SUBARU WRX STI SEDAN REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Performance small sedan
After a brief hiatus, Subaru's WRX STI is back in sedan form, big wing and all.
That's not all though. For 2011 Subaru has tweaked the suspension and dropped the price of entry by $2000, making the STI one of the best performance cars in the sub-$60k bracket.
- Quality: It's not the most exciting interior design around, but there's a sense of longevity about the STI's cabin build quality. Plastics feel durable and solid, and there were no errant squeaks or rattles during our test.
- Comfort: The standard STI seats have good upper-body support, but not enough lateral support in the squab. Otherwise, the driving position is comfortable.
Rear seat accommodation is decent. As a performance car, the WRX STI is more practical than quite a few others.
- Equipment: As standard, the base WRX STI gets Bluetooth audio and phone integration, a 10-speaker stereo with USB auxiliary input, climate control, xenon headlamps, foglamps, cruise control and 18-inch alloys.
- Storage: The boot is a good size, and, unlike the Lancer Evolution, the STI's back seat can fold forward to boost cargo space.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: In manual guise, the STI's 2.5 litre turbocharged flat-four produces a healthy 221kW and 407Nm of torque – plenty of grunt to motivate its 1515kg mass.
Throttle response can be modified by twisting the console-mounted SI-Drive knob through three positions: Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp.
The Intelligent setting results in a more docile power delivery for around-town cruising, with Sport and Sport Sharp quickening throttle response markedly.
In Sport Sharp, turbo boost is savage from 2400rpm onwards. Power remains strong up until 6400rpm, tapering off slightly before the 6800rpm redline.
The gearshifter and clutch are relatively light, but the gear-lever is a little notchy at times. The spread of ratios gives a good balance between performance and economy, and an in-dash shift light tells you when to change up.
- Refinement: Refinement is not the WRX STI's strong suit, thanks to an abundance of tyre noise and transmission noise. The new exhaust plumbing of the sedan is particularly (and appropriately) loud.
- Suspension: Subtle revisions to the suspension geometry and bushing stiffness of the MY11 WRX STI enhance stability and grip, and the STI is almost unshakeable on tarmac.
The suspension is firm but there's enough compliance to deal with choppy roads. Not exactly comfortable, but it's easier to live with than the Lancer Evolution's suspension.
The Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD) allows the torque split to be manually varied between the front and rear axles, with the rearmost setting enabling lurid (but easily controllable) slides.
A potential negative is the power steering, which some may find over-assisted. There's also plenty of rack rattle when cornering hard over lumpy tarmac.
- Braking: The STI's brakes deliver fade-free stopping and a responsive pedal. With big Brembo calipers clamping 326mm rotors at the front and 316mm rotors at the rear, braking performance is confidence-inspiring.
- ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
- Safety features: Dual front airbags, dual side airbags, full length curtain airbags, three-point seatbelts, front pretensioning seatbelts, ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control are standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
- Service costs: Service intervals are set for every 6 months/12,500km. An average service costs around $240, with the first major service occurring at 24 months/50,000km and costing around $450.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution ($61,390) – The Lancer Evolution is a hugely capable car, and handles better than the nose-heavy STI.
However, driving the Evolution is a clinical experience by comparison, and the Evo's small fuel tank limits its range. (see Evolution reviews)
- Volkswagen Golf R 5dr ($49,990) – VW's Golf R is a bona-fide performance bargain, but its pricing advantage quickly evaporates once a few option boxes are ticked.
It's fast in its own right and boasts superb refinement, but it's a little soulless compared to the personality-filled WRX STI – and a tad slower too. (see Golf R reviews)
- Ford Focus RS ($59,990) – It may not have the best build quality or the most pleasant interior, but the Focus RS makes up for it with blistering performance, exceptional handling and a riotous soundtrack.
Despite being FWD, the Focus RS easily keeps up with the Lancer Evo, WRX STI and Golf R on a winding road. (see Focus RS reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The numerous suspension improvements to the MY11 WRX STI might be invisible to most eyes, but you'll certainly feel their effect during a spirited drive.
That, coupled with the muscular new STI sedan's widebody panels and its raucous turbocharged flat four, lends the STI tremendous enthusiast appeal.
The STI is a car that's best enjoyed on the racetrack, where it's capabilities are able to be fully exploited. It's by no means a pain to live with around suburbia though, and Subaru's flagship rocket remains one of the best all-rounders in the performance segment.