2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Review – First Drive

Improved handling, cheaper price and a big wing: the Subaru WRX STI Sedan is back

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Review – First Drive

Since its arrival on these shores back in 2003, the Impreza STI has carved out a reputation as one of the most fun to drive road rockets of the modern age. The combination of a well-tuned chassis, gutsy 2.5-liter turbocharged Boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive, along with four-doors, prove that you can have a performance car for all seasons and all circumstances.


1. Upgrades for 2011 include new springs with a lowered ride height, thicker sway bars, new pillow-ball bushings in front and stiffer bushings for the rear subframe as well as lighter 18-inch wheels.

2. The engine remains unchanged, making 305-hp for a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds.

3. Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) features three modes Auto, Auto – and Auto +. The two latter settings hold the torque bias for improved handling and tighten the LSD to improve traction on slippery surfaces respectively.

4. The 2011 STI hatchback is priced from $35,995 while the sedan retails for just $33,995.


However, when the current car was launched in five-door hatchback form only for 2008, it polarized opinion, especially among Subaru enthusiasts. The STI had always been a sedan, yet here was something that looked like a Japanese Ford Focus RS. Yes, the new car with it’s lusty 305 horsepower motor, stiffer structure and improved suspension, was better built, easier to drive and faster, but there was still something missing – a proper four door and one with a monster wing on the decklid.

Well Impreza diehards, for 2011, Subaru has relented; reintroducing said bodystyle for the STI and one that quite appropriately has that monster wing mounted on the rear. Not only does it look aggressive, it’s functional and is designed to generate greater downforce and more stable handling at high speed. It also gives the four-door a higher top speed than its hatchback counterpart (160 versus 155 mph).

Combined with the bulging fenders (the rears are noticeably more pronounced on the sedan) plus an aggressive (and functional) front air dam, the result harkens back to the golden age of Japanese performance cars and is very much a boy-racer look. Besides the reintroduction of the four-door body style, all 2011 STIs get a new front grille, squared up lower fascia and the sedan gets larger, specific 3-inch quad exhaust tips.

Filling the flared fenders, are slightly wider tires than last year – meaty 245/40/18 Dunlop SP600 Sports, mounted on Enkei alloys that weigh 18 lbs less than those installed on the 2010 model, allowing for improved grip and less rolling resistance.


But tires and wheels are only part of the equation. They’re combined with an updated suspension, pirated from the Japanese Domestic Market Spec C model, which includes higher rate springs, bigger front and rear sway bars, plus the use of pillow ball bushings in the lower control arms to reduce deflection in cornering and a slightly lower ride height.

Although the driveline remains essentially unchanged – the 2011 STI is powered by the same 305 horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four; delivering the same meaty 290 ft-lbs of torque at 4000 rpm – the suspension and tire upgrades result in a car that feels even quicker than before, especially through the corners. Aided by the symmetrical all-wheel drive system and three differentials – helical limited slip front; Torsen rear and Driver Controlled Center Diff (which still allows the torque split to be adjusted manually from 50/50 to 30/70 front/rear), the 2011 STI is tremendous fun and grip seems almost never ending.


Throw the car into a turn, plant the throttle and the diffs do the rest – those used to RWD performance will be tempted to lift off, but the STI just digs in, powering through one corner and onto the next. Poise is excellent and the car feels stiff and remarkably solid – nicely weighed steering and a slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox are simply icing on the cake. Yet for all its cornering prowess, the 2011 STI doesn’t punish you during the daily commute, with the shocks and Spec C springs cushion serious road imperfections quite nicely. This truly is a serious performance car you can drive every day, no matter the distance or how bad the weather gets.

Whether driving on the street or thrashing around the track, power and torque delivery are smoothly satisfying. The turbo spools up quickly and the dense air charge from that monster intercooler mean that no matter which gear you’re in, plant the throttle and the STI takes off like a scalded cat. The car will scoot to 60 mph in under five seconds (4.9 according to the factory stats) and run through the quarter mile in under 13.5 with a good driver at the helm. Thanks to the car’s tremendous grip it will generate close to 1.00 lateral g on the skid pad and under braking, thanks to the monster 13-inch (326 mm) front discs and Brembo calipers, stop this thing on a dime, with minimal squat and progressive feel.


At almost any price, the STI’s performance ranks as good value – for under $36,000 it’s an absolute bargain. That’s right, the 2011 STI starts at $33,995 for the new four-door sedan variant, $35,995 for the five-door hatch. Even the top line four-door Limited with standard leather seats and a sunroof, starts at under 38 large ($37,345 to be precise).

There is, however, a catch – fuel economy. Turbocharged Imprezas have never been known for thrift at the pump and the 2011 model remains much the same. In city driving you’ll be lucky to get more than 17 miles per gallon and the open road, 22 is about the best you’ll hope for (worse than some V8s we can think of). But then again, fuel economy isn’t why you buy a car like this.

Inside, the 2011 STI proves that Subaru has come along way in terms of fit and finish. The cabin might seem a touch basic on the standard car (our tester wasn’t fitted with the optional $1,800 satellite navigation/Pioneer AVIC system with centrally mounted multi-function display), but it’s ergonomically sound, pleasant and functional. Compared with earlier Imprezas (those built through 2007) it also feels a lot better put together with sturdy controls and durable surfaces, something that contrasts strongly with Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution X; a car that’s cabin still manages to feel hollow and tinny. The STI’s Alcantara seats are also quite supportive – not as aggressive as those in the Mitsu (which feel almost like pure racing buckets), but decently bolstered, keeping you firmly planted during enthusiast driving, without taking a toll on your back.


In today’s more somber automotive environment, there are fewer real choices out there when it comes to true performance cars, but considering its performance and entry price, the 2011 Subaru Impreza STI stands out as one of the best bang for the buck buys on the market. It’s still a slayer of far more expensive sports cars and thanks to some carefully engineered upgrades for the 2011 model year, it proves that there’s still a lot to be said about owning an automobile that delivers world-beating performance without breaking the bank.


2010 Subaru WRX STI Special Edition SE Review 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Review 2009 Nissan 370z Coupe 2011 Mazdaspeed3 Review 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2010 Audi S4 First Drive 2009 Infiniti G37x Sedan

« 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