2014 SUBARU WRX STI REVIEW
What’s hot: Sensational performance and handling, and new low price.
What’s not: Space-saver spare; tiny 4.3-inch LCD screen.
X-FACTOR: Perhaps the world’s best-value performance sedan; blistering speed but liveable on-road.
Vehicle style: Four-door performance sedan
Price: WRX STI $49,990, WRX STI Premium $54,990
Engine: 221kW/407Nm 2.5litre turbocharged boxer four
Transmission: Six-speed manual, symmetrical all-wheel drive
Fuel consumption (claimed): 10.4 l/100km (98RON) (Tested: Not recorded)
In the world of motoring there are some letter combinations that will make any enthusiast’s heart beat a little faster.
There are more, of course. But all signify enhanced performance, track-car handling and plenty of engineered-in excitement.
For Subaru, the letters of choice are STI: “Subaru Tecnica International”.
When a WRX wears the red STI badge, you can bet that whoever is at the wheel wants something a little special, and more than a little on the wild side.
Enter the new WRX STI. There are two models: the entry-level version and the top-spec Premium - the one with the lot.
The big news is the pricing. At $49,990 for the new car, Subaru Australia has carved a whopping $10,000 off the ticket of the outgoing model.
The story is even better for the Premium STI. The outgoing model set buyers back $65,990; trade up to the just-released version and you’ll be writing a cheque for just $54,990 - a full $11,000 less.
Having driven the standard entry-level 2.0 litre turbo version a few weeks back at the national media launch in Tasmania, we were expecting to be impressed with the higher-spec STI.
It did not disappoint us.
- Bluetooth, with audio streaming
- Eight speakers (with sub-woofer) Harman Kardon audio system
- AUX jack and USB port; 12V/120W power jacks
- A 4.3-inch colour LCD multi-information display
- Satellite navigation with voice control
- Dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning
- Cruise control, remote central locking
- Height- and-reach-adjustable multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Immobiliser security system
- Push-button start with smart-key technology
- Electro-luminescent instrument cluster display with 3.5-inch screen
- Security alarm
- 60/40 split/fold rear seat
WRX STI PREMIUM ADDS:
- Electric sunroof
- Heated front seats and door mirrors
- Leather trim
- An eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat
Without doubt, the STI has the best interior yet from Subaru. Gone is the unimaginative, drab, hard-plastic-dominated cabin of past WRXs.
The new STI’s interior is classy and well-designed with plenty of nice soft-textures, and, depending on the model, beautifully shaped and supportive Alcantara or leather-clad sports seats.
Red stitching and trim highlights add to the premium comfortable feel.
There are four roof-mounted grab handles - for when g-forces start to build - but the small rectangular spaces that pass as door pulls don’t work very well (other than to trap the fingers).
With its eight-way adjustable powered driver’s seat, there are no problems dialling up the perfect behind-the-wheel position in the Premium. It’s a bit more challenging in the manually-equipped standard version.
(A larger screen can be had overseas, but not here.)
There is a large glove-box, bottle-pockets in each door, a seat-back map pocket on passenger’s side and two cup holders in the front and two in the rear.
In addition there is a small open bin at the base of the centre stack and a small bin beneath the front-seats’ centre armrest. Again, and we bang on about it, but the addition of a roof-mounted sunglasses holder would be useful.
With the rear seats occupied, the STI has 460 litres of boot space - up 40 litres on the outgoing model - and there is the flexibility of 60/40-split rear-seat backs.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.5 litre turbo horizontally-opposed four-cylinder: 221kW/407Nm
- 0 - 100km/h in 4.9 seconds
- Six-speed manual gearbox
- 18-inch alloy wheels and rear spoiler (which can be optionally deleted)
- Hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering
- MacPherson-strut front-suspension with double-wishbone independent rear
- Active torque vectoring and a switchable multi-mode vehicle-dynamic-control system
- Subaru’s intelligent three-mode SI-Drive system: I (Intelligent), S (Sport) and S# (Sport Sharp, for sharper throttle response).
- Multi-mode driver-control centre differential
The STI’s horizontally opposed 2.5 litre engine boasts 221kW of power at 6000rpm and a handsome 407Nm of peak torque at 4000rpm.
Like the old STI, that 2.5 litre boxer turbo has enormous punch.
It will land you in very hot water in seconds should you be tempted to explore its performance on public roads. (Our advice - don’t.)
For the national media-launch program, Subaru chose a road program around Goulburn in New South Wales. To add some spice to the event, we also put the new STI around the tight Wakefield Park race track.
Out on the road - and sticking religiously to the speed limits (especially because of double demerit points for Easter) - immediately noticeable is the firm but not overly harsh ride.
Underneath, the STI has thicker strut-cylinders, front stabiliser bars, stiffer springs (by a significant 62 percent) and also stiffer sub-frame and trailing-link bushings.
At the rear, lateral stiffness is up 35 percent.
The result is a car that sits incredibly flat on the road, even during the most enthusiastic cornering.
It is remarkably sure-footed.
At speed, you can feel the active torque vectoring system at work - subtly braking the inner front wheel while delivering torque to the outer front.
What this produces is the feeling of a car on rails - one that instils enormous confidence behind the wheel, even when really pushing things at the limits.
Such is its grip and forgiving handling that even when getting a corner all wrong on the track, the STI will quickly forgive you.
Also helping things is the 245/40 R18 97W Dunlop SP Sport MAXX RT tyres that work superbly with the STI’s suspension set-up.
- Seven airbags including driver’s side knee-airbag
- Vehicle dynamics control stability system
- Ring-shaped cabin reinforcement frames
- Brake assist and brake override
- Reversing camera
- Seats with the highest rating for whiplash protection.
- Ventilated four-piston Brembo disc brakes at the front and duel-piston units on the rear.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new pricing structure for the WRX STI will certainly give Mitsubishi something to think about. The 2.0 litre turbocharged Lancer Evolution MR SST, with its dual-clutch transmission, is priced at $65,990.
The new STI is a very competent and complete car from Subaru. For something so blisteringly quick, it is surprisingly liveable.
It also has the ride, handling and grip to match the potent turbo up front.
Subaru engineers benchmarked the STI against the likes of cars from BMW and Porsche. The result, they claim, is a car with the steering response of a Porsche 911.
We’ll leave that claim to another test, but some full noise laps behind the wheel of the STI at the Wakefield Park track confirmed its prodigious grip, mid-corner speed and responsiveness.
It also confirmed, really, what a great car it is. Dollar for dollar, Subaru’s new STI is quite possibly the world’s best-value four-door performance sedan.
Subaru boss Nick Senior says the company is shooting for 300 STI sales in the next 12 months, compared with the 130 figure achieved by the outgoing model.
That estimate will surely prove a tad light on.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- WRX STI sedan manual - $49,990
- WRX STI Premium sedan manual - $54,990