2010 Subaru WRX STI Special Edition (SE) Review

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Subaru has brought the WRX STI sedan back into the Impreza fold for 2011, but that doesn’t mean the hatchback model is going anywhere.


1. The Special Edition model retains the STI’s 305-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer engine.
2. Upgrades include a lower and stiffer suspension, stiffer rear subframe bushings, a thicker rear sway bar and special wheels.
3. Cost and weight savings are the result of the removal of HID headlights, fog lights, the Nav system and the use of a single-disc changer and manual climate control.
4. Pricing for the STI Special Edition is set at $32,995, two grand less than the standard STI.

In fact, while all WRX and WRX STI models get a styling refresh for 2011, the 2010 model year STI Special Edition adds a fair amount of go-fast bits while subtracting somewhat from the base price of an STI.


For $32,995, the Special Edition gets a suspension cribbed from the Japanese-market C-Spec STI, which means that the springs bring the car lower by 1 mm. In addition, the springs are stiffened by 16 percent up front and 29 percent out back. The rear subframe bushings are also stiffened, and the rear anti-roll bar is 1 mm larger.

Body-colored mirrors and 14-spoke wheels will help differentiate Special Editions from other STIs, and the first 125 that are sold will be painted Aspen White.


There are other details that separate the Special Edition from other STIs. Weight and cost are reduced by cutting a few luxury features, such as the navigation system, HID headlights, and front fog lamps. The 6-disc CD changer disappears, replaced by a single-disc unit, and the automatic climate-control system makes way for a manual one.

Underneath the hood sits a 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that makes 305 horsepower and 290 horsepower. That power reaches the pavement via a 6-speed manual transmission.


We recently had the chance to get behind the wheel of the STI Special Edition on Road America, the historic racetrack in east-central Wisconsin. Our time with the car was brief, but we were able to get a sense of its capabilities.

The STI launches quickly with responsive acceleration, although it lacks the top-end power to really hustle down Road America’s longer straights. The short hatchback body style feels a bit bouncy at times, but the STI also is responsive and agile to most steering inputs.

The shifter is light but precise, and the steering is accurate, if a bit light in feel and weight. The boxer engine comes to life with a throaty high-pitched snarl under acceleration. At speed the car feels stable, but it also feels light enough on its feet to be tossable if the need arises. The brakes do an admirable job of scrubbing speed before entering a corner.

Road America probably isn’t the best track for the STI—this is a car that would shine more on a tight track with lots of corners, or an autocross course—since it seems to be better suited to quick bursts of acceleration, as opposed to top-end runs. Whether it’s a gearing issue or a power-band issue, the STI seems to run out of steam a bit somewhere north of 100 miles per hour. An example: In the straight away between turns 4 and 5 at Road America, the most powerful cars can push 145 or 150, while the STI is somewhere between 120 and 130.


Still, the lighter weight and lower cost of the Special Edition will make it appealing to the weekend racer set. The lower ride height and reduced weight might translate into slightly quicker lap times on racetracks and autocrosses. Racers and rally drivers might also find the Special Edition to be a better jumping off point for building a true racecar.

The cost will also appeal to those who want to get into a new STI at a more affordable price. Drivers willing to forgo a few extra luxuries will get a car that is slightly quicker and cheaper, which is a rare deal these days.

The hot hatch segment is an interesting one, and the STI will be facing off against cars like the Mazdaspeed 3 and Volkswagen GTI. While the STI is a little pricier than those cars—even in Special Edition form—it doesn’t cost that much more than those other two, which means it’s certainly worth a look.


We’re not sure if the WRX STI Special Edition evokes the Subaru rally tradition, but it certainly holds its own when pushed on a track. The Special Edition doesn’t have many flaws that would scare away most STI buyers—the stiffer suspension might lead to a rougher ride, but that’s about it—but some customers will be spooked by the overall STI experience and choose to look elsewhere.

But then, Subaru isn’t trying to woo those customers. The company is looking for the folks who already want a hot hatch. And while the WRX STI already fits the bill, the Special Edition gives buyers one more flavor from which to choose.


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  • Nimble
  • Quick out of the gate
  • Costs less than other STIs


  • Only fanboys will spot the cosmetic differences
  • Loss of some luxury features
  • Runs out of steam at higher speeds
Tim Healey
Tim Healey

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