I recently had the chance to drive the Subaru WRX STI Type RA, which is an ultra-limited production version of the Subaru WRX STI with a $50,000 price tag. Yes, you read that correctly: there’s now an STI you can buy for fifty grand. A Subaru! With a 4-cylinder! For fifty grand!
Naturally, it’s the best STI ever — though only by a little bit. You see, the regular STI starts at $37,000, which is already a big number, and then this one is considerably more expensive by adding a freer-flowing exhaust, a high-flow intake (those two combine for an extra five horsepower), improved suspension, a short-throw shifter, a new front splitter and rear bumper for more downforce, strengthened pistons and a few cosmetic items. That doesn’t seem to justify a $13,000 increase.
Then again, it isn’t quite so bad. The standard STI starts at $37,000, sure, but if you add in destination, an option package and a couple accessories, you’re at $41,000 before you know it. Suddenly, the Type RA is only $9,000 more expensive — and it comes with two major benefits. One is the stuff I just described above, but there’s another factor at work here: This car is ultra-limited production, in the same vein as the Shelby GT350 or the Porsche 911 GT3 — cars that have been highly desired in recent years, as collectors obsess over the rarest versions of modern production cars. That, alone, adds some value to the Subaru.
But even if you’re still having trouble justifying fifty grand, I figured it’d be interesting to see exactly what you get from the ultimate factory STI. So I flew to California, and I spent the day with a Type RA that I borrowed from a viewer. Here’s what I realized: It’s excellent in many, many ways.
The driving experience is, of course, the biggest: The Type RA is tremendously exciting to drive, boasting amazing balance through corners and wonderful steering feel. It’s amazingly stable, which is surprising to me, considering it’s based on a relatively inexpensive Japanese economy car, and the steering and handling is really a treat. It feels like the last stop before a sports car; the closest thing to a Honda S2000 on the "sporty sedan vs. sports car" Venn diagram without actually having two doors. I also like the fairly minimalist driving feel, with the manual transmission’s easy clutch and very workable shift lever making it easy to rev match, even for an amateur who hadn’t spent much time in the car.
I also appreciated the Type RA’s acceleration, which is brisk. The STI is impressively fast, boasting strong power and great acceleration at all levels, whether it’s from a stop or the middle of the rev range. There’s some turbo lag, but the car feels fast, even at a half throttle. When you’re truly flooring it, it feels every bit as fast as Subaru’s claim of 5.6 seconds from zero to 60 — and possibly even a little faster, as there’s especially explosive power at the high end of the rev range that really smashes you back in your seat.
In all, the STI Type RA feels like a great all-around package; a vehicle that’s been honed, obsessively, over the years, and refined considerably — not unlike the Porsche 911 GT3, which never seems to increase that much in horsepower, but always manages to get considerably faster. The STI also seems to get a little faster, a little tighter, a little sweeter and a little more exciting with each passing update, and this is the sweetest yet.
But fifty grand? Admittedly, it’s a hard number to justify, especially with only five extra horsepower — and there are already some deals to be had on used (and new) Type RA models, which were initially hyped and offered with markups. That’s no surprise, as it’s still mostly "just" an STI. But as I found out when I was behind the wheel, "just" an STI doesn’t tell the whole story — and whether you pay fifty grand for a Type RA or forty grand for a regular STI, it’s good to be behind the wheel of the latest and greatest high-performance Subaru.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.