2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Review

Exceptional road manners from weekend time attacker

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Review

I drove the Subaru WRX STI on several occasions this summer as well as some of the competition. My initial afternoon drive took place in late June – a local ride and drive event on some excellent twisty roads I was well acquainted with. A couple weeks later, I had an obsidian black pearl 2008 press vehicle for a week, followed in early October by a track day at the Mosport International Raceway in some 2009 models.

This year is the 20th anniversary for STI, which for the uninitiated is short for Subaru Technica International Inc., the motorsports division of Subaru. Having been involved with British rally specialist Prodrive and the Subaru World Rally Team since the late 1980s, STI is also responsible for transforming normal WRXs into ultra high-performance machines.

Currently presiding over the Impreza lineup, the STI is unquestionably the best-performing Subaru. It’s been this way since the first production models came to market in small numbers back in 1994. Originally, STIs were only available in Japan. Australia and New Zealand were added in 1999 with Europe following in 2001. North Americans finally got into the party in mid 2003 when the 2004 WRX STI arrived to the glee of enthusiastic tuners and rally teams big and small.


1. 305 hp and 290 ft-lbs of torque from a turbocharged 2.5L flat-four.

2. Better daily driver than the Mitsubishi Evo with softer clutch, smoother shifts and useable hatch.

3. Only available with a six-speed manual.


U.S. versions of the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI come with a potent turbocharged and intercooled 2.5L flat-four with a dual-active valve control system that helps chew up 305 hp and 290 ft-lbs of torque for a six-speed manual transmission and full-time AWD to spit out.

Supported by a host of multi-mode technologies like Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), a driver-controlled center differential (DCCD), vehicle dynamics control (VDC), traction control and huge vented Brembo brakes with ABS (sized 12.8-/12.4-inches in the front and rear respectively), the vehicle can be driven as sedately or aggressively as the driver wants, or dares.


Accessible by a control knob near the shifter, SI-Drive lets drivers choose Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp settings that change the attitude and behavior of the vehicle by remapping throttle input sensors. The Intelligent setting offers the most fuel-efficient operation (10 per cent better than sport) while sport mode has the most linear powerband of the three modes. Sport Sharp mode is meant for more visceral driving experiences, probably best left for track outings. While Sport and Sport Sharp are clearly more potent, with 305 hp passing or merging with traffic is easy no matter what setting you’re in.

The STI also comes standard with three limited-slip differentials (LSD) starting with a Helical type in the front, Torsen in the rear, plus the aforementioned DCCD in between. These allow drivers even more choice in settings to suit their driving style and/or road conditions. Auto mode automatically senses wheel slippage and speeds, yaw rates to select the best torque distribution ratio. “Auto +” gives a front bias 50/50 setup whereas “Auto –“ gives a 41/59 rear bias. There’s also a manual mode permitting the driver to fine tune the torque distribution anywhere between 41/59 and 50/50.

This is combined with the multi-mode VDC system, which offers three levels of stability control, traction control and ABS performance. The choices are: on, almost off and off (actually Subaru calls the latter mode “traction” mode, the caveat being that it “minimizes the intrusiveness of VDC” but doesn’t actually turn it 100 per cent off).


Most people will be plenty happy with the STI’s default settings – for both street and track use. The fact that ride quality can be customized to the degree it can without installing any additional parts is a big plus for the enthusiast crowd this model caters to. Depending on road conditions, any front end push can be tuned out via the electronics and there’s no torque steer, zero turbo lag and, unless you’re going way too fast into a corner, the STI will firmly plant itself in even the tightest of turns (Moss Corner, or turn five at Mosport, for instance).

The STIs road manners are exceptional and it is quiet and comfortable to drive at any speed. I threw everything I could at it on the 10-turn Mosport ALMS track and it still wanted more. Even braking hard from over 130 mph on the back straight could not shake it. Nor could blasting through the esses and onto the front straight in third. Now, this is supposed to be a hard track to drive, but the STI made it feel easy.


The STI’s direct competition is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10, which I also drove in GSR and MR trims. Both have the same 2.0L turbo four cylinder that develops 290 hp and 300 ft-lbs of torque. The GSR puts it through its close-ratio five-speed manual while the latter one uses a paddle-shifting six-speed twin clutch automatic transmission (TC-SST) that pre-selects the next gear in advance.

The U.S. EPA rates fuel economy for the 2008 STI at 17/23 mpg (city/highway) with the Evo’s numbers not being far off. Besides burning high-test, both STI and Evo have intelligent AWD systems, similar weights, footprints and target markets. Not only that, they also feature 18-inch BBS wheels, Brembo brakes and traction control. But there is one key detail that elevates the STI above the Evo in my humble opinion – the six-speed manual transmission. Though it’s the only offering on the Subaru, it’s smoother, more refined and more practical than either Mitsu one. Although, I do prefer the stiffer, racier clutch on the GSR.

Inside, the Alcantara-covered, leather-bolstered STI buckets are sized for medium to large occupants. The more sculpted Recaros in the GSR could be a bit cramped for people this size. The interiors of both cars are plain and plasticy, however, I found the STI more comfortable and ergonomic overall. Both offer seating for five, but the Evo just can’t match all the cargo space this turbo hatch boasts when the 60/40 rear seats are folded down.

This STI is 22 lbs heavier than the previous four-door sedan model and roughly 175 lbs lighter than the Evo 10.


Abundance of adjustable driving setting Plenty of cargo space Six-speed manual


Soft clutch Traction control can’t be completely turned off Unimpressive (but not unexpected) fuel economy


The 2008 WRX STI is an easy choice for Subaru fans. For a hot hatch that gets you to work on time every day and can double as a formidable weekend time attacker it’s not too shabby either. Cars that fill this dual role well are very rare, but the STI is definitely one of them.

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked