Subaru WRX STI (2014) Review

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It's the fastest and most powerful Subaru currently on sale in South Africa, so we just had to try out the 2015 Subaru WRX STI.

Subaru's STI is the flagship performance product from the brand and follows a simple recipe. Simply, put a powerful turbocharged engine into a head-turning racer body and make it handle like it can defy the laws of physics. This recipe has been successful for decades and the Subaru STI is an icon in the petrolhead world.

Engine and economy

The 2015 Subaru WRX has the same 2.5-litre flat-four turbocharged unit found in the previous generation. Power and torque remain the identical at 221 kW and 407 Nm, with power reaching all four wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. This is a particularly good gearbox especially when you're pressing on. Subaru claims about 10L/100km when it comes to fuel economy, but in reality you'll see around 13.5L/100km. Should this be of concern? Absolutely not. No-one buys an STI with fuel economy being a deciding factor...

What's new?

So if the engine is the same as the old model, then what exactly is new? The chassis is new and is stiffer. There's an all-new suspension too which makes extensive use of clever differentials and electronics to ensure handling is top notch. The handling technology cleverly balances power between the front and rear axles, as well as from the left side and right side.

When you work with the Active Torque Vectoring (ATV), the stability control and the Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD), the results are quite special. The ATV reduces understeer, while the DCCD allows the driver to decide how much power he/she wants sent to the back wheels. On the narrow and winding roads to Cape Point, the Subaru WRX STI proved to be dramatically fast with the steering being ultra responsive. Track fanatics will love how it drives and for a point-and-squirt machine, the STI does exceptionally well.

Interior

The Subaru STI's cabin is still a dull and minimalist affair, with only the bare basics being present. You can opt for a locally-developed touchscreen SatNav / infotainment system, which isn't too bad. There's a digital boost gauge thrown into the centre dashboard display. This display doubles up as a trip computer. There's a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, electric sunroof, keyless entry, start button, auto lights, auto wipers, LED headlamps, and an all leather interior. I was expecting more sporty seats, such as those offered by brands like Sparco or Recaro.

The drive

When you're cruising around there's the distinctive Subaru burble coming out the four exhausts, and if you listen carefully, there's a subtle whistle and pop from the turbo's wastegate. There are three throttle settings: Intelligent, Sport and Sport#. Intelligent dulls the power a bit and makes the car civilised. There's still enough oomph for some thrills though, but if you want to up the ante, then switch the dial to Sport or Sport#. The accelerator pedal becomes very sensitive to inputs and the car starts charging about.

For driving thrills, the Subaru WRX STI offers large amounts of excitement. It's one of those cars that needs a delicate touch to get the best out of it, but when you get it right, you can get performance out of it that rivals cars costing double the price. Off the line and in Sport# mode, the Subaru WRX STI is savage.

Summary

In closing, the Subaru WRX STI left me with two thoughts. Firstly, what a mind-blowingly agile vehicle this is. Few vehicles are this quick on a tight and winding road and it will take a brave driver to try find the limits of what this thing can do. The all-wheel drive will flatter the average driver and it'll keep you safe on wet or gravel roads. As far as the Subaru STI lineage goes, this continues the legacy and I'd go as far as to say that this is one of the finest STIs yet.

Secondly, my gripes are with the interior and overall impression of the vehicle. For a 2014 performance car, it's not quite good enough in all departments to get both thumbs up. Also this car is best suited to the driver who likes to attend track days and the suspension is too firm to be a daily driver. For a car nicknamed 'the BMW M3 Eater' back in the day, it also hasn't evolved enough to match its rivals. The competition has moved on, and the 2014 Subaru STI doesn't stand a chance against the 2014 BMW M3.

That interior still needs that premium feel and perhaps a gadget or two to woo the millennial generation. If you're a Subaru fan, you're going to love it. If its just out of your budget, there's nothing wrong with opting for the standard Subaru WRX either, which offers 85% of the STI's ability at a substantially cheaper price. For the rest of you, R600 000 can get you into an Audi S3 sedan, which offers premium features and day to day comfort more befitting of the price tag. Just don't try take on an STI though as you'll come off second best...

Second Opinion

The Subaru WRX STI is a cult car, even in the modern era when it's bang for buck status is under scrutiny. Despite this people flock to inspect and admire it. I just wish Subaru would move the game forward a bit more. - Ashley Oldfield

Subaru WRX STI quick specs

Price  R599 000
Engine  2.5-litre flat-four turbocharged petrol
Power  221 kW
Torque  407 Nm
Transmission  Six-speed manual
Wheels  18-inch alloys
0-100km/h  4.9 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy   10.4L/100 km (claimed)
We like: . Blisteringly fast and agile on a tight and winding road . Head-turning racer looks . Huge boot and five doors make this practical

We dislike: . Interior is poor for a car costing this much . Competition has moved on . Too hardcore to be a daily driver

Also consider: Subaru WRX BMW M235i Audi S3

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