Temptation is a glorious, soul-destroying, life-altering, fabulous thing we all deal with on a daily basis. From giving in to your PSL craving at Starbucks to unleashing a 300+ horsepower vehicle on a clear, wide-open country road… temptations are everywhere. The question is: Will you give in?
A lapse in desire
I drove a 2013 WRX STI and was less than smitten. In fact, I fell a bit out of love with the turbocharged rally-er. Why? I felt it was too soft, too gentle, and much too mainstream. It had lost its edge, been assimilated to appeal to a greater audience; something that’s happening across the auto industry with vehicles previously considered sporty and/or performance driven. Now, they’re just louder-sounding tourers that look like they go faster than the “normal” versions they’re based on… but I digress.
Now nearly 2 years later, I got behind the wheel of the STI once again, and this time, the love affair spooled nearly as quickly as the turbo on our first drive.
Rekindling that loving feeling
And rekindle it, we did. The moment I pressed the bright red start engine button and heard the glorious rumble of 2.5L BOXER engine come to life, I couldn’t help but smile. Hand on the shifter of the 6-speed close-ratio manual (bliss), clutch depressed, I blipped the throttle to hear the rumble escalate to a growl and the smile quickly became a grin. I was smitten already.
And here’s the thing: all the things I hated about the previous generation STI were no more. This 2016 Subaru WRX STI is harsh. It’s rough. It feels a bit raw, and driving it requires a bit of finesse. Yeah, I stalled it a few times. I never stall manual cars. But the STI caught me off-guard; the hydraulically operated dry single-plate disc clutch required some focus on the drive to manipulate. It meant I had to connect with the car a bit and couldn’t just shut off (as most modern cars have us do, as they do it all for us). I loved it. I actually laughed upon each stall. I wasn’t angry, I was giddy with the prospect that this car had gotten the best of me, mechanically. That just doesn’t happen very often anymore.
With 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, the 2016 STI has plenty of at-hand power. Turbo lag is there, but isn’t intrusive enough to ruin the experience. For anyone used to driving a turbocharged Subaru, it’s business as usual.
I want to take a moment to talk about the handling in the 2016 STI because it is phenomenal. At lower speeds things are a bit more malleable, however, as speed increases everything tightens up and becomes uber precise. That would be thanks to the engine-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering system found in the 2016 STI.
Seriously, the steering precision is instantly noticeable, and not in bad way. I was impressed, especially traversing the winding, curvy, glorious Route 108 in the USA that cuts through Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont. The STI was my drive buddy for the journey, and as the BOXER engine rumble reverberated off the mountain face, I rowed through gears with ease, and handled every tight switchback turn and blind corner with ease -- of course, Subaru’s symmetrical AWD aided the entire process, as well.
It was a euphoric experience, and one that brought back every loving feeling I’d had for the STI in the past. It also made me want to do things, hooligan things, whenever I could. Unnecessary downshifts, playtime on gravel patches, straight-line accelerations; they were all too temping in the 2016 STI. Temptation is the name of the game with this vehicle, and it’s oh-so hard to resist. Trust me.
The look of a rebel
Like riffraff loitering where it shouldn’t with a baseball cap on backwards, the 2016 STI looks like trouble: fabulously fun trouble. Larger than necessary fender flares, an over-exaggerated front lip, and ridiculously large rear wing (really, it’s a bit ungainly) mean the Subaru STI stands out from a crowd, even if it didn’t mean to. It’s instantly recognizable and gets looks wherever it goes.
While some may be disappointed that a hatchback version is not available for the STI model, I’ve got to say I’m not horribly upset with the sedan-only body. Subaru did a great job making the STI look manly, aggressive and fast, while still maintaining a bit of the Subaru quirk that makes them different from most other cars on the road.
One of the most common questions I was asked during my week with the turbocharged beast was: Does the wing hamper visibility out the rear window? While it does sit squarely in the middle of the window (at least in my line of vision at my vertically challenged height and size), it’s not distracting. In fact, it’s unnoticeable after the first day or two.
What I do wish was more visible is the hoodscoop. On previous-generation STIs, the scoop was much more prominent. Like looking down the nose of a Scat Pack Challenger or any Rolls Royce (where the Spirit of Ecstasy is clearly seen), I want to see what makes my vehicle special/different from the rest. The 2016 STI’s hoodscoop is definitely large, but it’s too well integrated into the hood for my liking.
My particular 2016 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech Package featured every gizmo and gadget you can find on a Subie from the 7” touchscreen display (with STARLINK smartphone integration and USB ports) to red and black leather performance seats, which also meant it sits at the top of the pricing food chain.
Starting just over $43k, the 2016 Subaru WRX STI puts itself in a segment rife with fun-to-drive vehicles, most notably the latest 2016 Volkswagen Golf R (So. Much. Fun).
Would I choose the STI over the R? Somewhere in the bowels of my heart, the STI tugs at strings, but the Golf R is just so fun, and in a different way. If I could, I’d have one of each…