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Road Test – Subaru WRX STI – 4th Generation

Whenever I am asked “What is the best car you have ever driven”, I often end up talking about the rally bred, Japanese, turbo all-wheel drives; the Mitsubishi Evo and the Subaru WRX STI.

They don’t provide over-the-top features or a luxury brand name.

But they do provide incredible bang for your buck.  This is more than just straight line performance.  They have great technology in their all-wheel drive systems and they handle remarkable well. They are easy to drive in the city yet they are aggressive at pace.

I remember to this day, taking an Evo through some twisty roads north of Sydney where parts of the road were covered in dust from nearby rock crushing activities.  The car handle the situation in a manner that I did not experience again until I did the same road in a Porsche Caymen.

The image of these cars seems to have waned a little recently but Subaru has shown its commitment to this segment with the release of the 4th generation STI.

This new STi is very much a maturing of the product.

The turbocharged 2.5-litre engine remains the same, producing 221 Kilowatts of power at 6000 rpm and 407 Newton metres of torque at 4000 rpm.  No increase in its muscle is not a problem.  The STI still gives a beautiful surge of power, especially once you are over 3000 rpm.  Incredibly I felt no turbo lag.  It seems to have instant throttle response that was better than some prestige turbo vehicles that cost a lot more money.

But there are improvements. They include a 14% in lateral rigidity and a 16% reduction in body roll.

Subaru has also worked on the torque vectoring (transmitting torque independently between wheels) to aid grip and reduce understeer.  It certainly is better but if you hit the power at the wrong time in a corner you can get a big handful of understeer.

Subaru claims that the STI equals the agility response of a Porsche 911.

Subaru very kindly allowed us a spin around Wakefield Park race circuit.  The car was in its element.  It turned into corners beautifully, was easily controllable and when you let it have its head, out of corners and down the main straight, it went like the wind.

Subaru had two rally drivers, Cody Crocker and Dean Herridge, there to keep us in line and to give us some hot laps.  I went around in the passenger seat with Dean.  It was revealing to see him take corners at speed but without creating excessive tyre squeal.  It spoke of his efficiency and smoothness and the refinement of the car.

There are practical improvements as well.  The wheelbase is increased 25 mm to 2650 mm, aiding rear leg room. The cabin is also 15 mm wider, for better elbow and shoulder room, without changing total body width.  The bottom of the thinner A-pillar is extended 200 mm toward the front to make a roomier cabin with better visibility.

The car looks better too.  Previous Subarus looked a bit like a pound of butter that has been in a microwave; a nondescript lump with rounded corners.  It was a bit like a 1980s cute sedan.  Now the nose and rear of the car around the lights and bumpers are more sharply defined.  The bonnet scoop is still too big from an aesthetic point of view but it is now more sculptured into the overall design rather than sitting up like a tacked on afterthought.  The big rear wing is still there but you now have an option to remove it.

If the improvements are good, the price is sensational.  It has about $7,000 of extra features but is a staggering $10,000 cheaper than the previous model.  The base model is now $49,990 and the premium version is $54,990. To these prices you must add on-road costs.

Bang for your buck?  The Subaru WRX STI just keeps getting better and better.

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