Long before tobacco became a four letter word, the average motorsport fan secretly nurtured a soft spot for the industry that kept their favorite sport alive and thriving with huge bags of sponsorship cash. Rothmans, Marlboro, West were all brands we looked at very kindly and probably still do (even at the risk of sounding politically incorrect), for keeping our television sets flickering with motorsport action. And if you were a rally fan in the mid 90’s, chances are that the 555 sponsored Subarus garnered more attention thanks to the exploits of such greats as Ari Vatanen, Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Juha Kankkunen and Carlos Sainz.
2012 Subaru WRX STi Hatchback review
And so the pink glasses were on once Subaru confirmed the WRX STi for us. We were hoping for a blue unit with classic gold wheels just so we could keep all objectivity aside and proceed with childish hero worship. But the test car turned up in white, thereby dashing all hopes for a completely biased review…
Regardless of the paint, it is difficult to ignore the STi. The 2011 re-design did away with the dubious visage and brought back the clean lines of earlier STIs. The 18 inch BBS wheels, the huge rear roof spoiler, the almost steroid-induced bulges make it stand tall in any company. Oh, and that iconic scoop on the hood – you can tell this is a performance machine even when it is parked among supercars. Equally capturing in looks are the STi’s quad exhausts which sadly however offer a visual treat that fail to deliver on the promise. The engine note is rather muted and completely at odds with the car’s performance. No wonder there are a host of exhaust manufacturers out there cashing in on the opportunity. Perhaps emissions controls and the like have conspired to silence this beast, but come on Subaru take a leaf from Maserati’s book. Have you heard the Gran Tourismo on song? Surely there’s something the Italians have read in the rule book that can help the STi’s case.
The interior stands out for the fabulously sculpted Recaro seats which again remind you that the 4 doors on this car are a big nod to practicality for a performance focused machine. Interior space is about what you would expect from a car of this size – a small family can be carted around with a modicum of comfort. The dashboard and instrumentation, and the interior as a whole are many steps ahead in quality when compared to its main competitor, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. And when it comes to suspension, the STi really manages to steal a huge leap over the Evo if everyday practicality features high on your list. There is none of the harsh ride that you get in an Evo, rather the STi feels more like a family car when doing the commute.
This need to be all things to all people could prove to be an ace up the STi’s sleeve. Not everyone would prefer the hard edge of a thoroughbred and be prepared to put up with the associated inconveniences. The STi offers a softer approach that is discernible the first time you turn the steering wheel. Turn in is quick but steering feel is toned down. Road imperfections are soaked up with more ease than its macho styling would suggest.
Driving out of the Subaru parking lot, there is no indication of the performance at hand as the STi drives along at a sedate pace. Its only when you get the tach over 3,000 rpm that you get an indication of the claimed 0-100 km time of 5.2 seconds. In that respect, the 2.5 litre 4 cylinder turbo charged boxer engine punches well above its class with 300 Hp and 407 Nm of torque. A good old fashioned manual H-gate transmission helps channel all that drive to the road and reminds you again of the pleasure to be had from operating 3 pedals when driving. Subaru’s Dynamic Control Centre Differential (DCCD) allows the driver to opt between different modes to apportion torque to the front and rear wheels. While DCCD may be noticeable when hooning on a track, the SI Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) was a welcome feature, noticeably perking up the car’s responses and power delivery when ‘Sport Sharp’ mode was selected . Combined with a boxer engine’s inherent low-slung feel, this really keeps the car under control even when being naughty in the twisties. Stopping duties are handled by high spec 4 piston Brembo brakes with vented discs.
The top spec STi, a 6-speed manual with full options, retails for AED 178,000 and comes with 18-inch forged BBS wheels, and Recaro front seats as standard. Eschewing a sunroof, Recaros and the BBS wheels for 18 inch alloys drops the prices right down to AED 160,000 and should entice anybody on a tight budget. Our tip would be to save up and go for the full options with the tasty badging. Even a full spec STi cost a fair bit lower than an Evo, leaving you a big enough budget for eventual upgrades for the inevitable track duties.
If you, like many of us, grew up honing imaginary rally skills on the fantastic cyber world crafted by Sega’s Rally 2, then this car needs to be on your wish list. The Subaru Impreza WRX STi is to the rally aficionado what a Stradivarius would be to a budding violinist or a Ferrari V12 to the F1 fan. The difference being that you can actually walk into a showroom, contemplate the absolute necessity of an STi in your life and be easily convinced to part with your money.
|2012 Subaru WRX STi Hatchback
|Displacement||2.5L flat 4|
|Rated Output||305 hp @ 6000 rpm|
|Rated Torque||407 Nm @ 4000 rpm|
|Transmission – type of gearshift||6 speed manual, auto transmission is also available|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h||5.2 s|
|Top speed||over 250 kmph|
|Price (AED)||160,000 – 178,000 (As tested)|
Images by Brian Donegan :