The Subaru WRX first found its way stateside two decades ago back in 2002 and its STi tuned variant landed a few years later in 2004. They quickly became two of the most popular tuner cars on the market, and for decades since they have enjoyed strong sales throughout the U.S.. However, some of these cars are either at or getting close to being twenty years old. It might be time to start thinking about replacing and upgrading the worn down stock seats with something new.
The Subaru WRX and STi are both known as performance machines, but their stock seats are woefully inadequate. For anyone looking at participating in rallycross, rally-x, or autocross competitions, upgrading your stock seats in your Subaru is an absolute must. Even enthusiasts wanting to get more support while going on spirited drives can benefit from better seats.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about upgrading the stock seats in the Subaru WRX and STi to racing seats. We’ll cover things to consider when picking out seats, what you need for installation, the correct seat brackets, and our top 4 recommendations for WRX and STi racing seats.
*The WRX and STi both share the same seats from 2005 on and are interchangeable with each other. All references in this article to either WRX or STi Racing Seats will apply to both models.
WRX Racing Seat Considerations
It’s no secret that one of the biggest complaints among WRX/STi enthusiasts is about the uncomfortable and unsupported stock seats. Especially when it comes to using the WRX/STi in competition, the stock seats leave a lot to be desired. For one, they do a terrible job of holding the driver in place during any sort of aggressive turning. The OEM seats have barely any side support and bolstering, letting the driver sway with the car instead of keeping them planted. Anybody who has driven in any sort of auto or rally competition knows how frustrating this can be and how much it hurts drivability.
In addition, many people complain that the stock seats are just plain uncomfortable. They do not offer a lot of support to the head or neck area, and the lumbar support is lacking, too. It is important to note that Subaru did start to offer Recaro racing seats as options for later year WRX and STis. However, that was only for Limited trim models and has not been a highly sought out option due to price.
WRX and STi Racing Seats Benefits
Upgrading to actual racing seats from the base WRX and STi seats will provide a ton of benefits. Being jostled around the cabin during turns and over bumps makes it impossible to keep complete control of your car.
Subaru WRX racing seats will provide more support and stability than stock to keep you firmly planted in place. This allows for your hands to grip the steering wheel better and stronger, while also providing for consistent foot placement. Obviously, the more control you have of your car the faster your lap times and races will be. In addition, most WRX and STi racing seats are lighter than OEM and more durable.
Subaru Racing Seat Sizing
One of the most important things to keep in mind when purchasing new WRX or STi racing seats is sizing. This means both in terms of for yourself and for your car’s cockpit. Luckily, the Subaru WRX and STi have relatively good sized cabins, especially when compared with a lot of performance cars. This means that a wide variety of seats will fit in the WRX, including some wider seats for larger bodies.
When figuring out sizing for yourself, you want a seat that will fit you snug but not too tight. Too big or too small seats will only enhance instability and completely defeat the purpose of new seats. You want to make sure you can feel yourself fit into the seat properly, without having to constantly adjust yourself.
The general rule of thumb for WRX and STi racing seats is the shoulder dimensions should be less than 22.5” and the leg dimensions should be 20” at the absolute most. Anything bigger and you risk rubbing against either the pillars or center console due to the side bolstering.
Still, always make sure you are measuring both yourself and your car before purchasing any seats. We have a guide for how to take self measurements here, so make sure to check that out for any questions.
Subaru Racing Seat Bolstering, Comfort, and Style
One of the most important aspects of picking out a racing seat is the bolstering. Bolstering refers to the amount of padding and support your seat gives you. The OEM seats have little to no bolstering on the sides, which is one of the main benefits of upgrading to racing seats. The larger side, shoulder, and head/neck bolstering from racing seats is what keeps you firmly planted. Side bolstering is probably the most important, as that has the biggest impact on keeping your body straight. Adequate side bolstering is crucial for good fitment and performance.
One of the drawbacks with WRX racing seats is that they are not always the most comfortable. Especially fixed back seats can feel a bit stiff and jarring until you get used to them. However, this does not always have to be the case. Modern racing seats strive to balance comfort and performance together. For any daily driver, making sure your seats are comfortable for the 99% of the time you are not at the track is imperative.
Style and material are also important things to keep in mind. While leather may look the best, you will probably slide around less with a suede, microfiber, or mesh fabric. Conversely, if you plan on keeping the seat for a long time in your build, you also want something as durable as possible so you don’t have to keep upgrading every few years.
WRX Racing Seat Fixed vs Recline
The biggest decision you are going to have to make when upgrading to WRX racing seats is going to be if they are fixed back or reclinable. Both of them offer advantages and disadvantages, and the selection really comes down to personal choice.
Fixed back seats are generally preferred for race/track builds. Because they do not recline, they usually offer better support in the waist and side area due to more bolstering. They are also known as bucket seats, because you sink into them to a degree. Fixed back seats are definitely less comfortable than reclinable seats, but they are lighter and offer more stability.
Reclinable seats are good options for daily driver and part-time track builds. Obviously, the ability to recline makes them much more comfortable, but it adds weight and usually means less side bolstering. When daily driving around town this isn’t much of an issue, but on the race track the lack of bolstering can be a problem.
Subaru Heated Seats
A key thing to keep in mind when upgrading WRX racing seats is the retention of the seat warmers. Some racing seats have the option to add in seat warmers, but many eschew them completely. Much of this has to do with weight savings because heaters add unnecessary weight. However, they are an option for some seats, so if it’s your daily driver that’s definitely something to keep in mind.
WRX and STi Seat Brackets and Mounts
When installing WRX and STi racing seats into your Subaru, it’s imperative that you have the right equipment to do so. There are typically two different types of racing seats: side mounted and bottom mounted seats. The more race oriented the seat setup the more likely they are to be side mounted, but that is not a hard and fast rule. Plenty of performance racing seats now offer bottom mounting options.
Side mounts are sometimes preferred because they place the seat lower and therefore offer more headroom than bottom mounts. However, that’s not always the case. Some bottom mounts can still offer superior headroom and feel lower than stock due to the seat design. If you’re fixated on being as low as possible, side mounts are probably the way to go. But, for most builds, including daily drivers, bottom mounts are perfectly capable of performing.
Make sure to confirm compatibility between your seats and brackets before making any purchases.
WRX and STi Seat Swapping
Another popular option for WRX and STi owners is to swap out their base seats with the optional Recaro seats from Limited trim models. This is a relatively straightforward process on both the WRX and STi, as either seats will swap into the other without problem. It’s another option for those looking to retain a more stock look to their Subaru while still getting better seats.
4 Best WRX and STi Racing Seats
The Top 4 WRX and STi Racing Seats upgrades are:
- Corbeau DFX
- Corbeau RRX
- Recaro Sportster GT
- Bride Zeta III
Here is our list for the top WRX and STi racing seats for upgrades. We tried to balance price, comfort, style, and performance to give the widest range of options possible. We also included both reclining and fixed back options. Remember, always double check all measurements before any purchase. These seats are meant to be universal fits for all models unless otherwise stated, but always check fitment with the manufacturer before purchasing.
1) Corbeau DFX WRX Racing Seat
Price: $399.00 (per seat)
Style: Fixed Back
Purchase Link: Corbeau DFX Racing Seat
Our top selection for upgrading WRX and STi seats is the Corbeau DFX racing seat. Corbeau have established themselves as leaders in the racing seat industry, and their DFX line is fantastic. It features a tight design with carbon vinyl cloth and either black or white piping.
The DFX is a fixed back seat and is best for more track and competition suited builds. The shoulders are relatively broad, at 21”, while the bottom of the seat is tighter at 18.5”. This makes an excellent fit for both the WRX and STi. Even though it is a bit narrower it can still hold larger bodies quite capably.
The Corbeau DFX can be side mounted or bottom mounted, and fits the Corbeau brackets for the WRX and STi. It is noted as being one of the most comfortable fixed back racing seats on the market, and it certainly looks like it. It only weighs 26 lbs and can fit up to a 38” waist. The DFX is not compatible with seat heaters.
2) Corbeau RRX WRX Racing Seat
Price: $959.00 (per pair)
Purchase Link: Corbeau RRX Racing Seat
Our second suggestion is the Corbeau RRX Racing Seat. This is one of the best looking racing seats that Corbeau has to offer, and it is available in a number of styles. The outline of the seat has black vinyl, but the interior options are red, green, black, or gray. They also have a really good looking plaid seat design available, too.
The RRX is a reclining seat instead of a fixed back, so it is a great option for either part-time competition or daily driver builds. It weighs just a hair more than the DFX, at 27.6 lbs, which is still a good 15-20 lighter than stock. While it doesn’t quite have the beefy side bolstering support of fixed back seats, the RRX still provides good stability and keeps you locked in place well.
Another great selling point for the RRX is the optional inflatable lumbar support and seat heater. The lumbar support is a $94 option, but it really helps prevent the stiff feeling of sitting in a racing seat for prolonged periods of time. The shoulders are narrower than the DFX but the sides and base are wider. The RRX is probably the biggest WRX racing seat you can fit in the cabin, as its base is 20” and the shoulders and side are 21.5”.
3) Braum Elite-X Series Sport WRX Racing Seat
Price: $949.99 (per pair)
Purchase Link: Braum Elite X-Series Sport Reclinable Seat
If you want to add some serious style to your WRX, look no further than the Braum Elite-X Series sport racing seats. The Braum seats are absolutely incredible to look at. They are leatherette and come with a few different color options, including a very aggressive and sleek looking diamond version with red stitching. The Elite-X series is a combination of Braum’s Elite and Venom series of seats. Braum have developed a very solid reputation in the industry, and their WRX and STi racing seats are impeccable.
The Braum WRX racing seats are 25 lbs, which makes them almost half the weight of the OEM seats, and a few lbs lighter than either of the Corbeau options. The side bolsters are firm but not intrusive, and are designed to fit snugly around your thighs and waist. The Elite-Xs are reclinable seats, but they still offer the firmness and stability to be comparable with fixed backs.
Braum used a tubular-steel frame for these seats, and they have the same seat size as the RRXs – making them the biggest option available for the WRX or STi. The Braums are well reviewed for durability and comfort and are bottom mounted seats.
4) Bride Zeta III JDM WRX Racing Seat
Price: $1,437.50 (per seat)
Style: Fixed Back
We’re talking about WRX and STi racing seats, so of course we had to include at least one true JDM option. Bride Seats is one of the leading and most well known JDM seat manufacturers in the tuner community. Among their highly reviewed seats, the Zeta III black carbon aramid fixed back seats are very sought out, and they are one of the top options for WRX and STi drivers looking to upgrade.
The fixed back design offers a lot of stability, and the side bolstering is second to none and very snug. There are countless WRX and STi competition cars using Bride Zetas, and they are very highly recommended. These seats are true racing seats, and they do not offer frills like a heater or extra lumbar support bars.
The biggest drawback to the Brides is going to be their price tag. Coming all the way from Japan you know it’s gonna hurt. At just under $1,500 per seat, it’s about 3x more expensive than our previous 3 options. The Zeta IIIs are bottom mounted seats.
WRX Seat Occupancy Sensor Swap
It’s important to note one of the drawbacks to installing WRX and STi racing, the issue of the side airbags. Both the driver and passenger seats have occupancy sensors located under the seat which are responsible for the side airbags. Without finding a way to plug in the sensor you will always have an airbag light illuminated on your dash. Some people do not mind this, but it also means the air bag isn’t properly working.
On older Subarus one solution is to put a 3.3 Ohm resistor (or 3 10 Ohm resistors run parallel) in the plug to get the light shut off. Many people have taken that route and swapped seats without issue, but not everyone likes that idea. On newer Subarus from 2015+, there is a way to remove the occupancy sensor and actually transplant it into the new seats. This video shows how to do it featuring the same Braum seats we have recommended.
Making sure your airbags work is number one important for any car to be operated safely, so keep that in mind when swapping new seats in.
WRX and STi Racing Seats Summary
Upgrading the seats on your WRX and STi to racing seats is one of the best mods you can make for any track or competition based builds. It will definitely help you cut down on lap times and allow you to truly reach the maximum performance for your car. Even for non-track builds, racing seats can bring added style and make your driving experience more engaging.
We looked at a few different possibilities for upgrading the WRX and STi to racing seats. Both the Corbeau options, the RRX and DFX, are solid performers from a very reputable company. The DFX is a great fixed back option that still delivers on comfort, and the RRX looks impeccable and offers comfort and stability in one great package.
The Braum Elite-X Series seats are another great option, and they will definitely take your style to another level. Finally, we have the JDM Bride Zeta IIIs, the cream of the crop for WRX seat upgrades. They are 3x more expensive than any of the other options, but they give that sweet JDM style.
Are you considering upgrading your WRX or STi to racing seats or have you already done so? Do you have tips and tricks or suggestions for WRX and STi seat upgrades?
Let us know with your comments and questions below!