Many will remember the halcyon days of rallying when Colin McRae monstered the World Rally Championship in the forerunner of the Scooby featured here. Then, for a while and unaccountably, the Subaru WRX STi went all hatchback-y and the purists grumbled. It was just wrong. Then it disappeared completely! Then, a couple of years or so ago, Subaru brought it back to the UK! Hurrah!
Thankfully it is now back to normal with a proper boot and a proper big wing and proper gold wheels, optionally. I tested it then and found it satisfyingly good, and now I’ve got it back again to see if my enthusiasm for this anachronistic motor has waned or if still delivers those half-remembered driving delights.
A few weeks ago I drove again the great Subaru BRZ. Not so much a road test as a remembrance of times past (read it here). Similarly, the big brother has also been driven by every motoring scribe in the world so let’s look instead as to how it stacks up in the modern world.
Passengers Appeal For Calm
It’s the wing you see; it alters peoples’ perceptions. One passenger said she felt like a hooligan just being in it, which was a bit harsh. Hooligans drive old Peugeot 208’s or knackered Citroen Saxo’s I insisted. This, Madam, is a pure driver’s car, I averred. The subsequent insult was, frankly, too childish to repeat. Nevertheless it has to be said that many of those transported demanded a less rowdy, slower environment.
The Subaru WRX STi is in fact quiet enough when cruising and only really starts shouting when the wick is turned up. Thus rear seat passengers found themselves perfectly comfortable in the back at normal road speeds (and on good roads!) and there was room enough for two adults and a booster-seat child, about the same as a Golf. Up front the sports seats grip and hold you close.
The dashboard is, I might say, typically Subaru. The same layout now more or less extends across the whole range and the dash possibly explains why I like this brand so much. It is clean and functional. There’s no poncing about with fripperies and unnecessary tinsel yet all the expected features are there. Some might perhaps demand rather more automotive chic and less hard plastic in the 21st Century but this is not a ‘lifestyle’ car; it’s more Rawhide than Little House On The Prairie.
Rowdy Is As Rowdy Does
Subaru does its own thing and it is no different with this beast. What the rest of the global car industry is doing seems to be of little relevance. This model is the same as the car from the good old rally days only better. What has improved is the stiffness of the chassis and body and you can fiddle with the diff if you choose to, although most won’t.
The Subaru WRX STi really delivers on handling even if it is now far from being the fastest thing on the road. To get the most out of it the dial needs to be consistently reading over 3000rpm. Below that and it’s all a bit flat. This car can be an engrossing drive but you have to work at it.What a joy it is to drive a car with some steering weight. Firmly guiding the wheel the WRX reacts instantly to steering inputs and goes exactly where you want it to, flat and hard and balanced thanks to revised suspension and the low-slung weight of the 2.5L 300bhp four-pot Boxer turbo engine plus 4WD. There is no doubting the uncompromising hardness of the ride and this does after a while become tiring. No favours and no prisoners.
Not so good is the high level of CO² emissions. 242g/km is a bit too Victorian workhouse for most people these days. As you might expect, fuel consumption isn’t great but amazingly, at a registered 28.2mpg, this test car achieved one mpg over the standard in mixed driving. Certainly it is within the power of Subaru to effect some light engineering and get that emissions figure down, but it does beg the question, ‘Would it still be a Scooby’?Boom!
Is it a car you would use every day? Probably not. It is simply too hardcore. Not so bad in ‘Intelligent’ mode – best for busy traffic and rotten surfaces – but the set-up gets firmer and more sensitive on the throttle in ‘Sport’ mode. I would save ‘Sport+’ mode for the track if you value your spine. At around £28k the WRX is well priced.
When the mood takes you though – despite the Subaru WRX STi’s determinedly old-fashioned and very mechanical appeal – to go out and monster some tarmac or gravel, this car is still hard to beat for driver thrills. None of your fancy-pants flappy paddles here. This car spurns automation.
Above all, it is a car for opportunities, not risks. Remember, skilled, safe driving is all: but when that safe, seductive siren waves at you in a comely way, then shift down a couple of cogs, plant the foot and – boom! – get the job done. I love a Subaru. Geoff Maxted