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.