You have to admit that it looks familiar. The design of this car started 23 years ago when Subaru introduced the Impreza, a car that would later on revolutionize the four-wheel drive rally circuit. Now Subaru introduces the new WRX STi, an of the 21st century, only not by name. The 2.5L turbocharged boxer four, the massive rear wing, four-wheel drive, optional gold rims, and of course the characteristic bonnet intake vent, it’s all there. In many ways, it’s the same as the old Impreza, and that’s a brilliant thing.
In the driving seat
The first thing you notice when you position yourself behind the D-shaped flattened steering wheel, is the rigidness of the car. Everything in this car is made to withhold serious vibrations that you would mostly find on the rally track: the supportive seats, the solid steel paddles, and a thick, short gear stick. We are personally a big fan of the fact that Subaru always provides its customers with a very simple, clean dash. It has has three climate control rotating buttons, and if those don’t fulfill your needs, open a window. This car is made for giving the driver an intense driving experience, and Subaru will not allow this experience to be affected in any way by fancy, soothing electronics or luxury features. Carbon fiber finishing and racy red accents give you the feeling of speed before even pressing the start button.
Ride and Performance
The sound of this Scoobie is impressive. The urge of opening the windows when driving through a tunnel is irresistible. The biggest improvement is the stiffness of the chassis and the body. As many motorheads will know, the only serious dent on the driving experience of the old Impreza was that it was too forgiving. We can say with 100% certainty that this problem is completely solved. It now offers a very disciplined ride and responds as directly as a well-trained German Shepard. It reacts instantly to almost everything you want it to do, except for acceleration. It still suffers from a high amount of turbo lag (this is where the BMW M3 and VW Golf R certainly distinguish themselves). Besides this, it’s still a car that offers very few compromises.
Performance wise, the 305 hp at 6000 rpm delivers some serious output. Especially in Sport Sharp mode, the WRX STi unleashes an immediate surge of power and speed, due to the excellent grip. The very short and snappy gearbox enables fast shifting, which again shows the true racing-DNA of the car. Subaru only offers the WRX STi as a 6-speed manual and we found the clutch take-up to be a bit grabby sometimes. Another thing that comes with driving a car that wants to play in the dirt, is that there is no opportunity for fuel-efficiency. In 6th gear, at 130 kph, it was already in the upper REV’s, giving it amazing acceleration in high speed, but no relaxed cruising on the highway, because the REV’s simply can’t drop.
The big wing on the back of the WRX STi, and late Impreza, shall always be a point of discussion. Some say it’s preposterous, some say it is neither a WRX STi nor Impreza without it. Subaru swears that the spoiler adds minimal drag and still offers heaps of downforce, resulting in a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.329, creating about the same amount of drag as a Ferrari California and the Porsche 997 GT2.
Features and Safety
For the simple dashboard and stripped interior, the Subaru still has a wide array of features and options. The first humorous point was the cruise control option, which contradicts what this car was built for. Still, we imagine this feature to be handy on long-trips. We are also of the opinion that when you make the decision to put in a full climate-control system, put in a proper one. The system fitted currently had a lack of ability to distribute the airflow in a comfortable way, being to warm in the back and to cold in the front.
Subaru’s SI-Drive is a system that lets you switch between three driving modes: Intelligent (I), Sport (S), and Sport Sharp (S#). The WRX STi was handed to us with S# mode as default setting. In the slow traffic of Mexico City the car felt quite jerky. After 30 minutes of agitating stop-and-go manoeuvres, we found relief by putting the car in Intelligent mode, which smoothed the ride tremendously. A tip by Subaru, that we discovered a little too late, is to use S# mode mainly for circuit and open road driving.
The WRX Sti also has an automatic Center Differential (C. Diff). Putting in in Auto mode, the C. Diff’s computer constantly adjusts the torque split depending on lateral G’s, yaw rate, throttle and steering angle. This results in an tremendous improvement of balance and cornering. The Manual mode allows the driver to allocate the rear-to-front torque split from the default 65:35 to 50:50. Unless you’re Petter Solberg, Subaru advises to only adjust the Center Differential manually in snow or gravel. Having put this to the test, on asphalt the Subaru – obviously – didn’t drive well with an evenly 50:50 torque split. Locking the diff resulted in the diff making the worst popping sound. It turned out that we are not Petter Solberg after all.
The WRX STi is one of the most joyful rides we’ve driven in a long while. Fast and exciting, it can really surprise you. The Subaru has extraordinary handling and a direct connection with the road, thanks to the automatic C. Diff’s special powers on tight corners and special terrain. Yet it’s inadequacy to drive comfortably at low REVs, its unforgiving character on asphalt and its high starting price could put off serious buyers. The BMW M3 and Golf R, for example, offer a similar driving experience, with an added portion of luxury and, to be honest, prettier designs.
The Subaru WRX STi is still the absolute king when it comes to driving on gravel or the track, yet the Japanese forgot to take into account those racy daredevils that also have to commute to work on Monday morning…
At a glance
- Make: Subaru
- Model: WRX STi (2015)
- Engine: 2.5 liters 4-cylinder SUBARU BOXER® Turbo
- Power: 305 HP
- MPG: 17-23 Km/liter
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- 0-100 Km/h in 4.8 seconds
- Optional REV limitation
- Harman/Kardon premium speakers
- Steering Wheel Audio Controls
- Custom Differential
- Subaru SI-Drive®
- Navigation System
- LED Headlights
- Front and Rear Parking Sensors
- Rear Camera
- Keyless START/STOP function