*Go straight to the FULL REVIEW.
Overview (Final Score: B)
The 2016 Subaru WRX has been a favorite with rally fans and enthusiasts since its introduction over a decade ago. The WRX is named after World Rallycross and is the street-legal version of the car that is annually seen dominating rally courses throughout the world. Its power-focused STI model includes most of the drivetrain controls that are manipulated by champion rally drivers on the Subaru teams globally. Together, the WRX and STI make up truly fan-focused, fun to drive vehicles that offer enough everyday versatility to be seen as an only car for most owners.
From daily grocery-getting to jumping off the pavement to throw dirt and dust around a track, the 2016 Subaru WRX and its STI model are always ready. Few cars offer the excitement and fun that these do and even fewer have the kind of fan base these Subarus have built.
For 2016, the WRX sees a larger infotainment screen as standard, including smartphone app integration. Upgraded safety options and a top-shelf rating from the IIHS finish off 2016’s upgrades. The STI model now includes a limited Series Hyper Blue trim as well.
What We Love About the 2016 Subaru WRX STI:
- Great driving experience in all situations.
- More versatile than might be expected of a sports car.
- Powerfully fun off the road and in sport handling conditions.
What We Don’t Love About the 2016 Subaru WRX STI:
- Fuel economy is lackluster for the segment.
- Uncomfortable for long drives on the highway.
- Not as roomy or useful without the hatchback body option.
Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10)
The 2016 WRX carries the continuing trend of the well-known rally car with its interior design. The best way to describe the WRX’s interior is “basic” for its straight-forward design and sport-focused qualities. The ergonomics are good, insofar as the driver is concerned, but the rest of the passengers will need to grit their teeth a bit.
The good news is that seating is well-done and roomy, with improved materials for the upper trims. Comfort is good, but not excellent and in the back seat, due to the car’s size, full-sized adults will be cramped. For most daily driving duties, however, the WRX continues its beloved side job with ease. The trunk offers about 12 cubic feet of space and the rear seats are split-fold as standard.
Really, though, the interior is all about the driver and for the driver, it’s very good. Seat bolstering holds one firmly in place during daily drives and sport maneuvers. Controls are straightforward and the legendary stiff clutch and fast shift of the WRX and STI models is definitely there. Visibility is excellent and is aided by large side mirrors and thin, forward-flung roof pillars.
The base model for the WRX and STI now includes a 6.2-inch touchscreen as standard equipment. This screen offers good graphics quality and a nice, though basic, infotainment experience. Upgraded models with optional equipment or higher trim points include a 7-inch touchscreen with more functionality, including navigation (as an option) and more.
Subaru’s infotainment system is simple, but easy to learn. Connecting devices is a quick process requiring no menu hunting (just choose “Bluetooth” from the main menu) and navigating the various audio options is a breeze. The navigation is not as good as some others offer, but is adequate for most needs.
Fuel Economy (8/10)
In the 2016 WRX, fuel economy is good and (for the most part) achievable, but not stellar. The standard transmission model is EPA rated at 23 mpg combined, with 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Upgrading to the automatic (CVT) changes that to 21 mpg combined (18 city, 24 highway).
In the STI model, with its larger-displacement turbocharged engine, the manual transmission is the only option. The EPA estimates this model’s fuel economy at 19 mpg combined, with 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
The Subaru WRX is a performance car with a very specific purpose in mind. To that end, it’s a stellar performer with everything one could ask and all that a buyer would expect. A true rally car, the standard WRX models are equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder horizontally opposed “boxer” style engine. This produces 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque in all-wheel drive as standard. A six-speed manual transmission is the default offering and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available as an automatic trans upgrade. In the upper two trims, paddle shifters for the CVT mimic a six-speed or eight-speed automatic transmission’s gearing when engaged, depending on driving mode selections.
In the more focused STI model of the WRX, the engine changes to a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder boxer that produces 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission as an only option and runs in all-wheel drive. Several chassis, suspension, and drivetrain changes are made to the STI model to aid rally driving focus. The center differential can be manually controlled through a switch below the shifter, allowing power to be forced fore or aft as the driver wishes or set to “Automatic” for electronic control by the car’s computer.
In our driving, the 2016 Subaru WRX model achieved a 0-60 mph time of about 5.6 seconds with the manual transmission. The STI model did the same sprint in 5 seconds flat. Off the road, the improved suspension and larger brakes on the STI model meant faster and more precise J-turns and control over the differential allowed better snow slides in a drive around corners.
In daily driving, though, the WRX shows superior maneuverability, primarily because of the less jumpy engine response when executing very low-speed maneuvers like parking. The WRX model also offers a slightly softer suspension for a smoother highway drive. Of course, the Hyper Blue color and huge rear spoiler on the STI model meant a lot more attention from others on the street.
Total Score and Competitive Comparison (66/80, 83%)
Competitive comparisons with the WRX series are difficult as there are no other cars with the kind of rally focus that the WRX and STI maintain.
The nearest competitor is likely the newRS, which is so far very difficult for most buyers to obtain. Another competitor is the R with its all-wheel drive platform. This is a more street-centric car and doesn’t have the same on-/off-road focus of the WRX, nor is it offered with the kind of rally ready options that the similarly-priced STI includes. Both the Focus and Golf R, however, offer much better interior experiences than the WRX.
None of this should be seen as a negative for truly fanatic Subaru WRX fans. For them, the 2016 WRX remains true to its core and very appealing. For those enthusiasts, little can dissuade from the power, fun and pure sport driving that the WRX and STI offer as standard equipment.
Read the FULL REVIEW Now to get more expert tips on the 2016 Subaru WRX’s safety, reliability, pricing, exterior and technology.