2024 Subaru WRX stickshift showdown: Limited vs TR

2024 Subaru WRX stickshift showdown: Limited vs TR

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The past decade has seen the accelerating demise of affordable fun cars, so when a mainstream manufacturer says it’s going to expand its stable of performance models — even when it’s something as simple as a new trim like the 2024 Subaru WRX TR — we stand up and take notice.

From where we sit, it looks like Subaru is still trying to figure out exactly where the WRX stands in this shrinking field of sport compacts. Without a halo model above its rally-inspired sedan, that leaves plenty of proverbial white space for the company’s performance arm to explore. From that space, Subaru plucked the “Tuner Ready” WRX. What is it, and how does it compare to the standard WRX?


To the great relief of reproductive health advocates everywhere, Subaru is no longer in the business of pumping out STIs. That’s bad news for those of us who already have the performance itch and would like to scratch it. Prodrive teased us with some aftermarket parts last year, prompting us to ask Subaru whether something similar might be in the works from the factory. With tight smiles and half-hearted shrugs, we were told they had nothing to say … until one day they did.


But the TR is as much defined by what it doesn’t include as by what it does. While it offered other enticements, the STI had two core things going for it: an upgraded AWD system and a bunch more power. The TR has neither. Even the Prodrive prototype got a modest bump over the WRX’s factory output, but the TR carries over the base car’s 271-horsepower tune unchanged; even the exhaust was untouched. Both weigh almost exactly 3,400 pounds. There’s also one major equipment delete: the sunroof. If you’re taller and need room for a helmet, that’s all upside.

What you do get is a series of chassis upgrades designed to aid you in the early days of your track-day aspirations. Subaru fitted some Brembo brakes (six-piston front; two-piston rear) with larger discs and calipers, and a larger master cylinder for improved heat management and track longevity. The steering rack, spring stiffness and damping rates were also tweaked to reduce body motions and improve steering response without sacrificing ride quality, even on the new 19-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza S007 summer performance tires. Inside, you get a set of beefed up Recaro seats with branding to match. This is the only way to get them in a WRX with a manual transmission in 2024; your alternative is the CVT-only GT.

For a limited time only

Barely a week after we’d sent the TR back to Subaru, we learned that the trim will be discontinued entirely for 2025. It will be superseded by the tS, which gets pretty much the same treatment as the TR, only with the added benefit of the GT’s swanky adaptive suspension and integrated drive modes. It will cost more than the TR, but we don’t yet know how much.

So that makes the TR a single-model-year proposition. With the tS on the horizon, is this lame duck sport sedan worth plunking down your hard-earned cash, or is it nothing more than a placeholder for something truly special? That’s precisely what we set out to determine.

Your drivers today are Senior Editor John Beltz Snyder and your author, Associate Editor Byron Hurd. You may recognize us from our previous comparison, which admittedly involved far less sporty hardware. Beneath his electrified exterior, Snyder is a previous WRX owner and enduring fan; I, meanwhile, was a long-time skeptic who became a convert after driving the 2022. We’re both fans of this car as-is, so anything that leans into its sporty, go-fast-anywhere character sounds like a solid upgrade to us. And that’s essentially what the 2024 Subaru WRX TR is.

The test

Our test loop includes a back-road handling circuit, several stretches of interstate and state highway, along with an extensive surface-street drive in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Both drivers got to experience both cars in the same environments back-to-back, giving us each a snapshot of daily life behind the wheel of these machines.

There’s one more thing we need to point out before we get to the nitty-gritty. While the WRX TR Subaru loaned us was a 2024, the Limited in our long-term fleet is not; it’s a 2023 — mechanically identical, but lacking some feature updates that touched the entire WRX lineup this year. For the purposes of this comparison, we’re evaluating it based on what it would cost to purchase the same model in 2024. We also ignored the EyeSight driver assistance technology pack entirely in our comparison, as it is standard on all 2024 WRXs regardless of transmission.