Test: Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Review by Feann Torr - 27/June/2008
The Subaru Impreza WRX STI is known throughout the motoring universe as a road warrior.
It's the Wesley Snipes of the car world: a short, sometimes misunderstood and very angry individual that packs a deadly punch.
it's arch nemesis the Mitsubishi Evolution, this small 4WD sports car takes turbocharging
to the extreme, and in the process delivers massive acceleration from a
relatively modest engine size.
The term 'giant-killer' is often bandied about, but has never been more apt than for a vehicle such as this.
as has been the case with the new generation Subaru Impreza, which boasts a more European
design aimed at wider range of buyers than in previous years, the
question must be asked: has the STI lost its take-no-prisoners,
We were very keen to find out, so enough of the introduction and let's get into it:
Model: Impreza WRX STI Spec R
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Engine: 2.5-litre, Boxer 4-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Safety: 6 airbags (driver/front
passenger (x2), front side curtain (x2)), ABS, EBD, VDC, AWD
Supplier: Subaru Australia
The 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI packs an
explosive punch thanks to the turbo 4-cylinder
engine, but its the AWD traction we like most
With remarkable agility thanks to its adjustable
AWD system, the Subaru WRX STI is a serious
drivers car, and offers good bang for your buck
Engine: Subaru 2.5-litre 4-cylinder Boxer Turbo
longitudinally mounted 2457cc horizontally opposed (boxer) 4-cylinder
features aluminium alloy cylinder heads and engine block. Dual
(DOHC) work with 16-valves (4-valves per cylinder) that feature
variable valve timing and lift. With a turbocharger and air-to-air intercooler the
engine has a low 8.2:1 compression ratio.
The engine requires high octane 98 RON petrol, when filling
its 60 litre fuel tank.
CO2 Emissions: 243g/km
Max Power: 221kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 407Nm @ 4000rpm
0-100km/h: 5.2 seconds
The SI-Drive and C.Diff systems are easy to use
and allow drivers to fine-tune the power delivery
The interior isn't the Subaru WRX STI's most
impressive aspect, but it is modern and sporty
The first entry in my notebook after driving the Subaru WRX STI Spec R was "quick as".
the Impreza WRX may have lost a bit of its bite, I can report that the STI is still one
of most ferocious 4-cylinder vehicles ever made.
When the turbocharger is fully spooled at about 4000rpm under full throttle, the resultant surge of acceleration is strong enough to speed up digestion.
Indeed, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI is
one of the world's pre-eminent blast masters, able to surge forward
with remarkable potency and power from a standing start.
How many AWD cars are there that can
get sideways or frequently
break traction due to pure and unadulterated torque slamming through the
driveline and exploding onto the asphalt through the wheels?
Apart from the Lamborghini
Gallardo and Mitsubishi Evolution and this Japanese road warrior, not
many I would wager.
of first things I noticed after driving the car for a few hours was the
heavy-duty feel it imparts; it feels mechanically tough.
You can feel the tight
friction of the rally-bred all-wheel drive system as you roll to a
standstill, indicating that this is no ordinary AWD. You can feel the rigid
drive shaft and helical differentials though the gear shifter and clutch, and most of all you
can feel the robust engine go completely berserk, time and again, whenever you stab the throttle.
the 2008 Subaru WRX STI is not quite as unforgivingly rigid than its precursors, with a touch
more give in the suspension, it still exhibits a very firm ride.
Cat-eyes should be avoided.
So even though the STI isn't as stiffly sprung as before, this doesn't seem to have
affected its cornering control. In fact, with a bit more give in the
suspension it actually felt more controllable near its limit on public roads.
On the racetrack this subtle suspension change may not be quite as welcome, but we didn't get to
test it on the racetrack so we can't comment.
The banzai Subaru is a little more usable in everyday situations than its predecessors
thanks to the slightly better ride quality, not to mention the engine's more
accessible mid-range, but commuting and highway driving are
secondary considerations when purchasing a car like this.
What it does best, and what it was built for, is attacking corners.
this respect the 1505kg Subaru Impreza WRX STI is a triumph of
automotive engineering. The level of grip it musters from its 245/40
R18 Dunlop SP 600 tyres is fantastic, and the way it holds its line
though curves and bites into the road when accelerating is
engine is positioned 22mm lower in the engine bay compared to the
previous WRX STI and the front suspension is also a tad lighter, and this goes a
long way to improving the way the angry little Subaru tips
to point it is an efficient vehicle, able to change
direction without wallowing and capable of accelerating and then charging
forward with incredible intensity and vehemence.
It feels far more
decisive than the Subaru WRX too, and with increased body rigidity, "stiffened
at strategic points to aid rigidity and performance" says
Subaru, it's not surprising.
steering is very direct, so you don't need to turn the wheel much
to get the vehicle to change direction, and this only adds to the
Subaru's feeling of agility.
sense you get you when firing through corner after corner at nine
tenths in the WRX STI is one of incredulity. How can I be
through such tight corners at these velocities?!
just shift down a gear, and attack the next corner with even more
ambition and the STI never misses a beat.
Full throttle, full brakes, then full
throttle again and again: the car doesn't care. In fact it seems to perform best when being
pile driven into corner after corner with the utmost aggression.
shifts via the close ratio 6-speed manual transmission are fairly short
and sharp and the clutch is well weighted for rapid fire gear changes,
but it's not what I'd call an outstanding gearbox. Merely very good.
also a flashing red light that blinks excitedly just before you reach
the redline that suggests you to slot into the next gear, which is very
handy when you cranking up the tempo.
For mine however, the most impressive aspects of the vehicle were tyre and mechanical grip.
the tyres do a great job of giving you a good feel of the road, it's
the steering and suspension geometry and torque-sensitive front and Torsen rear diffs that are the icing on the cake.
These elements ensure the tyres almost always have a
considerable contact patch with the road, even when the car is being pomelled
by strong lateral G-forces through tight, fast corners.
The result is almost comical at times. The WRX STI's steadfast ability to accelerate through bends with such determination - the
way it sometimes scrabbles for traction under full throttle when
firing out of corners but still holds its line - is hard to describe.
'Awesome' would probably go part-way to relating the sensation.
the car does have a tendency to mildly understeer in many situations,
where the front outside wheel will tries to push wide, a touch more
steering lock and sometimes even a bit more throttle will pull its nose
back into line. This isn't a criticism, more an observation.
if you want to get technical and tune out some of the understeer, you
can always manually adjust the central differential (Multi-mode Driver Control Centre Differential or 'DCCD' in Subaru speak) to apportion more
torque to the rear axle via the neat little adjuster switch on the
transmission tunnel. There are also three 'auto' settings that bias
the front or rear, and can evenly split torque between both axles too.
it's small footprint and tractable AWD power delivery, the level
of agility it possesses is difficult to fathom at times. The STI's
body is 55mm wider than the WRX model, which further improves its road holding, and the anchors? Excellent.
326mm and 316mm front and rear respectively, the ventilated disc brakes
are clamped by four pot Brembo calipers at the front and twin
piston calipers at the rear, delivering a reassuring initial bite
and kidney-popping deceleration when you really squeeze the brake pedal,
which is very much a necessity in a four-wheel drive weapon such as this.
it's incredibly well sorted suspension and direct steering, the car is
very communicative as well. As mentioned the 221kW of power and 407Nm
of torque can override grip at lower speeds, but you can pinpoint the
moment just before the STI is about to arc up, and even when it does
start to slide it's quite controllable.
the VDC, or vehicle dynamics control, is activated it also ensures
that the vehicle never gets too out of sorts, and it even has three
modes: normal, traction, or completely off.
And just to prove
that this modern day hyper hatch is not completely devoid of decorum -
and adding yet more options to the tweakability of the vehicles AWD
power delivery systems - you can customise throttle response via the
SI-Drive, or Subaru Intelligent Drive.
This is the first time SI-Drive has
been implemented on an Impreza, and has three settings,
Intelligent, Sport, and Sport #. The Sport # setting sharpens throttle
response and is best suited to full throttle blasts, while the
Intelligent setting is the chilled-out driving mode. It offers much
softer response and is best suited to commuting and highway driving and
is aimed at reducing fuel consumption, and even tells you when to
change gear for optimum efficiency. The Sport mode is a half-way house
between the two extremes that never saw any use.
Subaru WRX STI is not a bad daily driver. When the turbo isn't
spooling up and the engine isn't blending vast quantities of oxygen
and petroleum for combustion, it's not too bad on the old hip pocket.
Because the ride has improved marginally over past STI models, it's a
bit easier to live with on a day-to-day basis too.
hill-holder clutch is a nice touch and because the gear shifts are
short and fairly smooth it rarely frustrates, even in built up traffic.
The 11 metre turning circle isn't great though, and means U-turns and
some parking manoeuvres are trickier than they should be.
like this: the Subaru Impreza WRX STI is an immensely satisfying car to
drive hard and fast, and very rewarding. It feels more aggressive
and more rabid than the last Mitsubishi Evo IX we tested. And that's saying something.
an amazing performance car but I must admit that it did take time
to appreciate -- and I liked that about it. You can't just get in it
and squeeze out
100 per cent performance from the get-go. You have to figure out the
car's limits in your own way because it can be an unforgiving car
if you get too cocky.
Whether flicking through the gears at a breakneck pace or just cruising through
town, the Subaru WRX STI is technological triumph for Subaru, and
arguably the most potent turbocharged 4-cylinder car on the
the kind of punishing acceleration that most people would associate
with a high tech roller-coaster, the Subaru WRX STI's horizontally opposed two-and-a-half litre engine is the
the turbo winds up and begins to work its magic, the acceleration is
ultra strong and it takes your breath away like few other
vehicles. It's one of those rare machines that can keep up with sports
bikes in some cases, such is the roll-on acceleration and the way it
transfers its power through the wheels.
Weaned on a strict diet of broken glass,
radioactive chili peppers and anabolic steroids, the engine is tough
as nails and disturbingly powerful.
Displacing 2.5-litres, the
4-cylinder boxer engine gets a number of go-fast
technology tweaks, including modified spark plugs, a more efficient
air-to-air intercooler, and an upgraded variable valve timing system.
dual AVCS (active valve control system) works on intake and exhaust
valves and is supposed to improve torque generation at lower revs while
improving fuel economy. The latter it does with unrivalled
success - this thing chews 10.3L/100km on average which is quite
surprising - it's even more efficient than the standard Subaru WRX and emits less CO2. Take a bow AVCS.
As for the increased torque at
lower revs? I'm not so sure about that, but it doesn't really matter.
When the turbo spins up and develops begins to develop strong boost at around 3500rpm, the engine goes into warp
drive and your head is snapped back into the cushy leather Recaro
pillows and at this stage everything else blurs into insignificance as you focus on the road ahead.
can be a touch of turbo lag at lower revs when you dial up full
throttle, but being in the right gear for the right situation usually
stops this from happening. Subaru has also incorporated new quad
which are supposed to give the car a slightly better exhaust note
but when you're
driving its the transmission whine and turbo whistle that come to the
With a whopping 407Nm of torque on tap @ 4000rpm from this
4-cylinder boxer engine, the STI can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 5.2
seconds, which bests the previous model STI's 5.4 second dash. It has a top speed of 250km/h.
power is 221kW @ 6000rpm, creating a nice 2000rpm turbo-aided
powerband. When you get the engine on the boil and keep the revs above
4000rpm as you row through the gears, the car is violently fast.
Power and torque are both improved by 15kW and 15Nm respectively compared to the previous WRX STI, and as Nick
Senior, the Managing Director of Subaru Australia points out, "Third
generation Impreza WRX STI is by far the most sophisticated and
ability to fine-tune where the engine's power ends up is one of the
coolest aspects of the STI, achieved via the Multi-mode Driver Control
Centre Differential (DCCD).
Via a small switch behind the
gear lever you can tailor whether the torque is split equally between
the front and rear wheels, or whether it is biased to the front or
rear, and there are also 'auto' modes that can increase or decrease the
strength of the limited slip differentials.
There are a couple of small issues with the engine however. The first is
turbo hesitation. If your gear changes aren't quick enough or you lift
off the throttle too long the turbo hesitates and drops off boost,
which hampers acceleration and can upset your rhythm.
aspect that isn't brilliant are the engine acoustics. It's a fairly
soulless sounding engine and the emotional connection that
a sonorous exhaust note can bring just isn't there. Next time perhaps.
it's wide-body kit, low stance and trademark bonnet scoop, the WRX STI
has an imposing look for a vehicle of its size, measuring just 4.41
metres long and 1.79 metres wide.
Long forgotten are the initial
misgivings purists had about the new Impreza design, for the WRX STI is
a meaty vehicle with plenty of visual fibre.
has only the bonnet, the roof, and the front doors in common with the
Impreza WRX - the rest of the bodywork is unique. It is also the only
Impreza that gets mirror-mounted indicators.
front end of the rally-bred hatch features a wide horizontal air dam below
the simple STI-badged grille, and it's this wide expanse of darkness that gives the car machismo. It
lends the vehicle a squareness that isn't there in the standard
Impreza models and in combination with the extended wheel arches and the
chunky 18-inch alloy wheels, the STI's image is impressively aggressive.
a number of smaller touches that give the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
an extra element of performance appeal, such as the quad exhaust
pipes, the rear diffuser, the roof spoiler and the vertical slots
behind the flared front wheel arches.
Xenon headlights and LED
brake lights are fitting illuminators for the range-topping car in
the Impreza line-up, and on the whole there's not a lot to complain
about. The overall profile may not be as sleek or the profile as low as
previous Imprezas, but it still has that stocky, muscular, and rather
angry look to it that past STI's have made famous.
WRX STI Spec. R test vehicle we reviewed boasted excellent leather
Recaro sports seats with extended and firm side bolsters to keep you
from moving around during high intensity cornering.
There's plenty of STI badging in the cabin - on the
steering wheel, the centre console, the seats, the tachometer etc. - but other than
that and the Recaro seats it feels eerily similar to the WRX.
Clearly the $20,000 premium over the WRX goes into
the engine and chassis upgrades and not on interior appointments.
Even so, the
cabin looks good, showing off a stylish, modern design and even
though the dash plastics are unforgiving and harsh, the ambiance is
Satellite navigation and a sunroof are cost options, but things like
drilled alloy pedals, 6-disc CD 10-speaker stereo, climate controlled
air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, car security system and a
leather multifunction steering are all factory standard.
Crimson instruments, including the speedometer and tachometer (that do the
trademark 'Subaru dance' upon ignition) look great at night
and the instrument cluster gets digital readouts for the central differential bias and
SI Drive systems to let you know what mode the AWD and throttle systems
I couldn't find a sunglasses holder, which means
either I'm an idiot or there wasn't one, and the central arm rest is
too low to be of any use.
Safety is naturally very good in this Subaru
and like all Impreza models it has six airbags, an advanced passenger
safety cell, ABS, brake assist and vehicle dynamics control (VDC), all
of which combine to bestow a 5-star ANCAP crash worthiness rating for
occupants, and 4-stars for pedestrians.
Subaru Technica International has created a technologically
advanced sports car that rarely fails to impress, a cornering carnivore
with an appetite for apexes.
If it had adjustable
suspension, it'd almost be a true rally car and after living with it
for a week I have to say this is one of the best value performance cars
money can buy.
The 2008 Subaru WRX STI blew my expectations out
of the water with its scintillating performance, tough-as-nails
character and involving dynamics. Describing what it's like to drive
the STI at full tilt is not easy. Sure, it's intensely exhilarating,
but there's more to it than that. It provides the kind of adrenaline
usually only happens moments before you fall down a flight of stairs.
And without the cracked ribs.
While prices start at $59,990 and the Spec. R model fetches $64,990, this is still very good
value for money when you consider the blistering acceleration and visceral levels of grip it delivers.
Thankfully the new Subaru Impreza WRX STI hasn't lost it's edge, and I can happily report that it retains its take-no-prisoners attitude. Like Wesley Snipes, this vehicle is small and sometimes misunderstood, but disrespect it at your peril.
- Mad Turbo Performance
- Handling & Suspension
- Adaptive AWD Systems
- 5-Star Safety Rating
- Turbo Hesitation
- Interior Similar To WRX
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