2004 a Porsche 911 and BMW M3 were both similar objects to the Subaru STI, whereas now, in 2015, both the Porsche and BMW have grown to far exceed the Subaru in terms of performance. Being that these are all high performance cars we are talking about here, performance is in fact the “end-all-be-all” bottom line.

Subaru’s big mistake has been their emphasis on softening and refining the STI. Basically they had a great thing going, and have been steadily ruining it over time. Now, I want to clear this up, their mistake has not been in offering the STI with a nicer interior and Sat-Nav and whatnot, their mistake has been in focusing on softening the car’s edges in place of focusing on raising its level of performance. All of that fit and finish stuff is great to have, but not at the expense of the STI’s primary purpose in the world.

For $40,000, if I just wanted a nice, comfortable, “refined” car, then I’d be purchasing a BMW 3 Series or a Volkswagen CC, and surely not a hardcore rally machine like a Subaru STI. It seems clear to me that Subaru has lost sight of exactly who would buy the STI, and what their priorities are.

2015 Subaru WRX STI 2015 Subaru WRX STI

You see, at this point I would argue that the STI costs far too much for what it is, and the level of performance it offers. There are many 300hp cars out there these days, and you don’t need to spend anywhere near $40,000 to get them. The new Mustang with the four-banger turbo I think is a very real threat to the STI, if it is indeed the sports car that Ford is claiming it is. Additionally, for around the same kind of money, you can get much faster and much nicer cars than an STI. The Mercedes CLA45 AMG and Audi S4 both come to mind, and they each cost only a few grand more than a loaded STI in their basic trim.

I’m afraid things get even worse when you look within the Subaru range. In truth, the new 2015 WRX may be the best WRX Subaru has ever made, and I don’t think the STI will be worth spending the extra money for. One of the main reasons to buy an STI in years past was to avoid the flimsy 5 speed transmission in the WRX. Now Subaru has given the WRX a proper 6 speed manual, and for what its worth, a decent option for those who don’t want a manual in the form of a CVT.

The WRX and STI are as close now as they have ever been in terms of what each car offers, and really the WRX is not at much of a deficit at all. Basically a simple ECU reflash should get the WRX the extra 30hp it needs to match the STI’s 305hp (maybe even surpass it). Add in some decent coilovers and a big-brake kit, and you can likely meet or exceed every aspect of the STI’s performance for a good bit less than the STI will cost.

2015 Subaru WRX STI Interior 2015 Subaru WRX STI Pink Gear Knob

Basically, I don’t think the new STI is going to be worth buying. There are way better cars out there for the same money, and if you want a fast Subaru, just get the WRX and modify it a little. I know it sounds single-minded to complain about horsepower alone, but the STI needs another 100hp for it to be at the level that it should be… ten years later. Even if Subaru has done a lot to further improve the handling of the 2015 STI, what is the point of being able to go around a corner at 100mph if the car is only capable of reaching 85mph on the approaching straight?

In my mind, Subaru has had four chances now (2006, 2008, 2011, 2015) to improve the STI, even if just a little, and they haven’t. The fact that simple modifications and tuning can get an STI up to 350-400bhp shows just how lazy Subaru has been with this car. Plainly, it is entirely unacceptable for the current STI to not have at least 350bhp in stock form at this point.

The new STI is now really just a very lightly upgraded WRX with a bigger wing and a pink gear knob.The STi we all fell in love with back in 2004 doesn’t exist anymore, and hasn’t really existed since then. If you really want an STI, save your money and buy a nice 2004-2007 example for $20-25K. Otherwise, I advise getting something else. Until Subaru’s infatuation with mediocrity ends, it seems we Subaru enthusiasts must either find interest in other cars, or continue to look to the past.

A reminder of what once was… I don’t think the new STI would be able to show up the new Mustang 5.0 GT in this manner:

-Article by Nick Walker

19 thoughts on “The 2015 Subaru STI is still not living up to its name”

    1. Actually the new STI and even new WRX out handes all old STIs. New models are super stiff and the steering is tight unlike the truck steering on older models.

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      1. Thats great but a sticky set of tires on an old STI will change that. My point is that they haven’t raised the STI’s level of performance with the overall market. A ’15 STI won’t even touch a ’15 M3, whereas it did in ’04.

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  1. Great review of the STI and Subaru as a whole. It seems to be part of Toyota’s overall plan to dull down its brands (think what they’ve done to Scion). I wonder what their end game really is or if they even have a clue?

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  2. Found the WRX/STI gap closing interesting. Almost sounds like there’s intentional cannibalization of the STI brand by Subaru. Interesting article!

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  3. You really have your head up your butt. Have you driven the 2015 sti? I did. It’s finally off-the-showroom-floor, slap your own azz, fun. Fairly sharp turn-in, almost no understeer, no pitch or squat and flat body. It’s the fastest sti magazine tested through the 1/4 mile ever (perhaps faerie dust is involved).

    There are so many things that are wrong in your thesis:

    The Mustang, regardless of engine, will be always be just a Ford. FORD…Shouldn’t have to say more. Clutch like a dump truck, heavy, clunky ergonomics, cruddy interior with infuriating nav, and resale value of a tampon. Ugly as a Subaru, but in a “hey, baby, look at my crotch bulge in these Wranglers ” way.
    And, where is the rally toughness and the AWD, FAIL.
    Comparable German cars don’t exist. PERIOD. Sorry, they all have German problems:
    electrics that give up the ghost just after the warranty; direct injection systems that coke up; if they have AWD, it’s haldex or BMW’s half-hearted crud; all have crap electric steering; basic options that run up the cost of the car, and never being able to find a performance optioned German car on the lot. And, oh yeah, the worst German car problem of all: while drivng an over-priced and over-hyped reliability time bomb, being mistaken for a giant azzbag. FAIL.
    You blithly compare the AMG to the sti, whining about the horsepower difference. Guess what? Like most AMG, it blows going around corners. All testers have complained it handles like FWD, and it’s slower on the track than the sti, all because it’s all engine and no handling. And, all the cla AMGs that have come into the country are selling for around $55k, with zero options (plus giant dealer markups). The s4 is $60k, realistically, and isn’t even close in size or handling. FAIL.

    Who in their right mind would want a new or used ANY FREAKING CAR ON YOUR LIST? German cars are all crazy expensive to maintain and repair. As to a used sti, good luck finding one without an odometer that isn’t in the six figures. And, who knows to what abuse they’ve been subjected.

    I know what abuse my awesome bugeye took: daily thrashings of WOT, clutch drops, insane on ramp shenanigans, Mulholland canyon carving, off-roading, 3 foot snow drift busting, tugging a giant 16,000 lb gvw delivery truck out of a swollen stream…the list is too long, and who knows into what hijinks my wife got. It served faithfully and nearly flawlessly. The only unscheduled repairs were: a clunk in the trunk that was tsb’d, a seat rail that was tsb’d and a valve cover gasket at 109,000 miles. Wear items were brakes at 70,000, and a clutch at 85,000 and the timing belt at 100. None of that fun could be had in any other manufacturer’s car, particularly for what little it cost.

    You obviously have no clue how expensive and time consuming it is to engineer ANY new little bit of tech for a production car, let alone an engine, and particularly for a sports car. Yes, other car companies that are VASTLY larger than Subaru are improving their engines, but look again at comparable car companies, and you’ll see the same old engines (nissan comes to mind). And, you seem not to understand how little money Subaru makes from producing the sti.

    I guess you never really understood your sti. The wrx/sti equipment divide is STILL the same: the whole drivetrain is bomb-proof top shelf kit, the tranny is WAY stronger, the brakes stronger, the seats better than the rex. It’s all a long list of go-go kit that is not possible to add-on to the wrx for the difference in price. The sti is still a great base from which to jump into true high performance and racing, unlike the wrx.

    There is a Toyota bean-counter douchebag stink to the no hatch launch. How Subaru abandoned it’s core, it’s culture and its brand, is either Toyota-style parsimony or Subaru cowardice after catching shiz from launching the hatch first last time. Either case, shame on you Subaru!!!

    If anyone is interested in a fair review from someone who actually REALLY drove the vehicle: http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?f=23&t=1396425&nmt=RE%3A+Subaru+WRX+STI%3A+Review

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    1. It’s my opinion, from someone who’s owned an STi since it first hit US shores. I also wrote this right when the details came out, before anyone had driven it. I should be driving it soon, so I may eat some of my words if the driving dynamics are as good as many say they are.

      That said, my main point stands. The 2015 STI is not relatively the same car that the 04 STi was, and that’s a problem for me. I have no plans to purchase another STI until Subaru brings it back up the the performance level of the 911 or the M3 because that is the car I bought back in the day. For $40 grand, I’ll have something else. This is my opinion, you are entitled to yours.

      I hope I am pleasantly surprised when I drive the 2015 and I will be more than happy to eat some of my words in this article when I write that article if that is the case. That’s the price you pay sometimes for presenting strong opinions. But 300hp just isn’t enough at this point, and I think we can all agree that everyone would rather it be 350-400hp at this point. It’s not a bad car as it sits, but it also isn’t the car it should be. I don’t care how much it’d cost when Subaru is done with it, if people will spend $40k on the same old STi that used to cost $30k, then I’m sure people would be willing to spend $50-60k on a proper STI. Hell, I’d even be happy if they only made a limited run of like 1000 of them, just so it exists, and shows that Subaru is actually improving things instead of sitting pretty much still.

      You’re obviously a Subaru fan boy, I am too. They are very special cars, yes, but after driving all sorts of different cars for this blog, I’ve found that there are equally good, albeit different, automotive experiences that can be had for less money than the current STI. It isn’t quite the bargain that my 04 was when it came out, and there’s also a lot more competition now.

      Thanks for the informed response. You’re right about many things, and maybe this article was written too soon. I always save my final judgement for after I actually drive a car, but I’ve grown very tired of just seeing Subaru do the same old thing, year after year. Look back to 04, and try to tell me the new one is at the same relative level in the market, it’s not even close.

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      1. I would love NOT to be a fan of Subaru and feel like I could look at just any other car manufacturer, but they EARNED my devotion, at least for the foreseeable future. As long as I have my family with me in the car, or my wife driving the car herself, it’s going to be a Subaru (or maybe a Volvo, if they ever get their performance anywhere near the STi’s).

        My beloved bugeye sacrificed herself a while ago to save me from certain permanent grave injury. I was brutally t-boned by a hybrid suv that was doing over 50mph that blew through a stop sign and into my bright blue car. The soobie was tossed 50 ft and spun 120 degrees. The high strength b-pillar maintained the passenger space, clearly transferred the forces around the cabin. I lived, as the marketing says. Actually, remarkably, I walked. I was messed up for a while, but I have pretty much recovered.

        So, we’ve been looking wide and far for a fun, truly safe, easier to live with daily driver replacement. We’ve aged and we really were ready to move up into some luxury, or maybe into higher performance with a better ride. So, cutting to the chase, nothing fit. The $40k price ceiling for us is a pretty hard ceiling. I think THAT economic reality is understood by Subaru: they can see the middle class is evaporating, disposable income is non-existent. The rich have left the rest of us in their dust, with their fancy cars going with them.

        Getting into the sti’s TOTAL performance envelope (cost to own, awd, handling, safety, bombproofness), under THAT realistic price ceiling, presently, is just not possible, except by the lame duck evo. But, Mitsubishi dealers are sending me “internet pricing” of msrp +$2000, even though there’s going to be a 2015!!!! Who the hell wants to deal with a Mitsubishi dealer for sales or even worse, service (local horror stories abound)? I’d rather eat my hat.

        Thinking back, I think it’s a matter of the other performance cars inching up in hp over the years, and the sti recently going up in handling only. Yeah, surprising a rich douche at a stop light has grown harder, but it was never easy (oh, the memories). Rich people’s cars have grown easier to stab and steer, and the STi has remained a skilled driver’s weapon. Car culture has evolved over the past ten years; you aren’t going to sneak up on anyone anymore, so I guess I’ll just wait for the occasional two lane spiral on ramp. And, I think the 2015 will be winning some respect on the track, regardless of the hp, as it always has, via driver brass and the new handling capabilities.

        Looking at the car landscape presently, all those more expensive German cars that were thought to be Autobahn safe were universally embarrassed by small offset crash testing, in sharp contrast to the plebeian Subaru. Only the most recent S3’s test has been rated “good”, though if you watch the video, it’s not as remarkable as the WRX. I’m sure Subaru is still ahead of that curve.

        I guess my perspective of the market is different. I’m looking at it from a real family’s perspective, with safety concerns, cost of ownership concerns, and a daily driver’s concerns. Also, as a real life consumer, in the market at present, with a budget, interacting with real dealers. I’ll clue you in: I was just about ready to abandon all hope for humanity, after having to interact with Audi, BMW, Porsche and Mitsubishi and a few Subaru stealers in Ventura and LA.

        Then, I found Kirby Subaru. I got a REAL internet discount, first offer, that wasn’t an insult–it was a generous, honest discount. It wasn’t a token. It wasn’t multiple German dealerships selling 3 year old cars with 24k-30K miles for $4-$6k markups while blowing smoke up my butt about the cars being “deals”, Volvo a-line (employee) pricing that is a slap-in-face insult to their poor employees, or that Mitsubishi malarkey.

        I guess it’s the odd, awesome, honest Subaru dealership that we’ve encountered around the country that really makes the Subaru STILL stand out. There always seems to be a one wherever we’ve found ourselves (Portland, Boston, Connecticut, Kansas, San Diego and now LA) a bit out of the way, but worth the trip.

        Now, if you want to chew out Fuji Heavy Industries for not making their ancient engine absolutely reliable, after 10 years, while making a “measly” 300hp, I’m with you.

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      2. You gave a review before even driving a new WRX or STI??? Lol, even my normal WRX pulls .95 on skidpad and the steering and handling is amazing! Older models have loose as hell pickup truck steering. New STI Is stiff and handles amazing! You have to Remember that new emissions and safety laws come out every year so to make a car safer sometimes it’s heavier with 7-10 airbags etc..new STI runs quarter mile in 13.2 seconds and my WRX runs 13.7. Everyone who drives a new model talks about the steering and handling! Amazing. My WRX averages 27.9 mpg with new engine.

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  4. Hmm.

    I’m in Canada, where I can get the base STI for $38K – the 2004 was $50K, almost completely unaffordable.

    Still, you have one major fact incorrect. The WRX 6 speed manual is just the old mid-1970s four speed that was upgraded to a 5 speed for the old WRX, and the new 6 speed is just cramming another gear into that. That’s why you can only get the viscous-coupler LSD in the casing.

    The STI 6 speed is that monstrously heavy transmission that weighs about 60 lbs more and is built like a tank. It includes space for the planetary center diff and DCCD electronic clutch. Was also featured in the Legacy GT Spec B which also had the STI’s Torsen rear diff.

    Take a look underneath both cars. It’s not hard to spot the difference in trannies.

    Also the new STI has an LSD front diff, while the WRX has a regular open one and no LSD in the rear. Brembo brakes instead of generic.

    OK, so you want more hp, etc. etc. Great. I’m supposed to be wary of Camry V6s that will almost keep up. They don’t even keep up with my Legacy GT, because nobody drives them fast. Hard to do with fingers turning white from clenching the wheel too hard. Get real. And in winter, it’s strictly no contest

    The fanbois above think Toyota has something to do with the new Subarus. 17.1% ownership gives them no sway in the matter – people need to learn how to read. Subaru and Toyota are on the outs right now over that crap BRZ and its chirruping fuel pump and crap DI, and Subaru is turfing them out of their Indiana plant to make Foresters instead of Camrys on the second line.

    What makes me mad about Subaru is the general mindless wallowing crap they’re turning out these days. Not a Legacy GT in sight. I’m trying to find a replacement for my ’08, not because it’s worn out, but I’d like a new car.

    Here’s what isn’t any good, and demonstrably worse: Accords, Mazda6, ATS (overpriced, crap 2.0t), CLA, both Acura TLXs, new Golf GTI – tiny flimsy piece of crap that VW has the gall to charge as much for as the STI for one wheel drive. I have a $40K limit.

    The WRX CVT isn’t as lively to drive as my 5EAT Legacy GT (probably objectively faster), and the interior is crap. A BMW 235i is way too much, and the 228i has the diesel sounding 2.0t and still costs as much as an STI, yet has one-wheel drive. Mustang? Hardly wieldy is it? All these new cars have crap steering, indecipherable light-show dashes and really aren’t much fun to drive.

    So when they finally get a new STI that isn’t pre-sold at my dealer, think I’ll have a go.

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  5. Clearly this write up was done on the expectation of what the 2015 will be like, not from actually driving one. The new 2015 is the BEST STI I’ve ever driven. the 2015 is far stiffer and more responsive than last year.

    Crap write up.

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  6. Have you even drove the 2015 sti?????

    I literally test drove it for 10min then bought it.
    Straight up.

    I am a DIE HARD VW guy…. but this new STI is unbelievable…

    I can definitely say without a doubt you have not driven one.
    It’s stuck at 305 hp because of WRC this has been said over and over and over again but no one listens.

    Drive the damn car before you review it.

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    1. 1. This wasn’t a review article. It was an opinion column.
      2. Subaru does not currently compete in the WRC (they left in 2008), and even if they did their road cars are not direct homologations of the racing cars so the rules wouldn’t apply anyway.

      Have you driven an 04 STI? I’ve owned one since it came out, so I actually got to experience the time when an STI was a straight up match for a Porsche 911 or a BMW M3. Good luck with that today in your 2015 lol.

      Not saying your 2015 is a bad car, you’ll definitely have a great time with it. But the STI just hasn’t improved 11 years after my car was made, and that just isn’t right. The car you bought is basically like a WRX was when I bought my STI… in context with what it competes with.

      I’m sure you will enjoy your car, but it isn’t the same car that I bought back in the day. I want that car, and until Subaru makes it again, I’ll buy other things, or continue keep my 04 and watch it’s value climb because people know it’s all been down hill since then.

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  7. I get upset when someone compare the look of STIs 2015 with Evo .. The STI 2015 is a development of STI 2000 so we can say that Evo is copying STI 2000 ..

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    1. The Evo X is great, but it’s quite old now. It also doesn’t have any really good transmission options IMO… which undermines the rest of the car. Frankly, I think the Focus RS is going to eat both the Evo X and STI alive… even tho the Evo will technically be out of production by then.

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      1. Yeh at what price here in australia it will probably sell for $65000 i paid $52000 for my wrx sti my15 with every extra you can get side skirt,front,rear,weather strip on all doors,vortex generator, front and rear bars the hole box and dice ,i am 62 years old and this car a screamer handle corner like you now what great car Subaru and thanks.

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