Update, 3/16/2022: In a statement to Road & Track, Subaru of America's director of corporate communications Dominick Infante cited the rapid pace of changing government rules as the reason the carmaker decided not to proceed with a new WRX STI at this time. "The regulations are changing so quickly that it kind of wouldn’t make any sense," he said, according to R&T. "If we designed [one] now, it would have a very limited shelf life.”
Back in December, Subaru invited us out to drive their all-new WRX sports car. Naturally, we assumed that car was the base model, one that would slot underneath a new high-performance WRX STI as had long been the case. Perhaps we should have been suspicious when the WRX's pricing didn't leave much room for an STI at the top of the lineup, but it's still a shock to see that Subaru has announced — in an epic late Friday news dump — there won't be a next-generation WRX STI, as expected.
Subaru noted in a press release that "a next-generation internal combustion engine WRX STI will not be produced based upon the new WRX platform." Subaru did say they are "exploring opportunities" for an eventual next-generation WRX STI, including electrification. Subaru notably teased an electric STI vehicle late last year.
Rumors had been flying about a next-generation WRX STI. Subaru Australia had said the next generation would "push the performance and technological boundaries." And there was speculation the output could climb to 400 horsepower. However, those same rumors had the base WRX jumping up to 300 hp, which did not materialize.
Subaru's announcement is surprising. We don't know how far the brand had progressed in development or how long they waited to tell us the news. And while, yes, internal combustion cars will be obsolete by the end of the decade, there was still room for another generation. Looking at the WRX STI rivals, Honda has a new Civic Type R coming, the all-new 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is on the road, Nissan is launching a new Z car and Toyota is about to launch a new GR-branded hot hatch.
Subaru sales have taken a significant hit with the pandemic and global chip shortage. Subaru still has a lot of work to get hybrids into big sellers like the Forester and Outback, let alone convert them to battery electric. A dead-end manual transmission combustion car's development costs may have been too much to justify.
This news will disappoint WRX enthusiasts. Subaru reserved several fancy features for a new $40,000-plus GT trim, which is only available with the Subaru Performance transmission (or CVT, if you don't work for Subaru). The WRX STI was expected to pair the WRX's top driving tech with the manual transmission.