Visceral and exhilarating, the all-wheel-drive 2018 Subaru WRX is a high-performance sports-sedan bargain with a starting price well below $30,000. Updates for 2018 include revised styling, improved handling and increased comfort. Two models are offered, the 268-horsepower WRX and the 305-horsepower WRX STI. Both are packing turbocharged horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engines and a standard 6-speed manual transmission.
You'll Like The 2018 Subaru WRX If...
Unlike many cars in this class, the new Subaru WRX and STI are a blast to drive, rain, snow or shine, thanks to their sophisticated all-wheel-drive systems. If you like your speed balanced with 4-season usability, room for five and a sizable trunk, you’ll like these turbocharged sedans.
You May Not Like The 2018 Subaru WRX If...
Both the WRX and STI are 4-door sedans. If you want the versatility of a hatchback, check out VW’s Golf GTI and Golf R, and Honda's new Civic Type R. The 305-horsepower WRX STI is also light compared to the 350-horsepower Ford Focus RS, which is also all-wheel drive.
Extensive updates for 2018 include a larger lower front grille, a retuned suspension for improved handing and ride comfort and more sound insulation for a quieter interior. Subaru has also added its EyeSight driver-assist safety technology to the WRX’s option list, and the STI gets 19-inch wheels and tires.
For 2018 Subaru has upgraded the WRX’s interior materials and added insulation and thicker side glass to keep more noise out. The optional heated Recaro sport seats are comfortable and hold you in place during hard cornering, but their bolsters aren’t overly aggressive. Visibility is excellent and it’s fun to look out over the sedan’s big hood scoop. A tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel is standard. The WRX seats five comfortably, but the Honda Civic Si has more rear legroom. All the controls are simple, well placed and attractive. Cool touches include a flat-bottom steering wheel and red stitching.
This year the WRX has received a larger lower grille that balances well with the sedan’s wide upper grille and functional hood scoop. Both the WRX and the STI get flared fenders, a defused rear bumper and four large exhaust pipes, but only the STI gets 19-inch wheels and the massive rear spoiler, which Subaru says aids downforce and stability. If you want the STI’s horsepower without that basket handle glued to its decklid, an optional “low-profile trunk spoiler” is available on the STI Limited. The STI also gets Brembo brakes with cross-drilled rotors and calipers painted yellow.
No other engine sounds like Subaru’s turbocharged 4-cylinder and you can hear the WRX’s signature thrum from a few blocks away. The 2.0-liter version in the WRX makes plenty of power and likes to rev to its 6,700-rpm redline. With the standard 6-speed manual transmission, which features tightly spaced gears and a short-throw shifter, it can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 6.0 seconds. The additional power from the STI’s 2.5-liter is obvious from the driver’s seat. It’ll squirt to 60 mph in about 4.7 seconds. Both cars are comfortable enough for the daily commute, but they’re quite visceral. You hear that horizontally opposed engine and feel the road’s surface. If that’s your thing, few cars are this fun to drive. Steering effort is high, but there’s plenty of feel, and the all-wheel-drive system provides astonishing grip for driving around guys in their more expensive German super sedans.
Considering its performance, amenities and all-weather versatility, the 2018 Subaru WRX sedan is a bargain. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $27,500, including $860 for destination and delivery. The Honda Civic Si sedan costs less, but it’s only packing 205 horsepower and front-wheel drive. A WRX Premium with the optional Performance Package is an even stronger value as it has a significantly longer list of equipment and costs about $32,000. A fully loaded WRX Limited with the CVT automatic transmission will easily top $35,000. The more powerful WRX STI starts around $37,000, which is about the same as a new Civic Type R, Golf R or Focus RS. Be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price tool to ensure you get the best deal on your next car. Down the road, 5-year resale values for the 2018 WRX and STI should be topped only by the segment-leading Civic Si.
Standard features on the 2018 Subaru WRX include all-wheel drive, automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a 6.2-inch touch screen, a second 5.9-inch information screen and 17-inch wheels and tires. The STI costs considerably more and gets a significantly longer list of standard amenities including dual-zone climate controls, heated front seats, red seatbelts, LED steering-responsive headlights, auto on/off headlights and a more extensive infotainment system with a 7.0-inch touch screen. Its chassis is also upgraded with larger Brembo brakes with cross-drilled rotors and new 19-inch wheels and summer performance tires.
Several trim levels are available and add equipment accordingly. The WRX Premium gets 18-inch wheels, larger tires, fog lights, a more capable version of Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with a 7.0-inch touch screen, a power sunroof along with heated front seats, and a windshield-wiper de-icer. The top-line WRX Limited adds push-button start and LED steering-responsive headlights. Optional packages can add a navigation system, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and audio upgrades. We recommend the new Performance Package, which adds power-adjustable Recaro sport seats, aggressive front brake pads for improved performance and red brake calipers.
EYESIGHT SAFETY SYSTEMS
Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is now available on the WRX Limited with the CVT automatic transmission. EyeSight includes Lane Keep Assist, Active Cruise Control and a pre-collision system that will automatically begin braking for you to avoid a potential accident. Surprisingly, EyeSight isn’t available on the more expensive WRX STI.
DRIVER CONTROLLED CENTER DIFFERENTIAL
Standard on the WRX STI is an improved version of Subaru’s unique Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) all-wheel-drive system. With a button on the console, the system allows you to manipulate the center limited-slip differential and dial-in the power distribution between the front and rear wheels for different conditions.
Under the Hood
That hood scoop doesn’t just look cool; it’s functional, feeding air to the intercooler, which cools the intake charge before it enters the WRX’s all-aluminum horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine. This adds horsepower. In the WRX the engine displaces 2.0 liters and cranks out 268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm thanks to a turbocharger. In the STI the engine grows to 2.5 liters and its output follows, peaking at 305 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Both engines are backed by a 6-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive, although a CVT automatic transmission is available on the WRX Limited trim level. Unfortunately, fuel economy is not very good. In mixed driving we averaged 16 mpg in an STI and 22 mpg in a WRX. The Subaru’s turbo engine requires premium fuel.
2.0-liter turbocharged flat-4
268 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/27 mpg (manual), 18/24 mpg (automatic)
2.5-liter turbocharged flat-4
305 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
290 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/21 mpg
With a starting price well below $30,000, the all-wheel-drive 2018 Subaru WRX sports sedan is a high-performance bargain. Two models are offered, the 268-horsepower WRX and the 305-horsepower WRX STI, which also gets a gargantuan rear spoiler for increased high-speed stability. Both are visceral and exhilarating, packing turbocharged versions of Subaru’s unique horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine and a standard 6-speed manual transmission. A CVT automatic transmission is available, but only on the WRX. Updates for 2018 include revised styling, improved handling as well as increased safety and comfort. The WRX competes with the Civic Si sedan and hot hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST. The WRX STI does battle with the all-wheel-drive VW Golf R, the Ford Focus RS and the all-new Honda Civic Type R.