2015 Subaru WRX STI
From great rally car to great sports car.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: February 17th, 2014
"Wait, you're driving a rally car on a race track?" That was the question most commonly asked when your author let slip that he'd be driving the new STI on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The answer is, well, yes and no. The 2015 Subaru WRX STI finalizes the transition from rally car to sports car that the automaker initiated in 2008.
Yes, we all know the story now, long passed down from our forebears; once upon a time, the Subaru WRX STI was a rally-bred hoonmobile built to spend as much time in the dirt as a child with pica.
But things and times have changed. As a child, I cried when my crappy old lampshades were swapped out for new ones, because I hated everything about the idea of change. That is roughly the attitude that Subaru fanboys have adopted towards the marked shift in the new STI's direction. But it's no longer a rally car; now, it's an asphaltophile built to carve corners. Sorry, Bill Caswell.
Were these Star-of-Pleiades-shirt-owning so-called enthusiasts paying attention, they'd know that Subaru has been moving away from the STI-rally connection since 2008. That year marked the beginning of the automaker's shift in attention from World Rally Championship to the 24 Hours of NÃ¼rburgring endurance race. It's still a race car, albeit with an entirely different set of rules, and naturally, the car off which the racer is based should also adapt to these changes.
And the STI accomplishes exactly that. The rough edges on the previous-generation Subaru have been smoothed over, and the result is a car that sports the best of both old and new - the capable EJ-series flat-four, mated to the 2015 WRX chassis (which underwent serious reinforcement in its latest incarnation).
Does it have some issues? Of course, every car does - even six-figure exotics do. But deep down, taking all the above into account, is it a good car? In the words of Isaac Hayes, you're damn right. The king of dirt is dead; long live the king of grip.
Much like the 2015 WRX, the STI pulls a great deal of the interior from its standard-fare Impreza brethren. However, the STI takes the WRX's improvements and adds yet another level. The seats are amply bolstered, and they're pretty easy on the eyes, to boot. Furthermore, there are plenty of STI badges embossed into and plastered onto various interior bits, just in case you forget what you're driving with alarming frequency. In addition to the seats and badges, the center console, A pillar, and aesthetic trim are all upgraded from the standard Impreza interior. It's a comfortable place to be, moreso than the previous generation.
It's an STI. It has four tailpipes, aggressive fenders, and a big ol' honkin' wing atop the trunk. If you buy the Launch Edition (limited to 1,000 units), your STI will come in the traditional color combo of gold wheels on blue paint. With that out of the way, let's look at the major aesthetic complaint levied against the car, and why it's based in some weird alternate reality.
"It looks like an Evo now!"
You're referring to the STI's new Slimfast headlights, yeah? Well, according to the automaker, market research shows that buyers are currently in the midst of a thin-headlight binge, because it conveys streamlined aggression. So that's what new-car buyers are into. Pay attention to that phrase - new-car buyers. Those are the opinions that count, not those of some armchair-design-critic Facebook users.
On the Road
Hoo boy. It's a handful, as it should be. The steering is entirely hydraulic, with a quick ratio that makes steering effort nice and heavy with plenty of things to tell you, sort of like Rush Limbaugh. With the SI-DRIVE mode selector set to Sport# (Sport Sharp, for those of you lacking knowledge of music theory), the throttle can be a bit too touchy for on-road use, but it feels right at home on the track. It doesn't do anything to combat the turbo lag, though, which exists up until 3,000 rpm or so. After that, though, it's linear all the way up to redline. There are no surprises that will pitch you sideways into a ditch.
The EJ-series flat-four carries over from the previous-gen STI, which sits somewhere between "okay" and "oh dear god it's the end times" in the opinions of the aforementioned masses. But allow your author to put his hand on your shoulder and reassure you that everything is okay. The last engine was good, and it still is. If you wanted a new one, you'd better be prepared to pay for that R&D cost, which would likely send the price of the 2015 STI well above its current starting price point, which is exactly the same as the 2014 model.
The WRX chassis improvements give the new STI a planted feeling like never before. Body roll is reduced dramatically, and unless you're on the Brembo brakes like you're trying not to run over the cutest puppy in the world, the car will remain wholly steady under all sorts of irresponsible driving styles. On the track, off the track, it drives like a proper sports car.
There's a reason that Subaru includes the Porsche 911 in its benchmark comparisons, because it's trying to deliver a car that drives like it should cost twice as much. The weight addition over the previous generation is nominal; without the power driver's seat and advanced audio, the new STI weighs less than five pounds more than the outgoing model. And that's with a whole number of improvements, many of which will be felt without being seen.
It's a solid generational step, one that reflects the new direction of the STI in general. Before you jump on the naysaying bandwagon, wait until it rolls off the assembly line, drive it yourself, and see why you shouldn't be so hasty to judge.
Specs & Price
Engine: 2.5-liter, turbocharged and intercooled flat-four
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Power Output: 305 hp / 290 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 17 city / 23 highway (mfr. estimate)
Base Price: $34,495
As Tested: $38,495 (not incl. $795 destination)
Optional Features: Touch Screen Navigation Package (6.1-inch touch screen with navigation, nine-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio with amplifier, Aha smartphone integration), keyless access with remote start
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Subaru WRX, click here: 2015 Subaru WRX.