2023 Subaru WRX by Prodrive Review: Subaru Won’t Build an STI? No Problem


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Jul 07, 2023

2023 Subaru WRX by Prodrive Review: Subaru Won’t Build an STI? No Problem

Why do you tease us like this, Subaru? DrivesWGirls DrivesWGirls Being teased is never any fun, yet that’s exactly what happened when I was given the keys to the 2023 Subaru WRX by Prodrive. This

Why do you tease us like this, Subaru?



Being teased is never any fun, yet that’s exactly what happened when I was given the keys to the 2023 Subaru WRX by Prodrive. This modified Subie isn’t a huge departure from the stock WRX. However, it’s also not a huge departure from the previous-gen STI. Could this be as close as we can get to a new-gen Subaru WRX STI? The answer isn’t as straightforward as I’d like it to be.

Just two hours after landing at London’s Heathrow Airport, I arrived at Millbrook Proving Grounds. My job was to drive this new, sweet-looking WRX and its VIP sibling, the $600,000 Prodrive P25, on the track. The goal? To experience how Prodrive, a motorsport and engineering company responsible for some of the winningest race cars on earth, could improve the new and more mature WRX with a few mods.

It’s important to note that neither Subaru nor Prodrive ever floated the term “STI,” but it’s hard not to think of it when you talk about a ‘roided up WRX. Furthermore, they never revealed any intent to actually sell this car to the public at all. So where did this leave me? Well, it left me with a hopped-up Subie, a race track, and a bunch of questions. So I got to drivin’.

Nothing super heavy but also a bit more elaborate than a bolt-on cold-air intake. Let’s start with the biggest and most noticeable one: that rear wing. Boy, it looks good, don’t it? Quite similar to the one on the mega-dollar P25, the wing makes the WRX look like it means business. It’s impossible not to think this is how a new STI could look.

While the front end was left alone, the car’s profile got plenty of love from Prodrive. Custom fender flares widen the car by 30 mm and are painted to match, giving the car more visual oomph. Of course, there’s also a sweet set of gunmetal gray Prodrive wheels also borrowed from the P25. These are wrapped in 255/35 R19 Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires which provide exceptional grip without sacrificing ride comfort or multi-season performance. Peeking out from behind those Prodrive wheels is another considerable upgrade to the WRX: AP Racing brakes. The front gets six-piston calipers clamping down on 380-mm rotors while the rear gets four-piston units with 343-mm rotors. All four corners get sport pads for better braking performance.

Stiffer anti-roll bars in the front and rear as well as upgraded suspension bushings help keep the car balanced during cornering, while Prodrive-tuned Bilstein dampers and lowered springs improve the car’s dynamics while giving it a much sportier look.

Under the hood, a revised ECU offers a considerable bump of 30 horsepower and 33 lb-ft of torque over the stock car’s 271 hp and 258 lb-ft, bringing it to a grand total of 301 ponies and 291 lb-ft of torque. Nothing too wild here but just enough to make things interesting.

Everything inside the cabin remains the same, with the exception of the front seats. The driver and passenger stock units are replaced with sweet-looking (and very comfortable) Sparco SPX buckets. These offer enhanced bolstering for better body support during cornering, but they never felt intrusive even for a big guy like me.

Ardent readers of The Drive will know that the stock WRX is already pretty fun to drive. More refined and mature than previous generations but still a hooligan of a motor vehicle at its core.

In that context, Prodrive’s version is exponentially more rowdy. Step hard on the throttle and you’ll be rewarded with brisk acceleration that’s bound to put a smile on your face. Nothing like the P25, of course, which is constantly trying to assassinate you. The WRX doesn’t try to kill you. Instead, it’ll give you a high five and say, “Come on, let’s do it again!”

To that, I couldn’t help but oblige, and lap after lap, the WRX gave me more reasons to smile. I was impressed with how sharp it cornered, likely the result of the suspension upgrades. It’s beautifully damped and provides enough cushion to mute all of the track’s imperfections without masking the car’s cornering prowess. Putting the brakes to the test ahead of Millbrook’s first corner, they performed well when summoned.

The anti-roll bars made the biggest impact in the back section of the track. A series of esses with elevation changes demanded a lot out of the car and driver in order to be taken at speed. It was a lot of fun to throw the car around from side to side knowing the tires were right on the edge of their grip capabilities.

I couldn’t help but compare it to the Honda Civic Type R and wonder how awful that car’s noticeably harsher suspension would’ve felt around Millbrook’s bumpy surface because the Subaru never lost its composure. It’s that rally pedigree, I suppose. The Sparco seats too, were much more comfortable than the Honda’s.

Nimble, forgiving, and an absolute joy to drive—that’s how I’d sum up my time in the Prodrive WRX. It’s a bit of a point-and-shoot kind of car. Just aim at the corner, choose your line, and hit the throttle. Unless you get things horribly wrong, the car will somehow see things through and make you smile from ear to ear.

For now, the WRX by Prodrive remains an engineering exercise. Neither Prodrive nor Subaru has any plans to offer this setup as a factory package. However, there was discussion of offering the mods as a kit or as standalone parts in the future. No promises, though.

Hopping out of the immensely fun Subaru WRX by Prodrive left me longing for a new WRX STI in a way that I didn’t before. I’m picturing it now: a true, boxer-engined, all-wheel-drive Subaru monster to rival the current batch of sport compact heroes. Sharp, rowdy, and composed, if the WRX by Prodrive is a showcase of what to expect from a future factory pink-badged WRX, the future of the sport compact is mighty bright.

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