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Which Sports Car Is The Best? 2021 Subaru WRX Vs WRX STI

Even though the 2021 Subaru WRX and WRX STI look very similar, there are significant differences. Which one should you buy?


The 2021 Subaru WRX and 2021 Subaru WRX STI are arriving at retailers now, but what are the differences, and which one should you buy? Here's a detailed explanation of each. You can determine which is the best sports car pick after you see the differences. 

For under $30,000, you can drive the rally-bred 2021 Subaru WRX, a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive sports car that's selling well before the next-generation model arrives. The higher-performance STI will cost you about $10,000 more. You get a bigger engine for the extra money, more power, a performance-tuned suspension, and numerous other upgrades. Check out the many differences below.

2021 Subaru WRX, 2021 Subaru WRX STI features, specs, pricing
photo credit: Planet Subaru

Both models just picked up awards. ALG says the 2021 Subaru WRX and WRX STI retain their value better than any vehicle in its class. That's good news if you are buying a 2021 WRX or STI. The two sports cars project to retain the highest percentage of their value after three years.

Engines and power:

Both use inter-cooled, four-cylinder, turbocharged Boxer engines with direct fuel injection and Subaru Dual Active Valve Control System.

WRX: FA20 2.0-liter 268 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft torque

WRX STI: EJ25 2.5-liter 310 horsepower, 290 lb.-ft of torque

2021 Subaru WRX, 2021 Subaru WRX STI features, specs, pricing

Fuel mileage:

WRX 6-speed manual: 20/27 city/highway 23 combined mpg. Sport Lineartronic transmission: 18/24 city/highway using premium unleaded fuel (required).

WRX STI: 16/22 city/highway mpg using premium 91 octane unleaded fuel (required).


WRX 6-speed manual transmission uses a wide ratio spread and incorporates carbon synchronizers on first and second gears. Subaru enhanced the shifter feel for the 6-speed gearbox, with a new synchro design and reduced friction, along with smoother clutch take-up. 

WRX Automatic: Sport Lineartronic CVT with stepped manual and automatic shift modes are controlled with steering wheel paddle shifters.

The WRX STI is equipped exclusively with a specially reinforced close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission to handle the extra horsepower and torque over the WRX. No automatic transmission is offered.

0-60 Time and top speed:

WRX: Manual: 5.2 seconds, Automatic: 5.7 seconds Top Speed: 155 mph

WRX STI: Manual: 4.8 seconds, Top Speed: 174 mph

Rear Spoiler:

WRX: Uses a smaller lip spoiler. (Rear wing not available).

2021 Subaru WRX, 2021 Subaru WRX STI features, specs, pricing
photo credit: Competition Subaru

WRX STI: Large Rear wing. Subaru says the rear wing on the STI adds three mph to top speed and increases stability at high speeds. (STI can be ordered with the lip spoiler).

Wheels and Brakes:

WRX: 18-inch alloy wheels, 4-wheel disc, ventilated front brakes. 

WRX STI: Features 19-inch wheels and upgraded Brembo Performance Brake System using new brake pads, stronger monoblock 6-piston calipers in front, monoblock 2-piston calipers in the rear, and larger, drilled rotors all around for better heat dissipation.

2021 Subaru WRX, 2021 Subaru WRX STI features, specs, pricing

Steering ratios:

WRX: 14.5:1 steering ratio and 2.8 turns lock-to-lock

WRX STI: 13.0:1 steering ratio provides a quick 2.5 turns lock-to-lock


WRX: Sport-tuned suspension. Rear: Double Wishbone lateral link with pillow-ball bushings. Front: Strut-type with aluminum lower L-arm with pillow-ball joints.
WRX STI: Performance-tuned suspension. Rear: Double Wishbone lateral link with pillow-ball bushings. Front: Inverted strut, aluminum L-arm with pillow-ball joints.

Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system:

WRX: CVT models use Active Torque Split AWD system: An electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch actively manages torque distribution in response to driving conditions, acceleration, deceleration, and cornering. Slippage at the front or rear wheels causes torque to transfer (up to 100 percent) to the opposite set of wheels.

WRX: 6-speed manual models use Continuous AWD system: A viscous-coupling locking bevel-gear center differential built into the transmission case distributes torque 50:50 front-to-rear. Slippage at the front or rear wheels causes torque to transfer (up to 100 percent) to the opposite set of wheels.

WRX STI: Uses a Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) AWD system: The higher-performance STI features a limited-slip, planetary gear-type center differential, augmented by an electronically controlled center limited-slip differential. 

This provides a performance-oriented 41:59 torque split allowing the mechanically limited-slip differential to have a quicker response and activates just before the electronic limited-slip differential. For performance driving, drivers can control their fore/aft torque to optimize the distribution of power.

Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control: (MVDC)

WRX: Not available

WRX STI: comes standard with MVDC for the driver to switch from Normal to Traction depending on conditions and when the driver wants more control and performance. It will allow the car to be driven closer to its limits.


Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) throttle management system allows the driver to choose from three selectable modes: "Intelligent," "Sport," and "Sport Sharp."

2021 Subaru WRX, 2021 Subaru WRX STI features, specs, pricing

WRX: Available only on CVT models

WRX STI: Standard, switch located in the center console with DCCD

What is the price of the 2021 WRX and STI?

The 2021 WRX comes in base 6-speed manual priced at $28,420, Premium 6MT ($30,970), Premium CVT ($32,870), Limited 6MT ($33,020), and Limited CVT ($34,920). Pricing includes destination and delivery ($925).

The 2021 WRX STI comes in base trim starting at $38,170, and WRX STI Limited with Wing or low profile trunk spoiler are priced from $42,870. Pricing includes destination and delivery ($925).

The 2021 Subaru WRX and WRX STI get few changes. The 2021 WRX Premium trim gets keyless access with push-button start as standard. The 2021 WRX STI remains unchanged.

Which sports car is the best? 

The WRX is the best performance value at under $30,000 if you don't need the extra horsepower and suspension upgrades of the STI. The WRX makes a better daily driver with the sport-tuned suspension. The WRX STI offers additional upgrades for hard-core performance enthusiasts who won't settle for anything other than the best. We think the STI's extra $10,000 is worth the cost. 

Now that you've seen the differences, you decide which performance model best fits your needs, wants, and wallet. You can build your own 2021 Subaru WRX or 2021 Subaru WRX STI here. If you are thinking of buying a used WRX or STI, check out the Torque News report below.

You Might Also Like: The Top 15 Cars To Buy New Over Used - Subaru WRX and STI Are Number One

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Mike Blanz (not verified)    May 19, 2021 - 10:04AM

I'm confused. The EJ25 engine in the STI has been port injected (sequential) vs. the FA series engine in the 2.0L WRX is direct injection. The mention above in the article is that the STI engine is Direct Injection. I cant believe that in the last year of a ~13 year production cycle of the EJ25 that they redesigned the head and piston and fuel system for direct injection as well as most of the rest of the short block to deal with the change in cylinder pressure.