Several years ago my brother Scott acquired his first Subaru – a fairly basic Impreza wagon that quickly captured his heart for its unique growly boxer engine, practical hatchback spaciousness and season-less motoring enjoyment.

What could be better than a reliable, fun-to-drive and sensible little wagon? Why one with a lot more performance, that’s what! And so began the ascent through a 2009 WRX hatchback to my brother’s current beloved 2011 WRX STI hatchback.

No other car for sale in Canada is as much a motoring Swiss Army Knife as the WRX hatchback. With four doors, a roomy interior and an expansive cargo hold, the Impreza enables its owner to carry more people and stuff than any car with such street cred has a right to. That reputation amongst enthusiast drivers stems from a gruff and tough horizontally opposed four-banger that whistles out a lot of ponies through its turbocharged plumbing.

Best of all, routing all that power through four contact patches and long-travel suspension damping means that the speed-induced exhilaration doesn’t end when the pavement (or summer weather) does.

With about a year left on the lease for Scott’s STI, it seems timely that for 2015 Subaru has introduced a new WRX STI to help ensure people like my brother keep coming back. The Fuji company wants drivers to know that this is the highest performing STI yet, with dramatic improvements in areas crucial to enthusiasts like handling and shift quality.

This all sounds like great news for people like my brother, so why is he so concerned? We took his car and a new STI for a spirited drive around some of our favourite country roads in the Niagara region to find out.


Let’s just get this part out of the way, shall we? Subarus generally don’t win a lot of points in the beauty pageant. If you can tell me with a straight face that the WRX – any WRX – is a beautifully styled car, I’d suggest you ought to take up a career as a professional poker player, or make an appointment for laser eye surgery.

Aggressive looking? Sure. Purposeful? Of course, but that’s about where it ends.

The new STI looks best from the front end where its contemporary LED lighting accents and larger grille opening help give fresher appearance than the last generation’s mug.

The flanks of the new car still possess the flexed fender flares of the old car, and yet somehow look less muscular than before, especially compared to the chunky butt of the hatchback.

The new car’s rear wing is even taller than the one found on last year’s STI sedan in the interest of enhancing rearward visibility – one simply looks under the wing now, and presumably means you’ll notice the flashing lights of the cop car sooner. The replacement of the once-trendy ‘Altezza’ taillights with ones featuring red lenses is a welcome adjustment.

2015 Subaru WRX STI vs 2011 Subaru WRX STI2015 Subaru WRX STI front seats2011 Subaru WRX STI front seats2015 Subaru WRX STI (blue) vs 2011 Subaru WRX STI (white). Click image to enlarge

Overall, the new car ends up retaining its boy-racer looks – a simple compact sedan tarted up with rally-bred accessories. For the Subaru faithful, they’re likely to appreciate it over time.


Despite its luxury car price tag, the interior of Subaru’s STI has never hidden its economy car roots very well. Based on the Impreza – though no longer including that moniker anywhere on the car – the cabin of the STI is notably better now than it was.

The 2015, with its black-and-red leather seats now have adjustable headrests (compared to the previous fixed units) and are both more supportive and more comfortable than the old ones.

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