To the joy of all WRX fans who have been disappointed with the cars lagging performance in relation to its competitors as of late, Subaru has followed up the release last year of its redesigned WRX by adding a few more letters to the badging and a few horsepower to the car.
Subaru optimized the STI’s powertrain for better performance and a higher degree of driver-selectable control. The STi’s 2.5-liter, turbocharged and intercooled, 4-cylinder, boxer-style engine now has a Dual Active Valve Control System (Dual AVCS) and Subaru’s Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) system which achieves 305 horsepower, a gain of 12 hp over last year’s model.
SI-Drive allows the driver to alter the car’s driving characteristics. A console-mounted dial offers three settings, varying from one that offers optimal fuel economy to one that provides lightning-quick throttle response.
The STI’s response to aggressive acceleration is lightning-quick and the 6-speed manual transmission. In testing the STI, Car & Driver magazine recorded a 0-60-mph time of 5.1 seconds, and a quarter-mile time of 13.6 seconds at 102 mph. Top speed is electronically limited to 151 mph, though I’m sure some bright-eyed youngster will find a way to dispense with that.
The EPA rates the STI’s mileage at 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway using premium gas, which will probably encourage some restraint and is achievable with conservative use of the throttle.
Physically, differences between the WRX and the WRX STi are subtle. The Aero package, previously an option, is now standard on both sedan and five-door models as is a new STI-style grille.
Starting with the Impreza’s new hatchback bodywork, the STI gains a trim look but still with bulging fenders and quarter panels. The hood scoop, front brake air intakes and engine heat outlets are all functional, as they should be.
The interior of the STI comes with special front seats designed with tight side bolsters and integrated head restraints. The upholstery is cloth with leather trim. The instrument cluster features a 9,000-rpm tachometer and 160-mph speedometer, along with indicators for the driver-selectable functions.
Whether the $35,640 sticker price, basically a 10 grand option over the WRX is worth it, remains to be seen.