5 ways a 2023 Subaru WRX by Prodrive would fill the STI void


We have generally warm feelings toward the 2023 Subaru WRX. It is a solid mainstream sports car. My colleagues Grace Houghton and Sam Smith wrote of their time in the 2022 WRX Limited and Premium trims, respectively. Not much changes for the 2023 model, which means Mr. Smith’s main takeaway still holds true: “A WRX as it ever was—a little larger and less talkative, but the same idea.” And, ever since Subaru decided to ditch an STI version for this WRX generation, the current car is about as good as it will get for the foreseeable future. Unless Prodrive gets its way.

Yes, that Prodrive—the motorsport industry geniuses behind Subaru’s dominant WRC-winning cars from the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s. The same maniacs building the P25, a run of 25 highly modified, 400-hp late-’90s Imprezas in the mold of the beloved STI 22B. In partnership with Subaru, Prodrive spruced up this 2023 WRX with bespoke parts from the P25 to explore what a few straightforward upgrades could bring to the table.

It’s important to note that there is no current plan for these parts/upgrades to be offered by either Subaru or Prodrive, but enough demand could move that needle. So with that, here are 5 reasons why this particular one-off 2023 Subaru WRX could fill the STI-shaped hole in our hearts:

1) It has a proper spoiler!

If you’re gonna drive a fast car, you gotta look the part, right? One of the most noticeable differences between this Prodrive-tweaked WRX and the stock model is the addition of a big ol’ wing on the back, almost identical to the one on the $600,000 Prodrive P25. In grand WRX tradition, it screams, “Hey look at me, I’m an STI!”

No doubt it produces additional downforce high speeds, but honestly it just looks awesome … and that’ll would enough for many fans.

2) Upgraded brakes, wheels, and tires

Prodrive installed AP Racing brakes for its one-off WRX, which are almost identical to the ones on the P25: six-piston calipers and 380mm discs in the front, and four-piston calipers and 343mm discs in the rear. Bespoke P25-style 8.5J x 19 ET45 wheels wrapped with Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires (255/35 R19) complete the package to add a significant improvement in handling and braking over stock. No, the wheels aren’t gold like the BBS ones that came on the 22B and later U.S.-versions of the STI, and that seems to be a distinction Prodrive is keen to make.

3) Death to black plastic wheel-arch cladding

There is enough black plastic cladding on ubiquitous crossovers, in Subaru’s lineup and elsewhere, that WRX should have been spared. Though it’s never been a beautiful car, this latest WRX is especially unpleasant-looking. Prodrive tinkered with the styling a bit, adding wheel arch extensions which increase the overall car width by 30mm. It’s a subtle change that visually makes a big difference. In addition to the extra width, Prodrive also painted the plastic wheel-arch accents the same color as the body. The result is a much cleaner, sportier appearance, one that differentiates it from the rest of Subaru’s lineup.

4) Chassis and suspension upgrades

2023 Subaru WRX STI ProDrive front three quarter

Prodrive stresses that stiffer anti-roll bars front and rear yield much sportier-feeling handling when charging hard into corners. Bilstein dampers—built specifically to Prodrive’s specifications—along with upgraded and lowered suspension springs provide additional stability for track-day shenanigans. These are parts that Prodrive tested extensively during its P25 development process with pro rally driver Mark Higgins, so it’s carefully considered kit.

5) Custom ECU tuning

2023 Subaru WRX STI ProDrive engine bay

What if I told you that without touching anything under the hood, it would be possible could squeeze another 30 horsepower out of your 2023 WRX? Prodrive did just that with the magic of ECU software tuning, dialing in the various ones and zeroes to improve everything from pedal feel and throttle response a higher redline. Those extra revs are a big source of the additional horses, and one Prodrive engineer said, “it doesn’t die as soon as the stock version when you’ve got your foot planted.” Lap after lap around Millbrook could be done almost exclusively in third gear, with plenty of shove right up until the tach limit.

2023 Subaru WRX STI ProDrive rear three quarter

So what will become of this one-off WRX? Will it simply be an exploration of possibilities? Or will STI enthusiasts and shadetree tuners the world over demand these sorts of options from the factory? (In the case of the Sparco racing seats, for example, it’s possible that some modifiers will simply take inspiration from this prototype and try to replicate elements of it.) Neither Prodrive nor Subaru would provide a solid answer as to whether a full kit or a la carte parts would be offered for the standard WRX, so only time will tell. Until then, we may have come to grips with the very real possibility that the next STI will be a hybrid or electric one. But with Prodrive’s tight ties to Subaru—in addition to its involvement with with the all-electric Extreme E and Formula E motorsport series—that may lead to a new kind of STI for a new generation.




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