WRX STI Type UK
Just to clarify, this is not an Impreza. Well, it sort of is, but if you search for an Impreza on Subaru’s UK website, you’ll only find a rather ordinary looking hatchback because since its reintroduction into Blighty after a brief hiatus, this is simply called the WRX STI Type UK – a model in its own right.
So, now that’s straightened out, what is the WRX STI all about? Put simply it’s a 2.5 litre, 300bhp engine, a 4wd drivetrain and a whopping great spoiler, and almost definitely the fastest way to navigate the UK’s road network for under £30K, or any other amount for that matter.
If you’re looking for something subtle and inconspicuous, I’d look elsewhere; somewhere underneath those wings, scoops and arches may well be a regular saloon car, but it’s incredibly well disguised. They say that if you wait long enough, fashion catches back up with you; the likes of the Golf R may scream understated potential, but this year’s seen the emergence of the Civic Type R and the Focus RS – neither of which are short of an exaggerated body part or two. When it gets dark and the red hue of the third brake light catches your eye in the rear view mirror as it lights up that giant wing, it’s guilty pleasure time.
It may sound incredulous, but the WRX STI’s 300bhp just isn’t that much anymore; the Golf R produces a similar amount and the upcoming Focus RS trumps it by 50bhp, but it’s always been the way the Impreza….sorry, WRX STI is set up and how it gets that power down that’s impressed……sorry, amazed.
Under the bonnet is the turbocharged 2.5 litre boxer unit that’s been Subaru’s performance engine for the last decade, via a tweak here and there. This is linked to their short-shift, 6 speed ‘box which feeds power to all four wheels – naturally, via a central differential that can be adjusted with the touch of the button for more forward or rearward bias.
0-62mph is dispatched in 5.2 seconds and it won’t stop until you hit 159mph, but all of these are just cold facts, and they don’t even tell half of the WRX STI story. Getting a 2.5l turbocharged engine moving from standstill, you’d be forgiven for expecting dollops of the dreaded lag and then a massive kick up the backside when the thing gets spinning. Not so. The way the WRX STI’s geared means acceleration is instant and linear, even from stationary, and once the turbo’s properly up to speed, you’ll find that rev limit approaching pretty quickly, making working up and down the ratios a common occurrence. This engine was accused of lacking character when it replaced Subaru’s legendary 2 litre unit – it’s not guilty of this anymore, it even sounds like a ‘proper’ Scooby.
For fear of going into the realms of tired old clichés, the WRX STI is involving and almost brutal in its application of power, to the point that you – the driver, are really driving the thing. And I mean driving, not simply sitting down, strapping in and pressing go. So many ‘performance’ cars, even today’s hot hatches are massively competent and equally as fast as this Scooby, but when you’ve got a set of gears you’ve got to change yourself, a heavy clutch and some equally weighty steering like this car has, driving them is a sterile, isolating experience in comparison.
Want even more life injected into the WRX STI?- There’s three modes that gradually increase throttle response speed as you go from Intelligent mode, to Sport, to the incredibly tempting sounding Sport Sharp mode that really tightens things up and responds to every minute flick of your right foot. Sounds fun? Oh, it is, if a tad nervy in heavy traffic.
Levels of Grip
The thing that makes the WRX STI stand out from the competition is the way it handles. The low centre of gravity that comes from fitting a boxer engine is a great start when holding onto the road is your priority, but that’s not where it ends. Throw the WRX into a corner and the symmetrical AWD system grips well enough, as you’d expect, nothing new here. But then you get to a point where Subarus of old would start to drift and understeer, and that’s when the central differential works its magic and a new force takes control of the nose and pulls it back in line, around to exactly where you want to go.
Should I buy a WRX STI?
The WRX STI even has acceptable rear leg and head room and a decent sized boot, so it must be the perfect car, mustn’t it. Well, not quite. The seats could be more supportive in something that handles like this does and the interior quality is still woefully cheap with some horrible bits of fake carbon fibre stuck everywhere like a delinquent teenager’s first ‘modded’ ride.
The infotainment is without doubt the most complicated, unfriendly system I’ve ever come across that just has a meltdown if you ask it to do anything, like play music, and no matter how much you may try you’ll do well to average over 22mpg. Don’t expect a soothing waft home, either; the exhaust booms through the cabin constantly and there’s a fair amount of transmission shunt from the AWD system.
But, if none of this bothers you, and I hope it doesn’t, the WRX STI represents a pure, unadulterated driving experience and there’s not much that’ll beat it point-to-point, in any weather, for any money.
By Ben Harrington
Specifications; Subaru WRX STI Type UK, Engine – 2.5l four cylinder boxer, Transmission – 6 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 300bhp, Torque – 407Nm, Emissions – 242g/km CO2, Economy – 27.2mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 159 mph, Acceleration – 5.2s 0-62mph, Price – £28,995 OTR.
The WRX STI Type UK is available now, for full details go to; www.subaru.co.uk