Monday, 3 November 2014

REVIEW - Subaru WRX STi

This is a review that looked impossible at one point. It was announced that the Subaru WRX STi was being killed off in the UK. Thankfully Subaru reversed this decision and thus I was soon on the phone excitedly trying to get a date with the new one. There are many people who dislike the Subaru because of everything it stands for. But there is also a significant following of the marque, which most likely stemmed from the rally days and Colin McRae. And for my generation it was Gran Turismo which created the love affair, but I was more excited to try the real thing…

Looks – 9/10

The latest instalment of the WRX STi is- for me- one of the best looking that’s ever been. The best moment for me was when it rolled up on the driveway in World Rally Blue with gold alloys. That’s classic Subaru, and it was a nice reference. The exterior lines of the WRX STi are sharp and aggressive at the front, moving toward a curvy and sleek rear. I like the ‘shouty’ mouth at the front, and was pleased to see the trademark bonnet scoop and rear wing. The quad exhausts are prominent, and act as a subtle nod to the power on offer. Having done a bit of research on the internet, I must admit that whilst the gold wheels made me reminisce, there are some gloss black ones which look a lot better.


But the biggest improvement from previous models come when you open the doors and step inside the Subaru. Whilst this may not give a Bentley a run for its money in terms of quality, there’s no denying that it’s rather nice to look at these days. There was a danger that the interior could have been dark, but there’s plenty of red stitching to break up the blackness. I really like the use of alcantara to boost the sporty feel, and the carbon-fibre effect trim is a welcome change from the plain plastics of old. For me the biggest winner is the view from the driving seat. The chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel is wonderful, and the bright red instruments brought back memories from the PlayStation. And you can just see a peek of that gaping bonnet vent. Lovely.


Handling/Performance – 10/10

I’ve read a lot of criticism that the engine hasn’t changed since the last model. It’s still the same 2.5-litre turbocharged boxer which produces 300PS and 407Nm. But then I’m a strong believer that if it’s not broken, why fix it. This is a cracking engine which packs one hell of a punch, so what people want to be change I have no idea. The power is sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox, and the WRX STi will hit 0-62mph in a mere 5.2 seconds and go on to a top speed of 159mph. That makes it 4mph faster than a BMW M5. There is- as you would expect- a bit of turbo lag. But keep the revs high and the Subaru absolutely flies. The familiar boxer ‘burble’ is present and makes for a nice soundtrack without being too intrusive into the cabin. There’s even a Subaru Intelligent (Si) Drive system which allows different mappings of the engine, from intelligent, to sports, and sports sharp, with throttle response and torque increasing with the latter two.

The most impressive aspect of a WRX STi is the handling. It always has been. The marque’s rallying success is well documented, and if you cross the Atlantic you’ll find the Subaru Rally Team USA do very well indeed. The centre differential can be controlled and adjusted to suit your needs, and balance the car from under to over steer. And it makes a noticeable difference. The WRX STi can take corners at speeds you wouldn’t think possible. The steering is perfectly weighted and responsive; you really can put this car where you want it. The brakes give confidence, and the suspension offers very little body roll which translates into better cornering. Take this car onto a B-road and it completely comes alive. I would love to stick this car round a track, because I think there would be a lot of fun to be had there. I’ll put that one on my to do list…


Economy – 5/10

I think it goes without saying that people looking to buy a car like this are not looking for the next best thing in green technology. In fact, the fuel consumption was pleasantly surprising on a run. On a combined cycle, the WRX STi will return 27.2mpg which I know isn’t exactly brilliant. But on a run to Wallasey and back I saw a return on the better side of 30mpg which was thanks to the intelligent Si drive and cruise control. It’s the CO2 emissions that cause me to grimace. At 242g/km they’re definitely on the high side, and put the Subaru in VED band L; the second highest it can be. Road tax will cost £485 a year, but you will have to stump up a whopping £860 for the first year rate. Ouch.

Practicality – 8/10

Underneath the large spoiler and bling wheels, the Subaru is a large, 4-door saloon car. And that means it’s rather practical in many aspects. The boot may have limited opening but is a generous size. The cabin is spacious too. A nice touch is the design of the rear wing, which didn’t impair visibility at all. Thanks to the intelligent mode the WRX STi isn’t half as vicious as the paper figures would have you believe. And there’s a fair bit of technology there too, from the hands-free Bluetooth to the keyless entry and dual-zone climate control. Then there are the not so practical elements. Fuel range isn’t the best, and don’t think you can get anywhere in a hurry, because any enthusiast will want a conversation wherever you go. Finally, the ride is a little harsh on the sporty suspension, and becomes noticeably bouncy after longer periods behind the wheel.

Fun – 8/10

From the nostalgia of the PlayStation days, to the head-turning looks, the WRX STi put one heck of a smile on my face. From behind the wheel you soon forget about the fuel economy or the fact that the interior finish isn’t as top draw as a Volvo. Twist the Si drive to sport sharp and head out onto a nice road, and there are few cars that are as exhilarating. And there are few that would be quicker on that road than the Subaru. And therein lies the slight downfall. The WRX STi is so good, that it’s a touch on the serious side. When you have 305PS and a lot of grip, you can soon reach some pretty serious speeds, and that could lead to some pretty serious trouble. Thus you find yourself having to keep yourself in check, and that just takes the edge off the fun.

Concluding Remarks

So that’s it then. My week with the Subaru WRX STi over. And what a shame, because I had a great time with it. What you have here is a car that for less than £30k (£28,995 on the road) you have a focused driver’s car which packs an almighty punch. And with the cult following that surrounds it, you get the respect of petrolheads everywhere. Sure, the BMW drivers will scoff and call you a ‘chav’ but show me £30k of 3 Series and I know which keys I’d be grabbing. So what if the road tax is nearly a thousand pounds in the first year, and 30mpg will seem like a “good run”. When you hit a clear road and hear that burble, you’ll be in motoring heaven. And finally, to sign off on the Subaru WRX STi. That’s easy; a legend, reborn.

Total Score 40/50 

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