Subaru Impreza WRX STi | Buyers Guide

Photography Credit: Courtesy Subaru

One of the most beloved rally efforts in modern times? Subaru’s, with the brand sweeping the FIA’s world constructor titles from 1995 through 1997. Only the Lancia Delta has more WRC wins than the Subaru Impreza. 

The collector world has started to take notice of these rally-ready Imprezas, with cars recently passing through traditional outlets like Fantasy Junction, LBI Limited, Mecum, Barrett-Jackson and wirewheel.com. 

Last year, Bring a Trailer fetched more than $300,000 for a 1998 Impreza 22B STi, one of the 424 cars built to commemorate those three WRC titles. Each car featured the blue paint, gold wheels and flared fenders long associated with the brand’s rally entries. 

This past June, Prodrive, Subaru’s longtime partner on its rally program, announced a modern take on the 22B with its P25. “Prodrive has reimagined what this car would have been today,” the release states, noting more power, less weight and better driving dynamics. Only 25 would be offered at 460,000 pounds each–about $565,000. A few days later, a second announcement: The run had sold out. 

[The P25, Prodrive’s homage to the Subaru 22B, debuts at Goodwood]

How can you sample Subaru’s rally legacy at a lower price point and in something intended for the American market? Look a little newer, specifically the 2002-’07 WRX and 2004-’07 WRX STi. While the standard WRX got the basics, including turbocharging and all-wheel drive, the STi delivered more. Its 300-horsepower flat-four pulled like a tractor, while locking the center differential could make the STi wag its tail like a rear-driver. A Momo steering wheel and six-speed gearbox came standard. 

The STi originally sold for a bit north of $30,000, but Hagerty says that top examples are now worth closer to $55,000. The trick, as many of these were used as intended, is finding a clean example.

Shopping Advice

Dan Hurwitz
Mach V Motorsports

The WRX came in three flavors: Bugeye (2002-’03), Blobeye (2004-’05) and Hawkeye (2006-’07). The STi was available from Blobeye on. Subaru fans panned the looks of the Bugeye at first, but now it’s beloved.

Either a 2.0-liter EJ20 (2002-’05) or a 2.5-liter EJ25 (2006-’07) powered the WRX. They differ by only 3 horsepower, but the EJ25 puts out a noticeable 20 lb.-ft. more torque.

Skip the four-speed auto-equipped WRX. The combination of turbo lag and slushbox transmission lag is unpleasant. The WRX five-speed is fine. The STi six-speed is super tough.

Non-turbo Subarus used to come with flimsy paper-based gaskets, so maybe that’s where people heard about head gasket problems. However, turbo Subarus have good, robust, multilayer stainless-steel head gaskets.

Pristine cars are rare. WRX cars were commodity cars and treated as such.

Many older parts are out of production or soon will be. Used parts are hard to get. Subaru parts don’t seem to make it to mainstream auto salvage yards, so you might have to seek out a Subaru specialty place.

Replacing damaged or missing parts can get expensive. The secondary air-injection system used on the 2.5-liter models often fails with age. A replacement set of parts costs around $2000.

Skip any car with visible chassis rust. Early WRX models came with stamped-steel front control arms that were prone to rust. There’s a recall about that.

Engines are relatively reliable, but the 2.5-liter pistons are somewhat fragile and can crack, especially if the car is modified and the horsepower is cranked up. Rod bearings can fail with abuse and/or if the car is run while low on oil.

The timing belt interval is 105 months or 105,000 miles. We had a customer whose timing belt went at 105,250 miles. If you don’t know when the timing belt was changed, change it.

These cars are compact and light, fun and practical. A customer with a WRX wagon told me, “It’s getting expensive to keep the car, but what current car would I replace it with?”

I see steady interest in the older WRX and STi models. They occupy a special place in the hearts of a lot of enthusiasts, and although the later versions improved in many ways, these early cars have a charm that’s hard to match.

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WebFootSTi
WebFootSTi New Reader
8/3/22 11:58 p.m.

I love my '04 STi and I picked it up with 9 miles on the odometere 05/31/03 and I've put 72,741 miles on it since.  While the body has sufferd a bit as a daily for a decade, or so it's still a kick in the pants to drive.

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