There are few cars that are more synonymous with the enthusiast. This isn’t a car bought to go from A to B. It’s not perceived as a sensible car for a family. It probably won’t impress your lady-friend. Subaru didn’t design this car to please a focus group or create a market segment. They didn’t build it to be inoffensive and generic. The entire reason the Subaru WRX STi exists is to be driven. And it serves that purpose dutifully.
New for 2015, this WRX and STi have diverged from their Impreza roots. Built on a new, stiffer chassis using high-strength steel and an aluminum hood, the STi weights only two pounds more than the outgoing model. That’s impressive, especially since it sports a one-inch growth in wheelbase. Despite what you might think, the STi is easy to live with on a daily basis. The greenhouse is larger, accomplished by narrowing the A-pillars and moving them forward almost eight inches. The dashboard is lower as well, for excellent forward visibility. Finally, the lower side sills and two inches of added rear leg room make it far more comfortable for rear passengers to get in and out. In terms of efficiency, the STi didn’t fair too poorly either. We averaged 20.1 mpg over 385 miles.
Underneath the svelte new widebody, the springs, dampers, crossmembers, subframe bushings, and control-arm bushings are stiffer than ever before. Unlike the new WRX, the STi carries over the previous generation’s hydraulic power steering. Paired with a superb chassis, the STi is razor sharp and feeds an enormous amount of information back to the driver. Reactions are almost telepathic. And the grip! Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is complimented by the STi’s Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD). To help with more neutral cornering, Subaru introduced Active Torque Vectoring that ties into the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system. By applying the inside front brake, Subaru diminished the effects of typical AWD oversteer.
Even after stripping away all the acronyms, there’s still a lot going on. The driver can select from three automatic or six manual settings to manage the front/rear torque split. The traction control has three settings that can dial back the level of engagement. Save for the “off” setting, it all works to extract as much grip and control as physically possible. The car is always thinking, constantly adjusting the application of power. You can feel it behind the wheel.
Behind the deeply set hood scoop, the last STi’s venerable 2.5L 4-cylinder engine reports for duty. Turbocharged with a maximum of 17.4psi, the engine twists out 305 hp and 290 lb-ft torque. If the traction settings weren’t enough, Subaru’s SI Drive is on hand to offer three throttle maps from “Normal” to the hair-trigger “Sport Sharp.” Unlike the WRX, which features a new 2.0L turbocharged engine and optional CVT, the STi is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Our tester was one of 1,000 STi Launch Edition cars. If you were one of a lucky few, this is the STi to have. Built with everything you want and nothing you don’t need, it is the perfect enthusiast package. Painted in gleaming World Rally Blue Pearl with gold 18” BBS alloy wheels, this Subaru wears its racing pedigree for the world to see. Inside, blue highlights throughout the cabin accent the alcantara and carbon fiber. With no sunroof or navigation, keyless access is the only standard amenity. Importantly, the Launch Edition adds the STi short-throw shifter as standard equipment. Shifts are incredibly abrupt, but not always bolt-action precise. The most accurate shifts are those made with conviction and clear direction. When you do get it right, everything comes together.
It speeds along with the turbo wooshing and the quad exhaust – one tip per cylinder – thrumming away. The enormous rear wing towers like a middle finger to anyone who ever purchased something sensible. We’ve met a handful of cars that seem to sprout devil horns on whomever climbs behind the wheel. This is definitely one of them. There’s no denying that the STi is a complex vehicle. But so much of the Subaru’s ability comes from its mechanical complexity that it has become part of its nature. There’s also no denying that the STi is a harsh car. The ride is firm, the steering is heavy, and the Brembo brakes are brutally effective. But if you find yourself behind the wheel, you get exactly what you signed up for. There are no surprises. The Subaru WRX STi is engineered, and built, to be driven.
|2015 Subaru WRX STi Launch Edition
|As Tested MSRP||$38,190|
Utility: 2014 Subaru Forester XT