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Subaru WRX STi: The real deal

Subaru WRX STi: The real deal

Most modern cars are created to commute. But a select few are born to perform. It doesn’t take rocket science to work out which group the Subaru WRX STi belongs in. In fact, just the STi badge confirms the muscle sedan’s performance credentials. DEON SCHOEMAN drives the new generation version of a performance car legend.

Subaru WRX STi: The real deal

Most modern cars are created to commute. But a select few are born to perform. It doesn’t take rocket science to work out which group the Subaru WRX STi belongs in. In fact, just the STi badge confirms the muscle sedan’s performance credentials. DEON SCHOEMAN drives the new generation version of a performance car legend.

Subaru is one of those quirky, specialist brands that attract individualists. Those who own the Japanese marque’s cars and SUVs often find it difficult to contemplate driving anything else, and end up becoming fiercely loyal brand ambassadors.

Interestingly, we’re not just talking petrolheads here; as much as I think of Subarus as high-octane, tar-ripping performance sedans decked out in blue metallic paint, gold wheels and a rear wing big enough to make a small plane fly, the Subaru line-up is a lot broader.


Some of the company’s biggest fans are all-terrain enthusiasts who drive Foresters – a compact SUV with real 4×4 talent and a reputation for longevity and reliability. More recently, the SVX lifestyle crossover has attracted a younger, more image conscious buyer to the Subaru fold.

But for me, Subaru is still epitomised by its muscle sedans. Until recently, these fast and furious four-doors were badged Impreza, with both the WRX and the even hotter WRX STi versions on offer. But the Impreza moniker has since been ditched, leaving just the WRX and STi designations as badges of performance honour.

The 2014 WRX STi hasn’t just dissed the Impreza nameplate, it’s also got rid of the styling idiosyncrasies that used to plague its illustrious predecessors. Let’s not forget that those older-generation STi’s were just plain ugly: blunt and blobby, with bug-eyed headlights and blingy gold wheels.


The new STI has too much Tupperware to be truly handsome, but the lines are muscular, and the overall look aggressive, even menacing. It’s a car that you mess with at your own peril – ask any wannabe traffic light dragster with a hot Golf R or a fancy BMW…

The new-look STI is sleeker and more athletic, with a honed shape that looks more slipstreamed, and more modern. The front is cleaner and sharper, accentuated by tapered headlights, a slimmer main grille and large lower intakes.

Let’s not forget that large bonnet scoop though, channelling large gulps of cooling air to the turbocharger’s intercooler.


The flanks are rescued from slab-sidedness by accentuated wheel arches and the body kit’s extended sills, while the standard 18-inch alloy wheels, shod with 245/40 R18 performance rubber, seem almost too small for those gaping apertures.

The STI’s signature wing – a massive appendage that perches on the bootlid like some alien spaceship – is a very open, almost rude invitation to challenge. And if you’re a BMW 335i owner, being forced to stare at that up-yours wing and the four big-bore exhausts, you only want to do one thing: get in front…

Given its pugilistic appearance, the STI’s interior comes as welcome surprise. The black leather with contrasting stitching, the bolstered bucket seats, the thick-rimmed steering wheel, the alloy pedals – all look the performance business.


The driving ergonomics are near perfect, with big, clear white-on-black instrument dials neatly framed by the steering wheel. The stubby, short-throw gearshift lever is just where you want it to be, and those alloy pedals encourage the fast-fading art of heel-and-toe gear changes to be rekindled.

But the cabin is also a great place to spend time in, with plenty of comfort to match that legendary STi urge. The accoutrements don’t have the class or tactile appeal of the German luxury marques, but the list of standard offerings is comprehensive, and everything works with business-like efficiency.

The touch-screen infotainment system includes TomTom navigation, Bluetooth telephony and streaming, decent sound, and a host of connectivity options, while there’s a trip computer, cruise control, remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, climate control, multifunction steering wheel controls, and a full house of active and passive safety kit.


Rear passengers get ample legroom and decent seating, and at 460 litres, the boot is big enough for an entire family’s luggage needs.

A Subaru wouldn’t be a Subaru without a horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. Fortunately, the latest STI sticks to that tried and tested formula, with a flat-four 2.5-litre engine rated at 221kW of max power, combined with 407Nm of torque. Vitally, that muscle is delivered to all four wheels, which really boosts traction and composure.

The all-wheel drive system is Subaru’s tried and trusted symmetrical system, which uses a centre differential to apportion power between the front and rear axles. In addition, rear torque vectoring delivers urge to the rear wheel with the most traction.


The STi’s dynamics can be tweaked by using the drive mode selector in the centre console, as well as the centre diff setting, and the traction control button.

The driving mode selection varies from ‘Intelligent’ and ‘Sport’ to hard-core ‘Sport Sharp’, each accessing a different throttle map and steering assistance setting. The centre diff can be set to auto with either front or rear bias, or adjusted manually. And finally, the traction control can be switched off partially or completely, depending on how much safety net you require.

Frankly, to really explore the STI’s considerable capabilities, you need to head for a racetrack – and I did just that, persuading the friendly powers that be at Midvaal Raceway to let me loose on the circuit for a few laps.


It’s a nice little track with a good mix of tight corners, fast sweeps and corners that tighten in on you, not to mention the long back straight. The STi took to the tar like a fish to water, showing real pace and a thrilling talent to toe the line, as long as you use the throttle to keep the nose from running wide.

The steering is nice and meaty, with plenty of feedback, and with all that urge on tap, you can pull the nose right into the apex, as long as you get on the loud pedal early enough and feed it in nice and progressively. I found a bit of rear benefited turn-in, but the STi always felt predictable, composed and surprisingly wieldy.

Of course, it’s quick in a straight line, too. With a power-to-weight ratio of 148 kW/ton, the STi is indecently rapid. Acceleration is explosive if you can get the boost up in time, displaying a slingshot urgency that literally hurls car and driver at the horizon. The zero to 100km/h time is just under five seconds, and top speed levels out at 255km/h.


But trust me: those straight-line figures mean very little. While the STi feels almost brutal under full acceleration, it’s the composure in the twisties, and the sheer speed it carries into and out of corners, that makes this STi so special.

If the ‘normal’ Subaru WRX is a toned athlete, then the STI is the muscular prizefighter – a car that isn’t scared of making a statement, but backs it up with real dynamic credentials.

At the limit, it’s a serious piece of kit, delivering adrenalin and satisfaction by the bucketful. But with all that torque, it’s also perfectly capable in day-to-day motoring, without any need to rev the flat-four, as long as the torque is on tap.

As for the asking price, the R600k is a lot of dosh – but then, the WRX STi is a lot of car in performance and handling terms, with practicality included, too. Day to day, the normal WRX might still be the better all-rounder, but on the track, it’s the STi that’s the real deal. DM


Subaru WRX STi


Horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, 2,457cc, turbo


221kW @ 6,000rpm


407Nm @ 4,000rpm


Six-speed manual

0-100 km/h

4.9 sec

Top speed

255 km/h

Fuel consumption

10.4 litres/100 km (combined cycle)

CO2 emissions


Price as tested



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