Power to the people. The WRX STI is fast, making the move from 0-to-60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. It represents the ultimate of Subaru performance and comes with an exclusive 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four engine. This engine makes 310 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque and works with a 6-speed manual transmission for sending power to all four wheels.

Among the unique features that set the STI apart is its fully synchronized close-ratio transmission and the driver-controlled center differential. Here, the driver can manage torque split from front to rear while on the go for optimum control. Thus, the STI supplies crisp and responsive steering and optimum handling, enabling it to control turns and grip corners with ease. As for the ride, you’ll feel a strong connection to the road, potholes and all.

Limited safety features. The STI doesn’t supply access to all the driver-assist safety features Subaru offers under the brand’s vaunted “Eyesight Driver Assist Technology” bundle. But it does come with standard blind-spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. Its all-wheel-drive system supplies an added measure of support.

The crash test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Top Safety Pick) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (5-stars) underscore this vehicle’s built-in safety design. It’s a winner in their books as it is in ours.

Creature features. Anyone who has surveyed modern vehicles knows how styling and tech features have advanced in recent years. If you’re looking for a thoroughly futuristic cabin with this high-performance-oriented model, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Then again, its mission is all about the drive.

Although dated, the cockpit does feature a straightforward layout, a thick three-spoke steering wheel, and legible gauges. A 7.0-inch touch-screen display seems small these days, but it gets the job done.

subaru wrx sti

Room for five. When not romping around the track or pulling out of sharp corners on local roads, the STI does have a purpose beyond racing. This model seats five, thus it can double as a family hauler when needed. If you’re looking for a smooth ride, though, you won’t find it. The 60/40 split fold-down bench seat is roomy with space for three adults in a pinch, but we think youngsters are the ideal passengers for everyday driving.

The front seats are everything you’d expect in a performance model. They come generously bolstered with terrific back and hip support. On the STI Limited trim, Recaro performance-designed front seats take over. They’re firmer, but they’re also ideal for spirited driving. Consider them the signature for this product line.

Final thoughts. The STI is the pinnacle of Subaru hatchback performance. The center differential sets this apart from the trims below it. It’ll cost you about $40,000 to acquire one and that’s within the range of what we’d expect for this model. For value-oriented buyers, the standard Subaru WRX may also be worth a look.

Check prices for the 2021 Subaru WRX STI »