Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Sedan

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Ken Block, you should have stuck with Subaru. You may have a nifty new ride, but is it in the form of a legend? If you decided to stick it out, this may have been your new ride: the Subaru Impreza WRX STI sedan. The name’s certainly a mouthful, but what’s 14 syllables between friends? Hopping into the WRX STI feels like meeting up with an ex-fling: she’s familiar, but there’s always something new about her. And you’ve got to admit, she’s packing some new curves this time too. You’re an unlucky guy, Ken.

Though the five-door WRX STI is often praised for looking sleek and hulky, there are some who’ve clamored for ‘the wing’; after all, it’s the four-door version of the WRX STI that was responsible for Subaru’s numerous world rally championships. Like the five-door, the sedan version is unashamed of its rally car heritage—perhaps even less so. The wide body design looks downright awesome on the sedan, where the flared fenders look neatly integrated and the new high luster alloy wheels matching things perfectly. The rear wing itself isn’t flat like the old WRX STI sedans. It has a subtle upward kink in the middle. According to Subaru, the wing’s been shaped as such because of wind tunnel tests. On a more practical side though, you’ll like the kink because it doesn’t obtrude the rear view as much as you’d think.

 

Of course, since this is the WRX STI’s mid-cycle facelift, Subaru has also done some various nip/tuck jobs that applies to both the five-door and new four-door versions. For instance, the front grille’s been reshaped to give a more angular profile—carefully aligning the WRX STI to the new Subaru family look seen in the Legacy GT and Forester. The front bumper’s been reshaped as well with the removal of the faux air ducts surrounding the fog lamps in favor of a cleaner, techier looking design.

With two available body choices, there are certainly those who’re siding with the five-door WRX STI and some will root for the new kid on the block, the four-door WRX STI. From a practicality standpoint, there’s not much difference between the two. Of course, the sedan body will keep smelly stuff like gym socks separate from the rest of the cabin and will give much more security to valuables like laptops; but in terms of luggage space, the hatchback still wins hands down. Though the sedan keeps the 60/40 split-fold rear seats, the trunk space is actually shallow. And on the five-door, you can remove the retractable luggage cover to store taller items.

Inside, not much has changed with the WRX STI’s interior—after all, there was nothing wrong with it in the first place. However, the color scheme did change: this time, it goes a notch blacker with richer, fuller blacks used on the dash plastics and leather. The wing-shaped highlight is still there; but instead of the painted silver metallic trim of before, it’s been replaced with a gun-metal gray accent. This is certainly a more manly change, but personally, this makes this accent much more prone to both finger prints and fine scratches.


Like its cockpit, nothing’s been changed with the WRX STI’s already stellar drivetrain. The engine remains the same: the 2.5-liter EJ25 boxer four remains intact with 300 horsepower and 407 Nm of torque. Turning the key, the trademark flat-four lets out a deep burble, hinting at the car’s extreme performance. Now, perhaps it’s a figure of my imagination, but the sedan’s exhaust note resonates much more in the cabin, enveloping the occupants in a baritone voice befitting Darth Vader. This is the sort of engine that’ll terrify kids and small dogs, but enthusiasts and horsepower junkies will relish.

Mating itself to the engine is Subaru’s trusty 6-speed manual gearbox. Again, no big change here since it’s pretty much the same where the 2008-2009 WRX STI left off. The shift action’s weighty and long, but the engagement is precise. The clutch is on the heavy side, but it’s easy to modulate even during rush-hour traffic.

Although the WRX STI is proud to show off its rally car heritage, Subaru has actually done some, well, compromises to make this car much more hospitable for everyday use. Though you still can’t quite equate the ride of the WRX STI to say, the run-of-the-mill Impreza RS, it’s actually quite bearable and get this, there’s no discernable difference in the ride of the four-door and five-door. Unlike its perennial rival, the Mitsubishi Evolution X that absorbs ruts and bumps as if the entire car didn’t have a working suspension, the WRX STI at the very least, soaks them up—to a point. It does the heavy stuff well enough such as humps and small concrete craters, but when it comes to the smaller stuff like cat’s eyes or concrete junctions, the entire cabin will be jarred about. The overall visibility is quite good too given the widened arches and all. It’s easy to chuck the WRX STI in and around traffic and when it comes to parking; it’s easier to gauge the rear portion of the car thanks to the gigantic rear wing that doubles as a guide.

 

The steering itself is nicely balanced too, providing good and precise inputs. However, the steering effort itself is on the hefty side, which may be a problem for wimps. The widened track and larger tires creates a larger turning radius than what you’d expect from a car of this size. The brakes require much more pedal effort because of the large, multi-piston Brembo calipers, but once you’re used to it, it provides great stopping power.

While you’re probably keep the fancy Driver’s Control Center Differential or DCCD in ‘Auto’, once you hit the open road, you’ll appreciate the minute differences it gives. In Auto, the WRX STI is well-balanced with just a hint of understeer—making it forgiving for inexperienced drivers. Setting the system to ‘Minus’—more power is channeled to the rear tires, equating to more cornering gusto and some rally-style tail swinging drift action if you’re not prepared.

Coupled with the DCCD is the WRX STI’s Subaru Intelligent Drive or SI-Drive. Most of the time, you’ll probably leave things in its default ‘Intelligent’ mode. However, if you need sharper responses (at the expense of fuel economy), you can change the throttle mapping to ‘Sport’ which maximizes the turbo’s response. Meanwhile the ‘Sport Sharp’ gives the most direct throttle response and precise engine rev control across the entire rpm range. A weekend drive in the STI returned an amazing 8.20 km/L in a mix of city and highway driving.


Subaru’s move to revive the WRX STI sedan will certainly cater to some fan boys who were ticked off with the initial move to have the iconic rally-car-for-the-road available only as a hatchback. Though the sedan doesn’t offer anything different from the hatchback, some will argue that the sedan version looks much more mature; and that could be true. But it’s all in the eye of the beholder. They’re both every bit as capable, sophisticated and sporty as you’d come to expect from Subaru’s top-tier STI division. In the end, the arrival of the Subaru Impreza WRX STI sedan plugs the remaining niche in this market segment.


2011 Subaru WRX STI
Ownership WRX STI Sedan
Year Introduced 2010
Vehicle Classification Sports Sedan
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.5
Aspiration Turbocharged
Layout / # of Cylinders Flat 4
BHP @ rpm 300 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 407 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 98~
Transmission 6 MT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,415
Width (mm) 1,795
Height (mm) 1,475
Wheelbase (mm) 2,625
Curb Weight (kg) 1,505
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Inverted MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Brembo, Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Brembo, Vented Disc
Tires 245/40R18
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Front, Rear
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Alcantara/Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
CD
MP3
Aux
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls Yes

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