To all Subaru fans and most petrol heads, the six-letters W-R-X S-T-I represent a very magical combination. Any car bearing such a badge is bound to turn heads and is almost universally admired, if not at least respected. Around the world, the Subaru Impreza WRX has an almost cult-like following, and its eternal battles with the various incarnations of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo have filled pages upon pages of motoring magazines.
Further up the food chain than the Impreza WRX is a model that bears an extra three alphabets in its designation: the Impreza WRX STI. Don’t be fooled by this designation. If you don’t already know, the STI is more than just a souped up variant of the WRX, it is the WRX to own for many enthusiasts. Go and do a search in Wikipedia, the entry titled Subaru Impreza WRX STI is actually longer than the one titled Subaru Impreza WRX. The entry titled just Subaru Impreza is even shorter.
The acronym STI which stands for Subaru Tecnica International is a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru’s parent company. It was formed in the 1980s to help run Subaru’s participation in world rally championships and now also injects its motor sports expertise into cars like the WRX STI, Forester STI and Legacy STI.
The first two generation of Imprezas came mostly in four-door sedan or five-door estate guise – the first gen even had a two-door coupe version. The WRX and WRX STI of course came with the same body options, but massively more powerful engines. This relationship between the variants were maintained as the third generation Impreza rolled out in 2007, but its composition was drastically altered – this current generation rolled out in a five-door hatch body style, with the four-door sedan only being introduced recently.
It was a curiously conservative styling exercise by Subaru, yet it has become one of its most controversial – its styling splitting opinions among journalists and enthusiasts alike, who have yet to come to terms with a five-door hatch Impreza. While retaining the outgoing model’s core DNA in the form of the boxer powerplants and symmetrical all-wheel drive system, the current Impreza also did away with frameless windows which were an integral element in Subaru’s design language.
Nevertheless, the WRX STI of this controversial generation was as eagerly anticipated a model as any of its predecessors during its world debut in the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. Since then, we have read review after review of this car, while waiting for it to arrive on our shores. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over, for Motor Image Sdn Bhd has officially launched the Subaru Impreza WRX STI for sale in the Malaysian market.
The launch was carried out at the new wing of Petaling Jaya’s 1-Utama shopping complex yesterday. Present at the launching ceremony were Mr Glenn Tan, CEO of Motor Image, and General Manager Mr John Lim, who both unveiled the car from under a yellow covering to a crowd of eagerly anticipating motor journalists invited to the event.
Retailing for RM298,035.20 OTR (private registration with insurance), the STI comes with a list of equipment that includes automatic air-conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control with steering mounted switches, HID headlamps, bucket seats in front, 60/40 split folding rear seats, six-disc CD changer, and others.
Much has been written about the new looks and body style of the Impreza. As said earlier, despite its conservative approach, this Impreza also succeed in being the most controversial. Truth be told, this writer is still beginning to accept the new styling direction, but some arguments about the car being plain ugly sounds too biased and unfounded.
The interior was not much to shout about, being not too dissimilar looking from the cheaper 2.0 S-GT version sitting not more than three metres away, although the littering of STI badges at certain areas remind you of the extra potency you have at your command, and some potency it is.
Under the hood lies a 2,497 cc twin cam flat four turbo delivering 221kW(296hp) of power at 6,000rpm, and achieving a maximum torque of 407Nm at 4,000rpm. Despite its big bore (99.5mm) short stroke (79.0mm) dimensions, Subaru has set a rather conservative 6,700rpm redline for this engine.
The engine features Dual Active Valve Control System (Dual AVCS), which is Subaru’s answer to the growing armies of variable valve timing systems out there, and like any good variable valve timing system, it offers all the usual increased torque, greater horsepower and improved fuel efficiency.
Subaru also apparently paid extra attention to the increased cooling capabilities of the engine, devoting a quarter of a paragraph mentioning an enlarged intercooler and noting that all the extra air outlets you see on the fenders and front bumpers are not just there for show.
More than aggressive details, these air outlets work for real!
Transmitting all those dollops of power and torque to all four wheels via Subaru’s famous Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is a good old six-speed manual transmission. Under showroom conditions, the gear action was short, but surprisingly on the rubbery side – a major dent in the STI’s formidable armour. It’s not that bad, but in this end of the market, there is no excuse for not having a sharp and precise gear change.
Fortunately, the drivetrain does have other tricks (not to mention a lot of creative acronyms) up its sleeve, which come in the form of the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) which has three settings – Intelligent, Sports and Sport Sharp – which changes the response of the drive-by-wire throttle, thus varying the car’s overall performance.
Then there are also the multi-mode Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD) and Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC). The DCCD allows the driver to choose from different modes of control for the centre differential while the VDC is essentially the traction control system.
All those electronic wizardry to rein in the car’s behaviour would be absolutely useless without some sizeable hardware backing them up, and in this area, the STI does not disappoint either. Up front, the wheels are suspended by inverted MacPherson struts, while the rear end gets double wishbones. On paper, this promises to be a sweet-handling setup.
Indeed, Subaru goes on and claim that other design elements such as lower mounting of the engine, increased body rigidity and even the reduced front overhang, all contribute to improving the current generation Impreza’s handling. Word has it that Petter Solberg had more than a hand in the design direction of this Impreza, influencing its switch from sedan to 5-door hatch, and also argued that the shorter front overhang significantly reduces the car’s polar moment of inertia thus improving the car’s handling. Don’t ask me how.
All four wheels are anchored by powerful Brembo performance brakes, with each wheel getting ventilated discs. The car is equipped with (get this) Super Sports ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution. The 17” rims on the display car were wrapped with 235/45 R17 Dunlop SP Sport O1 tyres. It is uncertain whether other brands of tyres would be included in the supply pool for this model.
The general consensus among the motoring fraternity is that this new generation Impreza as a whole is more grown-up and refined than its predecessors. While some have accepted this change in good grace, others accuse it of losing the potency of its predecessor, and it is likely to continue splitting opinions in time to come. For now, let’s welcome a new and competent player to the fold of our automotive industry.
See also: New Subaru WRX STI launched in Malaysia
Tags: , 2.0s-gt, brembo, dual active valve control system, forester, fuji heavy industries, glenn tan, Impreza, john lim, legacy, motor image, si-drive, STI, subaru, subaru intelligent drive, subaru tecnica international, wrx