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First Drive: Subaru WRX STI. Image by Subaru.

First Drive: Subaru WRX STI
Subaru's heavily revised WRX STI is longer called an Impreza and a four-door saloon joins the range.

   



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| First Drive | Calais, France | Subaru WRX STI |

No longer an Impreza, this range-topping turbocharged, four-wheel drive Subaru saloon is now badged simply WRX STI.

In the Metal

From the front there's a new grille, bolder bumpers and standard fog lamps, but it's around the back that the changes to the 2011 Subaru WRX STI are most obvious. There's now a saloon boot (the hatchback body style is still available), while the Impreza badge is nowhere to be seen. The thinking? We're not really sure about the name loss, but the saloon shape gives the WRX STI a more pleasing presence. It's better still with the optional rear wing. It's a muscular looking car, with pace to back it up.

Inside there are some new plastics, but despite talk of a more upmarket look and feel the interior still fails to impress against European rivals. It's in the same league as Mitsubishi's Evo though, which is really all that matters.

What you get for your Money

There's plenty of kit, but then at 32,995 you'd expect that (both the saloon and hatch cost the same). The real appeal of the WRX STI is what's under that air-scooped bonnet. There's a turbocharged 2.5-litre, 296bhp boxer engine. It not only sounds great, but gives the WRX STI fantastic performance. It'll reach 62mph in 5.2 seconds thanks to a combination of its power and a clever four-wheel drive transmission. Improvements for the 2011 model year include Japanese 'Spec C' suspension, which is significantly stiffer and brings a new level of control and sophistication to the Subaru's turbocharged road racer. Even so, it remains pleasingly old-school Subaru - only without the Impreza badge.

Driving it

Push the starter button and you'll quickly forget the shiny interior and enjoy instead the familiar burbling note coming from the engine. There's nothing quite like the sound of a Subaru boxer unit and it always comes with the promise of an enjoyable drive. It doesn't disappoint either, the WRX STI's engine as potent as it ever was. There's loads of flexibility, allowing you to cruise along effortlessly in high gears, but shift a few ratios down the six-speed gearbox and the WRX STI's performance is as explosive as it ever was.

It's the chassis changes that are most obvious, though. The body shell is stiffer, while the increased tautness adds a completely new level of control. The body moves very little, though despite this the ride is actually improved markedly. The suspension feels so much more sophisticated, it allowing you to push the WRX STI harder and with more confidence. There's still little in the way of steering feel, but it's a devastatingly rapid point-to-point car on the road, with far greater poise than its predecessor.

Worth Noting

On track, the WRX STI demonstrates the old Impreza trick of push-on understeer if you're a bit too enthusiastic with your entry speed. As ever it's easy to counter it with the accelerator, the WRX STI happily four-wheel drifting at will. Plenty of grip at more sensible road speeds leaves the WRX STI cornering with pleasing neutrality, it able to carry its easily gained pace imperiously.

Summary

Subaru may have dropped the Impreza name for this range-topping turbo machine, but the addition of a boot and much-improved suspension settings mark something of a return to form for the STI. It's more sophisticated to drive, but that doesn't mean it has lost its character - it still offers a relatively unique driving experience. Its audience may now be smaller (hefty fuel consumption and higher pricing putting it out of reach for many), while tough competition from big-power hot hatches make it difficult to justify - but there's still a great deal to enjoy in the WRX STI.

Kyle Fortune - 11 Oct 2010



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2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Subaru.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Subaru.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Subaru.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Subaru.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Subaru.

2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Subaru.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Subaru.
 

2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2011 Subaru WRX STI saloon. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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