If you want one, move quick – there’s only 500 being built.

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Subaru has been throwing Type RA badges on cars since 1989 when a special Subaru Legacy clocked 62,000 miles in just 18 days while hitting a 138 mph top speed, ultimately breaking the FIA Word Speed Endurance Record. Over the years, there have been a number of Type RA vehicles, all of which are usually lighter, and tuned to deliver better performance than their base-model counterparts. Typical modifications included a revised gearbox, manual winders, air conditioning delete, reduced soundproofing, and ABS delete to go along with various chassis and suspension enhancements as well. Fast forward to today, and we’re looking at the latest WRX STI Type RA – a model that promises to be quicker and more nimble on the track, or just a blast to drive altogether. All told, only 500 units of this Type RA will be sold, all of which feature weight reduction, engine upgrades, and suspension enhancements.

If you’re a little skeptical, we can’t blame you. The special edition market has been rather disappointing lately, with most SE models featuring some random paint and fresh wheels with little else to write home about. But, this isn’t the case here. In fact, we’re talking about all kinds of upgrades that include things like a carbon fiber roof, high-performance intake and exhaust, heavily modified suspension, and Subaru even went so far as to install stronger pistons inside the engine block. Now that’s how you put together a special edition. But, that isn’t all there is to talk about, so take a minute to learn all about it in my detailed review below.


2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Exterior
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It wasn’t a lot for a refresh, but we’re talking about the WRX STI here – Subaru had it right the first time, so it really didn’t need much refreshing, so to speak.

Subaru just refreshed the WRX and WRX STI for the 2018 model year, bring about a lightly revised exterior with a new grille, new vent mesh, a larger air dam, and a more detailed rear diffuser. It wasn’t a lot for a refresh, but we’re talking about the WRX STI here – Subaru had it right the first time, so it really didn’t need much refreshing, so to speak. With that sad, it wasn’t necessary to modify the exterior of the WRX STI that much to develop the new, and very limited, Type RA. So, if you’re expecting massive body kit, excessively wide fenders, or anything that screams Fast and Furious, you’re going to be disappointed. But, what you do get is an STI front spoiler to help with stability at high speeds to go with a carbon fiber roof panel, which should ultimately shave a few pounds off the WRX STI’s overall weight. There’s a new rear fascia for good measure, which gets the same Cherry Blossom Red accenting as that for the radiator grille up front. In addition, the side view mirrors, shark fin antenna, and STI fender badges come in a black finish. Finally, there’s a WRX STI Type RA badge on the rear deck lid.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Exterior
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Again, it’s not a whole lot, but you don’t mess around with perfection. Besides, there’s a lot more going on elsewhere, so let’s talk a little about the interior.


2015 - 2016 Subaru WRX STI High Resolution Interior
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The interior of the standard WRX STI is already something of beauty and, if you didn’t know better, Subaru would have you believe that there are some modifications here.

Like the exterior, the interior of the standard WRX STI is already something of beauty and, if you didn’t know better, Subaru would have you believe that there are some modifications here. But, as is the case with the exterior, not a lot was needed to really push things over the edge as far as styling goes. The standard model comes with sports seats as standard equipment while the Recaro seats are optional. The Type RA, however, gets the Recaro seats as standard equipment. They feature red bolsters and stitching to go with an STI logo on the head rests. The red stitching complements the red stitching that resides throughout the cabin as standard equipment and helps to accent the red seatbelts. It’s a nice touch, really.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Interior
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Note: Subaru WRX STI Type RA NBR pictured here

The flat-bottom steering wheel carries over from the standard model, but in the Type RA, it has been wrapped in Ultrasuede for better grip and the center spoke gets a gloss black finish that helps the red STI letting really pop out at you. Outside of this, the only other thing that sets this Type RA apart from the standard model inside is an individually numbered plaque that resides on the center console. With only 500 being built and sold to the public, this will surely serve as a nice conversation piece for anyone who happens to embark this special WRX STI. And, since it is based on the 2018 model, it gets the new gauge cluster with white numbers and red dials, and the little driver information screen between the tach and speedo. The other noteworthy thing here is the updated infotainment system, which is now nearly six inches in size and high-definition. It’s a huge improvement over the old 4.3-inch unit found in pre-2018 models.

But, it’s not the special plaque, the infotainment system, or even the Ultrasuede wrap on the steering wheel that makes the WRX STI Type RA special. No; it’s what’s going on below the skin that really makes this car stand apart, so let’s move on to talk about the things that really matter.

Drivetrain, Suspension, and Chassis

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Drivetrain
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As I mentioned before, the Type RA sees improved performance, weight reduction, and an updated suspension system all as standard equipment. As part of the weight reduction process, this baby does have that carbon fiber roof panel, so that certainly helps to shed a few pounds. The spare tire has also been removed, while the pedestal wing is made from carbon fiber and hose BBS 19-inch alloy wheels provide some extra weight savings over the standard STI as well. The 2018 model got new soundproofing materials to cut back on road noise, but it’s been a common practice for Type RAs of the past to lose a good portion of their sound proofing, so it’s quite possible that this model did as well. Older Type RAs were also switched over to manual windows while giving up the air conditioning and anti-lock brakes as well. There’s no word as to whether or not Subaru did these things with this Type RA, but anything’s possible so keep that in mind going forward.

2015 - 2016 Subaru WRX STI Drivetrain
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Under the hood sits a familiar 2.5-liter, turbocharged, boxer engine that has been found in the WRX STI for more than a decade.

Under the hood sits a familiar 2.5-liter, turbocharged, boxer engine that has been found in the WRX STI for more than a decade. In its standard form for this generation, it produces 305 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 290 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm. It features all-aluminum construction, double overhead cams, port fuel injection, and an intercooler fed by that massive hood scoop.

When it comes to the Type RA, however, Subaru brought the business in the way only Subaru can, providing the all-aluminum mill with stronger pistons, a new cold-air-intake system, and a high-flow performance exhaust. Thanks to the retuned ECU, the 2.5-liter in the Type RA delivers upward of 310 horsepower. I know; it’s not a serious upgrade as far as power goes, but paired with weight reduction (official figures still withstanding) and a revised third gear ratio, this baby should accelerate a bit quicker than the standard model. That six-speed manual transmission also gets a short-throw shifter, by the way.

But, it’s not all about power and acceleration for the Type RA. It needs to be able to handle like a dream as well. It’s no secret that the WRX handles amazingly and has been the definition of a true rally car for a long time, but it gets a little better with the Type RA. To help with handling, the front struts have been inverted while Bilstein dampers suck up road drama on all four corners. Braking duties are handled by a six-piston Brembo system up front and dual-piston system in the rear. The rotors are cross-drilled for better heat dispersion while the calipers get an exclusive silver finish. The car rides on 245/35-series, 19-inch, Yokohama Advan Sports rubbers.


2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA Exterior
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Pricing for the WRX STI Type RA has yet to be announced, but it will be produced in just 500 examples and will go on sale in early 2018. Considering the fact that it comes standard with Recaro seats and push-button start, it’s safe so assume that the Type RA is based on the WRX STI Limited, which starts out at $40,985 before options, taxes, and delivery charges. As such, the Type RA will likely start somewhere in the neighborhood of $45,500, if not a bit more. Official pricing information will be announced closer to its official launch date, so stay tuned for updated information.


Ford Focus RS

2016 Ford Focus RS – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Ford Focus RS – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Subaru WRX STI already stands in a segment pretty much all its own, and in the past, we’ve compared it to the Focus RS. When it comes to the Type RA, it’s the same story, and the Focus RS is the only real competitor that it can stack up against other than maybe the Volkswagen Golf R. The RS comes standard with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost that delivers a nut-punching 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Coming in at nearly, 3,500 pounds, the hot hatch can still manage to tackle the 60-mph sprint in 4.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of 165 mph. Like the STI Type RA, it gets a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive. It’s obviously a little faster and quicker, but it’s also cheaper, too, starting out at $36,120. Of course, the RS isn’t offered in any limited-edition packages like the STI Type RA at the time of this writing, so it’s not a solid competitor, but if you’re more about power and speed, the Focus RS might be a better option for you.

Read our driven and review on the Ford Focus RS here.


2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Exterior
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Originally rumored to be a downright track monster with a roll cage, and some serious performance upgrades, it is a little disappointing to see such a mild power output increase. However, the package as a whole it’s pretty good, especially if you take into account that it was built specifically for WRX STI fanboys. It’s not going to dominate the Focus RS, the Golf R, or any other prominent hatchback out there, but that’s not exactly what it was designed for, either. It’s still a tuners dream car, and in this particular case, a potential collectible. The savings in weight and the few extra ponies should help make it quicker than the base STI, while those stronger pistons should make the engine that much more reliable under heavy boost. But, the price is what’s really going to make it a killer, as it will likely fall closer to $50,000 than $40,000. That’s a hard pill to swallow, even if you’re a fanboy. A special version of this model, which will wear an “NBR Special” badge will be used later this summer in an attempt to conquer a Nürburgring speed record. So, what do you think of the new WRX STI Type RA? Let us know in the comments section below.

  • Leave it
    • Very little headway in the power department
Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topspeed.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read full bio
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Press release

Subaru of America, Inc. has announced two new performance models: the 2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA and 2018 Subaru BRZ tS. Both are performance focused derivatives engineered by Subaru Tecnica International, Inc. specifically for driving enthusiasts. Each vehicle is limited to 500 units and vehicles will arrive at Subaru retailers in early 2018.

The RA designation stands for “Record Attempt” and has been applied to various Subaru performance models. The original venture took place in 1989 when a competition version Subaru Legacy broke the FIA World Speed Endurance Record by clocking over 62,000 miles in 18 days and set a top speed record of 138 mph. Furthering this spirit of endeavor, a special race model WRX STI Type RA NBR Special will attempt a Nürburgring speed record this summer.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Exterior
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In keeping with this tradition, the 2018 WRX STI Type RA delivers increased performance through weight reduction, suspension and engine upgrades. The new, numbered limited edition model comes standard with a carbon fiber roof panel, the removal of the spare tire, a carbon fiber pedestal wing and lightweight BBS® 19-in. forged alloy wheels shod with 245/35R19 Yokohama Advan Sports tires.

Powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged BOXER engine, the limited edition WRX STI Type RA increases horsepower to an estimated 310hp with the help of an STI-specified new cold air intake and high flow performance exhaust. A retuned ECU and stronger pistons also contribute to the increased engine performance. The six-speed transmission features a revised 3rd gear ratio paired with a short throw shifter. The weight reduction, additional horsepower and revised gearing all contribute to faster acceleration.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Exterior
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Handling has been upgraded with inverted front struts and rear double wishbone suspension all with Bilstein® dampers. A modified multi-mode VDC gives the car better stability control to keep it on its intended path. The Brembo® brake system, with monoblock 6-piston front calipers and dual-piston rear calipers, features an exclusive silver finish and is paired with cross-drilled rotors for better heat dissipation.

The WRX STI Type RA is immediately identified by an exclusive Cherry Blossom Red accent around both the front mesh grille and new rear bumper cover. An STI front underspoiler has also been added for better stability at high speeds. The exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, a roof-mounted shark fin antenna and STI fender badges now come in a black finish. The rear deck lid displays the WRX STI Type RA badge.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA High Resolution Exterior
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In addition to the eye-catching exterior, the WRX STI Type RA cabin features Recaro® performance design front seats with red bolsters and stitching as well as an embossed STI logo on the head restraints. The signature red stitching and accent trim is visible throughout the cabin. The steering wheel is wrapped in Ultrasuede® for better grip and has a black gloss-finish center spoke insert with STI logo. Push-button start with Keyless Access is also standard equipment. Each of the 500 WRX STI Type RA produced for retail sale has been individually numbered with a plaque mounted on the center console.

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