The wing is back! And before you complain, be thankful. In countries such as the UK, which has huge WRX and STi followings, aficionados have to do without the ironing board wing.
I am going to be honest here. I hated the previous STI. It was soft and wobbly in the corners. Secondly, it was a hatchback, a design that totally moved away from the cult STI saloon that so many fans around the world adored. But, Subaru was – as all companies do – chasing sales volumes.
Fast forward a couple of years and the boot is back (with the wing), the suspension has been stiffened, unsprung weight has been reduced, the track width front and rear has increased and so has the tyre width. This clearly means it must be the ultimate STI, right? Well, partly.
When you step inside the STI for the first time, you immediately notice the plasticky interior. The plastics are still some of the hardest that you will find in almost any car and the multitude of rattles, especially those emanating from the rear compartment, are really a big letdown. The Recaro sport seats are superb though. They look good, keep you in place, which is important with this car, and are also comfortable.
The exhaust note was another unpleasant experience. We all adore a proper mechanical sound track, but the well-known boxer-burble from the STI was ever-present from idle up to 120 km/h. The (optional) sports exhaust will certainly impress bystanders and thrill driver and occupants on short blasts, but on the long haul the din becomes tiresome.
Even so, you have to tackle some decent roads to give the STI a chance. And that is what I did over the weekend.
The gear change action will be familiar to all previous Impreza drivers. But remember, for some obscure reason this isn’t called an Impreza anymore, only Subaru WRX STI. The gear lever offers a short action that is meaty but precise and thoroughly mechanical in feel.
As the first mountain pass unfolds in front of me, I start to realise that the steering isn’t suited to this car either. Yes, it is direct, and you can point it in a direction with minimal effort (a light feeling), but there is no feedback. A sportscar needs feedback, full stop.
One’s next realisation is more than likely to be: “I could always have taken that last corner faster”. That’s because the symmetrical all-wheel drive offers tremendous grip through corners and also when you accelerate out of it. Usually the nose will push a bit wide if you don’t set up the car in the correct way, but if you set the centre differential to direct 59 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels and use the throttle pedal in a way to purposely unsettle the car, the STI’s rear wheels will only, momentarily, squeeze that bit harder, and a tad wider, into the tarmac.
Suffice to say you will have to know exactly what you are doing if you want to drive this car on or over its limits.
Although the steering doesn’t give one any useful feedback, you can really rely on the suspension though. Through a smooth corner there is minimal body roll, but, the suspension does get caught out by imperfections on the road. Bumps that you were previously not aware of suddenly appear.
The new STI is definitely a more stable sportscar than the previous one, even though power and torque delivery of 221 kW and 407 N.m has remained unchanged. I just wish Subaru would pay more attention to interior packaging and levels of feedback through the steering wheel.
Look out for the April issue of CAR magazine where we publish the full road test and track results of the STI.