What a former Subaru WRC driver wants from the new WRX STI

A new Subaru WRX is big news for the world's car enthusiasts. It's also big news for rally fans. Here's what our resident rally expert wants to see.

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Chris Atkinson
Chris Atkinson
Performance Editor
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At its core, the Subaru WRX and WRX STI are rally cars for the road. With that in mind, we threw to our resident Subaru rally driver, Chris Atkinson, to see what he wants from the imminent next-generation car.

With the next-generation WRX, I hope Subaru takes some risks and puts it back on a pedestal as a standout performer, punching well above its weight.

Its challenge is how to keep or even regain the rawness and driver engagement of early generations, but bring its drivetrain and driver technology into the modern era.

UPDATE: The WRX has been revealed! Check it out here.

When you look at the CarExpert lap leaderboard, it needs to be up with cars like the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and Audi RS3, not behind the Kia Stinger GT and Audi S3 – especially when the new WRX STI version launches. 

Yes, these cars are much more expensive, but that was the thing about the first GC8 WRX. It offered amazing performance at a fraction of the cost of other competitors. 

The crazy part is that the WRX has barely moved forward in over 20 years!

The 1999 WRX STI has a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.9sec, and the current version has a claimed time of 5.2 seconds, which I found almost impossible to replicate during our latest test.

Power-to-weight has also gone in the wrong direction. Although it’s still a quick car, it by no means stands out from the crowd – and the crowd is getting bigger.

With that in mind, here’s my wish list for the new WRX and its STI big brother.

Engine

We need a big change here. For me, the new WRX STI needs to at least step up to the Mercedes-AMG A45 S in power and performance numbers.

That’s especially relevant on the torque side of things. In rally cars we chase low-down drivability and surge of power.

Let’s say for the STI we want 300kW and 500Nm (or more), ideally without increasing capacity and weight compared to the current model.

For decades rally cars have had anti-lag systems, which give instant response to turbocharged engines. As one of the original rally-derived road cars, I’m amazed Subaru hasn’t come up with something similar to anti-lag.

Currently Audi uses a mild-hybrid system to achieve something similar in the Audi S7 we tested. The proper anti-lag we use in racing wouldn’t be great for turbo longevity, but something conceptually similar using modern technology would be very cool.

Differentials

To be honest, not much has to change here.

I think a more controllable and reactive centre differential would be great, but the front and rear limited-slip differentials (LSD) are still really effective.

I don’t want to see an attempt at an electronic differential that doesn’t end up allowing full locking. Three proper active differentials that work correctly would be amazing, but maybe not cost-effective. 

Transmission

It may be a surprise for many, but manual transmissions aren’t everything to me.

I’ve raced with paddle shifts since 2005. If not paddles, it’s been sequential manuals that are almost as effective.

All I would say is that if it does go away from a manual, then Subaru needs a very good dual-clutch transmission or similar.

Chassis

Subaru needs to take some risks in terms of chassis balance, it’s far too cautious and understeer-biased at the moment.

It could take a little from the BMW book in terms of making the car oversteer and controlling it with electronics if needed. Ideally though, the new WRX will have a nice neutral balance with good front grip and rotation.

Subaru also needs to focus on weight. This is a critical part of racing, and for a car that has such a heritage in motorsport it’s a big part of the performance story. You don’t buy a WRX for comfort and luxury, you buy it for epic performance.

Electronics

This is another important area for a modern performance car, and Subaru has to link them to motorsport as much as possible.

Both Mercedes-AMG and BMW have really good adjustable traction control. If the WRX is going to be as fast as I hope, Subaru needs to do something clever.

Personally, dials controlling both traction and stability control, with the ability to be fully supported or to live right on the edge, would be my answer. 

Styling

It has to look the part, and it’s okay to be a bit different! It’s a rally car for the road, make sure it looks like one…

Overview

I hope some of my wishes come true, because this is a huge opportunity for Subaru to reassert itself in the performance market.

I would love to hear what else everyone wants from this 2022 WRX and WRX STI. Let’s hope for something special.

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Chris Atkinson
Chris Atkinson
Chris Atkinson is the Performance Editor at CarExpert.
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