Audi S3 Sportback DSG 2014 review
Luxury German brand Audi has recorded booming sales of its high-performance range, showing once again that Australian drivers like their cars to have plenty of life in them.
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At the launch a few weeks ago of the new Subaru WRX we asked Nick Senior, managing director of Subaru Australia what impact the WRX might have on sales of the new WRX STI. After all the WRX had moved closer to big brother STI with significant handling improvements.
Senior said we should wait to drive the STI, as it might have some "surprises." We looked at the current STI for clues: the 2.5-litre boxer engine is superb with 221kW or power and 410Nm of torque run through a six-speed transmission. Handling is great and we could expect the front differential lock to provide torque vectoring effect on torrid corners - the new system on WRX – would be carried over the STI. And, it was.
The surprise with the new Subaru WRX STI has nothing to do with the drivetrain or suspension changes. The real surprise was a shock out of left-field: the new Subaru WRX STI has taken a financial haircut.
PRICE / FEATURES
Subaru has cut the price by $10,000 on the STI and $11,000 on the STI Premium. The STI now hits the showrooms at $49,990 and the STI Premium at $54,990. Both these figures are before on road costs. This makes the standard Subaru WRX STI the fastest car available in Australia under $50,000. Like its predecessor, the STI covers the 0-100 km/h sprint in just 4.9 seconds. Not only is the price a lot lower, but Subaru Australia tells us it has $7000 extra value in new equipment and features.
STI now has factory-fitted satellite navigation, and dual-zone air-conditioning. Like WRX it also gets the shark fin radio antenna atop the roof. Like the new WRX, the STI gains fundamental changes like the narrower A-pillar and mirrors located on the doors, also reducing blind-spots. WRX STI also has Brembo brakes that stand out with a white STI logo on the black-painted calipers.
DESIGN / STYLING
While the drivetrain remains the same - apart from the automatic transmission being deleted from the option list - the new WRX STI has an aggressive new look. Interestingly, Subaru Australia is aware not all buyers want to blatantly advertise the fact that it's an STI and the massive rear wing now is a no-cost delete option.
The 18-inch wheels and STI badging remain. Also retained is the bonnet scoop that sits lower and wider - to improve efficiency and the driver's forward view. The real changes to STI are all standard equipment upgrades that enhance safety, entertainment, comfort and the overall feel of the cabin quality.
As you step into the cabin a few changes are immediately apparent. The steering wheel is now D-shaped as befitting a high-powered sports car, the multifunction display now includes turbo-boost pressure display. There’s pushbutton starting and smart key technology. Safety upgrades include the active torque vectoring, the addition of a driver's knee airbag, reversing camera, daytime running lights, dusk sensing headlights with halogen high-beam and rain sensing wipers.
Our drive program at launch took us on a road trip of 100 km around Goulburn NSW, followed by 10 or so laps of the Wakefield Race circuit, a tight, twisty track that put the new torque vectoring to test.
It was there the true colours of the new STI were on show. With the drivetrain remaining basically the same Subaru was keen to show off STI’s new-found agility as a result of a stiffer chassis and improved suspension.
In essence an STI can now enter gnarly corners at about the same speed as a Porsche 911. We put this to the test at Wakefield and found the claim to stack up. The STI does not feel as flat as a Porsche when on extreme corners, but it sticks like superglue to the tarmac which allows you to hammer the throttle as you come out of corners without any embarrassing moments.
The new STI steering with 2.1 turns lock-to-lock adds to the STI’s pointing talent into tight, off-camber turns and is another key improvement to the car’s handling. At the extreme there is still some slight understeer, but the torque vectoring effect means this is negligible and the car simply turns a little wider than a rear-end drive car.
The new Subaru WRX STI may be a lot cheaper than before, but it performs better than ever.
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