A mid-cycle update brings improved suspension and other little bits of happiness

The Subaru WRX is one of those sporty sedan rally cars that every enthusiast should drive at least once in their life. It went through a generational shift for the 2015 model year that made it even better, bringing new exterior looks, a longer A-Pillar, LED exterior lighting, a roomier interior, better outward visibility, and a new 2.0-liter four-banger that was 0.5-liters smaller than the outgoing unit but offered three extra ponies and 14 extra pound-feet which really helped to offset the 50+ pound weight gain than came with the new-gen model. It’s only been a couple of years since the new-gen model hit showrooms, and Subie has been busy putting together some minor revisions for the 2018 model year. There’s no power gain to speak of, unfortunately, but there is some minor exterior styling updates, improved suspension setup, updated manual transmission, and a new optional Performance pack – the latter of which you really want to know about if you’re hoping to ride off into the sunset with a new WRX.

So, while there isn’t a lot of big news in the aesthetics department, the mechanical bits under the metal got some serious reworking, and it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Plus there are upgraded interior materials, a new rear-seat armrest (with cup holders,) and a few updates to help cut down on unwanted noise bleed through from the road For those of you into technology, the infotainment display has grown up a bit as well, with the screen size in base trims growing by 1.5 inches while the screen in the Premium trim grows by 0.8 inches.

For a mid-cycle update, there’s actually quite a bit to talk about when it comes to the WRX. Oh, and before I forget, the WRX STI also got some significant updates, so if you’re looking to get your hands on one of those, our man Jonathan Lopez has all of the details in his full review of that 300-horsepower beast here. Anyway, let’s scroll down and see what the 2018 Subaru WRX has to offer!

Update: 4/20/2017: Subaru has announced pricing for the 2018 Subaru WRX. Check out the prices section below to learn just how much it’ll cost you to roll out in a brand-new Subie!

Continue reading to learn more about the Subaru WRX.

Exterior

2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Exterior
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The current WRX is already pretty sporty for a model that sits below the widely loved WRX STI model, so don’t expect much in terms of change to the exterior. For the most part, it carries on unchanged, but there are a few things to talk about. First off, the front radiator grille has been redesigned with sharper points on each side and is now more open thanks to the removal of the weird insert on the bottom of the grille that’s found on the current model. The corner trim inserts that house the DRL and fog lights have been modified slightly to give a slightly more aggressive look, while the air dam is now larger and features an enlarged surround. The trim for the corner inserts and the surrounds of the grille and air dam are now finished in a glossier black. WRX Limited models (as well as the STI) get LED Steering Responsive headlights to help make seeing around curves during nighttime driving much easier.

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2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Exterior
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Outside of this everything carries on unchanged, so you’ll still get the flared and muscular front fenders with a rear-facing vent that leads the way to those fairly aggressive side skirts.

Moving to the sides or rear of the car won’t yield anything that’s new for this model year, however, the roof on all models now gets updated rack mounting brackets. Outside of this everything carries on unchanged, so you’ll still get the flared and muscular front fenders with a rear-facing vent that leads the way to those fairly aggressive side skirts. The rear quarters are rather uneventful and feature no flaring at all. From a certain perspective the aggressive nature of the front end and bland nature of the upper side profile make it look the WRX has an aggressive sleeve over the front end. Had Subie made the rear quarters more aggressive with a wider flaring like the front, this thing would look seriously badass. Around back, there’s nothing new to report. It still has that sporty but tiny fin on the trunk and the insert on the bottom of the fascia now matches the front trim inserts with a nice, glossy black appearance.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (Inches) 104.3
Length (Inches) 180.9
Width (Inches) 70.7
Height (Inches) 58.1

Interior

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Inside, you won’t find that a whole lot has changed for 2018, but there is some important stuff to talk about. You’ll see the same general cabin with a smooth and slightly curved dash that features two displays, a thin center console with centrally mounted shifter, and the same general trim panels. Subie did manage to redesign the interior door grips, making them smaller and more attractive and added in faster remote trunk opening. More importantly, however, is the fact that there are new, upgraded interior materials to go with new rear-seat armrest with cup holders for rear passengers.

2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Interior
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Large touchscreen in the dash
*Interior from 2018 Subaru WRX
2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Interior
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One complaint some people had with the new-gen WRX was that the cabin was a bit noisy, so Subie decided to tackle that problem at its base and made some much-needed improvements.

On the technology front, the instrument cluster carries over unchanged, still featuring small TFT display between the two main gauges. There are updates to the infotainment systems across the range, with the entry-level models getting an upgrade to a 5.9-inch touchscreen. This is an improvement of 1.6-inches over last year’s disturbingly small 4.3-inch display. The WRX Premium model, on the other hand now gets Subaru’s STARLINK 7.0-inch multimedia system which brings a 0.8-inch larger screen into the fold. The latter system provides phone connectivity and navigation, so unless you’re forced to go with an entry-level model, the Premium trim really is the way to go.

The flat-bottom steering wheel carries over and doesn’t appear to have changed much. All models now get heated exterior mirrors, while the WRX Limited gets new seats that feature power lumbar adjustment. One complaint some people had with the new-gen WRX was that the cabin was a bit noisy, so Subie decided to tackle that problem at its base and made some much-needed improvements. Most of it is under the skin but includes thicker door glass, revised door sealing that should prevent air push through at higher speeds, and the windshield header beam has been filled with foam to help prevent that frontal noise that was an issue in the current model. It’s not a lot, but it should make all the difference and improve the overall feel of quality on the inside.

Interior Dimensions

Headroom Front/Rear (Inches) 39.8/37.1
Legroom Front/Rear (Inches) 43.3/35.4
Shoulder room Front/Rear (Inches) 55.6/54.2
Hip room Front/Rear (Inches) 52.1/53.1
Trunk capacity (cu. ft.) 12.0

Drivetrain

The Non-STI WRX soldiers on with the same 2.0-liter Boxer unit that delivers 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The engine comes mated to a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment while a Sport Lineartranoic CVT unit with manual mode is available as an option. Subie’s awesome Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system as well as active torque vectoring is standard equipment. Sprinting from zero to 60 mph is estimated at anywhere between five and six seconds while top speed comes in somewhere around 155 mph. But, what’s really more important here is the updates to the transmission and the suspension system.

Subie’s awesome Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system as well as active torque vectoring is standard equipment.

Subaru took the time to redesign the suspension system in the front and rear, which is said to improve steering stability and ride comfort while retaining the rally-bred, high-performance cornering capability that the WRX has always been known for. Furthermore, the transmission shifter now has an enhanced and more precise feel thanks to a new, internal synchro design and reduced internal friction. Subaru also says there is smooth clutch take-up, but until we get the chance to get behind the wheel, we’ll just have to take their word on that one. Subaru also updated the electronic power steering system for a smooth, more natural feeling in the wheel. A couple of pounds were lost thanks to this as Subaru integrated the power steering motor with its controlling computer into one unit.

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That’s all there is on this front, but before I go any further, there’s a new Performance Package available on the WRX Premium that you just have to know about. This package, which has not yet been priced, will add in Recaro eight-way power seats on the inside and deletes the moonroof package for extra weight savings. On the outside, you get red-painted brake calipers to go with new JURID brake pads and a pair of updated double-spoke 18-inch wheels. If you’re going with the WRX Premium trim, this is pretty much a must have if you can stomach whatever premium comes attached to it.

Engine 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed
Horsepower 268 HP @ 5,600 RPM
Torque 258 LB-FT @ 2,000-5,200 RPM
Transmission 6-speed manual
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 20/27/23
Weight 3,272 Lbs

Pricing

Starting off the WRX lineup is the entry-level model, which now starts at $26,995 – ultimately representing an increase of $300 over the outgoing model. Moving up to the Premium trim with a six-speed manual will set you back $29,295, while the premium with the CVT climbs to as high as $30,495. Finally, the WRS Limited will set you back $31,595 with a manual or $32,795 with a CVT, both of which represent an increase of $500. Not too bad of a price increase at all, and well worth the extra cash if you’re considering upgrading to a new Subie.

Model/Trim Transmission Applicable Option Code MSRP MSRP + destination and delivery
Standard WRX 6MT ‘01 $26,995 $27,855
WRX Premium 6MT 11, 12 $29,295 $30,155
WRX Premium CVT 11 $30,495 $31,355
WRX Limited 6MT 21, 22 $31,595 $32,455
WRX Limited CVT 21, 23 $32,795 $33,655

Competition

Mitsubishi Lancer

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer
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Mitsubishi has been going through rough times and recently announced that it was discontinuing the EVO program for the Lancer. As of the 2017 model year, the Lancer is still available for purchase, but it has carried on in the same generation for a decade now, with a facelift occurring back in 2016. As of early 2017, Mitsubishi announced that it will discontinue the Lancer after the 2017 model year, so this is the last year that you can get one new, but it’s still a competitor nonetheless. In the looks department, the Lancer is nowhere near as aggressive or sporty and features more of a toned-down look. Inside, the Lancer isn’t bad, but the 2018 WRX is definitely more modernized in comparison. Plus, the Lancer is insanely underpowered compared to the Subie, with the entry-level model getting a 2.0-liter with 148 horsepower on tap and the higher-end models getting a 2.4-liter with just 168 horsepower on tap. Higher trim levels come with all-wheel drive and decent technology. On the other hand, the Lancer does start out at $17,795 and tops out at just $22,095 for the range-topping SEL 2.4 AWC. So, if you’re on a budget and willing to sacrifice all that extra power and aggressive styling, then the Lancer just might be for you.

Read more about the Mitsubishi Lancer here.

Ford Focus ST

2015 Ford Focus ST High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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When it comes to rally cars like the WRX, you have no choice but to consider some of the more prominent hatchbacks on the market as well. One such model is the Ford Focus ST, and while it’s not as great as the bonkers Focus RS, it’s worthy of your consideration. The most recent model of the Focus ST hit the U.S. market for the 2015 model year and comes correct with 2.0-liter four-cylinder that delivers a cool 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It’s enough for a 5.9-second sprint to 60 mph and a top speed in the range of 155 mph. Sporty exterior styling rivals that of the WRX while not being so in-your-face aggressive about it. The interior isn’t too bad and features typical American design, but the seats offer plenty of support for spirited driving. Pricing starts out at $24,775 before options, taxes, and delivery.

Find out more about the Ford Focus ST here.

Conclusion

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I must say that I was pretty sad when I heard the news about the Lancer EVO getting the ax, but at least Subaru isn’t letting us down with its four-door rally machine. Personally, I’d probably go for the WRX STI if I could afford it, but event he non-STI models offer decent performance, technology, and features for a decent price. Furthermore, it’s hard to beat Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system, so it’s definitely a go-to for those who like to play around off road. On a side note, if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you’ll find that the WRX performs fairly well in that cold white stuff as well. While Subaru could have done more to the exterior look with this mid-cycle update, I can’t complain too much – the current-gen model looked pretty sweet before, and the minor updates are the icing on the cake.

  • Leave it
    • * Where’s the power upgrade?
    • * Would look better with a larger spoiler
    • * Rear end is boring compared to the front end

Press Release

Subaru of America, Inc., which this month posted its eighth consecutive year of record-breaking sales, today introduced the 2018 WRX and WRX STI, each debuting performance, comfort, design and safety enhancements for a more rewarding driving experience. The new models reach Subaru retailers in spring.

A restyled front fascia WRX and WRX STI shows a sportier attitude, highlighted by a more pronounced grille design, along with a larger lower grille opening. The WRX Limited and all STI feature redesigned LED Steering Responsive Headlights that help illuminate curves in nighttime driving. For greater versatility, all WRX and STI models now feature new roof rack mounting brackets.

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WRX for 2018
With its 268-hp, 2.0-liter direct injection turbocharged BOXER engine, Symmetrical All Wheel Drive and Active Torque Vectoring, the rally-bred WRX is a performance and value benchmark in the high-performance AWD sport-compact segment. The WRX comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission and offers an optional performance automatic transmission, the Sport Lineartronic® CVT with manual mode.

The WRX features new front and rear suspension tuning for improved steering stability and ride comfort, while retaining the car’s high cornering performance capability. Subaru significantly enhanced shifter feel for the 6-speed manual transmission, with a new synchro design and reduced friction, along with smoother clutch take-up. The WRX electric power steering (EPS) was revised to provide an even smoother, more natural feel, while integrating the steering motor and electronic control unit reduces weight.

A new optional Performance Package for the WRX Premium features Recaro 8-way power seats, red-painted brake calipers and upgraded JURID brake pads, and deletes the moonroof to reduce weight. The standard 18-inch wheels feature a bold new double-spoke design.

2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Exterior
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WRX STI for 2018
A comprehensive handling enhancement for the 2018 STI includes the revised suspension tuning as featured on the WRX, plus a revised DCCD AWD system, significantly upgraded brakes and this model’s first-ever 19-inch wheels. The DCCD system, which previously used a combination of mechanical and electronic center limited slip differential control, now uses electronic control for quicker and smoother response. The 19-inch alloy wheels feature a striking Y-shaped spoke design and carry 245/35R19 tires that help raise cornering performance while giving the STI an even more aggressive stance.

The yellow-painted brake calipers identify a significantly upgraded Brembo Performance Brake System that now uses stronger monoblock 6-piston calipers in front, monoblock 2-piston calipers in the rear and larger, drilled rotors all around for better heat dissipation. New brake pads provide significantly greater surface area for improved braking feel and fade resistance. The STI also offers the Recaro seats (standard on STI Limited, optional for base trim).

Powered by a 305-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged BOXER engine, the WRX STI brings rally-bred performance technology to the road with Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Standard handling technologies include Active Torque Vectoring and Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control.

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Large touchscreen in the dash
*Interior from 2018 Subaru WRX

Improved Usability with a Sporting Edge
The everyday usability that has contributed to WRX and STI popularity gets even better for 2018. All models feature upgraded interior materials, rear seat armrest with cup holders, redesigned interior door grips and faster remote trunk opening.

New measures that reduce unwanted noise include thicker door glass, revised door sealing and a foam-filled windshield header beam. A new, larger high-definition multi-function display (5.9-inch vs. 4.3-inch before) makes it easier to see vehicle functions at a glance. WRX Limited models feature power driver’s seat lumbar adjustment. The standard WRX adds heated exterior mirrors (already standard on others), while the WRX Premium upgrades to a SUBARU STARLINK™ 7.0” multimedia unit from the previous STARLINK 6.2” unit.

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Safety
Subaru revised the front structure of the WRX and WRX STI for enhanced frontal collision performance. The WRX Limited, when equipped with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology now features Vehicle Hold (AVH), and a new EyeSight Assist Monitor (EAM). The EAM uses LED indicators to display EyeSight status and alerts on the windshield, allowing the driver to see them without diverting eyes from the road ahead. The AVH feature replaces the Hill Holder and Hill Start Assist functions and offers greater functionality, holding the vehicle on all road grades, not only inclines. For example, AVH can help reduce driver fatigue by holding the car at traffic lights, and then can seamlessly transition to acceleration.

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