What is it?
The new 2014 Subaru WRX STI (note that it’s still no longer an Impreza). The wheelbase is 25mm longer, the roof is 5mm lower, and the whole car is 15mm longer. The base of the A-pillars has also been moved forward by 200mm, which cleverly gives a slightly more rakish look to the exterior and yet a more spacious feeling to the interior. If you’re a traditionalist, then you can order it in WR Blue and with gold wheels if you wish.
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The body is 140 per cent stiffer than the previous generation, while there is 16 per cent less body roll thanks largely to spring rates that are 22 per cent stiffer at the front and 6 per cent stiffer at the rear. The steering is still hydraulically rather than electrically power assisted and the rack is 15 per cent quicker thanks to the ratio being changed from 14.8:1 to 12.7:1.
The familiar Multi-mode centre differential is still in place with auto and manual settings, plus Auto, Auto+ and Auto– modes. The basic torque distribution is 50:50, but if you choose Auto+ it limits torque and increases stability in slippery conditions, while selecting Auto– allows more torque to be sent to the rear wheels.
What’s it like to drive?
The first thing you notice is the steering. Subarus have always had a less pointy front-end response compared to sharper Mitsubishi Evos, but the new WRX STI feels much keener to dive into corners, reacting as soon as you move the wheel from the straight ahead. It’s also a very weighty helm compared to most modern cars and imbues the STI with a sense of solidity that permeates through the whole driving experience.
As you might expect, there is a huge amount of grip, both in the corners and under acceleration, so it’s not the most adjustable car until you’re pushing extremely hard. The balance certainly felt more enjoyable in its Auto– setting and there is a robustness to the whole car that makes you want to fling it at corners and take cuts across the verge wherever you can.
The engine is essentially the same 2.5-litre Boxer four as the last generation and feels very similar, albeit with slightly improved throttle response. It’s not an engine that feels really pleasurable to wring the last few revs from, so instead you tend to lean on the heft of the turbocharged torque lower down. Although the 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds isn’t really much to write home about these days, the WRX STI still feels very quick thanks to the punchy delivery of the engine and gearing that is pretty short.
Overall, the Subaru remains a very different experience to most of the cars on sale today. Refreshingly so, in many ways. It has a frankly rubbish interior, but there is an honesty to the controls and the way in which it drives that makes it very engaging. In short, it feels like it’s built by a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries.
How does it compare?
The most obvious four-wheel-drive rival is actually the excellent new Volkswagen Golf R. With 297bhp, 280lb ft of torque and a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds it has very similar figures to the Subaru. The good news for the Japanese car is that Yen exchange rates are now much more favourable than they were for the previous generation car and as a result the price has dropped by £4000 to £28,995, which is £1000 cheaper than the Golf R.
Anything else I need to know?
Just in case you didn’t notice, the new WRX STI has a frankly enormous rear wing. This comes as standard on UK cars (unlike the previous generation) and is actually so large that you can see straight underneath it when looking in the rear view mirror.
|Engine||2457cc flat-four turbocharged|
|Max power||296bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque||300lb ft @ 4200rpm|
|0-60||5.2sec (claimed 0-62mph)|