Hill climbs are in Limited Slip Blog’s DNA. It started with our first review back in June, 2012 when we embarked on a 1,000 mile road trip that culminated at the summit of Mt. Washington in NH. That set us on a course to find and drive the highest roads in each Northeast state. In August of 2015, checked another peak off the list when we summited Mt. Greylock in MA. 2018 saw us to the top of Whiteface Mountain in our home state of NY. It was time to check off a 4th mountain.
The Mount Equinox Skyline Drive began construction in 1941, but work was suspended during World War II, and the road wasn’t finished until 1947. The 5.2 mile road rises 3,248 feet to the summit, making it the longest fully-paved hill climb in the world. It’s also the second oldest in the United States, with only the infamous Pikes Peak auto road being constructed before it. When it came time to take a day trip to our neighboring state of Vermont and drive to the summit, we knew there was one ideal vehicle for the job.
The Subaru WRX STI Series.White is a limited edition model that makes subtle yet impactful changes to the sedan for 2020. What hasn’t changed is Subaru’s racing pedigree that inspires this road legal rally car. Mechanically, this road-going STI might not be quite the same as the one Mark Higgins set the Isle of Man lap record with back in 2016 or the one Travis Pastrana broke the hill climb record with at the Mount Washington Auto Road in 2017. But it’s as close as anyone can get from their local dealership. So we politely asked Subaru if we could borrow one and drive it up a mountain, and they agreed. New in 2015 and refreshed in 2018, the current generation STI features a 310hp turbocharged boxer engine, 6-speed manual transmission, multi-mode electronic center differential, symmetrical all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring, and Brembo brakes. We’d put all that standard equipment to the test.
Our late-fall weekend started out wet. This typically isn’t a problem for the STI, but this Series.White comes standard with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. They’re known for being super sticky when its warm and dry, which it decidedly was not. We have plenty of cold and wet weather experience with Cup 2s, with a rear drive platform. Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system made the most use of the contact patches, though exhibited some front end understeer for the first few miles each day. As the week dried out, the Cup 2 tires came into their own. With immense front grip, the STI doesn’t need quite so much power to the front wheels. Dialing the electronic center differential one tick rearward makes the STI Series.White feel like an entirely different car. The extra rear bias livens up the chassis and helps the STI feel more nimble.
Beyond the Ceramic White paint, the Series.White visually differentiates itself with black mirrors and badging, revised front grille mesh with a subtle red accent stripe, and gorgeous 19″ matte bronze BBS wheels. The Brembo brakes are also finished in silver instead of the typical acid green. Inside, the Series.White includes Recaro seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with red stitching, and moonroof delete. It’s a rather mature package to combine with STI’s signature tall rear wing. Finally, the Series.White ditches the spare tire for weight savings and gains heavy-duty steering rack mounts for improved steering response and feel. The latter change is readily apparent from the driver’s seat, providing incredibly quick and direct steering. Unfortunately, for all the speed and assuredness, there isn’t a ton of feedback.
With 3/4 of the Limited Slip crew comfortably loaded into the STI, its a 90 minute drive across state lines to Mount Equinox. Surprisingly, the warm air and abundant foliage didn’t seem to draw out the expected slow Sunday drivers. We made excellent time enjoying the STI’s comfortable cabin and tall greenhouse. The only demerit stemmed from the poor sound system, which was overly bassy and hollow. But enthusiasts don’t buy STIs for the sound systems. They’re in it for the drive. And when the toll gate rose up at the base of the Mount Equinox Skyline Drive, it was time to dial the STI into Sport Sharp and send it up the mountain. In previous experiences with this generation STI, I complained about notchy gear changes. This Series.White suffered the same issue, often leading the relatively short shift action to feel lumpy or crunchy. Those aren’t great adjectives to have in mind while you’re quickly gaining elevation. About halfway up the mountain, the foliage begins to die off and the road begins to really twist and climb. Folding back over itself time and time again, the STI chews up hairpins and pulls itself out the other side thanks to the turbocharger’s prodigious boost. This is what the car was built to do. Stopping for a photo opportunity on the bare spine of the mountain, the not-so-faint scent of warm clutches and differentials was evidence of the effort the STI was putting in. That scent transitioned to fresh pine as we closed in on the summit, with no sign of the Subaru’s efforts hampering its ability to continue.
With the heat shields and exhaust components ticking themselves cool at the summit, the Subaru STI Series.White looked more at home than any of the countless crossovers and SUVs. The Brembo brakes and manual transmission served it better in managing the decent, too. We quietly enjoyed the panoramic views and celebrated our 4th summit as a team. But I was also glad to have the opportunity to thrash this particular limited edition model, one of 500, up the mountain. While this generation STI has been with us for five years and it’s replacement is in development, we find it can still excite.
|2020 Subaru WRX STI||$36,995|
|Body Side Molding||$268|
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…
Subaru’s rally heritage can still be felt within the STI. The car responds better the harder you work it. And that’s the appeal of a rally-inspired road car.