Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
If you’re a car enthusiast, you’ll know certain three letter combinations mean performance: AMG, EVO, or GTR, for example. Another three-letter combo that commands lots of respect is STI—Subaru Tecnica International—Subaru’s in-house tuner. These three letters guarantee the Subaru wearing an STI badge is going to be a fire-breathing, pavement-gripping, pinned-to-the-back-of your seat ride. It might as well be short for Superior Thrust is Imminent. The U.S. market gets the Impreza WRX STI: A souped-up version of the already fast, turbocharged, all-wheel drive Impreza WRX, which is the performance version of the non-turbocharged not-so-fast Impreza (note the lack of a three-letter “go fast” acronym). But enough about that. All you need to know is STI means business.

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI engine
Power and handling are the main story with the STI. The 2011 STI has 305 horsepower and 290 ft./lbs. of torque from its turbocharged, intercooled 2.5-liter boxer-style four cylinder engine. The car is only available with a manual, six-speed transmission with closely spaced ratios. From a standstill, an enthusiastic launch is a violent endeavor (a good kind of violent, however). Since the car is all-wheel drive, there’s no wheel spin, meaning all that power is turned into brutal , neck-snapping acceleration. Car and Driver recorded a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds. Yep, that’s pretty darn fast.

Matching the STI’s impressive acceleration is the car’s unrelenting grip. With sticky high-grip 18-inch Dunlop tires, a very stiff suspension, and of course, all-wheel drive, the STI is a monster in the corners just as it is in the straights. There are even trick features that play upon the car’s rally-esque personality, such as an adjustable center differential. This really is like a race car for the streets. It also rides like a race car on the streets. I’m OK with that.

WRX STI engine
 Inside the STI, it’s a mix of race car and economy car, whether you opt for the sedan or hatchback variant. There are great race-style seats, an attractive gauge cluster, and a low-slung seating position. There’s also a decent stereo, GPS navigation, and some more rally-car-like features, such as headlights that can be adjusted up or down in the car. There are also three selectable driving modes (auto, S, or S#) The aforementioned S# is the highest performance setting. There is a lot of hard plastic and my hatchback test model had a fair number of squeaks and rattles, though—something most $37,000+ cars likely won’t have (this STI tester was right around $40,000). Then again, you’ll likely forget about all of this when you mash the throttle while wearing an ear-to-ear smile on your face. You’ll also likely not care that the car is rated at 17 city, 23 highway (I averaged 19.5 MPG) as you apex a tight corner. You will, however, care that you can comfortably haul four people in the car or fold the rear seat down and haul a lot of stuff as you haul ass home from Costco with a load of stuff.

Really, the STI is about one thing in my book: performance. Yes, it’s practical, yes it’s racy looking, but it doesn’t matter. This thing goes really stinkin’ fast, turns really darn well, and really sticks like glue. If you’re shopping for a car such as the STI, those are the things you’re concerned about. And the STI does all those things extremely well.

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Subaru of America

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