July 2, 2014
2015 Subaru WRX STI. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Peter Bleakney
For those who bemoan the fact that modern cars lack character, step right up. The 2015 Subaru WRX STI has buckets of the stuff. The STI might find its roots in the mild-mannered Impreza sedan, but the driving experience is so far removed from the base car that it might as well be from another planet.
Of course, that’s what Subaru’s cult car is all about.
Fan-boys will not be disappointed with this latest generation of Subie’s rally-racer-turned-street scrapper. While the Japanese automaker has made great strides in toning down the quirkiness in its mainstream offerings, there will be none of that here.
The carryover 2.5L turbocharged boxer four barks to life and settles into the classic gruff idle that gets Subiephiles all hot and bothered. Certainly an acquired taste. The stubby six-speed shifter vibrates in a decidedly meaningful and screw-the-NVH manner. All the controls have a manly heft. The clutch is weighty, the shifter requires a determined shove and the hydraulic steering shows no concessions to parking lot twirling.
The 2015 WRX STI feels like it means business within just a few metres of moving out. Here is a vehicle that is unencumbered by subtlety.
As a nod to the original cars, this latest generation STI only comes in sedan form – the hatch version is off the menu for now. The engine makes 305 hp at 6,000 rpm, 290 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm, and is mated only to a close-ratio six-speed manual. Brembo brakes, 18-inch alloys, and of course trick symmetrical all-wheel drive with adjustable viscous-coupling centre differential ensure that all the turbocharged punch is utilized in the most back-road-chewing manner.
The 2015 Subaru WRX STI comes in three trims. The base car with Alcantara-trimmed seats enters at $37,995. Move up to the Sport Package at $40,495 and you get a spectacular boy-racer trunk spoiler (c’mon, you know you want it), eight-way power adjustment for the seats (who says STI owners aren’t well adjusted?), sunroof, fog lights and LED low-beam headlights. The $44,995 Sport-tech Package model adds 18-inch forged BBS alloys, proximity key with push-button start, 440-watt Harman/Kardon audio, navigation and premium leather.
My tester was a Sport Package painted in Crystal White Pearl. This car pretty much flew under the radar – only those in the know paid attention. It does carry a certain menace, however – the redesigned snout harks back to previous-gen STIs and the wide-body treatment signals the sedan’s intent.
Which becomes plainly clear on your first back-road hoon. This STI is laugh-out-loud fun, although with the pace it generates you’ll save the laughing for when you’re done. Best to concentrate.
2015 Subaru WRX STI dashboard, center stack, trip computer. Click image to enlarge
With the SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) engine management system dialed to Sport Sharp (Intelligent and Sport are the other options), throttle response leaps to “right-now”. The 2015 WRX STI gets quicker steering, and it shows with apex-hunting alacrity. Body roll? Nope. The chassis has a fabulous rear-drive bias (lots of sliding on gravel…) and on winding tarmac the STI sucks to the road and powers through bends like it’s on rails. You’re really getting into the power above 3500 rpm.
The centre diff defaults to Auto mode, which distributes torque front to back as the conditions change. Flick the toggle to Auto (–) and rear bias ramps up. Auto (+) send more power up front for stable operation is snow and wet. The six-step manual mode lets you lock in a more focused setting.
2015 Subaru WRX STI gauges. Click image to enlarge
The pedals are ideally positioned for heel-and-toe action, making rowing the short-throw shifter a hoot. New for this generation is brake-activated torque vectoring on the front wheels that sharpens turn-in and reduces understeer. The VDC (stability control) has three settings: Normal, which is still plenty tail happy; Traction Control further raises the threshold prior to intervention; and Off (holy crap). Firm and supportive sport seats, a relatively high seating position and great outward visibility complete the picture of this secondary road hellion.
Subaru claims the 0 to 100 km/h dash is dispatched in 4.9 sec, with a terminal velocity of 264 km/h.
If I ever follow my lifelong dream of becoming a moonshine runner in the Smokey Mountains, me and Elly May Clampett (another lifelong dream) will certainly make our deliveries in an STI. Eat our dust, Smokey!
This is not to suggest the STI won’t do for those nights when me and Elly May get cleaned up and go to the Opry.