Despite my initial disappointment with Subaru’s decision to ditch the saloon shape of previous Impreza WRX STi models, the latest version strikes a softer, but still purposeful, pose. When I first saw the STi in the metal, I couldn’t fault the styling and, more importantly, the Scooby’s on-road performance is simply astounding.
The WRX STI is available in other markets as a saloon, but now I’m not sure I want to see the go-fast Impreza in any other form than a hatchback. Yes, the look might not be the mobile “up yours” it once was, but Subaru has not forgotten the wide fender flares and various air in- and outlets that lent the WRX STi its aggressive presence.
The WRX STi is wider and higher than its predecessor, but creates a menacing aura thanks to the quad-exhaust tailpipe exits that inhabit the diffuser panel beneath the rear bumper and the larger bonnet scoop for feeding air to the intercooler atop the force-fed boxer engine. When other hot hatch wannabes spot the four tubes on the STi’s tail, they’d think twice about flashing headlights and inviting a dice.
Out on the road the Impreza WRX STi doesn’t quite command the attention of motorists and pedestrians (in fact passers-by in general) like its older brothers, due to its comparatively subdued look. In fact I’m quite glad that it’s shaken off the boy-racer appeal that was once synonymous with the STI-moniker. You see, it might look meek parked alongside the likes of a 22B, but while the STI has moved upmarket, it also packs a punch never before experienced in a standard-fettle Subaru.
Engineers have squeezed 221 kW at 6 000 r/min and 407 N.m of torque at 4 000 r/min out of the turbocharged 2,5-litre horizontally opposed powerplant (in the old WRX STi it produced 206 kW and 392 N.m at the same revs) by improving the AVCS valve timing control, turbocharger and intercooler. I got to hop into the driver’s seat on two occasions, the first time during surprisingly-high traffic density on the N2 outbound from Cape Town’s where I managed monstrous bursts amid numerous taxis and buses and was rewarded with that familiar raucous bark and a mule-kicking-you-in-the-back kind of acceleration. Out on a deserted mountain pass the second time round however, the hatchback STi proved quicker still…
The combination of the famed symmetrical all-wheel drive system, DCCD (driver-controlled centre differential), VDC dynamic control and Subaru Intelligent-Drive is best appreciated at the limit, although the driver has to spend time playing with the diff settings to find his/her preference of handling characteristics.
The enthusiastic driver is rewarded with leech-like grip in the twisties, but it seems the STI’s driving emphasis is now on how to get from point A to point B ridiculously fast, as opposed to having fun on the way. I felt like the STi was doing the driving for me, and impressive as it was, it detracted from the experience.
The Subaru Impreza WRX STi does come at a stiff price when placed alongside its rivals in the hot hatch category, but it really is in a class of its own in terms of performance and prowess – and at around 500 000 big ones, it should be…