It’s an icon, a brawny and chest beating icon. A Wheel Thing revisits the Subaru WRX STi, with a “proper” (read as manual) gearbox and that velcro/superglue/limpet grip.
Subaru says its all wheel drive system is “all for the driver” and that’s evident in the way the WRX STi is set up. There’s absolutely no doubt its all paw grip is part of why it’s in the Legends corner of cars you must drive, but there’s more to it than simply getting each wheel driven. There’s 221 kW at over 6000 revs from the 2.5L boxer four, but, more importantly, 407 Nm at 4000, with a noticeable rocket launch to the back, thanks to 330Nm suddenly on tap at 2500 rpm. That’s enough to see one hundred kilometres per hour in 4.9 seconds.
There’s a cost at the bowser if you choose to explore the outmost limits of this beast. Urban consumption of the specified 98 RON go juice is quoted as being 14.2L per 100 kilometres, with the tank holding just 60 litres. That’s nudging just 400 kilometres in a city environment. Otherwise, you’ve 10.4 and 8.4 litres per hundred on the combined and highway cycles to play with. A Wheel Thing, in predominantly urban traffic, struggled to see anything below 11.0L/100…
But sometimes you have to take the not so good with the utterly superb; there’s a wonderfully close gated and short throw gear lever, a family friendly clutch that doesn’t ask the driver to have a left calf muscle the size of a tree, the adjustable centre differential which proportions drive fore and aft and the Active Torque Vectoring System (ATVS) which applies braking automatically to each corner to centre the car’s attitude on road.
The good kind of insanity is helped along by a super responsive steering rack; twitch and you turn. There’s no dead spot, no numbness, instead there’s real communication and a sense of weight, spoken to the driver via a leather clad tiller, with a nice diameter and heft,plus a lock to lock of just over two and a half turns.
Coming into a corner, you feel the weight in the steering increase and the Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD) working to apportion drive…feather the throttle and downshift….then plant the foot. There’s the thrum, the throb of the flat four from the front and resonating out through the quad tip exhausts…bang, another gear, bang, and another as you ratchet through the ratios, the lever falling easily to hand as you snicker to yourself, grinning inanely. A slight slip of the clutch also makes getting away a smoother proposition.
It’s an exercise in synchronicity, man and machine working as one, the body subconciously snicking each gear as the left leg rises and falls in time with the engine revs. There’s grip aplenty as you haul into a corner, the sports seats snug against your torso as the G forces increase, the Dunlop 245/40 rubber getting intimate with the tarmac as the 18 inch gunmetal alloys glint in the summer sun.
Braking force is full of confidence; there’s four pot Brembo (painted in STi black) calipers up front working in tandem with the two pot Brembos at the rear, with no fade to speak off and a solid, progressive reeling in of the STi’s forward motion. On a tight road near Blackheath, on the western fringe of the Blue Mountains range, a suddenly looming series of ninety degree turns were easily despatched with a firm yet unhurried prod of the brake. Lateral grip, asks Sir? Sir will find plenty, thank you kindly.
The ride is firm, hard, sometimes jiggly yet rarely teeth rattling. With a local road A Wheel Thing’s suspension tester, thanks to the non-needed speedhumps big enough to slow a rhino in situ, there’s a very firm bump/thump at lower speeds and at road legal speeds, the same yet less intrusive. The handling is helped by the compact size; the STi weighs just 1525 kilograms (kerb weight) and sits on a 2650 mm wheelbase, inside a total length of just 4595 mm.The get up and go is matched by the assertive look (the test car was coated in shimmering Pearl White); flared guards, the tuning fork alloys, the sharp shark like snout with slimline air intake in the bonnet, the tidy looking headlight cluster and that wing….…..inside, the bare bones look of the Impreza gets somewhat of a tickle up, with a carbon fibre look inlay surrounding the gear lever, red piping in the leather inserts for the doors, ventilated seat squab material (although the seats aren’t cooled, an oversight for the Aussie market) with the seats getting red highlighting and there is, of course, a sunroof. Oh, add in two front mounted USB ports… Naturally, there’s also boot access via the 60/40 folding rear seats.
Centrepieces of the console are the centre diff selector and drive selector buttons. A Wheel Thing found that for a better feeling balance for tight cornering, a somewhat more rear driven choice made powering out (and slow entry) easier to live with. The drive slector offers a choice of three, Intelligent, Sports and Sports Sharp, which made lower rev driving around town just that much more tolerable, by seeming to increase torque, reducing the stuttering otherwise felt.Up the rev range and Sports Sharp was indeed, with a snappier response and a more noticeable pull from the 3000 rpm point. Both the diff and drive choices were made visible on the driver’s centre dash display, itself an operation in style, with sharp looking lettering and design highlights. Audio wise, the Starlink navitainment touchscreen system was linked to a Harmon Kardon setup which was surprising in its lacklustre sound and performance, lacking depth, separation and range.
Safety wise, it’s fully loaded with nearly all of the expected passive and active electronics and a full suite of airbags, as there’s a reverse camera, left hand side under mirror camera but no parking sensors. There’s Blind Spot Monitoring on board, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Hidden in a small box, directly ahead of the rear vision mirror’s stalk, is Subaru’s much vaunted forward looking radar system, looking for all the world like an old style View Masta…
“Economy” aside, A Wheel Thing has declared the STi to be a car that would be welcomed with open arms to the garage on a permanent basis. There’s room enough for four, a boot big enough for shopping every week (460L), enough “boy’s toys” to play with daily, that scintilating performance and the stove hot presence. Lob in the three year/unlimited kilometre warranty and the service structure Subaru has, it makes the $55K pricing easier to swallow. There’s also the fact that when the car was launched in 2014, it was set at $49990, a full ten thousand under the car it was taking over from.
For details, go here: http://www.subaru.com.au/wrx-and-wrx-sti