The rivalry of the best rally car continues between the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X and this, the Subaru Impreza WRX STi. This particular generation of the WRX has been around since 2008 so it is a direct competitor to the Mitsubishi Evolution X. So how does it compare against one of the most technologically advanced rally cars to date? Read on…
Performance – Since the very first Impreza, Subaru has stuck with its flat-4 turbocharged boxer engine and full-time all-wheel-drive system to propel the STi. Starting with the engine, it displaces 2.5L and produces 305hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. While the power is slightly higher than the Evolution X, it doesn’t feel any faster than the Mitsubishi. It actually feels slower. There reason for that is unlike the Mitsubishi, the Subaru utilizes a single scroll turbocharger rather than a twin-scroll turbocharger. The difference between the two is that a twin-scroll turbo distributes the engine’s firing pulses more evenly thus allowing for faster spool up and less turbo lag. The difference in turbo lag between the two is less than half a second but on a racetrack consisting of multiple laps, it could mean the difference between a win and second place. Having said that, it is still a fast car with the 0-100km/h test being done in just over 5 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. shifting to that top speed is done via a 6-speed manual transmission that allows for short, smooth, and direct gear changes. No automatic or twin-clutch transmission is available with the Subaru.
Once the engine’s power leaves the transmission, it’s the job of the AWD system to make sure it gets down to the road. The AWD system in this STi, and in every Subaru, is constantly delivered to all 4 wheels. The STi has several different options that the driver can choose from to direct where the power will go. The system can vary the torque split between the front wheels and back wheels from a 50/50 distribution to a 35/65 rearward bias. This can be adjusted through 6 settings on the center console or it can be set to be fully automatic in which case the ECU decides where to send the power depending on road conditions and wheel slip.
To drive, the Subaru feels planted and sure-footed in varying road conditions. When the AWD system is set to auto, the ECU quickly adjusts the power distribution to pull the nearly 1400kg sedan out of corners as quickly as possible. Also because the AWD system is rearward biased, it makes for very quick off-the-line acceleration with very little to no wheel slip. Around corners the steering provides good feedback to the driver of the road conditions and there is very little understeer thanks to the redesigned and stiffened front suspension. Although the steering feedback to the driver is good, it is not as delicate and as poised as the Evolution X but most will not notice the difference unless they drive both cars back-to-back.
Comfort – Although this is a rally car it is actually a comfortable city driver. Front leg and head room are plentiful however the rear leg room is a bit cramped for taller passengers. The front seats are very well padded to absorb bumps but they do not offer the same level of side bolstering as those in the Mitsubishi Evo X when going very quickly around corners. Further aiding in the comfort of this STi is the suspension which, despite its stiffer than normal setup, is actually very forgiving when driving over bumps and potholes.
The interior of the Impreza STi can be described as being conservative. There isn’t a feature or design that really stands out to let you know that this is a rally car for the road. While the SI-drive and center differential controls are easy to use and located next to the shifter, the rest of the dash and buttons look more like they’re from the year 2002 rather than 2012.
Odds and Ends – While the interior may not look very exciting, the exterior is the complete opposite. From every corner of the car you can tell that this is something more than just another Subaru Impreza. The large hood scoop to feed cold air to the top mounted intercooler. The side vents in the front bumper and side panel. The BBS wheels covering the Brembo brakes. And at the rear, the massive spoiler which surprisingly does not obscure rearward visibility due to its tall height. This sedan version is by far more handsome than its hatchback brother.
The Subaru Impreza WRX STi has evolved a lot since its introduction in 1992 but there are just a few more tweaks that Subaru’s engineers and designers can do to make this the top rally car for the road.
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Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.