First drive: 2015 Subaru WRX STI in the UAE
We got to test-drive something different last week. Something that is genuinely Japanese and not the Chinese-American-Australian Japanese. Something that is blisteringly fast, sounds awesome, and is a pure joy to drive. It is interesting on the tarmac, and only gets infinitely more interesting beyond it. It is the all-new 2015 Subaru WRX STI.
The car provided to us by the dealer was a top-spec WRX STI Manual Premium. Formerly known as the Subaru Impreza WRX STI that was also available as a hot-hatch, Subaru’s rally-inspired performance sub-compact now comes only in the sedan form, albeit a bigger and roomier one, and has the ‘Impreza’ dropped from its name. The WRX STI is considerably different in its design from the regular Impreza, with a unique front-end comprising of the front fascia that sits more outward, distinct headlamp design with turn indicators separated and built into the front bumper instead, and a massive hood scoop for feeding the beastly engine underneath.
The interior is a massive improvement over any of the previous versions, with soft-touch materials and leatherette now used on several surfaces, leather-clad sport bucket seats with STI logos and red leather accents, and carbon-fiber inserts in the center dash and center console. The fit and finish seems excellent, and so is the interior space, with very good legroom and headroom for both front and rear passengers. The boot is fairly spacious too, making the WRX-STI a practical daily-driver, that is if you know what a third pedal is doing in the footwell, and do not mind it.
Standard features in the WRX-STI include a vehicle dynamics control system, smart key with starter button, multi-function display with turbo boost pressure meter, a strong dual-zone auto a/c, Bluetooth, intelligent voice recognition and voice control system, Brembo performance brakes, multitude of airbags including knee airbag, active torque vectoring, Subaru intelligent drive system with 3 drive modes, and hill-start assist. Additional features in our top-spec tester include leather seats, sunroof, 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, 18-inch BBS alloy wheels, auto headlamps with high-beam assist, auto wipers, and rear-view camera.
Underneath the hood sits a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Cranking out a whopping 300 hp and 407 Nm of torque, the STI can theoretically hit 100 kph in only 5.2 seconds, although our tester never bettered 6.4 seconds, partly due to the hot July weather, but mostly due to our subtle 3000 rpm launches, as you’d have to do abusive high-rev clutch-drops to get the factory times. Nevertheless, the turbocharged motor has tons of power, with enough juice to cruise and overtake on highways without leaving sixth gear. The clutch is moderately-weighted, but not heavy enough to cause leg cramps in city traffic. The short manual shifter is a tad notchy, but quick shifting is still a breeze if you know what you are doing.
Things get even more interesting once the WRX STI is on the roll. Throw it into a tight corner and Subaru’s racing DNA becomes readily apparent, as it remains glued to the asphalt. We never turned off the traction and stability control, which seemed to kick in a bit too early in tight corners thus inducing understeer, but Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system instantaneously reacts by quickly adjusting power distribution between the wheels to keep the car in cleaner lines. The handling characteristics of the car may be further fine-tuned by fiddling around with the Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD), which automatically manages torque distribution between the axles and between the wheels on each axle, but allows both semi-automatic and manual torque-split adjustments. We never attempted any rally driving for obvious reasons, but it could probably manage gravel very well.
The WRX STI may not be the smoothest of sports cars, but it still soaks up bumps pretty admirably, making it a reasonable daily driver. The steering is an old-school hydraulically-assisted setup, nicely-weighted, offering great feedback, and shorter-ratio than the regular WRX variant. When not gunned, there is a refined hum from the engine at highway speeds.
Subaru may not be an alien brand to most, courtesy of Subaru’s racing legacy, but it is likely the least-preferred Japanese brand in the UAE, and that is never because their cars are bad. The all-new 2015 Subaru WRX STI is one of those few real sports cars which, besides offering almost all modern-day creature comforts and features, gives every true petrolhead what they yearn for –- the true pleasure and thrilling sensation of fast driving.
For UAE prices and specs, visit the Subaru buyer guide.
Photos by Vivek Menon.