Okay, here it is – our latest Photo Gallery Road Test, this time of the Subaru WRX STi!
Which may be slightly confusing because our last one was of a Subaru WRX…
Actually, this one is of the hotter, nastier (in a good way) WRX STi, but there is still room for confusion. So why have we done it? Simply because the pics for the STi turned out to be so good we couldn’t resist!
You can check out the last Photo Gallery Road Test of the automatic WRX here, read our Road Test of the manual WRX here or the launch story (and videos) by heading here!
As usual, click on the pic below to enlarge it and read the wordy stuff. Or just enjoy the visual goodness of the pics!
Subaru insisted that the WRX has grown up with its latest (Impreza-less) incarnation, and we would have to agree that it had, while still thankfully retaining all the power, handling and outright fun we had come to expect from the nameplate. But while that is all fine and well for the WRX, what of the STi? First they had stripped the greatest rally-derived road rocket of them all of its reason for existing (WRC), now they were threatening to make it all mature and grown up? Wouldn’t that just ruin it?
As it turns out; not particularly. But that is because they didn’t really make the STi grow up as much as we might have feared.
That’s right. While the WRX has come over all refined and mature, there were still a few cracks where the mental little belter buried inside still shone through. STi have just stuck a crowbar into those cracks and forced a seriously mental little powerhouse out into the open.
That’s not to say that the STi hasn’t become more refined, because it has. It’s just that the mongrel is more on show here. Plus all the scoops, wings and gaping intakes that the STi is both loved and derided for are still very much present and accounted for. It’s just that some of them aren’t standard anymore…
Where the standard WRX has now strayed from the Impreza brand, it still shares a significant amount of the lesser cars structure and even some panels. So does the STi. But if the WRX is the Impreza turn up to full volume, then by that reckoning, the STi is the Impreza turned up to 11.
And, by Christ, does it look good. The 18-inch matt black alloys are a welcome avoidance of the cliched gold ones and look utterly menacing on the hunkered, simmering car that they hold up.
You will probably have noticed by now that STi hasn’t exactly been shy about plastering its name over its go-faster version of the WRX – by our reckoning it appears ten times, not counting the digital readouts. But then neither should they be shy, because the new STi is quite an impressive car indeed.
The trademark bonnet scoop is very much in place here, while under it lies one of the things that makes the WRX STi so very special…
And if you couldn’t figure out what that was, I am surprised you can actually read this… I am, of course, referring to the mighty 221kW/407Nm 2.5-litre 4-cylinder boxer engine that propels the STi from a standing start to the legal open-road speed limit in a scant 4.9 seconds.
The STi’s boxer engine is is still prodigiously powerful, but the most impressive part of it is its muscular flexibility and massive torque. Well, okay, the feral power and intensely angry sound are pretty much as awesome, but the sheer usability that the big torque brings to teh STi when you are NOT thrashing it makes it quite a remarkable car indeed.
While the STi is surprisingly capable at low speeds, it is not altogether domesticated. The fact that it is only available with a six-speed manual transmission should give you the most obvious hint that this thing ain’t made to do the school run on a regular basis. But then, it is it will do it. That is the surprising part, because…
… the STi’s performance is utterly feral when you really wind it up. It boasts a simply mind-bending ability to cover Point A to Point B very quickly indeed. The more corners between the two points, the better.
While the massive wing is now a (no cost) option, the STi’s monstrously mental approach to destroying corners is still very much intact. It still very much has a tendency to understeer if you go in too fast, but with all that fat torque on tap, the good ol’ slow-in-fast-out approach works just fine, thank you very much!
The interior is the one area that has seen simply massive improvements with the WRX’s “maturity” and teh STi version is no different. While it is still nowhere near being up with the Euros, the vast quality strides that have taken place in the WRX (and, by default, the STi) have made it a far more convincing proposition. Previously it was always a case of “yeah, I just grazed my hand on the rough dash plastic, but jeez this thing is fast!” Not anymore though, because while the STi is still blisteringly fast, it will no longer blister your arm if you rub it on the badly made door trims.
The STi’s six-speed manual transmission is a thing of pure business. No cliched poetic toss will be written about its shift action being slick and silky smooth (or even worse, like a f*#king rifle bolt…). No, that is because it is a thick-chested manly transmission that deals with big power and driver folly. To nick a line from Spider-man, if it is the case that with great power comes great responsibilty, then the STi’s manual transmission is very responsible indeed, even it the monkey using it isn’t.
Then there is this little baby. This is the switch that controls the centre diff. You can open it right up, lock it right down or let the smart computer brain decide what is best. And it makes a massive difference to the way the STi behaves, particularly on gravel.
The seats are impressively grippy, which is a welcome relief, because the STi is capable of chucking you around if you aren’t prepared.
They are also fortunately comfortable. While teh STi doesn’t have the worst ride in teh world, it is worth keeping in mind that it is a serious performance car, regardless of how much Subaru have tried to make it grow up. That means a rigidly controlled body and the correspondingly firm ride.
One thing we weren’t expecting to be impressed by in the STi was the stereo. But we were wrong – Subaru have seen fit to equip the STi with a thumping 8-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system, complete with 6.1-inch touch screen, USB and Auxiliary inputs and Bluetooth connectivity. And a very big sound…
But as always, the best sound comes from this end of the STi. It may have matured, but the rasping bellow of a hot boxer four is still very much the soundtrack of the STi. And it still sounds very good indeed.
The WRX Sti may have grown up, but there is still more than enough mongrel present to keep the fans happy. It may be thirsty, relatively expensive and not as well made as the European competition, but there is still that strong personality and blatant middle finger to common sense that the WRX in general and the STi in particular has always done so well.