Performance, safety and affordability are the hallmarks of the 2019 Subaru WRX and the WRX STI. Priced in the same range as most family sedans, the WRX line offers impressive performance, with horsepower, acceleration and handling abilities on par with pricey premium brands costing thousands more. The all-wheel-drive WRX still uses the previous generation’s platform, meaning it doesn’t yet benefit from the new global platform underpinning the Subaru Forester, the Crosstrek and the Impreza. However, unlike many performance coupes, the WRX’s sedan body permits it a roomy rear seat, a comfortable interior and a big trunk, making this plucky little Subaru a remarkably versatile sports car.
Those who do go with the WRX get an enormous amount of performance for their money, with a choice between the 268-horsepower WRX or the 310-hp WRX STI, which also features a more sophisticated AWD system, a stiffer suspension and a hydraulic versus an electric power steering setup. Best of all, unlike many high-powered performance cars, the WRX makes for an excellent year-round companion, because it’s as comfortable being a daily driver as it is being an animal on an enclosed track.
What’s New for 2019?
For 2019, the WRX adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to its standard equipment list, as well as EyeSight on models equipped with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). A new Series.Gray trim will be offered with a limited run of 1,000 vehicles. The WRX STI gets a new air intake and a high-performance exhaust system, helping boost horsepower from 305 to 310hp, and a revised third gear ratio for quicker acceleration. See the 2019 Subaru WRX models for sale near you
What We Like
Great bang for the buck; AWD traction; impressive fuel economy; choice of powerful turbocharged engines; comfortable sport seats; standard EyeSight driver assist on CVT models.
What We Don’t
A lot of road and wind noise inside the cabin; firm ride on STI; no hatchback model
The 2019 Subaru WRX uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy with the 6-speed manual is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, while the CVT earns 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. The more powerful WRX STI comes with a 310-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter engine and is offered only with a manual transmission. Environmental Protection Agency estimates for this model are 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The WRX and the WRX STI offer five different trim options: WRX, WRX Premium, WRX Limited, WRX STI and WRX STI Limited. The limited edition Series.Gray models are offered as an option on the Limited trim cars.
The base WRX ($28,080) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, 17-in alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, hill-start assist, steering-wheel controls for audio and Bluetooth, cruise control, aluminum alloy pedal covers, a STARLINK 6.5-in touchscreen, AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM radio with six speakers and USB/iPod integration, HD Radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth streaming audio, illuminated power window switches, electric-assist power steering, automatic climate control, power windows, heated power mirrors, power door locks, sport seats, a rear backup camera and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel.
The WRX Premium ($30,380 manual, $32,280 CVT automatic) adds the All-Weather package (heated seats, heated side mirrors and windshield de-icers), fog lights, 18-in wheels, illuminated vanity mirrors, a power sunroof, 7-in touchscreen audio, a low-profile trunk spoiler and the SI-DRIVE performance-management system with two manual shifting modes (6-speed and 8-speed) and steering-wheel paddle-shift control switches (automatic only). CVT equipped models also come with Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist and collision avoidance system standard.
The WRX Limited ($32,680 manual, $34,580 CVT automatic) adds a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, leather seating, LED low-beam steering responsive headlights and welcome lighting.
The WRX STI ($37,480) brings a more powerful 2.5-liter engine, hydraulic power steering, LED low-beam headlights, auto on/off headlights with wiper activation, 19-in alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, front and rear center limited-slip differentials, Subaru’s Driver Controlled Center Differential and fog lights, but no sunroof.
The WRX STI Limited ($42,280) includes Recaro seats with an 8-way power driver’s seat, automatic on/off headlights, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, a power sunroof, keyless entry with push-button starting, navigation and a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Buyers can choose between the traditional tall STI trunk-lid spoiler or a low-profile spoiler.
Options for the WRX Premium include the Performance Package that adds Recaro front seats, Jurid brake pads and a deleted moonroof. A blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert can be added to manual transmission-equipped models. The Limited trim offers the navigation and Harman Kardon upgrade, as well as keyless access and push-button starting, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. CVT equipped models gain more from the package including Reverse Automatic Braking and High Beam Assist. There are also numerous dealer-installed options, including a performance exhaust and a short-throw shifter kit.
The Series.Gray ($3,100) package varies in content depending on the model. On the WRX, the package adds to the Premium trim Cool Gray Khaki paint, 18-in black wheels, the contents of the Premium Performance package with a moonroof delete and the addition of LED steering responsive headlights, LED fog lights and push-button start. On the WRX STI, the Series.Gray package adds to the Limited 19-in black alloy wheels, silver finished Brembo brake calipers, Bilstein STI suspension and unique interior seats and stitching.
All WRX and WRX STI models come with front seat side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, electronic traction and stability control and incline-start assist, which keeps the vehicle from rolling backward when starting off on an incline of more than five degrees. The STI is equipped with 6-piston Brembo performance brakes for better stopping power. EyeSight collision avoidance comes standard on models equipped with an automatic transmission.
In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2019 Subaru WRX earned the highest score of Good in every test and a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test. It also earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick + designation.
Behind the Wheel
We can overlook the noise and hard plastic bits inside the WRX’s cockpit. We can even avert our eyes when it comes to the WRX’s frenetic styling. Why? Because the WRX is such a brilliant performer, offering the kind of performance that can shame cars that are twice, even three times its price. On the track, the 2.0-liter turbo proves to be a willing partner that’s always ready to serve up ample power. The torque-vectoring system helps avoid understeer when exiting corners, and the firmer suspension holds this car in the curves as if the tires were glued to the asphalt. While a manual transmission is usually preferable in a performance car, we might actually trade the WRX’s notchy 6-speed transmission for the latest CVT automatic. With SI-DRIVE, the system simulates manual gearshifts (six in normal mode, eight in Sport Sharp) via a set of steering wheel paddle shifters. It also nets the EyeSight collision mitigation system.
In the STI, the ability to choose torque distribution and differential settings, coupled with the 310-hp engine, creates a driving experience worthy of the fastest supercar. It’s no wonder the WRX has attracted many enthusiasts who lack the funds for an Audi S3 or a BMW M3, but won’t let that ruin their good time.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Volkswagen Golf R — Volkswagen’s AWD Golf R is a rival worthy of a test drive. The R has a much nicer interior, better navigation and audio systems and a more livable ride. On a track, however, the WRX STI is still the more desirable car.
Unless you’re a diehard track enthusiast, we’d say the WRX is the preferable choice over the STI. It has plenty of power and offers the option of an automatic transmission and the EyeSight driver-assist feature. Overall, it’s a realistic daily driver that costs less. Find a Subaru WRX for sale