Hands on with the Subaru Impreza WRX STI

I’ve been very curious to drive the Subaru WRX STI since I heard they were releasing the 4 door STI again, not just in the wagon.  You rarely hear someone talk about the STI without mentioning it’s competitor the EVO (and vice versa) but most people I know seem to favor the STI.  All in all, they are very comparable vehicles.  I would have to check specs, but I felt like the STI was longer than the EVO and the salesman confirmed the STI sedan was longer than it’s wagon counterpart.

The STI has some nice lines, but truth be told, I think the last few years’ models have been very boring in comparison to previous years.  When they first changed to the new body style I often found myself trying to figure out if I was looking at a Subaru, a Mazda or something else.  The WRX just wasn’t as distinctive to me any longer.  This is a common complaint I hear from a wide variety of people though… that car design has become to homogenous with everyone trying to copy everyone else until everything looks the same.

But I digress.

The STI unlike the EVO MR comes with a standard transmission, not a dual clutch (aka dual transmission) system. Since so many manufacturers are only producing automatic and dual clutch transmissions, I found this both surprising and slightly refreshing.  There’s just something about a standard transmission… especially one with six gears and a short shifter.

The interior was nice.  The model I test drove was one of the limited editions with heated leather seats and a moon roof.  Subaru has moved the radio higher on the dash, putting it above the heater vents instead of at the bottom above the heat controls and auxiliary jack.  Not only is this a better use of space, it’s also less cumbersome to access.  Although oversized, the radio isn’t integrated any more so than most cars making it easy to upgrade to an aftermarket system if so desired.  Another nice change Subaru has made is they have moved the auxiliary and USB jacks into the jockey box.  This makes them much easier to use because you no longer have to worry about cords getting tangled around the gear shift nor having your MP3 player go flying because there isn’t a good place for you to put it and keep it connected to the ports.

The differential adjustments are near the gear shift with a knob allowing you to select between automatic, sport, super sport and manual. The adjustments were difficult to see on the dash as they seemed to try and use the least amount of space to highlight it.  But it’s cool that while in manual you can completely adjust the weight displacement essentially turning the STI into a rear wheel drive car.

There’s also something to be said for the EVO’s road specifications “snow, tarmac, gravel” vs the STI’s sport, super sport etc.  The STI’s dash feels very classic with the three standard gauges compared to the EVO’s very computerized display.  The tachometer is extremely prominent though which I found as rather odd.  Usually the speedometer is the biggest gauge or they are the same size.  I could see it being much easier to speed and not realize it because your gaze naturally falls on the tachometer instead of the speedometer.

The front seats were comfortable, but I felt like they didn’t hug you anything like the EVO’s Recaro seats.  In fact, they felt very similar to the seats I currently have in my Explorer sport.  They pretty much felt like most high end bucket seats, not sport bucket seats.

Back seats were roomy and the STI has a huge trunk.  One benefit the STI has over the EVO is the back seats fold down in a 60/40 split providing extra room.  The EVO’s trunk is definitely smaller and the seats don’t fold down.

But with 305 hp 2.5 liter DOHC turbocharged engine, what you really want to know is how did it drive……

It was nice.  I liked the way it shifted.  With a lot of cars, it seems like 1st gear is either wound too high so you’re redlining while barely pressing on the gas pedal or it’s so low that you’re stomping on the gas pedal and barely moving.  The gears were smooth as were the gear changes.  I felt like 2nd gear was a bit stickier and therefore problematic than 1st gear, but not too bad.  I definitely like the way the STI shifted much better than when I test drove the EVO GSR.  The GSR felt like it was geared oddly or something.  I really couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t like the way it felt, especially as I liked the MR so much.

The STI had a tighter turning radius than the EVO.  Just making a right hand turn in the EVO required me to have both lanes clear because I couldn’t turn tight enough and a u-turn would require more than one movement.  The STI on the other hand had no such issues.  I was able to turn right and stay in just the one lane as well as flip a u in one movement.

Cornering was nice and smooth, acceleration as well.  It’s always nice to be in a responsive car and the STI didn’t disappoint but…… There’s just something lacking.  I really can’t seem to place my finger on it.  The car was nice and I would be content owning one, but that’s just it.  I’d be content.  It didn’t give me permagrin, nor did I find myself dwelling on it.  Maybe it was just the mood I was in that day.  Either way, it was a nice car and it’s still on the list which may make for a very difficult decision down the road.

Getting Familiar with Subaru

Subaru Impreza WRX STI

I can honestly say the Subaru Impreza WRX STI almost didn’t make it on my list, but as they’re bringing back the sedan in the STI for 2011, I was willing to consider it.  My husband has a WRX and absolutely loves it.  I enjoy driving it on occasion, (mostly because of the standard transmission), but I can’t see me owning one.  At least, one of the little hatchbacks.  I was rather surprised at how much he enjoys it as his previous car was a Roush Stage 1 Ford Mustang.  From his experience with the WRX, and others with Subaru, I know pretty well that they do well in the snow.  Ok, so  the STI is on my list, but how’s Subaru’s website in comparison to some of their competitors?

The Subaru home page isn’t too bad.  It’s relatively clean and easy to navigate.  I like how the models are visible regardless of the what is shown on the slider.  I’m not fond of the photos they picked for the slider however.  This one for example feels extremely washed out with the grey sky and the greyish tarmac and the greyish blue sedan and white hatchback.  When you hover over the photos, a slightly larger version with three options pops up.  A couple of times the hover option got stuck so it remained up blocking what I was trying to view on the lander.  Their lander doesn’t have a pause button or directional arrows, so if you want to take a closer look at something on the slider, you’ll have to wait for it to come back by.

I can’t help but appreciate the 2010 Impreza WRX STI Special Edition description of  “Limited edition STI with a Nurburgring-tuned JDM STI spec C suspension for track-taming ability.”  Granted, your average car buyer won’t appreciate the Nurburgring reference, but any enthusiast would love the opportunity to take a car on the Nurburgring track.  (Can I have an EVO MR and a WRX STI to test on the Nurburgring track?  Pleeeeeese?)

Clicking on the WRX model pulls up another page with a large photo of the WRX hatchback and links to “Photos and Videos” and Key features.  If you realize there’s more on the page (this picture filled my screen in a way that I could see some customer not realizing there’s more below it) and scroll down, there’s a very basic overview of the WRX models showing price differences and some of the key feature differences.  Most of the models are available in the 4 door or 5 door models, however, when you click on the options, not all of them pull up the correct photo.  When you click on the 5 door WRX option, it still shows the sedan instead of the hatchback.  Subaru’s primary goal seems to be to get you to request a quote as it’s highlighted within a blue arrow.  However, there are options below it to Build Your Own, Estimate Payments, and see Special Offers.

I’m interested in the WRX STI so I click on the Limited Edition Build Your Own link and after inputting my zip code I’m on the first option page.  On the right hand it lists the correct vehicle, however, the photo is not the correct vehicle.  It shows the hatchback which while available in an STI is not available in the Limited Edition.  As a consumer, I even clicked back to the previous page to make sure I didn’t miss something.  Nope, STI Limited is only available in the sedan.

One thing I liked about the Mitsubishi site is it showed how many steps you had left and you selected your options then clicked next.  On the Subaru site, you select your option then click on the next box down to go through your options and either print it, or request a quote.  Again, their goal seems to be to have you request a quote as that’s most obvious.  Selecting you accessory options is rather unwieldy.  It’s a long scroll bar with check boxes similar to the Mitsubishi site, however, unlike the Mitsubishi site, the Subaru site automatically pops up hover windows for each option with pictures, descriptions and prices.  Package options aren’t clearly marked here either.  Personally I found the hovering of each option as I tried to scroll through to be a distraction and chose to not select anything.

I click Request a Quote to signal I’m done and am met with something I don’t really understand either as a marketer or a consumer.

To request a quote, I need to re-input the year, make and model information.  I’m assuming they’ve decided to do this in case you were last building a model that you decided against, however, I would think most people would go back to what they did want and build it with the options they wanted before requesting a quote on that car.  Maybe that’s just me?

Either way, it appears that none of the information I just took the time to input carries through to the next step so whatever dealership gets my information (at least I get to choose) really knows nothing more about what I’m looking for than it’s a 2011 WRX.  As there are such large differences between the models and even just the fact of whether or not you want a sedan or a hatchback, I really don’t understand why they would waste so many people’s time.  I’ve wasted my time building my own car to both get an idea of what I want as well as to give the dealership an idea of what I want as well as the dealership’s  time.  All they know is they have a warm lead.  At least I was able to choose what dealership my information was sent to.

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