WRX STI Type R Coupe – The Baby 22B

When it comes to Subaru’s back catalogue, there is perhaps no greater hit than the 22B.

Taking the formula of the normal, already-epic WRX STI bit dialled up to 11 (or a rally car dialled down a notch to be suitable for the road – you take your pick) the 22B is a legend.

The coupe body style, aggressively wide body and massive spoiler give hints to the fact that is an even more powerful and potent version of an already superb performance car.

However, the 22B has always been pricey, and is now so expensive that us mere financial mortals will never get the chance to have a look in edgeways.

It wasn’t cheap to begin with anyway, with the few examples that made it to Australia as new cars selling for around $130,000 AUD – if you could get your hands on one as the entire production run of under 500 examples (most of them being sold in Japan) was snatched up very quickly.

Realistically, the 22B has never been an attainable JDM icon and even if you have oodles of cash you’d probably struggle to get your hands on one. 

As luck would have it, there is a lesser-known “baby” 22B, the WRX STI Type R coupe that might be more attainable.

In this edition of car facts, I’ll explain more about Subaru’s ‘Type R’.

What Is It?

Long story short, the WRX STI Type R is a factory coupe version of the WRX STI Type R from the ‘GC8’ generation.

An example of an early (V4 I believe) WRX STI Type R coupe from some promotional material.

You get the powerful turbocharged engine, epic Subaru AWD system with seemingly endless grip, improved suspension and all the other goodies that normally come with the WRX STI but wrapped up in a sharp looking coupe body style.

The Type R was first introduced for the MY97 WRX STI (V3):

I haven’t actually seen that many V3 Type Rs in the wild, and it seems to be more common to find them for the V5, V5 and V6 (which was the final revision to the original GC8 WRX STI)

I think the V5 and V6 models look particularly good with the large spoilers, and you also enjoy a slightly more modern interior with all sorts of clever technology such as, wait for it, an airbag or two.

Particularly desirable is the WRX STI V6 Type-R Limited (what a mouthful) which was the final iteration of the GC8 coupe and features special blue bucket seats and wears the signature metallic blue with gold wheels colour scheme:

Source: WhichCar.com.au (via auction listing)

As with all JDM cars worth their salt, the Type R had across its versions various spec options and limited editions (of what was already a ‘low volume’ car) and knowing exactly what is what can be a challenge. My personal view is from a purchasing perspective I wouldn’t be too fussed on chasing a dream spec car, and instead aim to get the best one possible within my budget.

The WRX STI Type R was a “true” JDM car being built only for sale new in Japan, and in relatively limited numbers for each version (for example the V5 was built only from late 1998 to mid 1999, with fewer than 1000 examples existing).

The Type R also came equipped (at least for 1998 and onwards cars – I can’t confirm for the 97 V3 models) with a driver controlled center differential/DCCD which will be familiar to drivers of more modern WRX STI versions.

Any Type R you see for sale outside of Japan is going to be a grey market import, having been sold new in Japan and then exported overseas.

Why Is It Special?

Apart from the 22B, the WRX STI Type R is one of the only other factory WRX coupes. The UK enjoyed a limited-run “P1” coupe that was based on the Type R platform, and from my research it appears that in Australia at least it was possible to buy a V6 WRX STI in coupe form (with some specification differences) but feel free to correct me in the comment section if that isn’t correct.

An example of the “P1” UK WRX, tuned by Prodrive. Source: Pistonheads

In fact, the 22B was originally built by taking a Type R chassis and then modifying it … so if you buy a Type R WRX STI you can tell your friends that you have the ‘parent car’ of Subaru’s most desirable ever model.

Production for the V5 version was very limited in terms of timeframe, lasting for less than one year from late 1998 to mid 1999, making it a rare variant of the WRX STI.

Performance specifications are largely the same as the equivalent WRX STI sedan. As with all Japanese performance cars of the era, the Type R complied (on paper) with the 276hp ‘gentleman’s agreement’ but realistically these cars were probably pushing out closer to 300hp.

Is The WRX STI Type R As Good As A 22B?

Honestly, no.

The 22B is a whole different ballgame, with a larger and more powerful engine, superior brakes and a whole host of other performance and visual modifications.

It isn’t just a narrow body 22B, but the WRX STI Type R is a fantastic vehicle nonetheless and well worthy of consideration if you have the opportunity to purchase an example.

However, despite being effectively a factory improved WRX STI, the truth is that it was always so expensive and rare (and even more so now) that you can’t consider one to be ‘cross shoppable’ with a normal WRX STI, sedan or coupe.

You could probably purchase a WRX STI Type R for every day of the week, and have enough change for a decent boat, for the price of a genuine 22B these days. 

But don’t let that get you down – the Type R is still an immense car and an icon in its own right.

I suspect that any ‘normal’ driver would find the WRX STI Type R to be a more than adequate alternative for a whole lot less money when compared to the 22B.

You’ve still got the best part of 300bhp to play with, in a car that weighs less than 1300kg (it still amazes me just how light the original WRX cars are by modern standards).

I haven’t driven a Type R coupe but I have extensively driven a high-spec sedan of the era and the driving experience is phenomenal. You simply won’t be disappointed, and you’ll turn the ignition off after every drive with a smile on your face. The level of driver involvement cannot be matched by any “modern” WRX.

Buying A WRX STI Type R Coupe

Prices have gone up substantially for all WRX STIs from the GC8 generation, and as a rare JDM curios the Type R has seen some of the more aggressive price inflation. It has always been sought after by Subaru enthusiasts because of the connection to the 22B and its relative rarity in the pantheon of Subaru WRX special models. 

That being said, depending on your budget you can still get one of these amazing cars for reasonable money. For example, here’s one for sale in New Zealand in what appears to be very clean and tidy, original condition for a not outrageous price (although I do remember when you could get a good one for less than $20000 NZD)

In terms of buying a good one, there isn’t much different to buying a “normal” WRX STI. Consult our GC8 WRX and WRX STI buyer’s guide here for more information. 

If you’ve owned a WRX STI Type R, then feel free to leave a comment below with your experiences – it would be great to hear from you. Equally if you have any questions, corrections or issues with this article, then leave a comment or feel free to email admin@garagedreams.net 

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  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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