Test Drive: 2013 Subaru WRX STI car test drives subaru
2013 Subaru WRX STI. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

During my time with our 2013 Subaru WRX STI test car, I had occasion to follow it for a while on the highway. Let me tell you, the rear end of this vehicle certainly gets your attention with its massive factory spoiler that brought to my mind the automotive equivalent of a medieval codpiece. It ain’t subtle, put it that way.

Below the big wing, the STI fenders flare out to accommodate fat Dunlop 245/40R18 rear tires flanking four big-bore exhaust tips that protrude aggressively below the bumper. The trunk-mounted STI badge is rendered in red, but enthusiasts won’t need to read it; they know the initials well.

Visible manifestations of potency aside, what I also noticed was how the car so accurately described every imperfection in the surface of the road. “Lively” would be an adjective that comes to mind; or nervous, or busy if you didn’t want to flatter. Where other vehicles were soaking up the bumps and cracks leaving the driver largely oblivious to their presence, you could see how the STI was bumping and grinding its way over the uneven pavement… just like a racecar, when you think about it.

Well, this is no ordinary Subaru, is it? If you’re not looking to spend an MSRP of $43,290 as tested (including Sport-Tech package and $1,650 freight) for what is essentially an Impreza rally car, this one won’t be on your list. But if you want as “hi-po” as Subaru gets – street legal, that is – then the WRX STI will naturally be at the very top of your list. It depends on what you’re after.

Under the hood – with its gaping scoop that’s just as outrageous as the rear wing – you’ll find a 2.5L turbocharged and intercooled horizontally-opposed (flat) four-cylinder engine that makes 305 hp at 6,000 rpm and 290 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

The engine is connected to a six-speed manual transmission (no automatic is offered) with a short-throw shifter and a hill-holder system for those rare occasions when you’re not hurtling forward.

Test Drive: 2013 Subaru WRX STI car test drives subaru Test Drive: 2013 Subaru WRX STI car test drives subaru
2013 Subaru WRX STI. Click image to enlarge

The STI is all-wheel drive, of course, with front and rear limited slip differentials (helical front; TORSEN rear) to optimize side-to-side power distribution, and a Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD) that features a manual mode and three automatic modes providing front torque-bias, rear torque-bias and “normal” operation. The manual mode offers six levels of centre differential locking, allowing the driver to vary the front-to-rear torque distribution up to 50/50 maximum.

Exclusive to the STI, Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) enables the driver to tailor driving characteristics by selecting Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp modes using a rotary control on the centre console. The SI-DRIVE technology alters vehicle performance by regulating the Engine Control Module and fine-tuning the Electronic Throttle Control system. Essentially, the system optimizes throttle response for normal, sporty and highest performance driving.

STI uses a specially tuned suspension that produces what Subaru describes as “ultra-crisp” handling and everyday ride compliance. Crisp it definitely is, using pillow-ball bushings in the front and stiff bushings in the rear subframe to support the double-wishbone system back there.

For those who prefer less electronics in their car (and also exclusive to the STI) the Multi-mode Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system has a track performance optimized mode that disengages the stability and traction control functions. Alternatively, drivers can select the Normal mode (provides the highest level of system engagement), or Traction mode (more performance-oriented, less VDC engagement, with disengaged engine torque-reduction control).




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).