In car guy terms – a petrolhead can be separated in these distinct spectrum; you’re either an Evo guy or an Impreza guy. Now, I’ve always been an Impreza guy because I sort of grew up with friends having owned the boxer series and the ‘555’ livery was always more appealing to me. Having said that, sadly I have never actually driven a pure bred STI boxer before.
It’s one of those experiences that you have to fulfil in life as a petrolhead, simply because that little boy racer sitting deep inside yourself shouts for a blast seeing one of those rally thoroughbred on the streets. Happily though, after a short call with Subaru Motor Image, all that was about to change when they said ‘YES’ to lending me the keys to their latest boxer in the house for a weekend, the all-new WRX STI.
First impression with the WRX STI was that; it was not the kind of car that you can just get in and drive off into twisty avenue. Much to my surprise, the cockpit required more familiarisation than one would expect. The first 15 minutes was rather agonising, as I drove out of the parking lot and straight into rush hour traffic. Almost immediately, I believed that I was piloting a small aircraft – as it felt a lot larger from the cockpit than expected.
In my experience, the most crucial moment with a test car is the first 15 minutes – as it gives you the truest, most honest opinion of car. With the WRX STI; it hit me that I was going to be suffering from absolute trauma for various reasons. Firstly, the steering was too heavy to manoeuvre in the streets, the clutch was a rather substantial medium for an average left leg and the powerband was so high up… that the car felt useless below 3000rpm.
… but I ignored these matters at hand. Because pure excitement trumps the actual truth that you refuse to face.
First introduced in the early 90s; the Impreza was one of those cars that became an immediate hit amongst car enthusiasts. Packing a small little turbocharged engine with sub 300 horses and all-wheel drive – it was great recipe for a thoroughbred. Of course everything now is small-engined, turbocharged but the rally-grown street cars came at a time when turbos were mostly seen in Group B rally and supercars like the Ferrari F40 only.
Forced induction opened up a lot of tuning potential; which to my understanding was the start to the then, new age of integrating computers with software tuning. It was a transitional age and the history to the modern performance cars that we know today, really gave it up to the two Japanese metal boxes that made it mainstream – the Impreza and Lancer Evolution.
If you haven’t noticed already; this new boxer has dropped the ‘Impreza’ badge in favour of a more candid, WRX STI nameplate. But unmistakably, that doesn’t mean it has also discarded the infamous rallying heritage that it’s predecessor had.
The all-new version still stacks up it’s stats – packing the familiar EJ257 4-cylinder boxer from the Version 10, it generates an adrenaline rushing 300bhp and 407nm of torques at it’s disposal. In the right hands, it will do a sub-5 seconds sprint to sixty-two and if you think that’s slow… count-to-5.
Rally bred street racers has always been about useable power and speed in the streets; and whilst you may find other cars that may be faster in a straight line, not many will be able to match it when the going gets twisty.
In my two years of testing cars – it brings me absolute joy to report that the WRX STI grips like nothing I have driven before. Throw it into a corner with some substantial (and rather illegal) amount of speed and the car only wants to hang on to the direction you steer into.
Fitted with a differential control system that Subaru dubs as – “Driver’s Control Centre Differential”, the WRX STI allows the driver to select the way the differential locks and allocates torque to it’s wheels on the fly. You may select for the power to be more biased to the front to deliver more traction, or to the back to reduce understeer and deliver better rotation mid-corner. Everything comes at the choice and discretion of the person at the wheel, to befit different driving styles.
Either way though, the car has so much grip that it is highly unlikely for you to be wanting MORE traction and push the power forward, even when the weather get’s a little… Malaysian.
It’s true what people say about the individuals who find these cars highly appealing. These rally bred street brawlers tends to unleash the inner boy-racer out of the person at the wheel. I find myself driving on the roads, eyeing for little Golf GTIs to prey on. I don’t know why… could it be that huge, immature wing at the back? hmm…
Nevertheless though, if you’re a modern day, white collar 9-5 man; there is a high possibility you will find it difficult to appreciate a daily driver like this. Image may be the biggest factor, but I reckon there could possibly be more than it may seem.
Here’s the thing – the reason why people love these things is because it delivers performance that stands unmatched in it’s class and price bracket. But… for the same reason is also why people loathe these cars.
Regardless of the performance, the WRX STI is stuck with a Japanese badge. That isn’t a bad thing… but the modern age market has evolved into a state of maturity where, although performance matters, refinement is primary. And it’s sad to say that the car has not moved with time.
There is a reason why cars like the VW GTIs and Rs do so well in the Malaysian market, and that’s because when you’re spending a quarter of a million bucks on a car, you tend to demand more than just relentless performance.
Don’t get me wrong. The WRX STI is by far the most refined STI there has ever been, proof that new is better. But – a decent interior will not justify it as the byword for the best daily driver.
The WRX STI has been blessed with a highly talented all-wheel drive system, mated to a rather stiff chassis to deliver one of the grippiest cars you could go out and buy today. But if you want more than just performance from a car, you probably won’t find it here.
However – no one has ever bought these Boxers for it’s so called “all-round performance”. They are rather serious cars and bought by anoraks who lusts after instruments of speed. The WRX STI is definitely a toy. A big… immature boy’s toy. And I unconditionally love it!
Words: Qhalis Najmi
Photos: Qhalis Najmi & Zahid Kasim