Subaru WRX STI 2014 review
Derek Ogden road tests and reviews the Subaru WRX STI, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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The pundits argue about which era within the World Rally Championship was its golden age, but there's no doubt it produced some epic machines. Audi's original quattro, the Lancia Stratos and Delta Integrale, Ford's RS brigade and Subaru's WRX and Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution series are all among the pool of talented vehicles spawned for loose surface competition.
Sadly, many of those manufacturers are now no longer in it to win it. The company has trimmed the price and upped the spec, but what's it like to live with one of these highly-strung rally weapons. Short answer - easy.
While it starts at $56,990 for the five-speed manual version, we're in the MR twin-clutch automated manual model, which asks for $65,990.
The Evolution MR's features list is not spartan - leather trim, front racing bucket seats, alloy paddleshifters, a height-only(!!?!!) adjustable sports leather-wrapped steering wheel (as well as cruise and phone controls), heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, climate control, automatic xenon headlights with cornering lamps, 18in BBS alloy wheels, a top-spec 9-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a rear view camera (displaying on the 7in touch screen), with voice activated 3D satnav.
The Evo still packs a decent wallop, despite having been around for a while - it has an intercooled and turbocharged 2-litre variable-valve double overhead cam powerplant producing 217kW at 6500 rpm and 366Nm of torque at 3500rpm.
It's a cast aluminium block (the old two-litre turbo was cast-iron) and it has reverted to an old-school timing chain as opposed to a belt; there's variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts and the turbo responds 20 per cent quicker, says Mitsubishi.
All that grunt without serious thirst too - the Mitsi claim is 10.1 litres per 100km and despite some enthusiastic efforts, the trip computer was showing 11.5 on the test car. Getting all that to ground is the all-wheel drivetrain overseen by a number of clever electronic systems - imaginatively named Super All Wheel Control - starting with an active centre differential with modes for bitumen, unsealed roads and snow.
The system also deals with the active stability control to keep the desired driving line, with “Super Active Yaw Control” distributes drive between the rear wheels to fire the little rally rocket out of corners with gusto.
Striking but not what you'd call pretty or handsome, it's based on a shopping-trolley sedan, the Evo has bracing bits and body add-ons to upgrade its looks and strength. The big rear spoiler looks the goods but interrupts the rear vision dramatically - not ideal when you're often looking out for particular types of vehicles behind you.
The rest of the bodykit and extra vents betray the intent of the vehicle, but don't make it impractical to use day-to-day, with little grinding of body bits into the bitumen. The cabin is typical of the donor car's segment - enough room for Mum and Dad and a couple of offspring, but leave the kitchen sink at home.
Bootspace is impeded for the sake of bass response - a subwoofer inhabits the left-hand side cubby of the claimed 400 litres of loadspace, so forget a full-sized set of golf clubs in the boot.
Cooking versions of the Lancer score five stars when the full complement of airbags are fitted so there's no reason why you wouldn't expect the Evo to rank similarly. We've already touched on the clever all-wheel drive set-up, which teams with stability control, but there's also anti-lock braking for the massive Brembo stoppers.
The 18in wheels cover 350mm front ventilated lightweight two-piece discs with four-pot calipers, with 330mm rear discs and two-pot calipers. The airbag count is seven - dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, as well as one for the driver’s knees.
Don't be fooled by the relatively demure road manners, this is a vicious machine. Rolling quietly out of the Mitsubishi carpark, the firm ride quality is apparent, but the Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs help to take the hard edge off remarkably well. Leaving the gearbox in full auto Normal mode, the shift quality is quick and smooth but prone to holding a high gear a little longer than is ideal and is not as intuitive as more recent double-clutchers sampled.
Sport mode goes a bit too far in the other direction and Super Sport mode (which needs to be selected before moving) is aggressive. Manual changes in the latter are brutal, with less regard for reducing shift shock than other modes. Steering is light but direct, although my personal preference would be for a bit more meat and a little less assistance. Getting away from standstill with intent is not difficult - the Evo gathers pace with incredible ease, but it's when the corners come that it excels.
Brush the Brembos, turn in, fire out - no mess, no fuss, just another recommended corner speed sign made redundant. You'll need to hit a racetrack or risk the low-profile road rubber on dirt to shake it loose, but even then you'll be working hard. There's a five-speed manual on offer in some models, not in the flagship MR sadly, but a slick six-speeder as a special-order option would be nice.
It's been on the books for a while at Mitsubishi - and it's not Robinson Crusoe there either - but time has not dulled the sharp edged performance of this rally rocket. What does surprise is the ease with which it can be used day to day, without loosening fillings or re-arranging vertebrae like some of its ancestors did.
The Evo 6 Makinen edition springs to mind. It's firm, but there are several performance vehicles that don't corner like this one but ride more harshly. You do pay to play rally driver every time you get behind the wheel, but it does put a grin on your face.
|ES Sportback||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$8,998 – 11,990||2013 Mitsubishi Lancer 2013 ES Sportback Pricing and Specs|
|LX Sportback||2.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$11,458 – 12,710||2013 Mitsubishi Lancer 2013 LX Sportback Pricing and Specs|
|Ralliart Sportback||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$14,960 – 19,690||2013 Mitsubishi Lancer 2013 Ralliart Sportback Pricing and Specs|
|VR-X Sportback||2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$9,680 – 13,200||2013 Mitsubishi Lancer 2013 VR-X Sportback Pricing and Specs|
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