New-gen or old-gen? 2014 Subaru WRX STI versus 2015 Subaru WRX STI

Rally fans rejoice: There’s a new Subaru WRX STI on the way for 2015. Following the launch of the redesigned 2015 WRX at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, Subaru brought out its big brother for Detroit in January.

The STI is Subaru’s ultimate performance car, deploying more power and technology than the WRX. STI stands for Subaru Tecnica International, the company’s performance division, by the way.

The latest STI packs more technology in a sleeker body, but features the same powertrain as the outgoing model. Is it the same old recipe in a flashy new package, or do the 2015 model’s refinements make it a genuine leap forward? Read on to find out.

Exterior design

Both the 2015 and 2014 STI are upgraded versions of the WRX, itself a hot-rod version of the Subaru Impreza. Yet their compact-car origins are hidden by aggressive styling.

Both versions feature flared fenders, hood scoops, and large rear wing spoilers. However, the 2015 STI takes things a bit further with a one-piece aluminum “nose cone” that combines the grille and bumper cap, and sinister-looking “raptor” headlights.

Added to the base 2015 Impreza’s cleaner overall styling, these elements make the 2015 WRX a much more attractive car than its predecessor. The 2014’s styling looks pretty awkward in comparison.

The only drawback is the deletion of the hatchback body style available in 2014; the 2015 STI is only available as a sedan.

Interior design, comfort, amenities 

Both cars feature functional interiors with sporty seats, but the 2015 STI benefits from the newer Impreza’s one-inch longer wheelbase, and resulting larger cabin.

Other new equipment includes a flat-bottomed steering wheel, 3.5-inch LCD display wedged between the gauges, a 4.3-inch center-stack screen, and harman/kardon premium audio. The optional moonroof also opens one inch farther than on the previous model.

Both versions can be had with navigation and, in STI Limited trim, leather upholstery. However, the more spacious 2015 STI and its longer list of available options gets the nod here.

Powertrain

The 2015 WRX STI uses the same 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer-four as the 2014, which produces the same 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque.

Unlike the base WRX, which gets an optional continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission for 2015, the STI is offered exclusively with a six-speed manual, just like last year.

Since the powertrain hasn’t changed, this round is a draw.

Performance

The most significant mechanical changes to the 2015 STI relate to the chassis.

One of those changes is a new all-wheel drive that could have been designed by Montgomery Scott. It features four differentials – including both mechanical and electronic center diffs – and the torque-vectoring system introduced on the base 2015 WRX.

The Multi-Mode Driver-Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) actually has six driver-adjustable modes for different traction situations. 

In addition, the 2015 STI has the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) traction and stability control system and SI Drive, with multiple driving modes that change the car’s characters. Both features were also available on the 2014 STI.

This onslaught of technology should help the 2015 STI tackle any obstacle, and leave the 2014 STI in the dust.

Price

The 2015 Subaru WRX STI starts at $35,290, while the top STI Limited costs $39,290. Both prices include destination.

That means a base 2015 STI sedan costs exactly the same as a 2014; the price for a Limited model has increased by just $650.

Note that the first 1,000 STI models sold in the U.S. will be Launch Edition specials, with a slightly higher base price ($38,190) compared to the normal STI.

With nearly-identical pricing but more equipment, the 2015 STI is the superior value. Given Subaru’s reputation for reliability, though, it may be competing against used previous-generation models for buyers’ dollars.

Cool factor 

To decide which version of the Subaru WRX STI is cooler, it helps to consider the difference between the STI and the base WRX.

The STI has always been Subaru’s performance flagship, using clever technology to be the ultimate rally car for the street.

So the difference between the 2015 and 2014 STI models isn’t as dramatic as the difference between the high-tech 2015 WRX and its more elemental predecessor.

The 2014 STI was pretty slick, but the 2015 model is even slicker. With comparable mechanical bits wrapped in more pleasing styling, it’s definitely the cooler of the two.

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