Subaru WRX STI saloon 2015 review

10 Apr, 2014 8:45am Paul Bond

Subaru gives die-hard Impreza fans what they’ve been waiting for, a new WRX STi

Verdict

3
Driven on the right road there are not many cars as rewarding and downright fast as the new WRX STI. The formula hasn’t changed, but the latest model has a level of dynamic polish that was missing before. Still, as an ownership prospect, it falls short of its rivals, and despite its robust engineering, driving one everyday demands more compromises that most modern buyers will put up with.

Subaru is going back to basics for its latest WRX STI. The third-generation car caused controversy with enthusiasts by ditching both the saloon body and iconic rear wing and the brand threatened to retire it permanently – in the UK at least.

Fortunately, there has been enough interest in the new car to secure the its future, and the company believes it shares enough of its D.N.A with the rest of the line-up to have a halo effect, particularly as it now costs £4,000 less than the previous car.
 
A quick glance at the specs might convince you that little has changed this time around. The new WRX is powered by the same 2.5-litre boxer turbo engine, has the same mechanical four-wheel drive system and six-speed manual gearbox, and covers the 0-62mph sprint in exactly the same 5.2 seconds as it did previously.

Subaru WRX STi 2015: sharper and more involving

However, the evolutionary changes are all lurking under that aggressive bodywork. Subaru wanted the new WRX STI to be sharper and more involving to drive - not just faster - so all the tweaks are designed to enhance the handling, boost grip and reduce body roll.
 
Almost every suspension component has been made harder or tougher, and high strength steels in the chassis means it is now 140 per cent stiffer than in the previous car. Yet despite its no-compromise approach the WRX STI feels surprisingly compliant on the road.
 
At low speed the ride is still pretty firm – particularly over potholes – but through faster bends the thicker stabilizers and new damper mounts give the WRX superb composure. The wet, narrow and badly surfaced roads we tested the car on did a good impression of a typical British B-road – and it felt surprisingly civilized, with a firm but well controlled ride and supreme body control and stability at all times.


Subaru WRX STi rear tracking

There may not be any more power, but thanks to the incredible traction from the four-wheel drive system you can all of the 296bhp available. There is a new torque-vectoring system to help push you round each corner and you can feel the extra rigidity in the body, with barely any roll no matter how hard you drive it.
 
Probably the biggest mechanical change though is the steering – Subaru has fitted a quicker hydraulic rack for faster responses and extra weight. Drive along a slippery surface and the wheel now gives you a much better idea of how much grip there is, and along with the excellent Brembo brakes it gives the WRX STI a level of raw engagement that has been engineered out of modern hot hatches.
 
Some of the old niggles remain though – the 2.5-litre engine suffers from turbo lag at anything below 3,000rpm, and the notoriously tricky gearbox still requires a very firm and deft shift from the driver when trying to change up into third gear.

Subaru WRX STI 2015: interior still dated

Subaru WRX STi interior

Sadly, the interior is also as dated as ever. New additions include a 4.7-inch colour display in the dash, silvered climate control dials and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, plus some faux carbon trim, but when you can have an Audi S3 or Golf R for similar money the cheap and cheerful cabin feels like a real compromise.  Every UK WRX will come with leather and alcantara heated seats, climate control, a reversing camera, 18-inch alloys and Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres.

The wheelbase of the STI has been stretched by 25mm, helping to improve rear legroom, and the boot has grown too, with an extra 40 litres taking the total to 460-litres – more than you get in a Golf R or BMW M135i. It will also be very expensive to run an STI– a combined figure of 27.2mpg is frankly optimistic, and a CO2 output of 242g/km puts it on a par with high-power V8s.

Only one trim will be offered here in the UK – and the huge spoiler is standard – while a set of gold alloy wheels and WR Blue paint are both on the options list.

Check out our history of the hot Subaru Impreza here...

Disqus - noscript

I don't understand the three-star rating. You've basically
said that aside from a notchy gearbox, it's a dream to drive. It has pliant
suspension, which is something the Germans struggle to offer, room for two
adults in the back and a big boot. It is everything a motorsport-bread
homologation-style car should be.

You criticise it for having turbo-lag, but as a turbocharged car that's what
one would expect. It's in the nature of a high-performance turbocharged car and
is part of the charm.

The Golf R has plenty of shove, but no character. And that's typical of the
latest crop of turbo-4s from all sorts of manufacturers. None of the aural character
of a 6 or 8, none of the screaming mania of a Japanese rev monster, and none of
the on/off drama of a traditional turbo.

in short, as fast and well engineered as they are, they're just a little bit
dull. This Subaru isn't, and for that it deserves to be lauded.

I don't understand the three-star rating. You've basically said that aside from a notchy gearbox, it's a dream to drive. It has pliant suspension, which is something the Germans struggle to offer, room for two adults in the back and a big boot. It is everything a motorsport-bread homologation-style car should be.

You criticise it for having turbo-lag, but as a turbocharged car that's what one would expect. It's in the nature of a high-performance turbocharged car and is part of the charm.

The Golf R and Audi S3 have plenty of shove, but no character. And that's typical of the latest crop of turbo-4s from all sorts of manufacturers. None of the aural character of a 6 or 8, none of the screaming mania of a Japanese rev monster, and none of the on/off drama of a traditional turbo.

in short, as fast and well engineered as they are, they're just a little bit dull. This Subaru isn't, and for that it deserves to be lauded.

if this was a volkswagen golf gti/r it would get 5 stars. but no, its a subaru, so its boring. stupid review.

The other real difference between the Subaru and its competitors is the fact that the Subaru will be the paragon of reliability, it may not feel as nice inside or have as much bling, but they dont help much when you are sat on the side of the road waiting for recovery.

exactly, complaining about the interior in a performance car of this type is pretty much meaningless, so what if it isnt as nice inside as a New BMW og Audi, it wil be a lot more reliable, and at least just as fast.

"if this was a volkswagen golf gti/r it would get 5 stars. but no, its a subaru, so its boring. stupid review." AND YOU ARE STUPID BECAUSE SUBARU SHOULD HAVE 10 STARS!

Exactly. The car succeeds on its own merits. There's little sense marking it down for not being a german hatchback when it's not trying to be a german hatchback. This is not a car for "most modern buyers". It's a car for niche buyers after a very particular sort of driving experience. Giving this car three stars for providing arguably the best experience of that sort for the money, with all its associated compromises, is a bit like marking down an Atom for having no boot space.

worst reviewer ever. you can clearly sense the bias he has towards german automakers. Must have been on the payroll of volkswagen/audi because he only mentioned them as being better than the STI "as if it was true".

Here is why it got 3 stars:-
Rubbish interior
Laggy motor
Notchy gearbox
It Drones, noisy boomy
Slower than a Golf R, S3 and A45
Way heavier than an S3
Top speed pathetic 230km/h
Worse fuel economy than R,S3 and A45
A very tiring prospect as a daily drive.

If you find this charming or characterful, just stay at home and play Gran Turismo.

Clearly you didn't read very carefully. I'll paste the summary for you:

"Driven on the right road there are not many cars as rewarding and downright fast as the new WRX STI. The formula hasn’t changed, but the latest model has a level of dynamic polish that was missing before. Still, as an ownership prospect, it falls short of its rivals, and despite its robust engineering, driving one everyday demands more compromises that most modern buyers will put up with."

Reads more like the reason it got 3 stars is that it doesn't match it's german "rivals" in areas it doesn't set out to, whilst surpassing them in the areas it does. Not particularly logical.

Gearboxes are to some extent a matter of taste. There are just as many reviews online praising it as one of the best they've used.

Turbo lag is a fact of life in a turbo 4.

Slower than those cars? If you think fast in a straight line is the only sort of speed real drivers value, I suggest you're the one playing too many computer games. That said, you should do some more reading. I think it was car and driver who got this car to 60 in 4.6 seconds. You really believe a manual golf R or S3 can do better than that? Even if they could, by how much? a tenth at most? Most target buyers would rather have REAL awd and hydraulic power steering.

On top of that, motortrend compared the m235i, the amg cla45 and the new sti. Despite being the lowest output, the sti was quickest around their track. It's true the carry over engine is a downside, particularly with it's economy and co2, but they spent the money on the chassis, which is where the car needed improvement. And really, for whom do you believe 300 hp isn't enough in what is effectively a performance family car?

Oh, and the s3 is ~5% lighter. Hardly "way heavier" is it?

Simon, I have read everything about the STI, S3, and A45. I also have driven all of them. I'm very happy to have ordered an S3, as it provided the best compromise in value, performance and liveability ( based on Australian pricing and conditions). A comparison in June Motor Magazine of A45, S3, and STI, validated my own seat of the pants, conclusion. This didn't reflect real world pricing in Australia, where dealers are asking above RRP for A45 (which is already nearly 25% more expensive than S3), Subaru aren't offering any deals, and Audi where discounts can be negotiated off an already competitive RRP.

I'm happy you found a car which met with your needs. I just don't see that as a reason to unfairly denigrate the cars that lost out in your particular choice. The S3 is a great car, no doubt. As is the AMG, as is the BMW, as is the Golf, as is the STi. What each of these cars offers is a slightly different balance of pros and cons. People who would choose the s3 can't imagine why anyone would choose the STi. People who choose the STi, can't imagine why anyone would choose the S3. Obviously that's because we all judge these things relative to our own personal requirements.

What you get in the STi over and above the s3/golf r is that last 10% of driver focussed engineering. Proper symmetrical AWD with a proper planetary gearbox, rather than a haldex system. Proper hydraulic power steering rather than electric. Cornering G almost equivalent to a porsche 911. The list goes on. What you get in the s3 is 90% of that driver focus, but in a car that's a whole lot more liveable with as a daily driver. Which side of the line you come down on is just a personal value judgement. I have ordered an STi because the compromises are worth it to me. You've ordered an S3 because they aren't to you. Both are still great cars! It is in this respect that I think this review is unfair. They're not judging the car on its merits. They're judging the compromise as one they wouldn't make. Potential buyers of cars like these don't need that sort of advice. They're likely to be car nuts. They know what the compromise is. What they want to know is, how good an STi is the STi, not how good an S3 or Golf R it is. Then, they can make an informed, personal choice between the two slightly different compromises each category of car offers.

The UK edition of Top Gear Magazine compared the BMW m235i and the STi in a drive across the US and ultimately couldn't choose between them for similar reasons. It depends what is most important to you as a buyer.

Personally, I took the view that in future years I may well not have the means or opportunity or desire to drive such an extreme car, so I decided to take the plunge whilst I was able.

Price wise here in the UK, The scooby starts just less than 2k under the price of the s3. That said, as they're only importing 250 total, there is limited room for manoeuvre on discounts. The AMG is very expensive here too, and for that reason was out for me.

Enjoy your S3 - it's an excellent motor vehicle!

Key specs

  • Price: £28,995
  • Engine: 2.5-litre flat-four turbo
  • Power: 296bhp
  • Torque: 407Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 159mph
  • MPG : 27.2mpg (combined)
  • CO2: 242g/km
  • On sale: May 1st 2014
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