Updated April 2020: To fully appreciate the Subaru WRX STI, one must first know a little background on how the turbocharged AWD icon got started. The first generation Impreza launched in November 1992 as a predecessor to the four-door Legacy. It's no secret that thereafter the Impreza WRX roots became deeply embedded in World Rally Championship (WRC). From 1995 to 1997, Subaru won three Constructors' Championships with the Subaru World Rally Team and three Drivers' Championships in 1995, 2001, and 2003. Although Subaru withdrew from WRC competition in 2008 citing the economic downturn as its reason, one can't deny the impact rally racing left on the Subaru marque—most notably the successful development of the WRX STI.
The Subaru Tecnica International (STI) version of the Impreza WRX was first introduced to the JDM market in 1994 with performance upgrades to the engine, transmission, and suspension. The U.S. market received the STI in 2004; the famous blue with gold wheels car featured a six-speed manual transmission as opposed to the WRX's five-speed. Power increased to 250 hp, which made it an instant hit with tuners who saw the potential of a rally car designed for the streets.
Due to the popularity of the WRX STI, we have compiled a list of the top 10 most popular features based entirely on website popularity over the past decade. These are the features you clicked on most. Below you will find a mix of a regular Joes and serial tuners who are united by common automotive interests: the need for AWD speed and corner killing.
But it's not always about tracking this car. A few of these STI owners use their car as a daily driver, so don't be surprised to find them hauling bags of groceries or shifting to school on any given day. That's the beauty of the car: It's a multi-purpose vehicle that's capable in any weather and also affordable when talking high-performance.
- Quincy Yuen's 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GR)
- Thai Quan's 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GR)
- Kendrick Gray's 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GD)
- Joshua Freeman's 2015 Subaru WRX STI (VA)
- Ricardo Gomez's 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GD)
- Kyle Carasi's 2007 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GD)
- Chris Neranjan's 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GD)
- Riley Gibson-Graf's 2015 Subaru WRX STI (VA)
- Tony Lee's 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GD)
- Cody Miles' 2007 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GD)
Article excerpt: "One of the main points in my build was to do it without any sponsors," says Quincy Yuen, the owner of this GR chassis STI. "Many builds these days are sponsored; they don't have to pay for parts, and they settle for second best. I wanted mine to be top notch, built without compromise, and for me to say that I did it without any sponsors."
Why we love it: Versatility, which is to say while Yuen built the Subie for the track, it is also a complete show car. The Speed Syndicate helped modify the rear quarter panels and installed the Varis kit while it was still white. Quincy continued to add more parts and took his circuit time more seriously, then he decided to go all-out with a built motor from IAG Performance.
Article excerpt: Owner Thai Quan tells us he has a "function over form" ethos, which we were a little skeptical of when we heard his GR was on air suspension. While several of us equate air with show and stance cars only, he is rocking a similar Air Lift 3H setup as the Scion FR-S that recorded the second fastest lap at our Show Car Shootout in 2018. Maybe it's time to rethink that notion... Though, Thai's STI hasn't seen the road course yet, he explains it's not driven lightly, even admitting to losing three front splitters while powering down the freeway.
Why we love it: Mixed in with the Varis and Blacktop Aero kit are one-of-a-kind mods from Quan's good friend John Flor, an aerospace engineer by trade who also runs a small shop called Outclassed Industries. It's those one-off, functional touches—like the front splitter, rear diffuser, and smattering of exposed carbon fiber—that help make this build one of the best.
Article excerpt: The unfortunate events on Turn 2 at Washington's Pacific Raceways set owner Kendrick Gray on the road to resurrection and ultimately the creation of this awe-inspiring GD chassis STI. The journey took the better part of a decade and transformed Kendrick from a wide-eyed enthusiast into a capable builder. "This all started when I lived in an apartment building with a one-car garage. It took seven years to build this car, a lot of trial and error, a lot of promises, and a lot of broken promises from people who were going to help along the way. It really forced me to tool-up and skill-up to make it happen, because at times I couldn't rely on anyone."
Why we love it: Gray's story is inspirational and the lengths he went to bring this STI back to life are remarkable. But we love the story about the car's airbox being confused for a top-mount intercooler. "I built it by hand on the kitchen table. It's welded, glued, press-brake formed... It's some of everything... made with billet, fine welding, CAD work on top of that, Kendrick remembers. "It's just kind of sums up the whole car-whatever it takes, whenever it needs it."
Article excerpt: In September 2015, Josh Freeman purchased a brand-new VA STI and began buying one high-end part after another. Josh then turned toward creating his own car club/streetwear brand to help embody what he felt was missing within the aftermarket community. Known as "Vaded Mob," Josh's crew grew exponentially, advanced by a mission statement that encouraged both positivity and acceptance.
Why we love it: Josh's STI is completely "Vaded Out," both in appearance and boosted brazenness. With a widebody kit by IDL Designs doing the talking and a rotated 6466 turbo setup doing the walking, the STI put down a panty-twisting 821 whp and 618 lb-ft on 38 psi of boost courtesy of an IAG Performance Stage 4 engine package.
Article excerpt: Ricky Gomez was only 10 years old when the original Fast & Furious hit the big screen, but he tells us that film was what ignited his passion for modified cars and made it a community he wanted to be a part of. He'd attended meets and become acquainted with other car guys for years, but it wasn't until 12 years later, at 22, when he finally picked up his first and only project car, this '04 Subaru STI, and he's never looked back.
Why we love it: This purebred show car pulls you in right away with an aggressive and meaty appearance, with exterior parts that include fender flares, Chargespeed skirts, and a custom-ordered Voltex rear wing. The front splitter and rear diffuser have been modified to be a bit wider than usual, and while paint is still factory Java black, Ricky had his body and paint shop add green flake to make it pop a bit more than usual.
Article excerpt: "It's all about execution when you're out there in a sea of oversaturated builds," says Kyle Carasi, this GD chassis' owner. "The Boxer EJ257 motor is something I've always wanted to build, especially since most of my friends own Evos. In the Bay Area, there aren't a lot of fully modded, JDM-spec STIs, and over the years it's grown on me!"
Why we love it: The bodywork is subtle yet hits hard, with a Voltex front bumper and fender modifications to widen the chassis and add angular muscle to the front end that stretches along the side skirts and out to a more rounded rear end. To fill the extra space, a set of deep-dish 18-inch Volk TE37 MK2s was added, and the STI is brought down low with BC coilovers and a Stanceparts cup kit.
Article excerpt: This GD's owner, Chris Neranjan, on track days: "Driving on track is by far the most fun I've ever had in this car and I wish I had started sooner. I honestly love everything about it. The pre-track prep work, the actual driving, the post-track check-up or repairs, it's all fun. You're literally responsible for your life through your prep work and driving. Getting point-bys from cars above your weight class is a great feeling. It's also fantastic to really test out the parts you're buying and actually feeling the difference they make. Also, one of the best feelings is driving home from the track in a car you built, covered in brake dust and tire streaks, after thrashing on it all day."
Why we love it: The best part about Neranjan's car is that it's continuing to progress based on his experience. He's evolved the car based on feedback from the track. He's determined to master the driving dynamics of the vehicle and improve his own skill level behind the wheel before taking things to the next level.
Article excerpt: These are strange times. When otherwise sensible people are lifting (rather than dumping) their sport compacts and other J brand coupes and sedans (not trucks or SUVs)-when our favorite entry at a recent car show was an off-road built (not VIP) Lexus LS-we know something is amiss. More and more of our followers are ditching the low life for a higher calling, literally, and it's really cool to see a new wrinkle to a scene that's been pretty reliably about cutting ride height, not raising it.
Why we love it: It's all about the (dirty) details: Primitive Racing skid-plates, Rallyarmor mud flaps, Subispeed Nurburgring Challenge grille with light pods, rally-spec Enkei RC-G4 wheels in 205/70R 15 Yokohama Geolandar AT tires, and additional ground clearance via a set of Primitive Racing King Springs 1-inch lift springs. Let's go bomb some fire roads!
Article excerpt: It wasn't until late 2004 that Tony Lee was finally able to purchase his own car, a brand-new '05 WRX STI, which, in his eyes, was an iconic step forward. "I played a lot of Gran Turismo," he explains. "The game's rally tracks are fun when you play with the STI. But the Team Orange GDB built by Nobushige Kumakubo is what really pushed me to start my Subi build."
Why we love it: Lee's build achieves next-level status with a set of one-off ADVAN wheels and aero pieces from M-Sports, LTMW massaging and molding the rear fenders to continue the factory body lines. As a way to pay homage to the notorious Team Orange GDB, Tony added carbon Chargespeed brake ducts, Varis side skirts, and one really trick part: a custom double-stacked HKS Kansai Service/Voltex rear diffuser.
Article excerpt: By 16, owner Cody Miles had purchased his first vehicle, a Tacoma truck, which he gradually modified pre-runner style to better enjoy the Agua Dulce landscape. His years racing bikes and messin' with cars had always been about the driving; modifying the Tacoma was his first foray into learning mechanics and how to make improvements where needed. He naturally made friends along the way, but they were mostly into cruising nearby canyon roads in modified 240SXs, Subarus, and Mustangs. The more Cody learned of these cars, the more he got into them himself. Racing bikes was put to the side and his fixation fully shifted into cars. "I've always loved the sound of the horizontally opposed four-cylinder," he tells. "I loved the STI's speed, and some of the upgraded turbo cars I'd heard were just nasty."
Why we love it: It's a time-attack car on airbags, which we still think is wild. And Miles has largely proven all of his critics wrong, to boot, which makes the story of this STI that much sweeter.