|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
The WRX STI’s stint through charm school starts first with the way it looks. There are still some hints of muscularity to its design, but it’s been toned down dramatically. And it’s all for the better. With increased competition, some from unlikely makes and models (the Lexus IS 350 comes to mind) the WRX STI sheds its boy racer look and goes for something much more subdued. Subaru loyalists (or Subarists as they are now officially termed) cried out at the loss of the gigantic rear wing, but after a long, hard look, it actually looks better without it. For once, there’s nothing to distract from the car’s muscular yet purposeful lines. The flared fenders are actually much better integrated into the WRX STI’s design: flaring at the front, tapering through the body, and flaring once again at the back. There are also not-so-subtle hints to this car’s performance: the trademark hood scoop upfront, the quad-tip exhausts and rear diffuser at the back, and get this: even a flat undertray to channel air much more effectively. And at each corner, forged 18-inch BBS alloy wheels with Dunlop Sport Maxx 245/40R18 tires. The WRX STI’s design works very well in almost every angle but one: dead-on front where it looks ‘generic turbocharged car’.
As polished as the WRX STI is outside, the biggest improvement happens inside, especially when you compared it to its most immediate predecessor. Out goes the hard dashboard plastics and replacing them are those of the soft-touch variety. The fit and finish are a touch above the typical Japanese and unlike Subarus of yesteryear, there are absolutely no rattles. Every surface the driver sees and touches, from the controls to the seats are finished impeccably well. The switchgear all operate with a solid, crisp feel while the steering wheel, seats, and shifter are covered in high-quality leather. And finally, you have the instrument panel, which is quite frankly, one of the best-looking in any current production car. Not only are the red-dialed gauges easy to read and understand; it gives the driver a multitude of information including the SI-Drive and center differential setting to the condition of the all-wheel drive system to a digital and analog turbo boost gauge.
Built as a performance sports sedan, the WRX STI nails the driving position absolutely right. Perhaps taking lessons learned from the Subaru BRZ’s purity in the man-machine interface department, the WRX STI fits like a well-worn pair of Onitsuka Tigers. It takes less than 30 seconds to get settled in and ready to go. The most comfortable seating position is now much lower with the legs slightly tucked foward and the seatback a bit more upright. The thick-rimmed D-shaped steering wheel and shifter fall naturally into place while the pedal spacing/positioning is perfect for some heel-and-toe action. The front seats also offer adjustable headrests (a first) and have heavy side bolsters for optimal comfort. Despite the low seating position, there’s excellent visibility in all directions but the lower ride height (135 millimeters) means extra precaution must be taken with parking bump stops. Although everything about the WRX STI screams track attack car, it’s an absolute joy to drive long distances too—an impromptu drive up NLEX and down to SLEX proved mighty comfortable, even for the rear passengers who’ll love an incremental increase in knee room. If there’s one weakness in the WRX STI though, it’s the luggage space which is long but shallow.
Having driven the previous WRX STI extensively before, one would expect the same sort of driving experience when they have essentially carryover mechanicals: the same EJ257 2.5-liter Boxer-4 mated to a 6-speed manual. In reality though, the difference is like night and day. The experience starts as soon as the ‘Engine Start’ button is pushed and the WRX STI’s rumbly note takes over the cabin. Thanks to a sound tube pumping the engine’s soundtrack into the cabin, it’s like having a subwoofer permanently cranked up. It won’t shake the rear view mirror, but it can and will drown out the audio system. At full song, the rumbly note will be joined by the orchestra of the turbo spooling up and the blow-off valve going off. The only music that the WRX STI knows is: rumble, rumble, brrrrr, psssst. Even after five days of repeating this over and over, the manly voice of the 305 horsepower, 407 Nm engine doesn’t get tiring. The 6-speed manual is also an absolute ally with its rod linkage that ensures a direct and substantial feel. The spacing between gears is also perfectly tuned for the engine’s broad power band, especially third gear which is perhaps the most flexible. And depending on how you drive the WRX STI, it can produce amazing good or awful mileage ranging from 5.95 km/L in the city to 13.69 km/L on the highway. After more than 500 kilometers behind the wheel, the WRX STI’s mixed average ended up at 8.69 km/L.
More than just fun in a straight line, the WRX STI is even more rewarding in the corners. With a body constructed with more high-tensile steel than any other Subaru before it (with extra stiffeners in key locations), the WRX STI is much more confident through corners. The stiffer spring rates (up 22 percent front, 6 percent back) mean it can tackle switchbacks and curves much more aggressively and with absolutely no body roll even in quick left-right-left transitions. Together with its quicker steering, the WRX STI feels very rewarding behind the wheel, especially when being manhandled through corners. In any occasion, it feels much more precise and more urgent—even more so than the Subaru BRZ. Even when you want the backend to kick out, it won’t; instead it will do a four-wheel drift. And when things get a bit hairy, it comes with Active Torque Vectoring that helps keep you in your intended path. Of course, there’s a flipside to the WRX STI’s improved handling prowess and that’s the firmer ride. Though it actually feels smoother and much more compliant at higher speeds than the outgoing model; at low speeds, it doesn’t absorb road undulations as well.
Priced at P 2,498,000, the 2014 Subaru WRX STI is worth every bit the purchase price. It’s one of those cars which are truly rewarding behind the wheel whether you find yourself attacking a racetrack or a mountain pass. And that’s not even considering that the amount of kit has increased tremendously this year. Aside from the Forged BBS alloys and leather seats, the WRX STI gets a powered driver’s seat, dual zone climate control, and a moon roof as standard equipment. But for all the added luxury, this is still Subaru’s ultimate expression of what a driver’s car should be; continuing a long heritage developed on dirt tracks and race tracks around the world. Only this time, it’s gotten much more refined.
2014 Subaru WRX STI
|Ownership||2014 Subaru WRX STI|
|Vehicle Classification||Sports Sedan|
|Body Type||4-door Sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||F4|
|BHP @ rpm||305 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||407 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 98~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,509|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Inverted MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Brembo, Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Brembo, Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Reverse Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Power (Driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|