PCOTY 6th - Subaru WRX STI

If all you did was look at the spec sheet, you could be forgiven for wondering if the Subaru STI is a new model at all.

Check it out: 2.5 litres, max power of 221kW at 6000rpm and a torque peak of 407Nm at 4000rpm. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. In fact, those were the same numbers possessed by the previous STI.

But hang on, aren’t new cars supposed to improve on the previous one? Well, they are provided you’ve got some development budget to make those improvements.

In Subaru’s case, the Yen-cupboard was pretty bare when time came to revamp the STI. So the boffins did the smart thing and went for nth-degree improvements to the electronics and stuff like the active centre diff. And, despite the odds, they came up trumps.

Okay, so the straight-line performance numbers are – predictably enough – a bit of a carry-over from the old car. Still, that gets you to 100km/h in 5.4sec and across the first 400m in 13.5sec at 165.6km/h provided you’re not antsy about dialling up 6000rpm or so and side-stepping the clutch. Ouch. But effective.

That said, it was pointed out to me that, unless you were prepared to be brutal, the STI quickly becomes a 14-second car in the real world. If you’re buying your own clutches, anyway. Fair call, too, I reckon.

It was quicker ’round the Winton track than the vaunted Golf R (the car it kind of had to beat) by 1.5sec, although it didn’t seem as pointy and accurate as it had at BFYB a few months earlier. Maybe it didn’t like the 30-or-so degrees of ambient heat. It was difficult to place in slower turns and never really seemed to have the front-end accuracy or bite it should have.

The interior is still a low-rent kind of deal, too, and while it’s better than previous models, it’s way behind the opposition. But the things I liked about it are the things that make it special – that ultra-mechanical feel to the way the gearshift works and the fact I get to call the shots on how the centre diff works and where it sends the torque.

The motor is (plateaued outputs notwithstanding) still a cracker and, while it felt like the last 1000 revs or so were hard work on the dragstrip, out on the track it suddenly felt much fitter.

And then there’s the price. I remember when a WRX STI would run you all the way to $60K (and that was before the R-Spec option), so the new car’s $49,990 has to rate as some kind of bargain. Not that this is BFYB, but you get my drift.

January issue, out now

For the complete Performance Car of the Year story, including full performance data, check out MOTOR’s January issue, on sale now on newsstands or iPad.




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