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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Subaru WRX STI

Click to view picture gallery“These days a £30K budget is
  enough to buy some seriously quick
  machinery, but for hardcore driving
  enthusiasts there can be only one —
  a WRX STI...”


POSEURS KICK THE TYRES; image-conscious drivers check out the alloys; skilled drivers see past the rims to the brakes. Clocking the WRX STI's hardcore Brembo items — 17-inch discs and 4-piston callipers at the front; 17-inch/2-pot callipers at the rear — they know this is a hard-charging motor that takes stopping seriously. Which, given the power under the bonnet, is crucial.

Looking at the size of the rear spoiler, they also totally understand that it's got nothing to do with showmanship but everything to do with maximising downforce at speed for maximum stability and grip.

For the record, this latest-generation WRX STI beat its own four-wheeled lap record around the famous Isle of Man TT circuit in 2014 with British Rally champion Mark Higgins at the wheel, it completed a lap of the 37.75-mile course in just 19 minutes 15.9 seconds, travelling at an average speed of 117.51mph.

“The 2.5-litre
horizontally-opposed
turbocharged Boxer
unit is mounted low in
the engine bay and
punches out 295bhp
along with 300lb ft
of torque.
For those for whom
0-62mph acceleration
times shout loudest,
the WRX STI’s
5.2-second figure will be
right on the money;
as too will its 159mph

top speed...”
Note also that this record-breaking run was in a standard production car equipped with the same 2.5-litre Boxer engine as you'll get in yours, and featuring unmodified brake callipers and road-legal tyres (obviously the springs and dampers were adjusted slightly to minimise potential damage caused by the numerous high-speed bumps and jumps on the course; naturally the car was also fitted with the mandatory safety equipment for track driving).

Despite the standout spoiler and quad tailpipes, the STI's head-turning looks are less WWF Superstars beefcake and more honed cage-fighter: squared-off blistered wheelarches with vents behind the front wheels encase understated black 18-inch aluminium alloy wheels wearing 245/40 high-performance Dunlop SP Sport Maxx skins, while at the sharp end is a purposeful black-mesh snout and swept-back hawk-eye LED headlights, all crowned by a profiled bonnet with an embedded bonnet scoop. At the rear four meaty tailpipes and that outsized rear spoiler atop the boot make the WRX STI unmistakable.

Beneath iconic World Rally Blue metallic paintwork, each of the individual ingredients for this Subaru rocket-ship are tasty in their own right, starting with the power source: a 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed turbocharged Boxer unit that's mounted low in the engine bay and which punches out 295bhp along with 300lb ft of torque. For those for whom headline 0-62mph acceleration times shout loudest, the WRX STI's 5.2-second figure will be right on the money; as too will its 159mph top speed.

Adding zest to the dynamic mix, a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox metes out the power to all four wheels via a viscous limited-slip centre differential. Subaru clearly wants keen drivers to have fun in their all-wheel drive WRX STI which is why they've fitted C.Diff (Driver's Control Centre Differential) which lets the driver tailor the handling bias for road or track driving. Active torque vectoring is also on hand, applying the brakes on individual wheels to reduce understeer and sharpen cornering turn-in.

For the record, active safety features include Vehicle Dynamics Control (Subaru's version of ESP) it's been refined to cut yaw more efficiently during extreme cornering manoeuvres, and now also operates the emergency brake assist system.

This system assesses the need for braking assistance according to the braking force applied by the driver and the speed at which the brake pedal is depressed the result is almost identical braking performance on both wet and dry surfaces. Weekend racers can switch off both the VDC and Traction Control System (TCS) to make the car more effective on the track.

Subaru clearly wants
keen drivers to have fun
in their all-wheel drive
WRX STI.
Which is why they’ve
fitted C.Diff (Driver’s
Control Centre
Differential) which lets
the driver tailor the
handling bias for road or
track driving...”
The C.Diff offers a manual plus three pre-set 'Auto' modes to suit driver preference on road and track conditions. For everyday driving it's perfectly fine to leave the C.Diff in its default 'Auto' mode, which delivers a nicely-balanced accommodation between agility and traction.

'Auto+' limits torque in order to improve traction on slippery road surfaces and when stability is most important; 'Auto-' increases steering responsiveness and allows more torque to be distributed to the rear of the car, allowing a greater degree of agility and throttle adjustability or, put more simply, makes the WRX STI palpably more playful.

Additionally there's also Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), a custom driving mode system that gives the driver the option of selecting one of three modes to alter engine and throttle response. Intelligent (I) carefully monitors driving conditions to deliver optimum fuel efficiency and smooth power delivery (hint: best on slippery roads).

Sport (S) is the most versatile for all conditions, offering linear power delivery across a wide range of engine speeds with slightly more urgent throttle response than 'I' and is perfect for all-round performance driving. Drivers keen to extract the maximum performance from the 2.5 litre Boxer engine and enjoy some über-sporty driving enjoyment will be quick to select Sport Sharp 'S#' for its more direct throttle response and closer, more precise rev control across all engine speeds.

Obviously, none of this would be as entertaining without a decent control room and the STI's cockpit comes with all the right gear, starting with heated sports front seats upholstered in leather and suede with a black-and-red theme; the bolstering holds without any pinching, and the flat-bottomed three-spoker at the helm comes with a splendidly grippy leather rim with perforated work areas. A proper pull-up action handbrake is welcome; more so for drivers who not only know what a J-turn is, but how to pull one.

Settle into the driver's seat and you'll find that the cabin is plenty roomy, especially up front where there's a full fist of headroom, support for shoulders and space for elbows; visibility is first-rate and you can see down the bonnet (and rearwards through the rear spoiler which is now intentionally further out of the driver's rear line of sight), so placing the car with accuracy is second-nature. Reversing is over-your-shoulder (there's no camera or audible sensors) but no problemo the rear spoiler makes an infallible guide.

Thumb the Engine Start
button and palm the
red-topped leather
gearknob...
Let out the clutch and the
STI lunges purposefully
off the line, leaving
that unmistakable burbly
Boxer soundtrack
resonating in the broiling
air you leave behind...”
Making the cabin even more inviting are the soft-touch dash and window sills, padded suede outer armrests, high-gloss black lacquer surfaces, carbon fibre-look trim and 'WRX STI' branding. In-cabin storage is also real-world practical and along with plenty of room to hold your essentials there are bottle-holding door bins and cupholders.

And a wealth of instrumentation that tells you all you need to know; supplementing the primary instrument panel dead ahead of the driver (rev-counter and speedo separated by an LCD display showing digital speed along with the active C.Diff and SI-Drive settings) is a secondary 4.3-inch LCD screen set top dead centre of the dash.

Multi-mode, it allows drivers to monitor the car's performance functions and capabilities from mpg, range, and current climate settings to audio, calendar, active safety and status of the all-wheel drive; there's even a boost gauge providing analogue and digital representations of the accelerator opening, current boost pressure and boost pressure peak value useful for trackdayers.

Close beneath it in the upper centre stack is a CD-slot and a seven-inch touchscreen with Subaru's StarLink infotainment and audio system for smartphone connectivity; nearby you'll find 12v power sources, Aux-in and USB ports. A satellite radio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and iPod control are also provided.

The standard six-speaker audio system is fine but you don't buckle up in a WRX STI just to listen to music although anyone having seen Baby Driver may now consider that obligatory.

Thumb the Engine Start button and palm the red-topped leather gearknob; first impressions as you let out the clutch and the STI lunges purposefully off the line is of that unmistakable burbly Boxer soundtrack resonating in the broiling air you leave behind. That said, driven 'normally', the WRX STI can sound-wise be unexpectedly low-key.

The manual gearbox's six ratios are closely stacked, the change action clean and the throws fairly short, making it easy to stay in the best gear and play in the engine's sweet spot. All of which makes the Subaru oh-so-easy to live with on the street.

An especially likeable
touch is the way the
gearbox lets you flick
unerringly from 6th to 3rd
— perfect for those
moments when you
suddenly need to press
on or fortuitously come
across a deliciously
inviting ribbon
of snaking tarmac...”
An especially likeable touch is the way the gearbox lets you flick unerringly from 6th to 3rd perfect for those moments when you suddenly need to press on or fortuitously come across a deliciously inviting ribbon of snaking tarmac. Swapping gears in the WRX STI is something you can do all day long, even in messy traffic, without tiring or ever pining after a DSG 'box.

Another eye-opener far from being bone-jarring, the Subaru rides with an agreeably composed purpose. Body control is well checked by the well-sorted suspension, the WRX STI riding level at all times.

The symmetrical all-wheel drive keeps it confidently tied down and, combined with active torque vectoring and the quick new hydraulic power steering's clean 'n' keen turn-in, it gives the Subaru a real appetite for hard cornering definitely on the menu are high-speed switchbacks and fast chicanes!

The brakes are quick to endorse their Brembo credentials even if you hadn't spotted them (unlikely!), the pedal's linear firmness as they resolutely scrub speed from big numbers confirms heavy firepower callipers are at work.

Round about now you might be wondering about mpg rather than mph. Actually, fuel economy isn't as bad as you might fear our overall week's average came out at a unexpected 27.3mpg. Impressively, that's a smidgen better than its official Combined Cycle figure of 27.2. Touring runs hold out the promise of an official 33.6mpg.

While this Subaru is all about driving pleasure that doesn't mean comfort is restricted to the pilot and co-pilot: it's a fully-fledged four-door sports saloon measuring 4.6-metres from nose to tail so there's honest room in the back for passengers along with a door each side for their personal use.

Relaxed backrest angles, ample air between heads and the roof, and accommodating foot, knee and leg room make it more than acceptable. Parents will appreciate the ISOFIX child seat anchors and childproof rear door locks while pop-out twin cupholders, bottle-holding door pockets and padded outer armrests keep it all nicely civilised.

The symmetrical
all-wheel drive keeps it
confidently tied down.
Combined with active
torque vectoring and the
quick new hydraulic
power steering’s clean
’n’ keen turn-in,
it gives the Subaru a real
appetite for hard
cornering — definitely on
the menu are
high-speed switchbacks
and fast chicanes!”
There's room too for your passengers' luggage in the competitively-sized 460-litre boot; 60:40 split-folding seatbacks add versatility as well as expanding cargo space with a usefully flat and seamless loadbay floor. The tyre mobility kit that lives under the boot floor should get you out of any puncture trouble.

In the UK the WRX STI comes in a single trim level and, in addition to the many items already mentioned, it's also fitted with keyless entry and locking, rear privacy glass, cruise control, voice recognition, one-shot up/down power windows, on-demand powerfold heated door mirrors, dual zone climate control (with large knurled knobs that are easy to adjust on the move), aluminium pedal set, rain-sensing wipers, Hill Start Assist, shark fin antenna, and a satellite security tracker. Full leather seats and SatNav are optional.

Safety items include tyre pressure monitoring, front, front-side and curtain airbags as well as one for the driver's-knee, height-adjustable front seatbelts, whiplash-reducing front seats, windscreen wiper de-icer, LED headlamps, taillights and turn signals, and pop-up headlamp washers.

Subaru's rewarding-to-drive, high-performance road-and-track sports saloon is for people who get that, like life, it's not the destination but the journey that's to be savoured. ~ MotorBar
.
Subaru WRX STI | £31,995
Maximum speed: 159mph | 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds | Test Average: 27.3mpg
Power: 295bhp | Torque: 300lb ft | CO2: 242g/km

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