Executive Wheels: Overcoming objections in the name of speed

Subaru WRX STI – pricey, yes, but it’s worth it for the heart palpitations

It’s always fun to discover the first new car of the next year, and as it turned out recently I was lucky the first 2018 model I got to see was the Subaru WRX STI. I know, I know, I have been critical of the WRX and its supped-up brother the STI in the past (“…why would anyone want a fast Subaru?”), but I’ve overcome some of my earlier objections, and so has Subaru with this great car.

I must admit it is not a car for me – 305 horsepower, spoiler on the trunk, looks like it is going 100 mph standing still – I am long past my racing form, but I had fun driving it for a week and pretending I was 25 again.

In fact, my comment on how fast looking the car was, it took a turn for the absurd one night during my test drive. I was driving south on Colorado Boulevard about 11 p.m., and I was strenuously adhering to the traffic laws because you get used to the fact that this WRX STI draws an enormous amount of attention, especially from police and two other cars – a Mercedes and a Mitsubishi – were going well in excess of 80 mph, racing each other and weaving in and out of traffic. As luck would have it, they kept getting caught at the traffic lights, so I ended up alongside them quite a few times. They smiled, I waved, and then they tore off in a frenzy. I was sure other drivers on the street were going to call the Denver and/or Glendale police to report the street racing, and I was more certain that no matter what happened, they would just assume it was me in the fray. I got lucky. I’m pretty sure if I pleaded innocence, not to mention the truth, they would take one look at the car and assume otherwise.

So they send me this cool-looking car, in Crystal Black Silica just to add to the mystique, and there were a few very important things I noticed right off the bat. First, like nearly every car the last few years, the WRX/STI is larger than the last one I drove a few models back, and this gave the vehicle more stability and balance without retracting from the performance. Also, in past models I found it hard to get a good view out the rear-view mirror because of the trunk-mounted spoiler and small mirror, and this has improved immensely. Then, and perhaps most importantly, the WRX used to feature a cockpit that, for me at least, was hard to get into and out of, like it was down in hole. This new one was easy to get in and out of, and yet at the same time the cockpit felt comfortably surrounding which added to the flair of driving. On all of these counts Subaru has seemingly vastly broadened its appeal to a much wider demographic without taming the car down one bit which would have alienated it young-man-in-his-20s demo. This is quite a trick, and I have to hand it to ‘em.

Oddly, in doing some research on the WRX/STI I discovered that its basic platform, the Subaru Impreza, has been entirely redesigned for 2018, while the WRX and WRX/STI models have retained last year’s Impreza platform. This means eventually, and most likely soon, the WRX end of the spectrum will be upgraded so this 2018 model – which they say has been “freshened” – will be near the last of an era. This can’t be a good thing for sales, as most people will tend to want to go with the new id the wait is so short. I don’t know; they’ll probably up the price for the new-new model, and may even cut the price on this one once the new-new is announced, and this being a great car in its own right, this might just be the time to get one if this is the type of vehicle you’re looking for.

I only had one problem with the WRX/STI on my test drive, and as it turns out this may actually be a positive. After about three days driving the car around, I told my wife I somehow hurt my foot – my foot and toes were sore. Turns out, I haven’t driven a stick shift in some time, and I haven’t had such a stiff clutch, and I was simply exercising some muscle groups that have been neglected for a while. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, and I’m sure my left foot would have strengthened in another week.

The clutch is stiff, and the six-speed manual transmission is responsive. Coupled with the 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged Boxer engine, with the aforementioned 308 hp, this car is very fun to drive, and very, very responsive when it comes to down shifting and speed/performance control It is, without question, one of the very best driver’s cars I ever piloted. I loved going through the gears, and testing the limits of each, and I also loved the easy and responsive steering, handling and suspension that added to the experience. Part of this is new for 2018, according to Subaru, as the car has a “revised high-performance STI sport-tuned suspension. Oh, and of course, very cool and new for 2018, are Brembo performance brakes that include “six-piston, monoblock front calipers and dual-piston rear calipers with yellow finish and black STI logo.” In other words, you can see the yellow brakes through the cool (and new) 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Plus they stop on a dime; I got rich with all of the dimes throughout the week.

Also cool and new, are racing automotive seats (logoed) from Recaro, which is a company going back more than a hundred years, which also makes children’s car seats and airplane seats. These seats are very comfortable and supportive in an alert way that enhances driving.

What isn’t new, of course, is Subaru Symmetrical All Wheel Drive which, which, for my money is the best in the business, and simply enhances the grip and the drive. And, of course, the technology for entertainment, phone connectivity/app hookups and for safety is all here because even in smaller, inexpensive cars, people demand all this stuff now. The more expensive cars just make it more distracting.

STI is Subaru’s Subaru Tecnica International upgraded and tuned versions of the WRX, which is already a high-performance version of the Impreza featuring a 268 hp turbo engine. The WRX itself starts at $26,995 and goes up to $31,595. The two version of the STI, the base which I drove starting at $36,095, and the Limited that goes for $40,895. On mine they added $2,500 for the Recaro seats and push-button start and $860 for destination and delivery, for a bottom line of $39,455.

Pricey, yes, but it’s worth it for the heart palpitations.


Categories: Industry Trends, Transportation