2024 Subaru WRX RS: Not an STI, But Plenty Good

Strong points
  • Sporty yet comfortable sedan
  • Strong braking performance
  • Good handling
Weak points
  • Suspension is too soft for serious track use
  • Shifter could be more precise
  • Still no five-door model
Full report

Shannonville, Ontario—If you had to pick one sports car to drive all year long, what would it be? The Ford Mustang would be a stretch, but a hot hatch like Volkswagen Golf R would make a ton of sense, especially during harsh Canadian winters.

Don’t forget the Subaru WRX, a Japanese sports sedan that’s been around for over 20 years proving that you can have lots of fun behind the wheel even during a storm. Since the discontinuation of the almighty WRX STI, this model has served as Subaru’s contender in the affordable sports car segment, beefing up its looks in the process with a wider stance and additional body cladding.

For 2024, two models have joined the lineup including the WRX GT and WRX RS (sold as WRX TR south of the border). A WRX tS has even been announced for 2025. Similar to most special editions developed by Subaru engineers, it’s not just about looks and putting on a show. If you’re still mourning the loss of the STI, you can probably find solace in this upgraded version of the popular, rally-inspired sedan.

Photo: Subaru Canada

No More Power? Oh Well…

The bad news is that this latest Subie is nowhere close to topping 300 horsepower. In fact, the turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine under the hood is still rated at 271 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available is a six-speed manual, paired with the automaker’s acclaimed symmetrical AWD system.

In order to withstand abuse on the track, a car needs to have proper brakes, otherwise the pads will fail after just a few laps. The new WRX RS gets the same Brembo setup as the old WRX STI. The ventilated, cross-drilled discs are larger than those on other WRX models, while the red-painted callipers feature six pistons up front and two pistons in the rear.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

Wheel size is up to 19 inches (others ride on 17- or 18-inch wheels) and the summer performance tires around them were originally developed for a certain Ferrari F12berlinetta—true story.

The larger alloys required new steering and damping calibration, of course. Inside the car, the main highlight is a superb set of Recaro sport seats that provide enough support for lapping sessions without the discomfort of hard-as-hell race buckets.

Photo: Vincent Aubé

To Be Clear, It’s No STI

Right now, it’s too early to speculate about the next-generation WRX STI, which may or may not come at some point in time. There have been rumours involving a hybrid powertrain or even full electrification, but Subaru remains tight-lipped. In the meantime, that leaves enthusiasts with two options: either a used WRX STI or a brand new 2024 WRX RS. Is the latter good enough to keep them satisfied?

The short answer is no. The RS is no replacement for an STI, which really is in a different league from a performance and handling standpoint. Sure, steering in the WRX RS is sharper and more precise and braking is superior to other WRX models, but the car is missing a few ponies and the suspension is not as stiff as the one on the late STI.

Photo: Subaru Canada

Choosing Between a Sports Sedan and a 2+2 Coupe

If you prefer a coupe, Subaru has you covered for 2024 with the new BRZ tS. The four-door WRX RS is obviously larger and heavier, not to mention that its suspension feels softer when pushed to the limit. That being said, with adequate use of the throttle and shorter braking distances compared with the rest of the WRX range, things can be quite fun. Similar to the BRZ tS, the upgraded brakes on this car make the biggest difference, here.

Heavy rain in the second part of our day in Shannonville exposed both the strengths and weaknesses of the WRX RS. The lack of grip on the track forced us to adopt a slower pace, even with the remarkably capable AWD system, and the sedan’s extra weight meant it had to work harder than the coupe despite the latter having less power and a RWD configuration.  

Photo: Subaru Canada

On the open road, however, the WRX RS is a star. Our brief time away from the tarmac revealed a smooth ride in spite of the low-profile tires. The Recaros are quite simply marvellous both for short trips to the convenience store and long adventures across the country.

What else? Attributes that make the regular WRX such a treat are still there, including a slick-shifting transmission. The stick is not as surgically precise as the one in the Honda Civic Type R or Porsche 718 Cayman S, however. Steering is firm and has a quick ratio, while the power-adjustable front seats make it easy to find an excellent driving position.

Our Verdict

Subaru fans can be excited about the BRZ tS and WRX RS, and choosing one over the other essentially comes down to how much space and utility you need. More pragmatic drivers will be pretty satisfied with the sedan, honestly. But make no mistake: it’s not a substitute for the Holy Grail of Subaru cars that is the WRX STI.

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