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First Drive: The Subaru WRX STI Final Edition is a beautiful goodbye

Reviews | Published:

Ryan Hirons gets behind the wheel of the last Subaru WRX STI — is it a worthy send-off?

What is it?

Well, this is it. After 24 years of gracing the world with big turbos, even bigger rear wings and the unmistakable WR Blue Mica paint colour — this is the last ever Subaru WRX STI.

The Japanese manufacturer has threatened the end of the performance monster multiple times before, but this time it insists this is for real.

We almost believe them, too. The motoring world is turning to autonomy and alternative power, and there’s little demand now for a brutal, boost-heavy machine that hasn’t really changed much in the last 15 years. Is the Final Edition a worthy sendoff though?

(PA)

What’s new?

This is fundamentally still a WRX STI with very little change, but the Final Edition does get some quirks to separate it as the last hurrah for the rally-bred machine.

A reprofiled front bumper heads up a tweaked look, with 19-inch alloy wheels housing larger Brembo brakes that boast new, bright yellow brake callipers. Finishing off the exterior touches is the addition of ‘Final Edition’ badging sat behind the front wheel arches.

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Inside the car, there’s little new to report — although more equipment comes as standard on the package. Heated seats and an upgraded infotainment system feature for no extra cost, with the latter gaining DAB radio and a reversing camera. There’s also a ‘Final Edition’ sticker applied below the gearstick, just so you know you’re in the last of the breed when behind the wheel.

What’s under the bonnet?

Powering the WRX STI Final Edition is the same 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer that’s been in action since 2004, although since then it has received a number of revisions.

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Here, it produces 296bhp and 407Nm of torque and is paired up to a six-speed manual gearbox —resulting in 0-60mph in five seconds along with a top speed of 158mph. Don’t expect much in the way of efficiency though, with Subaru claiming 25.9mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 252g/km.

It’s an engine that seriously rewards hard work and feels most comfortable when strung out higher up the rev range. Keeping it on the boost can prove an exhausting task at first, but once you hit the sweet spot beyond 3,500rpm it comes to life — offering seemingly endless levels of power.

What’s it like to drive?

The Subaru WRX STI can be pretty intimidating to drive at first. It feels huge, its steering leans strongly on the heavy side and the engine requires a ton of work to drive smoothly.

Master it though, and it proves to be one of the best driving experiences on offer — let alone within its price bracket. The harder it’s pushed, the more grip the all-wheel-drive system offers — creating a seemingly limitless car. The turn-in response is also mesmerizingly quick, with performance machines three times the price the only place you’ll really find anything to rival it.

Although with this being a real driver-focused car, it is compromised as a daily machine. It’s loud which while good when driving in a spirited manner, means it drones heavily at town speeds. Heavy steering makes it difficult to park too, while visibility is reduced thanks to the huge rear wing on the back.

How does it look?

There’s no mistaking the Subaru WRX STI Final Edition on the looks front. It comes in just the one colour — the iconic WR Blue Mica — and still features a massive rear wing, too.

A reprofiled front bumper adds more aggression to this particular version, while large Brembo brakes with yellow callipers sit behind new 19-inch alloy wheels. Sadly, no gold wheels here — something we reckon should’ve been a top priority on the final version of the Japanese icon.

It retains the aggressive presence that WRX STIs of old have always had, and it’s one we’ll be sad to see dwindle on UK roads over the coming years.

What’s it like inside?

Don’t expect much in the way of luxury inside WRX STI. It’s a typical Subaru affair, with a boxy interior that utilises a ton of plasticky, albeit rugged-feeling materials throughout.

Some racy additions do feature though to set this apart, including Alcantara bucket seats which offer ample support — along with STI badging throughout the cabin and a ton of pink highlights to match.

One of the tricks with the WRX STI though is that it remains large enough to fit a family in — even if it’s not a car otherwise well-suited for the daily use. There’s room for three in the back, with two adults able to sit in comfort, while boot space totals 460 litres with all seats in place. Put that in comparison with the Ford Focus RS’ 316 litres and Honda Civic Type R’s 420 litres, and it offers one of the most spacious performance packages on the market.

(PA)

What’s the spec like?

As you may expect with a run-out, limited-unit machine, the Subaru WRX STI Final Edition offers a decent amount of equipment as standard — but you may be left wanting more.

New for no extra cost are heated seats and an upgraded infotainment. That’s on top of included LED head and tail lights, keyless start, dual-zone climate control and a 4.3-inch display that sits on the dashboard — showing important information like fuel economy, climate settings and of course, the boost gauge.

A glaring omission here is satellite navigation, which could have been forgiven had support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay featured — but it does not. There’s a lot of performance for the Final Edition’s £33,995 price, but it doesn’t offer the levels of kit to match.

(PA)

Verdict

The Subaru WRX STI is a total dinosaur, but it’s one we’re sad to see go. The Final Edition doesn’t serve as much more than perhaps a glorified trim level, but it has at least offered some form of farewell for one of the most legendary performance machines in motoring history.

If you’re looking for sheer driving pleasure, then this is the car for you — the old-school experience is difficult to match at this price point. Those looking for more daily convenience may be better going for the pricier Volkswagen Golf R, or even a Honda Civic Type R, but there’s nothing quite like a Subaru WRX STI on a UK B-road.

  • •Model: Subaru WRX STI Final Edition
  • Price: £33,995
  • Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer
  • Power (bhp): 296
  • Torque (Nm): 407
  • Max speed (mph): 158
  • 0-60mph: 5.0 seconds
  • MPG: 25.9
  • Emissions (g/km): 252

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