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Subaru WRX FAQ

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

The Subaru WRX is currently one of the most popular tuner cars on the market. It has been around for two decades in the United States, and has a history in Japan even before that. The WRX is widely known for its versatility, performance, and unique styling. It is one of the few cars still available with a manual transmission, and over 90% of current WRX buyers opt for the 6-speed over the automatic or CVT options.

Since its early 2000s introduction stateside, the WRX, formerly the Impreza WRX, has gone through a multitude of changes. Just about everything on the car is different for 2022 compared to the first generation – you might not even recognize them as the same car. This guide is here to cover all of the frequently asked questions surrounding the Subaru WRX. From engines, to the Subie rumble, to a breakdown of the different chassis codes and best mods, we cover it all. Let’s get started.

Subaru WRX FAQ Guide - WRX STI Specs, History, Upgrades

 

Subaru WRX Models and Years FAQ

What does WRX stand for?

WRX stands for World Rally eXperimental. In 1992, Subaru gave the title to the fastest version of the Impreza as an homage to the Impreza World Rally Car (WRC) on which it was based. The WRX differed from the standard Impreza by having stiffer suspension, a turbocharged engine, and AWD as the only option.

Is the Subaru WRX really a “rally car?” 

While the WRX’s styling, engine, and suspension were inspired by Subaru’s WRC vehicles, it would be a stretch to consider the WRX a true rally car. In reality, Subaru created the WRX to be an economy car with a taste of rally excitement. The turbocharged engine and stiffened suspension certainly separated it from the standard Impreza, but it was pretty far away from anything hitting the WRC circuit. Even the WRX STi is more of an economy car than an actual rally car.

What year was the first WRX?

Subaru created the first WRX back in 1992, but it was only available on the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM). In 1994, Subaru introduced a Subaru Tecnica International (STi) variant of the car, known as the WRX STi.

What year did the Subaru WRX arrive in the United States?

The WRX first made it stateside for the 2002 model year. The STi made it over for the first time in 2004. Both have been sold every year since in the US.

Why is it often compared with the Saab 9-2X?

There was an agreement between Subaru and General Motors between 2005-2006 to sell a rebranded version of the WRX under the Saab brand in America. The 2005-2006 Saab 9-2X is almost identical to the same year’s WRXs, including having the same engine, though the suspension, interior, and styling was reworked.

What’s the deal with the hood scoop?

The iconic hood scoop that has been featured on all WRX models actually serves a performance purpose. The intercooler for the turbocharged engine sits on top of the motor just below the hood, and the open hood scoop feeds air directly over it. This cools down the intercooler which reduces the temperature of the air entering the combustion chamber. Cooler air means more oxygen and thus more power, and it also prevents engine detonation and pre-ignition from occurring.

What are the different chassis codes for each generation of the WRX?

There have been five generations of the WRX so far with four of them being available stateside. The first generation was from 1992-2000; the second generation from 2000-2007; the third generation from 2007-2014; the fourth generation from 2015-2021; and the current generation that started this year in 2022.

Years Chassis Code Model
1992-2000 GC Sedan
1992-2000 GF Wagon
1992-2000 GM Coupe
2001-2007 GD Sedan
2001-2007 GG Wagon
2007-2014 GH Hatchback
2007-2014 GE Sedan
2015-2021 VA Sedan
2022+ VB Sedan

What are Bugeye, Blobeye, and Hawkeye WRXs?

The terms Bugeye, Blobeye, and Hawkeye refer to different versions of the second generation Subaru WRX. The Bugeye WRX was from 2000-2003; the Blobeye WRX was from 2004-2005; and the Hawkeye WRX was from 2006-2007. Enthusiasts gave them the names due to the resemblance of the styling of their headlights and front fascia.

There are also the less commonly known names of Mean Eye, Stinkeye, and Evo Eye WRXs. The Mean Eye corresponds to 1992-2000 WRXs; the Stinkeyes are 2008-2014 WRXs; and the Evo Eyes are 2015-2021 WRXs. Again, the names are based on the headlights and front fascia’s styling.

What is a GC8 WRX?

If you’ve spent any time around a WRX or STi enthusiast you’ve undoubtedly heard of the holy grail of WRXs, the GC8 WRX. Well, the GC8 is not actually a single model, but simply is a term that designates a WRX from 1992-2000 with a EJ20 turbo engine. The code can be broken down as follows: G = Impreza; C = Sedan; 8 = EJ20T. So GC8 = an Impreza Sedan with an EJ20T engine.

The only Imprezas sold with the EJ20T were the WRXs, so any GC8 is by default a WRX. It was the first generation of WRXs that Subaru created, and they are sought out for their unique styling and historical connection.

Why is it no longer called the Impreza WRX?

From 1992-2014 the WRX was known as the Impreza WRX. This name denoted that the WRX was based on the standard Impreza, but with rally inspired features like turbocharging and stiffened suspension. However, starting in 2015 Subaru dropped the Impreza name from the WRX and WRX STi lineup. Apparently, Subaru wanted to differentiate the WRX completely from the Impreza line as a new “sporty car.” So starting in 2015, it just became known as the Subaru WRX. Yet, it still retains the same styling base as the standard Impreza.

What major changes have occurred to the WRX?

The Subaru WRX has undergone a lot of changes since its creation in 1992. It has had several engine upgrades, the suspension has been stiffened and improved, and the interior is much more luxurious. The exterior styling is also radically different now than it was in the ‘90s, or even the mid-2000s. In short, basically everything has changed on the WRX. The only true constants that have remained are AWD, turbocharged boxer engines, manual transmissions, and the famous hood scoop.

Subaru WRX Engines and Performance FAQ

What is a boxer engine?

A boxer engine is another term for a horizontally opposed engine. This means the pistons lay horizontally instead of vertically or at a sharp angle, and go from side-to-side rather than up-and-down. Due to their unique construction, boxer engines offer a lower center of gravity than inline or V style engines. This helps improve straight line stability while decreasing body roll in and out of corners. Boxers contrast most commonly with Inline, V, and W style engines.

What engines does the WRX have?

The WRX has been sold with five different engines during its lifetime, with three of those appearing in the US. From 1992-1998, Subaru put two versions of the EJ20 turbo, the EJ20G and EJ20K, in the WRX. From 1999-2005, the WRX got the EJ205. The next engine from 2006-2014 was the EJ255, and from 2015-2021 it was the FA20DIT. The current engine inside the WRX is the FA24DIT.

All of them are turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engines with 2.0-2.5 L of displacement. The EJ20, EJ205, and FA20 are all 2.0 L engines, while the FA24 is 2.4 L and the EJ255 is 2.5 L. Previously, we have published guides for both the EJ205 and FA24 engines, so make sure to give those a read.

What does AVCS mean on Subaru engines?

AVCS stands for Active Valve Control System, and is Subaru’s proprietary version of variable valve timing (VVT).  The EJ255, FA20, and FA24 all have AVCS.

What kind of transmissions does the WRX have?

From 1992-2022, the WRX has been available with both a manual and automatic transmission. Starting in 2015, Subaru added a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) option to the lineup. From 1992-2014, the WRX had variations of a 5-speed manual (5MT) and 4-speed automatic (4EAT) transmissions. Starting in 2015, the WRX got a new 6-speed manual, which is still in use today.

Is the WRX’s transmission really “glass?”

It is commonly thought that the 5-speed transmission in the WRX from 2002-2003 are “glass” because there were a lot of early failures. This is a debatable question, but the general consensus is that the problems were related to driver error.

The WRX was one of the first turbocharged AWD vehicles to come stateside packing a punch. Many drivers were inexperienced with AWD and tried to launch their Subie like it was a RWD muscle car – to obvious problems. This caused lots of failures and destroyed transmissions, giving the 5-speed its “glass” reputation.

However, Subaru did not significantly change the transmission in the years following 2002-2003, yet most of the issues went away. This really points to the issue being a product of poor driving and shifting techniques. The Subaru 5-speed is a perfectly capable transmission as long as it is properly maintained and not heavily abused. Though, power-wise it does start to fail past 400whp. STi 6-speed swaps are common, as they bolt directly into the WRX’s bell housing.

What common problems do the WRX engines have?

The turbo-EJ20 series of engines, including the EJ20G, EJ20K, and EJ205, are all very reliable and stout engines. The only real issue with them is cracked coil packs which can occur over time. Early EJ20s had closed deck-blocks, making them stronger than the later open-deck designs.

The EJ255’s main problems are related to ringland failure, spun rod bearings, and thrown connecting rods. Most of these issues are caused by detonation and pre-ignition from poor tuning and unwise modifications. We previously wrote a guide for EJ255 common problems, so make sure to check that out.

The biggest issues related to the turbo-FA series of engines are carbon buildup on the spark plugs and weak connecting rods. The carbon buildup is due to the direct injection fuel systems the FA engines utilize and is not typically an issue. The connecting rods are only good until about 330whp before they become prone to snapping, and they are also very susceptible to large amounts of low-end torque. Make sure to check out our FA20 common problems guide for issues specific to that engine.

We also have a general article looking at the reliability of the WRX over the generations. Make sure to give that a good read, too.

How much horsepower and torque does the WRX make?

Engine Horsepower Torque
EJ20G 217-256 hp 235 lb-ft
EJ20K 276 hp 245 lb-ft
EJ205 227 hp 217 lb-ft
EJ255 224-265 hp 226-244 lb-ft
FA20DIT 268 hp 258 lb-ft
FA24DIT 271 hp 258 lb-ft

What is the WRX’s zero to 60 mph and ¼ mile times?

Though there have been several different engines with varying power levels, the zero to 60 mph and ¼ mile times have actually stayed relatively consistent. Nearly every model will make 60 mph within 4.9-5.8 seconds and hit the ¼ mile in 13.5-14.2 seconds at 94-100 mph.

Surprisingly, the earlier model years were actually a little quicker than the newer models, mainly due to abusive clutch dumps during 5,500 RPM launches. The clutches on newer WRXs are much lighter and harder to do high RPM launches from, hence the slower times.

What causes the “Subie rumble?”

The infamous Subie rumble that is characteristic of all WRX and WRX STi models comes from the boxer engine design and unequal-length headers. All boxer motors have slight rumble, due to their configuration. The WRX and WRX STi models really emphasize it with unequal-length headers – making for the famous Subie rumble. The unique sound comes from the uneven pace of exhaust pulses reaching the turbo. Unequal-length headers are worse for performance than equal-length headers, but they do give it an interesting sound.

What makes the Subaru WRX’s AWD so special?

Subaru’s AWD system has an equal 50/50 split, which means that power is equally distributed to the front and rear differentials. This is in contrast to VW style AWD, which has a front-wheel bias, or BMW style AWD, which has a rear-wheel bias. Subaru argues this allows for better traction and stability, especially on non-pavement surfaces and when making sharp turns.

Is the WRX the same as an WRX STi?

While the WRX and the WRX STi have a lot of similarities, there are also a ton of differences. The WRX is a much milder version of the STi, and made less power and had softer suspension. For a full breakdown of the differences between the WRX and WRX STi make sure to check out our guide.

Subaru WRX Mods and Upgrades FAQ

How much horsepower can a Subaru WRX make?

This is a pretty debatable question, but both the EJ and FA series of engines have shown to be capable of making some serious power. The EJ205 is an incredibly prolific tuning engine and is capable of making 500+whp with supporting mods. The block from its JDM counterpart, the EJ207, is often used with EJ205 heads to make a hybrid motor.

The EJ255 is also a very tunable engine ready to make lots of power. Again, with supporting mods, 500+whp is definitely a reachable goal. However, pump gas is likely not going to cut it on the really high horsepower Subie builds. You’re probably going to need to go with E85 to truly hit those big power figures.

The FA20 and FA24 are much newer on the scene, but there have already been some very impressive builds. Similar to the EJ series, both the FA20DIT and FA24DIT have been shown to be capable of 500+whp with supporting mods. Once again, E85 is highly recommended for big horsepower builds on the FA series of engines.

What are the best upgrades for the WRX?

There are several good mods for all years of the Subaru WRX. The biggest mods for every engine are going to be a downpipe and ECU tuning. On EJ20 engines, these mods together can add 20-40 whp/wtq. On the FA series, the gains are similar, at about 20-50 whp/wtq. There are also good suspension upgrades that can be made to the WRX, with the most popular being coilovers.

Luckily, we’ve already looked at a ton of different upgrades for the WRX. For the FA20, we’ve looked at upgrades for the turbo, intercooler, downpipe (j-pipe) and cat back, and intake. We also have a guide for the top 6 FA20 upgrades, so check that out, too. For the EJ255, previously we have looked at downpipe upgrades. For all years of the WRX, we also have an excellent coilovers guide.

What is considered “full bolt ons” (fbo) for the Subaru WRX?

The term “full bolt ons” for the WRX is generally considered to mean an intake, downpipe, headers, intercooler, tuning, and electronic boost control solenoid (EBCS). You might also hear the terms stage 1-3 to refer to mods. For the FA series,  stage 1 is generally an intake and a tune; stage 2 is a downpipe and a tune; and stage 3 is a downpipe, tune, intake, EBCS, and intercooler. The EJ255 is the same for stages 1-2, but stage 3 is a tune, intake, downpipe, EBCS, fuel injectors, fuel pump, and fuel pressure regulator.

How much power can the Subaru WRX handle?

The EJ20 and EJ25 series of engines can generally handle 350whp with a completely stock block and stock internals. At 400+whp it’s a good idea to upgrade to forged pistons and connecting rods, and at 500+whp head studs, stronger rod bearings, and eventually block sleeves.

In addition, the fuel injectors, fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator, and crankshaft should all be upgraded. Supporting mods like a full exhaust, air-oil-separator, intercooler, intake, EBCS, tuning, and larger turbo are also necessary.

For the FA20, the weakest point iis the connecting rods, which are generally thought to only be good until 350whp. Besides those, nothing internally needs to be upgraded until 400whp, when pistons, head studs, and rod bearings are typically upgraded. The block is capable of sustaining 500+whp without issue. Supporting mods like a full exhaust, intake, intercooler, air-oil-separator, EBCS, tuning, and larger turbo are also necessary for 400+whp.

The FA24 is a practically brand new engine, so it’s not entirely known what it can withstand. With that being said, there is at least one example from Prime Motoring of a FA24 engine with forged pistons and rods making over 500whp. They have since sold the project, but they reportedly did not have any issues while they were building it.

Subaru WRX FAQ Summary

The Subaru WRX has certainly come a long way since its early 1990s origins in Japan. Several engines, suspension setups, and body styles later, the 2022 WRX is a vastly different machine. Yet, it still pays tribute to the ‘90s version with its rally inspired moniker and boxer engine. The turbocharged engine, AWD drive train, manual transmission, and hood scoop have always remained and kept the WRX’s soul pure.

Say what you will about the 2015+ WRX styling, it still packs a ferocious punch under the hood. It will be interesting to see where Subaru goes with the WRX in the future and how long it remains powered by an internal combustion engine. Hopefully, the WRX’s days are just beginning and there will be many more generations of Japanese rally-inspired excellence from Subaru.

Do you own a Subaru WRX or WRX STi, or are you considering buying one in the future? What mod paths have you followed with your EJ of FA powered Subarus? Any questions that you would like to see us answer on here?
Let us know in the comments below!

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