Sedans & Coupes

Why Did a 1998 Subaru Impreza STi Just Sell for $312,555?

Even with a ‘no reserve’ status, car auction results tend to follow established market trends. True, the idea of paying millions of dollars for a car might be crazy for some. However, depending on the specific vehicle, that could be par for the course. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some insane outliers, though. Case in point, the 1998 Subaru Impreza STI that just sold for $312,555 on Bring a Trailer.

A 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi is not your average WRX

A blue 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi parked by a warehouse
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi | Bring a Trailer

No, that price isn’t a typo. On April 19th, 2021, a blue 1998 Subaru Impreza STi crossed the Bring a Trailer auction block at $312,555. But, to be fair, it isn’t an ordinary Impreza or even a WRX. The Subaru in question is an Impreza 22B STi.

Much like the Tommi Makinen Edition is to Mistubishi Evos, the 22B is the king of the Subaru Impreza WRXs, Road & Track reports. It was built to celebrate the Japanese automaker’s 40th anniversary and three consecutive WRC titles, MotorTrend reports. And it’s become “the ultimate STI halo car,” Automobile reports.

When the first US-market Subaru Impreza WRX STI arrived in 2004, its 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four engine made 276 hp. But the 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi has a 2.2-liter turbocharged flat-four engine that, because of the ‘gentleman’s agreement,’ makes a claimed 280 hp. However, in reality, the 22B makes about 300 hp, Car and Driver reports. And with that, the AWD sedan goes 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds.

More power, though, is just the beginning of the upgrades the 22B enjoys over the contemporary Subaru Impreza WRX. It has faster steering, different gear ratios, and an electronically-controlled center differential, Top Gear and R&T report. The 22B also has stronger engine components, a more robust clutch, and retuned suspension with lighter components, Bilstein shocks, and Eibach springs, Roadshow reports. Plus, Brembo brakes, BBS wheels, a larger adjustable wing, and a WRC-derived wide-body kit, Automobile and Petrolicious report.

Add it all up, and you get what Car and Driver called “the Subaru from hell.” The 22B Impreza is a riot behind the wheel, Hagerty reports; “basically a WRC race car for the street,” R&T reports.

How did a Subaru Impreza 22B STi sell for over $300,000?

The rear 3/4 view of a blue 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi on a desert parking lot
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi rear 3/4 | Bring a Trailer

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As impressive as all that is, that doesn’t necessarily seem like enough to justify this 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi’s final auction price. Indeed, when we first reported on the auction, the 22B was ‘only’ at $150,000. So how did the car garner $312,555?

Firstly, the 22B is an extremely rare Subaru Impreza STi variant. Subaru only made 424 examples: 400 for Japan, 21 for the UK and Australia, and three prototypes, Autoblog reports. Secondly, this particular 22B only has 39,554 km (24,578 miles) on the clock. And everything, from its underbody to its Recaro seats and body panels, is “in wonderful condition,” R&T reports.

The blue-and-black Recaro front seats and dashboard of a 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi front interior | Bring a Trailer

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Thirdly, the Subaru Impreza 22B comes from the same period as the Civic Si that sold for $50,000. As Hagerty explains, the generation of enthusiasts that grew up drooling over imports in the late 90s and early 2000s finally has buying power. Thus, these cars’ values go up.

Finally, this 22B is actually in the US despite being less than 25 years old. That’s because it was imported under the NHTSA’s ‘show and display’ regulations, which let people bring in “notable, low-production vehicles,” albeit, with an annual mileage limit, The Drive explains. If the importer hadn’t used the show-and-display rules, they would’ve had to wait until 2023 to bring in this 22B.

Was it worth it?

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In terms of usability, this 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi is significantly more modern than that $300,000 240Z. Still, it sold for roughly six times as much as the previous WRX STI record-holder on Bring a Trailer. And just last year, another 22B ‘only’ sold for $172k, Hagerty reports.

However, as astronomical as the $312,555 final bid seems, it might not be that insane soon. Hagerty pointed out that several other forbidden-fruit cars’ auction prices spiked right around the time they became eligible for US importation. We’ve seen this happen with R32 and R33 Skyline GT-R prices. And one near-mint R34 GT-R was listed for sale at $485,000. As such, 22Bs might also become more valuable in the next few years.

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All we know for sure, though, is that whoever dropped that final bid now has their hands on one incredible rally car.

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