The Subaru Impreza has been one of my favourite cars for more than 20 years since it hit our shores. The 2.5RS was magnificent, but it was the WRX that broadsided my heart and soul when we finally go it in 2001 as a 2002MY rallye-bred compact supercar. You can thus imagine what the STI did to my poor, frail body.
The first round
I first met the all-new 2015 Subaru WRX and WRX STI in warm and beautiful Southern California.
The event was punctuated with the necessary romps through the hills north of Santa Barbara, CA on our way to Buttonwillow Raceway Park where the car displayed impressive civility, something that was in short supply in the previous car.
My track time was brief but enlightening as we were given the opportunity to take 2014 Rexs for some laps as a good measure for comparison. The new STI is race-bred now, as opposed to street-prepared.
The real first round was way back in 2001 when I first test drove a 2002 WRX. Suffice it to say that it rocked my world to such an extent that I finally bought my own used WRX 10 years later. The 2015 STI sufficiently knocked my socks off, and I'm likely to buy a gently beaten one in 2024.
The second round
In a far more urban setting, the ol' day-to-day grudge match is where I put the 2015 WRX STI through its paces, as though I'd bought a new one for myself. I would have mashed the car around the local track, but Subaru preferred I leave as much rubber on the tires and paint on the body panels, where it belongs.
Thus, I drove the STI as though I'd stol... it was my father-in-law's and had to be reasonable at its helm.
The STI's cabin is quite functional and a far better place to be in control of the road rocket than it once was. Stripped of its flat-bottom steering wheel, red bolstered seats, cross-drilled pedals and various faux-carbon fibre accents, the STI's inside is identical to that of the current Impreza, launched in 2012.
The previous WRX and STI's passenger quarters were something that the occupants essentially wished to forget, whereas this time it's nice and well put together. The seats are excellent, in and for every position.
The only highly negative aspect here is the car's Bluetooth system. It is absolute crap. Sadly, although the audio system is improved, it's still all a little subpar.
The "why" you buy the STI
If you're shopping an STI, you're either looking to go real fast wherever you go or to put on shows for your teenage neighbours. I'm going to assume that y'all are from the former group because it would be a complete waste to not push an STI to the brink of its limits once in a while. Although, if you are from the latter group, email me now and I'll buy the car from you in a decade.
In all seriousness, the 2015 Subaru WRX STI is a serious car for serious use in seriously challenging conditions. Be it on the track, in traffic or, -- and I can't wait -- 40cm of fresh snow. The STI can tackle it all.
Much easier to manage and drive than you imagine, the STI plays nice when there are kids around, street lights, and bloody cops. Taking the car out of the urban setting allows the driver to stretch the car's legs.
Finding the perfect country road, ideally on the way to your local track, is the best way to begin to appreciate what Subaru's team of go-faster-obsessed engineers have squeezed into the compact supercar.
The STI's 305 horsepower turbocharged 2.5L flat-4 is largely unchanged from the 2014 model. It is powerful and loves to rumble, although not quite as much as it once did. Subaru dialled in some new throttle programming and tweaked a few other electronic gizmos to make the STI's 290 lb-ft of torque feel more immediately available, sooner than the specified 4,000 rpm.
Throttle response and a pleasantly positive and the short-throw shifter make heel-toeing easy and effortless. Shifting through all 6 gears is pure constant bliss and praise Subaru for not (EVER) offering a CVT on this car. I'll tolerate a dual-clutch 'box, but nothing more.
The 2015 WRX STI is right quick, as it will reach 100km/h in less than 5 seconds if you can drop the clutch between 4,000 and 5,000 rpm without cringing. All that power is supervised beautifully by the STI's impressive chassis that optimizes rubber and tarmac contact at all times -- that is unless all four wheels are off the ground...
The symmetrical AWD system combined with Subaru's SI-DRIVE is but one item that makes the STI so incredibly competent on a track. Torque Vectoring adds a layer that can be appreciated even on the average on-ramp.
Poised and planted, the level of adherence and grip (both mechanical and electronic) push the driver to push on hard, and harder still.
There are two, kind of.
I'm a ginormous fan of the VW Golf R and the Mitsubishi EVO X but the Vdub's not here yet and the EVO's going away.
In the end, there's something so juvenile about the STI (as opposed to grown-up about the R) that draws me to the Subie. Damn, I get excited every time I see one on the road, as though I was an 11-year-old girl spotting Bieber at the shopping mall.