2018 Subaru STI

The diva demands respect



  • 박재승 (james@koreatimes.net) --
  • 17 Oct 2017

By James Park


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   Once in a while, things just click into place.

   Few weeks ago, I found myself enjoying a ‘spirited’ drive in an all new Civic Type R and thinking to myself ‘wouldn’t it be nice to compare this with the Subaru WRX STI?’

   Couple of weeks later, a Subaru rep calls me up and says the Crosstrek I’ve booked has developed a sudden problem and is no longer available. I didn’t go all ballistic on him because it wasn’t his fault and more importantly, he was willing to give me the STI, instead.

   It’s true: good things come to those who wait.

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   Once a forbidden fruit in North America, the STI is a road-going rally car notorious not only for its power, agility and all-weather capability, but also for that great big ‘wing’ sprouting up from the trunk deck, as well as hood scoop, side skirts and vents, air dam and spoilers that seem to appeal greatly to children and teenagers. Take the STI into any suburban parking lot and watch the gawking kids gather like hippies to a Grateful Dead concert.

   Look at the Type R and the STI influence is clearly there. Both cars also produce similar numbers. The Type R develops 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is almost exactly same as the STI (305/290).

   Both machines have enough get-up-and-go to hustle to 100 kph in less than five seconds. Both handle the twisties with poise and confidence inspiring stability. Both demand similar amounts of coin. Both are cop-magnets.

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   However, if the Type R is an all-around team player, willing to sacrifice occasionally for the common good, then the STI is bit of a diva. The Type R is forgiving and civilized; the STI is proud and prickly.

   The STI wants to be treated with utmost respect and attention from its driver. It does not suffer mistakes gladly and moans and bitches when taken for granted. On the other hand, treat it like it wants to be and you have a willing partner in crime. (The last time I drove one, I promptly got a speeding ticket.)

   Much of this characteristic probably has to do with the engine’s torque plateau. Simply put, you need to rev the heck out of it to get any meaningful shove off the block. The 2.5 litres of turbocharged and horizontally-opposed four cylinders really come alive above 4 thousand or so rpm. Anything less, the car behaves like a petulant teenager feeling restricted by parental authority. Give it appropriate amount of gas and it turns into raving Lawrence Taylor on hot pursuit of a quarterback. (Once and for all, LT is always Lawrence Taylor, NOT LaDainian Tomlinson. Anyone who confuses this should be forbidden to watch or talk about NFL football forever. I digress.)

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   Like the Type R, the STI is also exclusive in one important area. It only offers six-speed manual and the diminishing number of row-your-own enthusiasts are okay with this. Nevertheless, the STI’s stick is probably not the easiest to live with. Learn to drive manual with something like the Mazda MX-5 and then take on the STI for the advanced course.

   As it is, the STI’s clutch action is touch on the heavy side and it’s trickier to modulate than the Type R, which is very forgiving. With the STI, you need to get into the rhythm of pressing the accelerator and the clutch just right or the car will stall, especially backing into an inclined parking spot, as I did a couple of times.

   Styling wise, the new 2018 STI is not all that different from the model it replaces. Look closer and the design of front grill is slightly different and the previous model’s fog-lights are gone, just leaving more space to suck in air.

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   Inside, the dashboard layout has been cleaned up a little but still looks quite familiar. The top model gets the Recaros, but the sport seats in the STI Sport tester are very supportive and comfortable all the same.

   In Canada, the STI comes in three flavours. The base model starts from $39,495 and the middle-of-the-line Sport demands $41,795. The Sport Tech with either the wing or the lip spoiler comes in at $46,595. All are powered by the same engine.  

   The familiar 2.5 litre force-fed flat four is carried over. I always thought its official rating of 305 ponies and 290 lb-ft of twist as bit conservative. As always, this motor sings with a unique cadence that is highly addictive. Though, it is an acquired taste.

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   Of course, Subaru, and Porsche to some extent, has long championed the horizontally-opposed engine’s advantage in lowering the car’s center of gravity. Lower the centre of gravity, better the car’s handing – this is simple physics. 

   Also helping is the Subaru’s much touted ‘symmetrical all-wheel-drive’ system, as well as the active torque-vectoring capability. The car goes around fast corners like a horse on a carousel. The steering wheel has right amount of weight and it talks to you like only a hydraulically assisted system could.

   Unlike most cars with AWD, the STI enables the driver to either leave it in Auto or adjust it manually to his or her liking, depending of course on weather and road conditions. Even in Auto, one can adjust ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ either for more front wheel traction or more rear-wheel biased dexterity.


   

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   As mentioned, the car demands to be driven fast. It dares the driver to push harder and scoffs when he or she chickens out. It’s the kind of car one can easily be carried away.

   In this sense, the STI is not really suitable to be an everyday commuter. However, if you can put up with hard suspension, not-so-great fuel economy and greater attention from police, it’ll put smile on your face every time you stomp on the go-pedal. For a middle-aged guy like me, this thing is a fountain of youth. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)

 

2018 Subaru STI Sport

Price: $41,795

Engine: 2.5 litre horizontally-opposed turbo four

Power: 305 hp/290 lb-ft

Transmission: 6 spd manual

Drive: AWD

Fuel: 14.1 litres per 100km (city), 10.5 litres (highway)

Best: power, handling, engine sound

Worst: low-end torque

Competition: Honda Civic Type R, Ford Focus RS, VW Golf R

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