Some of us can’t quite believe more than 15 years have passed since Subaru finally brought its Impreza WRX to the United States market. After all, those three letters—standing for World Rally eXperimental—were for years nothing but a pipe dream for American fans of true drivers’ cars. Indeed, it seemed like a lifetime before we finally got to experience the affordable, all-wheel-drive rocket anywhere other than within a certain famous video game franchise.
More than a decade later, however, it almost seems as though the WRX and the even hotter WRX STI version have been available to us forever. That’s not to say we take the WRX for granted—but the automotive landscape has changed quite a lot and today offers quite a few more exciting, relatively affordable pound-for-pound performance options than it did when Subaru’s stunner first hit our shores around the turn of the century. In other words, sometimes it’s difficult to summon the same level of excitement that we once upon a time experienced in tidal waves for the model.
Perhaps recognizing this, though it would never admit it, the Japanese manufacturer and its hotshot Subaru Tecnica International arm not so long ago went back into the garage and cooked up the 2018 WRX STI Type RA, or “Record Attempt.” That’s a reference to the hotted-up STI that set a Nürburgring lap record (6 minutes, 57.5 seconds) for a four-door sedan. At about $50,000, it’s no longer a cheap car, but it does offer drivers some enticing features.
The engine gets new sodium-filled valves and reinforced pistons. Additionally, with some electronic changes, plus a larger-diameter exhaust and a cold-air intake, the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine produces 310 hp and 290 lb-ft, an improvement of 5 hp and zero lb-ft at peak, but it makes more of that power and torque in the 2,000 to 3,000 rpm range.
The RA is also 68 pounds lighter than a factory-spec STI equipped with Recaro seats, mostly due to Subaru binning the spare wheel/tire but also thanks to the use of a carbon-fiber roof.
Aerodynamic performance is also improved via a new adjustable carbon rear wing. In the flat position, rear downforce increases by 64 percent over the standard STI’s wing; with the upgraded wing adjusted up, that figure increases to 116 percent. We also appreciate the Bilstein STI sport-tuned dampers.
In our latest episode of Pro Racer’s Take, Andy Pilgrim discovers that the good ol’ WRX STI is still special and still delivers buckets full of fun—no matter what you throw at it.