2015 Subaru WRX STI Review

Subaru Improves the STI in all the Right Places

2015 Subaru WRX STI Review

Subaru fans are a particular bunch. As a previous owner of an SVX and a WRX, I should know. Rabidly devoted to our all-wheel drive rockets, every owner is convinced their particular year/model/trim/color is the best WRX or STI every produced.

FAST FACTS

Engine: Power comes from a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 305 hp and 290 lb-ft. Transmission: The only transmission available is a six-speed manual. Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. Pricing: The base Subaru WRX STI will start at $35,290 after destination charges while a fully loaded WRX STI Limited comes in at $39,290.

This should be a good thing for a company like Subaru, but it’s a double edge sword. Every time a new generation of the brand’s halo sports car is introduced, the fervid following are certain to hate it.

It happened when the 2002 “Bug-eyed” WRX finally arrived in North America, it happened with the new 2008 model and it is happening again now. Initially written-off as the death of the WRX/STI, these older models have since gained a following that would make David Koresh jealous.

But the new one is different right? It has carry-over drivetrains, boring EVO-wannabe styling and no Subaru soul. This one surely is where the STI goes off the rails, correct? No, not even close. Forget everything you think you know about the 2015 STI – this is by far the best version we have ever been offered in North America.

STI Transformation

 

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The 2015 redesign focused on three key areas: steering response, maximizing rear tire grip and enabling a flat ride. Subaru’s engineers worked hard to minimize the delay from a driver’s steering input to moment that the car actually begins to make a turn. The STI retains hydraulic power steering while the new WRX has gone to an electrically assisted set-up. The steering ratio has been shrunk to 13.0 for the STI, which is faster than the old model and the new 2015 WRX. Besides being quicker, the steering is now heavier and more precise. The STI now has something it was been missing forever: steering feel. In fact, it is nearly as good as the rear-wheel drive BRZ.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Subaru WRX Review

2015 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 06But steering feel would be nothing without a chassis to match it. Aside from a much stiffer overall body structure, the new STI has 22 percent stiffer springs up front, six percent stiffer springs in the rear and should produce 16 percent less body roll. The big news though has to do with the back of the STI. Subaru spent a lot of time working on the rear suspension to make it the key pivot point of the vehicle. The goal is to enable the steering to move the front end of the car back and forth quickly while the rear tires remain anchored. This may sound abstract but it pays off on the racetrack. Whereas the 2014 STI would roll into corners fighting for traction when changing directions, the new STI just turns in and grips – simple as that. Is it perfect? No, but it’s what should be expected from a sports car with the pedigree of the STI in the year 2014. More importantly, it’s leaps and bounds better than the outgoing model. This newfound neutral handling STI is welcome.

Despite all this added stiffness, the ride quality doesn’t feel much harsher on the road than the new WRX or old STI. Even with grippy 245/40R18 tires and stronger brakes, the STI remains a livable daily driver like the old model.

Now More Livable

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Actually, the new car may be more livable. Being based on the pedestrian Impreza, the new STI maintains the same 35.4-inches of rear legroom that allows a six-foot passenger sit behind a six-foot driver. Entry and exit for both front and rear passengers has been made easier thanks to larger door openings and to top it all off, the STI has a useable 12 cubic foot trunk.

2015 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 18The interior of the 2015 STI has improved, but that’s not saying much as the 2014 model was as luxurious as a double-wide trailer. Most of the new model enhancements come from fact the STI is based on the Impreza, that itself received a major overhaul in 2012. Modern switches, soft touch materials on the dashboard and doors as well as color displays screens finally bring the car into the 2010s. There are even some premium options like a Harman/Kardon stereo system.

There are a few items unique to the WRX and STI over the regular Impreza like a digital boost gauge, optional digital speedometer, a flat bottom steering wheel and adjustable sport mode settings. The rear wing of non-base STIs is actually larger now and no longer blocks any rearward visibility since it is set higher.

Still Not Great Inside

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However, the interior still suffers from low quality components and materials. The stereo system is not integrated into the dashboard and base units still use the woeful older-than-dirt Subaru radio. The roof liner looks and feels like the fabric covered cardboard material used in trunks to cover spare tire wells. And I’m pretty sure the heated seat buttons are the same ones Subaru has been using for more than a decade. As mentioned, most materials and switch gear have been lifted from the Impreza and XV Crosstrek. Although it may be fine in those applications, in a $35,000 car, it leaves a bit to be desired.

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Has an STI has ever been about the interior though? It is all about the drive. Complementing the exceptional chassis design is an equally impressive drivetrain. Under hood is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 305 hp and 290 lb-ft. Essentially a carryover unit, Subaru has made a few tweaks to the engine. Boosted to 14.7 psi, the engine has a flatter torque curve compared to 2014 models and throttle response has been improved significantly. These may be only minor changes, but the real world payoff is exponential. Power delivery is so much more immediate and smooth. The transmission has also been mildly modified but does not feel much different than the old six-speed manual. Power is still set-up at a spilt of 41/59 front to rear by default, but can be manually adjusted with the driver-controlled center differential.

More Subaru Rumble Goodness

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As is the trend these days, the car features a sound creator that is essentially a tube feeding engine noise into the cabin via the intake. Subaru has also tweaked the exhaust system and claims that it is louder and tuned for better acoustics. Good news since the carry-over engine still features unequally long headers that produce the quintessential Subaru rumble. The 2015 WRX with the new 2.0-liter direct injection four-cylinder has its turbocharger located differently, eliminating the need for unequal length headers and thus, eliminating the “Boxer Rumble.”

A base STI will start at $35,290 after destination charges while a fully loaded WRX STI Limited will come in at $39,290 (for our Canadian readers, expect to pay $39,645 after delivery for a base STI).

The Verdict

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Always an easier car to live with day-in and day-out, the STI has finally matched its arch rival, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in terms of performance and driver engagement. The fact it has accomplished that while improving everyday livability is a testament to the hard work of the Subaru engineers. Rumor has it the successful execution of the BRZ spurred an inter-company rivalry between that engineering team and the crew assigned to the WRX/STI. As the old saying goes, competition is good. In this case it led to the best STI to ever be sold on our shores.

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