The 2015-2021 Subaru WRX (VA) is one of the best modern tuner cars on the market. It responds great to bolt-on upgrades and E-85 fueling, and makes good power at a relatively low price point. The FA20DIT inside the WRX is a 2 liter, direct injection, flat-four engine, producing 268hp and 258lb-ft-tq from the factory. It is one of the few cars still available with a six-speed manual transmission, and is highly respected.
Recently, we’ve looked at both intercooler upgrades and downpipe/j-pipe upgrades on the WRX, and now it’s time for turbos. A WRX turbo upgrade is great for those looking to broaden their power band and push their WRX to the next level. In this guide, we’ll discuss all things turbo on your WRX, and then we’ll look at the top turbo kits available on the market.
Can the FA20 Handle a Turbo Upgrade?
The factory installed turbo on the 2015-2021 Subaru WRX is a Garrett GT2259 journal bearing, twin-scroll turbo. It is oil cooled with a 50.3 mm compressor wheel and is internally wastegated. With full bolt-on mods and E-85 fueling, the GT2259 can make approximately 375hp before it starts to fall off and run out of steam. On just pump gas it runs out after 350hp.
Upgrading the turbo on the FA20 is a great idea, and not just for those looking to make huge peak power. Putting in a slightly bigger turbo allows for a larger powerband that does not fall off past 5800rpms. The stock turbo is great at delivering in the mid-range, but it struggles to keep breathing in the upper rpms.
The real question when upgrading the WRX’s turbo is how much power you can make before the internals start to fail. The block and pistons are pretty reliable on the engine, and the weak point has always been the connecting rods. Many people will say they fail at 350whp, but others have reported running at those levels for 50,000 miles plus with no issues.
In reality, there is no definite answer about how much the FA20DIT can take before the internals give out. Generally, people can expect to run 350whp pretty consistently with moderate driving. Anything above that it is probably a good idea to upgrade your connecting rods and look into head studs and maybe a built block.
Twin-Scroll Turbo Basics
The GT2259 turbo is a twin-scroll turbo, and so are all of the upgraded turbo kits for the WRX (VA). A twin-scroll turbo is similar to a traditional turbo, but it cleans up some of its inefficiencies. In a twin-scroll setup, the exhaust pulses from the headers are equally divided. This allows for increased scavenging and efficiency in exhaust gas energy being transferred to the turbine. This increases turbine efficiency, allows for lower cylinder temperatures and pressure, and lowers EGTs.
Boost usually comes on earlier with a twin-scroll setup, while still being capable of larger peak power. The WRX’s turbo runs 16 PSI on the stock setup, though it does allow for brief overboosts that go as high as 22 PSI. Most tuners will run the stock turbo at about 19 PSI on tunes, and with larger turbos they generally increase that by at least 3-4 PSI.
How much power can I make with a turbo upgrade on my WRX?
With the increased boost and cfm from a larger turbo, users can see anywhere from moderate to massive gains with a WRX turbo upgrade. Smaller turbos will comfortably make at least 350-400whp on pump gas, and you can keep moving up the ladder all the way to massive builds in the quad digits on ethanol.
However, the advantage of a new turbo is not just the peak power you can make. The entire powerband will be better with a larger turbo, especially in the mid-range. However, it is important to keep in mind that the larger the turbo the more the powerband will shift right. The largest turbos will eventually sacrifice some early and mid-range for top-end power.
Drag racers will want the biggest turbo they can get on the FA20, whereas rally and autocross drivers will prioritize the early and mid-range for power out of corners and around turns. Whatever your build and goals, there is a turbo upgrade that is right for you.
Precursors to FA20 Turbo Upgrades
Before looking into a WRX turbo upgrade, it is important to make sure you are going to be safe and reliable. The main things that you should look at when upgrading are the intake/exhaust, cooling, fueling, boost control, and tuning. Turbos are far from the first upgrade you should be looking at for your WRX. Below we will look at supporting mods you will want and need before going big turbo on the Rex.
If you are looking to put a bigger turbo on your WRX, you absolutely need to have an upgraded exhaust and intake. Exhaust-wise, you will need a full turbo back exhaust with at least 2.5” piping, preferably 3”. We have a guide on WRX downpipes/j-pipes, so take a look at what suits your build best. The stock exhaust is not capable of enough flow for a larger turbo, and will quickly choke out any gains.
You will also need an upgraded intake. The stock intake will be maxed out around 350hp, and for any turbo upgrade you definitely need something freer flowing. Not all intakes will fit all turbo kits, so make sure you confirm fitment before purchasing.
Upgrading your intercooler is a must on your WRX before getting a larger turbo. The stock intercooler is capable of only handling stock power levels, but anything bigger needs aftermarket help. Check out our guide on intercooler upgrades for the WRX to see which one is right for your build. It is also a good idea to upgrade your charge pipe, which connects the intercooler to the turbo. The stock charge pipe is pretty restrictive past 350hp, but make sure you get one that fits your intercooler.
You might also consider upgrading your radiator too, especially if you are in hotter climates, like Arizona or Texas. The higher power levels you push the greater heat the engine will ultimately produce, so on bigger builds coolant temperatures can be an issue after sustained runs.
The FA20DIT utilizes direct injection fueling, and injectors are usually not needed to be upgraded for most builds. The high pressure fuel pump (hpfp) does not need to be upgraded either. A larger in-tank fuel pump is recommended, and Deatschwerks 65c and 300c are the standard options.
To get the best bang for your buck out of your turbo upgrade, users should seriously consider going the E-85 flex-fuel route on their WRX. It is important to keep in mind though that most tuners will only run an E-60 mix at most. Any higher levels of ethanol start to clog the hpfp, which causes a huge load of headaches.
However, there are still massive gains available with E-60 over pump gas. In addition, tuners can make much safer power with ethanol, making it a great investment for engine longevity on bigger builds.
Boost control is another important aspect of your turbo upgrade. Nearly every tuner will require clients to upgrade from the stock 2-port system to an electronic 3-port system. The Electronic Boost Control System with 3 ports will do a much more precise and accurate job of controlling boost over the factory system. It is even recommended by most tuners when using the stock turbo, let alone with any turbo upgrades.
Tuning is probably the most important aspect of your WRX turbo upgrade build. You 100% need a tuning solution before installing a turbo kit on your FA20. Ideally, an arrangement with a tuner should be finalized before your new turbo is installed, not after. Some tuners require specific mods when updating to a particular turbo, so make sure you plan ahead.
There are multiple options for tuning Subarus, both online through E-tuning and in-person on the dyno. The Cobb Accessport is a standard device for tuners, and one of the most popular and reputable on the market. Make sure you work with a reputable and quality tuner who is willing to work with you and answer your questions.
Data logging is an important part of keeping your car safe, so make sure you are data logging even after your tune is finished to ensure everything is still okay. Monitoring your air-to-fuel ratio, knock sensors, and boost, is paramount to making sure your car stays healthy.
Best Subaru WRX Turbo Kits
Now that we have looked at what it takes for a safe and reliable WRX turbo upgrade, let’s check out the top turbo kits on the market for the FA20 WRX. There are plenty of turbo kits available, and these are our top four recommendations of the countless available today. These give a great balance of performance, precision, quality, and price.
1) Extreme Turbo Systems 2015+ WRX Turbo Kits
Price: $5,595.00 – $6,545.00
Expected Power: 350whp-1200whp
The first entry on our list is the Extreme Turbo Systems (ETS) 2015-2021 Subaru WRX Turbo Kit. The ETS Kit was one of the first on the market and has stood up to the test of time. ETS offers six different sizing options for their turbo kit, and all of them are made by Precision Turbos. They offer the 5858, 5558 Gen 2, 5862 Gen 2, 6062 Gen 2, 6266 Gen 2, and 6466 Gen 2 turbo options.
The ETS kits all feature dual dump tubes, dual wastegates, and headers and downpipe. Some of the most iconic FA20 builds have utilized the ETS kit, and with the larger PT turbos and proper supporting mods and ethanol fueling, this kit is capable of as much as 1200whp.
This kit is by far the most expensive, but it includes all of the parts necessary for an entire turbo build, including the downpipe and headers. However, it is also the most proven, and can deliver by far the most power — depending on the turbo chosen.
2) Forced Performance FA20DIT Turbo Kits
Price: $1,799.00 – $2,999.00
Expected Power: 440whp-475whp
The next on our list are a pair of turbos from Forced Performance. FP has established themselves as reputable turbo manufacturers for both WRXs and Evos, and their FA20 line does not disappoint. They offer two options, both of them are FP Blues and come with either internal or external wastegates and optional coated turbine housings.
The difference between the two of them is the CHRA. One has a journal bearing and the other has a Xona Rotor Ball Bearing. The Xona Rotor is another $1,100 on top of the journal ball bearing, but gives decreased spool time and better durability. Both turbos flow 57lb/min and can produce upwards of 475whp on E-85. This turbo was designed specifically for the FA20, and offers a very favorable power curve.
3) SteamSpeed FA20 Turbo Kits
Price: $1,699.00 – $1,799.00
Expected Power: 350whp-500whp
SteamSpeed offers two different turbo kits for the WRX. One features a GEN2 67R+ Ball Bearing Turbo, and the other features a GEN2 71R Ball Bearing Turbo. Both of them are bolt on replacements for the OEM turbo, and bolt up perfectly with standard “Stage 2” kits.
The 67R+ is the smaller turbo of the two, and it can make 350whp-400whp on pump gas, and reach up to 425whp on E-85. It is a combination of their previous 67R turbo with the ball bearing of the 71R. The 71R is capable of making as much as 500whp with E-85 fueling, and flows an incredible 59lbs/min. It is also a direct OEM replacement and fits in the stock location and most “Stage 2” kits.
The SteamSpeeds are not quite as reliable as either the FP or ETS kits, but it is a great budget option capable of decent power. They likely won’t last as long as the FP or ETS kits, but they are also cheaper and have been proven to make good power.
4) SoCal Performance V4 GT2259 Upgrade
Price: $1,005.00 – $2,270.00
Expected Power: 500whp-560whp
The final entry on our list is not a turbo kit but an upgrade for the stock GT2259 turbo. SoCal porting is a relatively new company on the WRX market, but they have a solid reputation already. Instead of offering a new turbo, SoCal offers to upgrade the compressor wheel and turbine shaft of the OEM turbo. Their full kit also includes machining, re-contouring, clipping, rebuilding, and full porting and polishing of the OEM turbo.
You send them your FA20DIT stock turbo and they make the upgrades in house before sending it back. This is their fourth-generation design of the compressor wheel, and offers their best flow yet. It also retains all of the stock housings for complete retainment of OEM fitment. Power gains are substantial on the stock turbo, and users can make as much as 560whp with full bolt-ons and E-85 fueling.
However, it is important to remember that the stock turbo will likely not dissipate heat as well as a larger aftermarket turbo. This means that not only will longevity be compromised, but EGTs will also rise. However, it is also the lowest price option and will offer the best fitment.
FA20 WRX Turbo Upgrade Summary
Upgrading the turbo on your WRX is a great modification for getting a larger powerband with increased peak performance. With supporting mods, the sky truly is the limit when adding a new turbo to your WRX (VA). There are options for all levels of builds, from moderate (350-400whp) all the way to some of the fastest cars in the world (1200whp).
Supporting mods are necessary to upgrade the turbo on your FA20DIT, and the higher the power level the more stress will be put on the engine. Anybody really looking to make serious power should highly consider upgrading the connecting rods and getting a built block.
Our recommended turbo kits all prioritize reliability, performance, and cost. The ETS kit is by far the most expensive, but it also the most proven and includes other supporting exhaust mods. The FP Blue turbos have been a standard among the WRX and Evo community for years, and their FA20 line is exceptional. The SteamSpeed kit is a good budget option that can produce great numbers, but with questionably longevity. Finally, the SoCal porting V4 upgrade for the OEM turbo is another solid option for those looking to retain their stock hardware but still get a good power bump.
All of the kits are designed to fit all years of WRX (VA), so the real question becomes what size turbo do you need? The bigger the turbo the more power, but eventually going too big will diminish the mid-range at the expense of peak top-end power. It all depends on your build priorities.
What’s your experience with Subaru WRX (VA) turbo upgrades? Are you considering one?
Leave a comment and let us know!