In the UK Subaru gained it’s reputation with the World Rally Championship bred Impreza WRX driven by the late Colin McCrae, then the late Richard Burns and latterly Peter Solberg. Constructors and drivers titles flowed through out the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Naturally the public wanted some red meat and on top of offering branded clothing and accessories Subaru developed road going versions for public consumption. Thus legends were born and reputations were made.
Now the legend has been re-made and re-named. Subaru have dropped the Impreza naming convention and opted for simplicity. Meet the WRX STi.
The WRX STi is slung low, comes wrapped in a aggressive wide-body look and features a large and charismatic looking rear wing. The electric-blue paint finish and black 19-in alloys give a rippling muscular effect.
Without these adornments the WRX would like a skinny buck tooth librarian with a fringe flowing over his/her thick rimmed glasses.
The interior is lifted straight from the Levorg, so you decent build quality, spec and supportive and comfortable leather/alcantara sports seats. It’s all good in here so far.
Underneath this pantomime is a 2.5-litre twin-turbo flat-four engine which develops 295bhp and 410Nm of torque. 0-62mph? The snappy six-speed manual will help you achieve your traffic light ambitions in 5.2 seconds.
Subaru have worked hard to improve the stiffness of the chassis and body over the previous generation STi. The suspension has been re-worked we could talk thicker anti-roll bars, but let’s keep it simple and say everything is stiffer, which means less frequency vibrations… lets not get too technical here.
Fire up the engine and there isn’t really any drama to hear, floor the accelerator and you are met with instant grip courtesy of that AWD technology and those low grip Dunlops. Suddenly you are propelled at pace, the Subaru responds at its best if you keep it within the 3,500-4500 rev range.
Below that and you will experience a bit of turbo-lag, a slight affliction but not so much to be a nuisance. The STi comes loaded with a multi-mode configurable limited-slip differential which controls the torque levels to all four wheels so driving the WRX STi around an urban environment wasn’t frustrating at all.
I kept it in auto mode for most of the time I had the WRX STi, it was raining and wet and I didn’t want to unexpectedly end up ploughing a farmers field in late January. But when the diff was set to its lowest setting the WRX STi was an unfathomably deranged.
You also get Subaru’s Intelligent Drive, three settings, sport, Sport sharp and Intelligent the latter focusing on economy. In effect it’s and a power management switch that increases/decreases the engine revs. Though I always find the differences between the three to be minimal.
When you drive the WRX STi it instantly feels raw and untamed. The ride is stiff, from the suspension to the anti-roll bars. At low speed the WRX STi doesn’t exert any foul temperament that belies its true nature.
Pick up the speed and head out to a twisty B-route and you soon realise you have a precision tool to navigate any road with pure indulgence. Directional change from one corner to the next is sublime with the STi becoming alert to your every command. Two really do become one.
The WRX STi does have a few drawbacks, that ride is stiff, over anything but the smoothest of roads and you will know about it. Then there is the economy the best I managed was 27mpg. On a motorway journey I discovered that keeping it at 90mph was actually more efficient than 70mph. I suppose the rear wing’s aerodynamic kicking in at 80mph helped, but it could have been the Super-Unleaded I pumped into the fuel tanks.
Cars like this are not about the economy, the boot space or the knee space or the whatever space, you live with the compromises. These cars are about moments about feeling that acceleration, lunatic cornering speeds that grips so aggressively you feel as though the STi will never let go no matter what.
You will have to contend with the road noise, it isn’t well suppressed, in fact it’s like sitting next to a railway station. But you know what? the stiff ride had a little bit of suppleness, the economy doesn’t bother me, the noise I can live with and the turbo-lag wasn’t hampering my enjoyment because at the end of the WRX STi is highly strung. But it knows how to strut.
The Subaru WRX STi can be an animal and ballet dancer, with an equally split personality that is divided into lunatic and deranged. It’s a car that is loaded with computer controlled sensors that makes you believe you are driving it instead of it driving you.
However the WRX STi may have a problem, the latest Ford Focus RS is a 350bhp hot hatch, which out guns the WRX STi in power and hatch-ability practicality. And it’s not too much more expensive.
But the Ford has a problem, tmany in the UK motoring press will never knowingly displease Ford, for fear of never getting behind the wheel their mediocre cars ever again. Well actually for fear of never being invited to a press launch again or being invited on their yearly Ski trips to France.
So it’s up to you do you believe what the paid for media reviews say about the Focus RS or do you go with your gut instinct and take the Subaru WRX STi?
We’d go for the STi.