Subaru WRX STi Road Test

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NOT AN IMPREZA


Welcome to the Subaru WRX STI which is the next evolution of the Impreza. But whilst the Impreza is still in production, the WRX STI isn’t it, the modern Impreza is now a medium sized hatchback powered by a 1.6 fuel injected petrol engine. And whilst it features Subaru’s AWD system, it isn’t the rally winning fire breather it used to be. Instead, like the new Levorg, it’s now one of Subaru’s common sense cars. Common sense however isn’t what the WRX STI is about instead it comes complete with a serious attitude problem and an unyielding urge to snap back.


Complete with Thatcham Cat 1 security, every external inch of the four-door saloon bodywork exudes aggression. Sat on black 18” alloys shod with directional Dunlop Sport Maxx 245/40 tyres, the wheel in turn shroud 17” Brembo racing disc brakes that seriously appreciate being warmed up. Clamped to the road with independent sub-frame mounted MacPherson struts, coils, gas filled shocks and an anti-roll bar on the front and a similar arrangement apart from the double wishbones at the rear, the WRX suspension is nearly as unforgiving as the looks. Piercingly staring front lights, splitters, deep scoops, side skirts, four growling tailpipes and a huge boot lid mounted spoiler all combine to give the WRX a moody, prowling persona.


Inside the cabin the WRX rather hints that its DNA is that of a competition car. If you’re looking for gizmos, elegance and a hint of luxury don’t even bother opening the doors since you won’t find any of it inside this Subaru. Black leather with red stitching and red inserts form the sides and bolsters of the racing style front seats, black alcantara the centre sections, the more conventional rear seat similarly trimmed. A D-style multi function thick rimmed and fully adjustable sports steering wheel sits just ahead of the two red on black dials, the central computer readout backed up by the secondary displays mounted on the dash roll.


All the surfaces are soft touch whilst the cabin is more than spacious enough to accommodate five passengers along with 460 litres of luggage. Besides the usual traction control switch, just to the rear of the red knobbed 6-speed manual stick sits the differential control which can be left in automatic or intelligent mode or adjusted to suit the conditions plus the 3-mode Subaru Intelligence controls. The basic satnav is more than adequate but for music lovers DAB has yet to find its way into the entertainment system.


Beneath the sculpted bonnet sits Subaru’s now trademark engine, the Euro6 spec 16v 2,457cc 4-cylinder Boxer or flat four injected engine delivering 300hp and 407Nm of torque courtesy of the twin-scroll turbos. However, with performance as the WRX’s ultimate goal expect an average of around 23.7mpg or about 250 miles per 60 litre tank of unleaded. Consumption does improve to around 33mpg on steady throttle running but drops dramatically the instant more acceleration is applied. But let’s face it you won’t be buying a WRX for reasons of economy.


Settle into the comfortable, torso hugging driver’s seat, turn the key one place, wait for the clicking to stop and fire up the engine and the exhausts immediately crackle into life albeit with a degree of initial recalcitrance. Similarly, until the transmission oil has gained some temperature the short throw, competition gearbox can be noticeably stiff until a few miles have been covered, the ABS brakes a tad more progressive once a little temperature has been gained.


With very nicely weighted hydraulic power steering requires only three turns lock to lock to achieve the 5.5 meter turning circle, the feedback extremely good. Similarly, visibility is excellent, the driver always fully aware of where the car is on the road or when maneuvering. But like any car of this type a watchful eye must be kept, the WRX STI still ‘old school’ by design. Yes, there’s the aforementioned traction control, hill start assist, various multi-dynamic systems, tyre monitoring and torque vectoring all of which the driver or the car can control.


But stab the loud pedal a little too hard and all the driver aids shrink into the background whilst the diff will unfortunately insist of trying to keep the car in a straight line especially during hard cornering. Get the WRX flowing and this Subaru will reward the experienced driver, the levels of grip from the four-wheel drive system, neutral attitude, ability to be balanced and sheer raw performance everything you’d expect of this car.


With a 0-62mph of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 159mph the WRX is more than quick enough which in conjunction with the AWD system and responsive handling all means Subaru’s latest incarnation of their competition car continues the marque’s traditions. It isn’t however a car for the novice, the old fashioned attitude, hard suspension, heavily sprung clutch and underlying urge to bite back means you have to be on top of the car virtually all the time. So yes, Subaru’s latest WRX STI is a barrel of fun to drive but not as an everyday car, you may find you tire very quickly of the WRX if it’s your only car.

           

At £28,995 as tested, price versus performance and heritage means the buyer is on the winning side. And whilst many of the luxuries of some of the equivalent cars just aren’t there and the interior isn’t probably as nice as you might expect, the WRX STI delivers everything you’d expect from an ersatz homologation car. Whilst Subaru’s latest WRX saloon may no longer be a WRC participant or currently have the following of its illustrious predecessor, the competition heritage is still to be found although it’s delivered in a slightly different way.


My advice is to try before you buy and be honest enough with yourself to say yes, this new Subaru is for me or admit that it could well be more car than you’re currently capable of driving. If the answer is the later then there are other far more sympathetic cars that should still fit the bill but if your answer is the former, then strap in and enjoy.    

         




By; Mark Stone




Subaru WRX STi Road Test