Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: October 19, 2016
I’ve been looking forward to this for some time now. See, for a very select demographic the Japanese anime Initial D was the spark that ignited their passion for cars. What probably fueled it afterwards was the never-ending Fast and Furious series.
The premise behind the Initial D series was simple; a young tofu delivery boy makes midnight deliveries around Mount Haruna in Japan. In a surprising turn of events, it turns out that he’s also the fastest driver in the prefecture and he proves it by a series of illegal drift battles against various opponents. His car of choice was a hand-me down 1986 Toyota Corolla. The only person faster than him was his father who drove a GC8 WRX STI.
Like most kids in their early teens, I was highly impressionable – seeing images of the Corolla and WRX STI drifting across the mountain passes in Japan was all it took – I was hooked. I grew up loving everything JDM and prayed to the powers that my first car would be a 1998 Subaru 2.5RS – instead I got a sweet Ford Escort. No matter, because 12 years later I’ve nabbed the keys to this World Rally Blue 2017 WRX STI.
Visually, it doesn’t have the same level of aggression and stance found in the 2013 WRX STI concept, but rarely do concepts translate 100% to their production cars anyways. It’s certainly not the prettiest WRX STI, but it checks all the right boxes of what makes it an STI. Big wing that obstructs rearward visibility? Check. Turbo flat-four with unequal length headers? Check. Functional hood scoop? Check.
At the heart, it’s still a rally-inspired four-door performance car. And it should be, because the beating heart of the car, the EJ25, hasn’t seen a significant change in over a decade. Though it may look like the company repackaged up last generation’s bits in a new design and called it a day, they’ve actually made significant changes to the chassis.
First off, the engineers have designed the new chassis to be 140% stiffer than the previous generation, but they haven’t stopped there. In addition are 22% firmer springs at the front and 6% firmer springs at the rear. The net result is a car that has 16% less body roll than the generation it replaces. Dumping their entire STI budget into the chassis and improving handling was the correct choice.
Around the city, the extra-stiffness is punishing, especially in Toronto where our roads are perpetually under construction. Crossing uneven surfaces in particular means experiencing the inside of a tumble dryer. Coffee drinkers are urged to finish 90% of their beverage before stepping inside.
Speaking of which, the interior has been dressed up quite a few notches from its predecessor. The Starlink stereo no longer looks cheesy and aftermarket, and the hard plastics found throughout the cabin look to be at least durable. The overall quality felt similar to the Focus RS – but that isn’t really a benchmark to compete against. Despite the piano black trim, and suede inserts, the cabin fell way short of the benchmark – the Volkswagen Golf R.
After a long week of commuting around the city with the STI, I took it up north around some bendy back roads to see first hand what the car was built for – and channel my inner Bunta Fujiwara.
Push the EJ25 and the motor begins to show its age. Turbo lag is evident, and the kick in the pants torque delivery isn’t quite as punchy as the newer turbo fours from the Golf R and the Focus RS. However, the excellent chassis makes up for it – as does Subaru’s SI-DRIVE and DCCD.
Set the C. Diff (the center differential) to Auto and it will default 41/59 percent front to rear bias. Flick the switch and it will shift the bias further to the front or the rear. And if you’re really picky, you can switch it to manual mode and customize the amount of slip in the center differential through six individual settings – all the way to full lock of the differential.
There’s plenty of drama in the drive too, the turbo whistles and sighs from the passenger foot well while the unmistakable rumble of the BOXER motor reverberates through the cabin. Turn the SI-Drive dial to Sport Sharp, and the throttle response feels …well, sharp. Even the smallest flex in your foot is enough to see a big response in how the car behaves. With the car set on “high-strung-cat” mode and the center diff in full auto, the car rockets out of corners like a slingshot.
The WRX STI absolutely comes alive in the bends. The harsh ride in the city is quickly forgotten, and the extra stiffness of the chassis suddenly seems worth it. The sedan feels flat, composed, and eggs you on. Drop it in fourth gear, mash the pedal to the floor, and it’ll hug the corner and shoot out like nothing else on the street. Glance back in the mirror to see the car behind you disappear, and you’ll catch a glance of the big wing too. It’s every boy racer’s dream, and the WRX STI delivers the exact persona of Subaru’s slogan “Confidence In Motion”.
But therein lies the rub. It’s a car full of compromises when the industry has made it abundantly clear that we don’t need to make them anymore. The ride quality for example is awful in the city, but completely rewarding when the situation demands it. But the Golf R and Focus RS come equipped with electric adjustable dampers. Pricier performance cars get electromagnetic dampers that offer the best of both worlds. Press a button and the car is able to flip between the dual personalities of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde.
Back in the day, “budget” performance cars made the extra oomph at the sacrifice for interior quality. Perhaps the biggest culprit was the Mitsubishi Evolution X: $39,000 worth of drivetrain engineering, and $1,000 of interior. The Subaru was in the same camp, but we see now that doesn’t need to be the case. At an as-tested price of $40,795 the mid-range STI sits $1,845 less than the top of the line Volkswagen Golf R.
Opt for the range-topping Sport-Tech trim will add $4,600 to the sticker beating the R by a sizeable margin. Those looking to get into a more serious set of wheels can pick up a fully loaded Focus RS for around $4,500 more.
As a standalone in its segment, the WRX STI is an excellent vehicle – the chassis and motor work together well to deliver an intricate balance of confidence, power, and control. The reality however is that the WRX STI isn’t alone anymore. Compared with its competition, the sedan feels dated – a relic reminding the youngest generation of enthusiasts just how far engineering has come in the last decade. If the STI were to magically appear in my driveway, I’d be a happy camper. But if it were my money, I’d rather buy the standard WRX, which is more comfortable and just as exciting, and pocket the difference.
型号 Model: 2017 Subaru WRX STI Sport
顏色 Paint Type: World Rally Blue
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $40,795
試車售價 Price as Tested: $40,795
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,650
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,959 / 1,795 / 1,475
車重 Curbweight (kg): 1,535
引擎 Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC turbocharged 16-valve 4-cylinder SUBARU BOXER
最大馬力 Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 290 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: Close-ratio 6-speed manual with Hill Holder system
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: MacPherson strut with aluminum lower suspension arm with pillow ball mounts and bushings, stabilizer bar
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Double-wishbone
煞制 Brakes: Brembo 4-wheel disc, ventilated front and rear, dual-piston rear calipers
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway)- L/100 km: 13.8 / 10.2 / 12.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Dunlop Sport Maxx RT; 245/40R18