Long before Toyota bought a stake in the company, Subaru has been one of the most prolific sports carmakers in the industry over the course of almost six decades. And the WRX STI has been one of their most prominent sports cars over the course of 3 decades! Yes, the WRX STI is turning 30 this year! Time really goes fast, doesn’t it? There have been 5 generations of the WRX, but North America only got it from the second generation onwards. But we are nothing but glad that we got this amazing piece of machine in the first place, and that we can still have it.
Ranking the STI models is one of the hardest things to do for us. That’s simply because doing so will undoubtedly make someone unhappy. That is because almost all STI models are pretty great on their own terms. Each generation, each model holds a special place in the hearts of different people, which is fine, but seeing their favorite Subie rank so low will trigger them. Part of the reason why the STI is so good is their Rally racing pedigree and their fierce rivalry with Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evo. Here's how every Subaru STI model ranks, starting with the worst.
9 2008 WRX STI
The 2008 WRX STi is perhaps the only real disappointment out of all the models out there. When you look at the 2008 WRX, it comes out as a ‘good’ sports car. But when you compare it with previous WRX STI models, it’s significantly blander and ordinary.
Subaru tried to ditch the “Rally car for the road” ideology and made a more accessible car for the public. But that lost rawness and aggression are things that made the WRX a great car in the first place.
8 2015 & 2016 WRX STI
The fourth generation WRX STi cars successfully did what the aforementioned 2008 model tried to do. It was easier to drive and live with. But it also managed to provide some serious thrills. “So why is it so low?”, you might ask.
It’s because these two years recorded the highest number of complaints out of all other models. The clutch is the most commonly seen problem in these cars. The fourth-generation WRX is great, as long as you avoid these two years.
7 2009-2014 3rd Generation
In short terms, the 2009-2014 3rd Generation STi is what the 2008 should have been in the first place. The third generation also saw the return of the much-loved sedan body style after a hiatus.
With the 2009 WRX STi, the upgraded turbocharger provided more boost, the suspension got stiffer, and the tires got stickier. Also, the WRX is now more tunable, but the extra power won’t be enough to keep up with a stock STi with better suspension, braking, and overall racing specs.
6 2000-2002 'Bugeye'
The second-generation Subaru WRX had three distinctive features on the front end. Those were the three different headlight designs. First came the Bug eye WRX. In the year 2000, the new century brought us the "New Age" Impreza.
It’s the first Impreza to hit the US markets. The engine, body, transmission, and all other underpinnings of this WRX STI are phenomenal, but those ovoid headlights were very controversial. This is probably the hardest to rank because of such polarizing features. You either love it or hate it, there’s no middle ground here.
5 2022-Present 5th Generation
Subaru looks to shake things up from the ground with this one. The latest WRX STI to enter the market stands out the most from its predecessors. Many people think that ditching the legendary design was a bad idea, while many are enjoying the fresh design (which looks rad, to be honest).
It’s also the most powerful one so far, so dispensing on the body design and handling, it has the potential to become one of the best sports cars on the market. Or it will completely flop and get overshadowed by upcoming promising sports cars.
4 2004-2005 ‘Blob Eye’
In 2003, if the Bug eye wasn’t for you, then Subaru had an option for you. Enter the Blob eye WRX STi. Underneath the body, it wasn’t much different from the Bug eye Subie apart from a few tweaks in the suspension that improved the handling slightly.
You can say that it’s almost the same car with a different, less dividing, and less controversial headlight design. So it was reliable, enjoyable, and overall slightly better than the 2000-2002 WRX. The only remaining problem was the noticeably long turbo lag.
3 2006-2007 Redesign ‘Hawk Eye’
This was the final facelift of the second-gen GDB Impreza. If even the Blob eye didn’t cut it for you, then surely the Hawkeye will do the job. Subaru also changed the whole front bumper look to make it look more sporty.
Here’s a relatively unknown fact: Subaru had aircraft manufacturing roots with the Nakajima Aircraft Company And it looks like that inspired them to make jet-inspired intake and wings all over the body. We got the EJ257 engine while they reserved the coveted EJ20 exclusively for Japan.
2 2017-2021 4th Generation
The fourth-generation WRX debuted in 2015. But the first two years of the VA Series had lots of problems like mentioned earlier. But what we got from 2017 onwards was brilliant. This generation got rid of the Impreza name and was simply called the WRX and WRX STi.
These were the most accessible WRX so far, but they were also the most powerful until the 2022 model came up. They were also very practical and modern technology helped enhance the driving experience rather than hinder it. These were some of the best handling cars in the whole market, something to be proud of.
1 1992-1999 22B STi
Finally, the 22B STi. It’s like the R32 Skyline of this lineup, it’s the one that achieved the legendary status of the Impreza WRX sports car. Out of all the road-going Impreza WRX STi models, it’s the only with that came with rally-spec components like the fenders, wing, and more.
Subaru also bumped the engine from a 2.0-Liter to a 2.2-Liter. The 22b STi came from the Japanese brand’s success in WRC, and it was the ultimate first generation Subaru in terms of performance, prestige, and value. For a lot of us, this is THE ultimate WRX STi.