2015 Subaru WRX STI
If competition improves the breed, then the corollary is that the lack of competition invites stasis. And the Subaru WRX STI has only one natural predator: the dead-car-rolling Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the product of an enterprise that seems a little on the fence about whether it wants to sell cars or get deeper into the uranium business.
Thus the new 2015 WRX STI isn’t as new as it might be if it had any real rivals. Most of the improvements went to the chassis, which was pretty excellent to begin with. Meanwhile, the one glaring deficiency—power—was once again tabled till the next meeting.
But, oh, what a chassis. The latest STI is stiffer, both in terms of the body structure and the suspension. The steering is quicker than the regular WRX’s, requiring only 2.5 turns lock-to-lock versus 2.8. The “Super Sport ABS” Brembos can adjust brake pressure at each rear wheel while cornering, so if you’re trail-braking into a corner you get the sensation of off-throttle torque vectoring. Of course, you also get on-throttle torque vectoring via a brake-based system at the front end. The STI hates understeer.
In the STI, C.Diff causes explosive corner exits, depending on how much lockup you demand from the center differential. The default torque bias skews aft, with 41 percent front and 59 percent rear. Both the front and rear ends use limited-slip differentials. Traction is not a problem.
For all the STI’s power-allocation magic, it’s overdue for more power, period. The 2015 STI brings 305 horsepower from its 2.5-liter flat-four, just five more horses than the first STI had back in 2004. A decade ago, 300 horsepower was impressive. Now you can buy Jet Skis and four-cylinder Mustangs with more than 300 horsepower. The world moves on.
Using a brutal clutch drop from redline, we’ve flogged the WRX to 60 mph in the same 4.8 seconds with a six-speed manual transmission. (To be fair, we’ve also seen as high as 5.1 seconds from a manual WRX.) Okay, so the STI isn’t built for the drag strip, but its lack of thrust is made apparent on a road course, too. The 2015 STI’s 3:10.5 Lightning Lap time puts it dead even with the 2007 BMW 335i around VIR’s Grand Course. It’s outrun by grunting ogres like the Chevrolet Camaro SS and the old Dodge Challenger SRT8. “As quick as an eight-year-old 3-series!” isn’t much of a tagline for your halo performance car.
Still, when you’re on a dirt road, going inadvisably fast and banging up through the gears of the six-speed manual—the only transmission offered—this is the perfect machine. The turbo screes and sighs (issuing noises that seem to come from the passenger-side footwell), and every glance in the rearview mirror brings a glimpse of the wonderfully gigantic wing bolted to the trunk. There’s a genuine emergency brake, with a handle, and it works as intended when you encounter an emergency decreasing-radius second-gear corner on gravel. Pitch it sideways, get on the power, and the STI will make like a baby and slide on out.With a base price of around $35,000, Subaru has done a good job holding the line on STI inflation.