Test Drive: Subaru WRX STI

Doing the Numbers in the Subaru WRX STI

Always tweaking and improving their cars, Subaru made changes to the WRX lineup that will add a wider variety to their 2011 lineup ? literally wider.? Subaru builds two versions of the WRX rally-style car, the slightly milder WRX and the almost race ready WRX STI.? Previously, the STI used a wider version of the five-door hatchback (which some people refer to a wagon) while the WRX was available in both the five-door and a four-door sedan configuration.

This year the STI lineup was expanded adding the sedan to the menu and it was widened to make room for the wider (by 1.5 inches) track in the front and the rear.? There?s no magic to making a wider body, they just add flares to the fenders to make more room for the wider track and tires, but the result is better stability and handling.

As long as they were making a wide body STI sedan, planners logically decided to make the WRX sedan a wide body, too.? It makes sense, and eliminates the need to do two different sedan bodies.

We recently spent a fun-filled week in the STI.? By numbers alone, the 2011 Subaru WRX STI is amazing:

  • 305 horsepower
  • 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds
  • 155 mph top speed
  • 110 feet to stop from 60 mph

hese are the kind of numbers that excite almost any driving enthusiast, but what they don?t reflect how well the car drives.? The WRX is one of those rare cars that?s easy and comfortable to drive for everyday use, but can also deliver race-like performance when pushed.? The WRX STI is closer to race ready.? Except for some safety equipment like a roll bar, crash helmet, five-point safety harness, etc., the STI is a full-fledged rally car.? It has the larger tires, bigger brakes, a sophisticated Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system with three driver-selectable modes, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive with Driver Controlled Center Differential and several other performance enhancements.

Subaru has been using the famed N?rburgring racetrack in Germany since 1992 to develop the handling and performance of the WRX. ?Considered to be one of the most difficult racetracks in the world the ?Ring? has more than 100 turns and near 1,000 feet of elevation changes.? It?s here that Subaru engineers tune all those ?numbers? into a well-balanced and secure feeling car.

In April 2010, Subaru testers, driving the new four-door sedan body, created ?The Fastest WRX STI Ever? on the N?rburgring track when they recorded a time of 7:55:00 for the 12.9-mile lap. ?To put that number in perspective, that?s faster on the ?Ring? than other cars like the Ferrari 360, Porsche 911 Turbo and Dodge Viper SRT-10 in other notable times listed for the course. ?If you are a YouTube fan, you can watch the one lap of the ?Ring? on an in-car video.? (A search of ?STI N?rburgring? should get you close to the video of the record setting run.)

Engineers did modify the STI slightly with a larger turbocharger, which increased horsepower by 15, and they also installed the appropriate safety equipment.

How does that translate for the average driver?? It doesn?t, unless the driver races or occasionally makes a run down a winding road hoping not to get caught in the act.? As much as we?re impressed by the STI, we much prefer the plain WRX.? Several of the features of the STI like the VDC and the Driver Controlled Center Differential require the driver to understand the vehicle dynamics to best utilize those adjustments, and frankly most people don?t.? The other trade-off is the STI rides rough with a suspension that?s great for corners and high speeds, but it not that comfortable around town.

The WRX STI is an amazing car for the base price of $34,720, including destination charge, for the new wide-bodied sedan with features like 18-inch alloy wheels, a big wing on the trunk, Brembo? brakes and a bunch of other performance-oriented equipment.? For $38,070 that sedan becomes the Limited model and adds 19-inch BBS forged-alloy wheels, fog lights, leather-trimmed upholstery and power moonroof.? The only option is an $1,800 navigation system.? The WRS STI five-door is priced at $36,720, but is not available in the Limited trim.

If you decide the WRX is more to your taste, it starts at $26,220 for the sedan or the five-door.? A Premium trim level is $2,500 more or the Limited is $3,500 more.

Bottom line is most people buy fast cars like the STI because of their image, and for the ability to go really fast?if they wanted to. ?As impressive as the STI is, we think the WRX is one of the best performance deals available and it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and has a top speed of 142 mph and it?s just about as much fun and it?s a lot more comfortable.

Bill and Barbara Schaffer