Remember when STI meant something? Ticking that option box meant that your WRX boxer engine would come with forged pistons, upgraded suspension, limited slip differentials, a stronger turbo and bigger brakes. WRX STI models were legendary.

When Subaru released the ‘new’ WRX in 2022 they just recycled the same basic formula without pushing the edges of the envelope. Sure the ’22 WRX generated 271 HP from its turbocharged boxer engine, but even an ’02 had 227 HP and weighed 500 lbs less. Gearhead’s hopes of an all-conquering WRX STI with more power and tuned suspension were crushed when it was announced that there would be no STI version of this WRX.

STI (Subaru Tecnica international) is the company’s motorsports division and in-house tuner. But they also make specialty parts for plain old Subaru models. Rumors of an STI coming to the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon spread on motoring websites.

But instead it was just a vanilla ice-crea Impreza with some STI appearance parts; dual exhaust, side skirts and spoiler. The all-show and no-go parts are currently under development and may never be made available to Subaru dealers outside of Japan.

How sad that an STI variant has been reduced to show-off package, while Toyota added a 300 HP engine, 6-speed stick shift, and all-wheel-drive to their most boring grocery-getter and created the GR Yaris rally car for the street, right from Subaru’s playbook.

Ironically, Subaru also displayed some STI-branded race cars at the Tokyo Auto Salon booth, just to show the public they haven’t forgotten how to make cool cars. The show-stopper was the Subaru WRX NBR Challenge 2023, the track-ready model is designed for endurance racing. The one-off car will make its debut at the Nurburgring 24 Hours this May.

This car shows what the WRX STI would have been, if Subaru decided to build one, and import it to North America.

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