If you're looking solely at the $48,995 sticker (+$860 destination fee), and think that's way too much for a Subaru, then you haven't dug deep enough into the new WRX STI Type RA. Since the '15 model year, Subaru has continued to refine its flagship WRX like a fine bottle of sake. Things like suspension tuning, stronger wheels and interior updates are some of the obvious changes made over the years. The '18 model adds a fresh front-end, Recaro seats, and 19" wheels. The Type RA is a limited-edition model which takes it a step further, developed in conjunction with Subaru's STI division in Japan. And before you jump to any conclusions, we'll drop some knowledge on why the Type RA is more than just a fancy name and a big wing.
1. Feeling Some Type of Way
So you don't know everything about Subaru and haven't always dreamed of owning a 22B Impreza. It's all good. Type RA Subarus have only been offered in Japan; never in our neck of the woods. RA stands for 'Record Attempt', a designation given to special models. The first Type RA was inspired by a '89 Legacy that broke the FIA World Endurance Record by clocking in over 62,000 miles in 18 days, and setting a top speed of 138mph. 100 Type RA Legacys were made available in Japan. As far as Type RA WRXs are concerned, this '18 model would be the 10th edition; however, the first to be offered in the U.S. and Canada.
2. Nürburgring Roots
Remember last summer; Subaru went viral with a video from the famed 12.8-mile Nürburgring Nördschleife. Trusted tuner Prodrive had created a monster called the WRX STI Type RA NBR Special, which set a new lap record for four-door sedans with a time of 6:57.5. This Type RA STI is named after that record-breaking racecar.
3. Not Just a Big Wing...
But the new carbon-fiber adjustable rear wing looks much better than the version offered in the standard STI. According to Subaru, the new wing, along with a new front spoiler, have been tested to reduce front lift and increase vehicle stability.
4. Raise the Roof
Besides the new rear spoiler, the other thing that popped out to us is the STI's sweet carbon-fiber roof. Something you'd typically only see on $65K performance cars or higher, the Type RA's roof is made of autoclave dry carbon and brings weight down 8lbs, while also increasing torsional resistance.
5. Special Diet
The Type RA wheels are upgraded to 19" gold BBS. If you account for the wheels, roof, Recaro seats and removed spare tire (which is standard on the Type RA), it accounts for a 68 lbs weight reduction from the standard STI.
It won't get you overly stoked with an increase to 310hp from 305hp, but once we actually got behind the wheel, we struggled to find the need for more power. The middle of the powerband offers noticeably more torque and compared to the standard STI. Subaru does this by changing things like larger diameter pistons, updated valves, and a less restrictive exhaust and intake. There's also a revised third gear to help with acceleration and keeps you in that sweet spot.
7. Overall Handling is Up
Never equipped on the STI before, the Type RA receives specially-tuned Bilstein dampers all around. Modified stability controls, new brake pads and standard six-piston front and dual-piston rear Brembos help with the stopping power. The Yokohama tires aren't the most aggressive Subaru could've outfitted the Type RA with, but this car is meant to handle all types of road conditions, not just the track. And to prove the overall package has been improved on paper, Subaru test driver David Higgins tested the standard '18 against the Type RA at VIR's 4.1-mile road course. The Type RA threw down a 3:03.23 while the standard STI put down a 3:08.6 lap. To the everyday driver, we probably won't see as drastic as an improvement in our own lap times, but to a pro like Higgins, all the little details with the RA makes for proven seconds shaved.
8. Creature comforts weren't forgotten.
We've always known Subaru to have a lackluster interior over the years but the new Type RA feels like a premium performance car. It comes with Recaros, dual-zone climate control, 7" LCD screen, Bluetooth, dual USB ports, ultrasuede steering wheel, the list goes on and on. It's finally modern and sleek and we promise your girlfriend won't hate it as much.
9. Limited Edition.
Not everyone is going to fork out the money for the Type RA. We know that... Many just want the performance and don't need the little extras, because the STI already comes out the box like a beast. But if you have an appreciation for its JDM heritage and understanding of its additional engineering, then the fact that only 500 of these will be sold in the U.S. is appealing (Canada gets 75), and knowing you'll have a piece of Subaru history is priceless.
10. Because Subaru cares.
Since the Evo was dropped by Mitsubishi, Subaru has used vehicles like the Golf R and Focus RS as benchmarks, even evaluating its handling against the 911. The STI is a rally-bred performance car, that's been brought to the streets and drives amazing off the showroom floor. This new RA, you almost don't need to modify it, and it still has the mean Boxer growl. There hasn't been a Japanese manufacturer that's stay true to its motorsport roots like Subaru. Of course, you can argue today we have the Civic Type R knocking at our door, and the Toyota Supra is just around the corner as well, but for the all-wheel drive, turbocharged performance you get out of the STI, it's hard not to love it as an enthusiast. The Type RA, while it might appear a bit on the tame side to many when you compare it to what's been offered over the last decade, it's an awakening for Subie fans. We're talking about the first time Subaru North America and STI of Japan are cooperating together in an effort to push street performance further. Only good things will come in the near future, and you can be sure they won't let you down as so many other Japanese manufacturers have done so over the years.