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If you thought nothing could get better about the WRX STI you were wrong. Subaru's superstar sedan just surpassed itself with the MY15 version. With a new look and upgrades to chassis and suspension taking drivability and dynamics to a new level, everything about the new STI model shouts 'premium'
Everything, that is, except the price, which is $10,000 below that of the superseded car. The fourth generation STI, in manual sedan form only, now sells from $49,990, plus on-road costs, with the Premium model we've just tested topping out the range at $54,990.
While the STI already has a high level of standard features, the Premium adds more, having tasty BBS 18-inch alloy wheels, electric sunroof, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, heated door mirrors, leather trim and a wiper de-icier.
The WRX continues to mature, smoothing out some of the unsightly features of earlier, less sophisticated models. For example, the bonnet air scoop has been snipped to sit lower and wider, resulting in better efficiency and increased driver visibility. Not all will agree with this, but…
Subaru's classic hexagonal grille has been retained, with unique mesh and STI badging, the latter repeated on the vehicle's flanks.
New LED low-beam headlights emphasise the characteristic aggressive wide and low stance of an STI, while for the first time, the model features daytime running lights.
Also new is the fact that the large, some say excessive, boot-mounted spoiler, can be left off as a delete option. The latest wing, however, is lighter by 0.3 kg and has been lifted eight mm in height to help with rearwards visibility, while wing mirrors have been raised to improve the driver's side view. Premium variants gain an electric sunroof.
A high-quality cabin, with red highlights, carbon-style panels and metal-type accents, underline STI's sporty character. Red instrument lighting, with contrasting white needles, adds to the performance ambience. A sporty flat-bottom multifunction steering wheel has been added, together with push-button engine start and keyless entry.
Boot space is a very useable 460 litres which can be increased considerably by folding the rear seat backs flat. Boot lid release is via the ignition key fob.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The 2.5-litre turbocharged horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine with dual Active Valve Control System pumps out 221 kW of power at 6000 rpm and 407 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, while meeting Euro 5 emission standards.
A slick six-speed manual transmission and Subaru's all-wheel drive system featuring a viscous limited-slip centre differential, have the STI ready for any road surface or weather conditions.
The driver is brought into the ride-and-handling equation with Subaru's SI-Drive system and a multi-mode centre differential. An SI-Drive knob on the centre console allows the driver to switch between three modes - Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp – which plays with power output, fuel economy, throttle response and engine speed to vary driving experience.
Multi-mode centre diff control allows drivers to select centre differential characteristics to suit road conditions. Auto mode is the default setting, providing all-round control across the broad range of driving conditions.
Auto+ mode sets the rear differential limiting to high, focusing on traction on slippery surfaces and in conditions needing stability, while Auto- sets the rear differential limiting torque to low, increasing steering response for a lighter, more agile drive.
A 4.3-inch LCD Multi-Function Display in the upper centre of the instrument panel provides a variety of information which includes audio, fuel economy, eco driving status and reversing camera images. The control button is within easy reach of the driver and front seat passenger.
A 3.5-inch colour LCD display in the instrument cluster provides more information in the nature of driving time, digital speedometer, odometer, trip meter, Eco gauge and SI-Drive status.
Bluetooth audio streaming, harman / kardon sound with eight speakers, sub-woofer and amplifier, plus factory fitted satellite navigation with voice control cap off STI connectivity.
STI safety has been enhanced in all areas, resulting in its five-star rating for occupant safety from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program.
While of similar weight to the superseded model, the new STI body is significantly stronger thanks to the increased use of high-strength steels, while the suspension has been stiffened all round. Seven airbags instil confidence in occupants, as does Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive system.
The soft-touch cabin interior is brought to life by an impressive array of instruments and controls at hand for the driver and front seat passenger.
Settle into the snug fitting leather trimmed sports seats, press the dash-mounted engine start button and strike up the band with that familiar Boxer growl. Select first gear and be transported to a whole new WRX world where harshness has been relegated to history.
By modern-day automotive standards it's a simple life, with seamless acceleration taking the car to 100 kilometres and hour in less than five seconds.
The gear lever is such that shifting is more of a flick than a throw, which only adds to the Premium's sports car character – a real joystick. Note: there are no poncy steering wheel-mounted paddles here.
With max power attained at 6000 revs and torque around 4000 there's a need to keep the foot firmly on the accelerator pedal with the engine roaring in the background, otherwise you could be served up an embarrassing stall.
With the test car recording 11.2 litres per 100 kilometres on a mix of riding the urban merry-go-round and hitting the open road, fuel consumption was far from extravagant. Exhaust emissions, with a Euro 5 rating, follow suit.
Steering response is sharper and more responsive thanks to the smaller tiller. Brakes are by Brembo and cannot be ignored with white STI logo on black painted calipers.
Subaru WRX has, to a large extent, outlived its 'wild child' reputation, with the new STI Premium attaining a mature sophistication that can only widen its appeal to those looking for a sporting experience without accompanying driving deprivations. Even the price offers significantly increased comfort.
|(AWD)||2.5L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$16,700 – 23,210||2014 Subaru WRX 2014 (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Premium (AWD)||2.5L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$18,300 – 25,520||2014 Subaru WRX 2014 Premium (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|STI||2.5L, PULP, 5 SP||$23,500 – 31,900||2014 Subaru WRX 2014 STI Pricing and Specs|
|STI Spec R||2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$28,900 – 38,280||2014 Subaru WRX 2014 STI Spec R Pricing and Specs|