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RE: Subaru WRX STI Final Edition: Driven

RE: Subaru WRX STI Final Edition: Driven

Saturday 3rd February

Subaru WRX STI Final Edition: Driven

Come in, STI, your time is up - PH takes one last drive in the legendary Subaru



So this is it - we're done. It came, it went away, it came back again and now, if Subaru is to be believed, the WRX STI will never again return to the UK in this format. Once the 150 Final Editions are gone, that's the fast Subaru saloon story closed in this country. Well, unless there's an Encore Edition too, but that raises unfortunate connotations with crummy Escorts, so probably not.

The passing of the Subaru Impreza Turbo - even if it's no longer known as that - is a significant milestone for the performance car, and not a good one. It's difficult to overestimate the impact of Subaru's winged wonder both at its launch and also for the lasting effect on a generation - perhaps two generations - of car enthusiasts. It's as important to boys and girls of a certain age as the first hot hatches and the 60s British sports cars, and for very good reason.

A quarter of a century ago, the Impreza Turbo redefined affordable performance. As hot hatches approached their humiliating nadir - see Golf GTI Mk3, launched in 1992 - the Subaru arrived offering four-door practicality and more than 200hp, plus the security and performance advantages of 4WD, for £20k. It simply hadn't been done before, in much the same way as the front-wheel drive hot hatch thing didn't really exist before the Golf GTI - the Impreza created its genre, an achievement very few cars can legitimately claim. It's a genre, ironically enough, that's now dominated by the Golf R, but we'll return to that point.


The Impreza's rise during the 90s was astronomic, with the WRC success, modifying culture and Gran Turismo exposure snowballing into recognition of it as perhaps the definitive affordable performance car. It was such a perfect fit for the time, like The Prodigy on four wheels: innovative, bold, perhaps a bit offensive to some. New rivals emerged, the Impreza evolved and the 20th century became the 21st, but that formidable combination of speed, value and dynamism remained compellingly attractive.

A new Impreza v. Evo twin test seemed to appear every month, with tiny tweaks that aimed to give any advantage - however small - to one side. Loyalties were as fierce as City v. United and England v. Australia - you picked your side and backed it throughout, be that in the magazine comparison, the Gran Turismo duel or a real-life purchase. It was tribal.

That the Subaru Impreza is now leaving us really does mark the end of an era, a time of 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday', of video games introducing us to entirely new cars and of Japan's proper arrival in Europe's fast car market. That's all done now, and the Impreza was a huge part of it; the STI's departure from the UK is arguably more notable than the Evo's exit a few years back, too, thanks to those early years when the Evo was import-only and, being blunt, because Brits won in Subarus and not Mitsubishis.


So what has been done with the car to mark this momentous occasion? Very little, in fact, which can be taken two ways: the first is to bemoan the lack of a true valedictory special, with 400hp and RS3-humbling performance; the second is to take this Final Edition as a representative reminder of what will disappear, with all the good and the bad that that entails.

300hp, 300lb ft and about £30k have been familiar Subaru flagship numbers for a while now, and while its rivals have since caught up with what once seemed like an outlandish output, there remains nothing like a WRX STI powertrain. Indeed there's nothing quite like the whole WRX STI driving experience, which makes its departure more galling.

There is turbo lag, sure, but then there's also that brilliant rush of acceleration when the boost comes at about 3,500rpm. There's a reward for being in the right gear - easily done with short ratios and a precise shift - that's unfamiliar to anyone used to extremely linear turbocharged cars. Sometimes that's annoying, but then nobody ever complains about lag in cars they like, do they? With that noise, the super sharp throttle response and high rev energy, the Subaru's engine is a memorable one. And again, how many memorable performance car engines are available now?


There's no getting away from the fact that Subaru rides pretty toughly at everyday speeds. The springing is fierce and the damping matches it; with frantic steering on top it can feel a little restless, truth be told. The pay off, of course, is that on the kind of road you see here the STI still feels fantastic: it can deal with whatever the roads throws at it, never flustered or losing an ounce of its composure. Relax your inputs and the steering makes more sense, too. Unlike so many new cars the Subaru needs learning to get the best from, ergo the experience is more rewarding and more satisfying.

That extends to the four-wheel drive system as well. In all honesty it would be pushing it to say that the effects of the electronic centre-diff can really be appreciated on the road; the Final Edition feels much as it always has against contemporary fast hatches, in that it relies on the driver as much as anything else to access its best side. Power too early and you'll likely get scrappy understeer; too late and there won't be any boost. Sometimes there will be a bit of fight over bumpy surfaces from the front wheels, sometimes a tad more oversteer than you expect. On the odd occasion, however, your braking will be spot on to keep the nose locked onto the apex, your throttle input will anticipate the boost perfectly and the lock is just enough to be straightened out on the power. It doesn't happen all the time, but it's fantastic when it does. Once more, it's an experience that isn't found anywhere else - more's the pity.

So while 300hp doesn't sound like a lot in 2018, there's an argument to say that it just sort of suits in a car of the Subaru's size, with this gearing, of this weight and with this much grip. In the same way that Caterham maintains about 160hp is a Seven sweet spot, and everybody agrees that the E39 is probably the best M5, there are certain mechanical combinations that just sort of work. A day in the Peaks with the Impreza will convince you that it's among them.


There's more, too. The centre-of-gravity benefits of a boxer engine may be up for debate, but having such a low bonnet - and with the A-pillars repositioned in the 2014 facelift - means forward visibility is great. The car can be placed with confidence that a Focus RS driver could only dream of. Moreover the Subaru is a nice size, and slender too; by the stats it's narrower than a regular A3 saloon, leave alone an RS3, meaning B-roads can be attacked rather than just overcome. The brakes are strong, every pedal has a faithful response and the seats clasp you well, even if they don't look like they ought to. The WRX STI might be inescapably Japanese - the language is on the filler cap, after all - but it feels as home here in rural Derbyshire as the four-legged cardigans that wander around the hills. The Impreza's suitability for a British country road, at any time and in any weather, has always been integral to its appeal, and is as enjoyable now as it's ever been.

The game has moved on though, without doubt. In the same way we thought we could live without broadband, catch-up TV and Five Guys, rivals to the Subaru have introduced features we didn't know we really wanted until they arrived. The Golf R's formidable array of talents is impossible to ignore, as is the staggering progress made by front-wheel drive since even the first 300hp Imprezas arrived. People no longer have to put with an average interior for sub-six to 60, nor mid-20s MPG for 160mph. While there's an argument to say some rivals struggle for personality against the STI, nobody can deny their abundance of talents. And while we all like to buy cars based on character and charm, the real-world implications of all-round ability can't be ignored.

Perhaps the largest problem faced by the STI in its current format is simply that the genre peaked, both in terms of buyer popularity and product desirability, a very long time ago. Even as an advocate of the current car, there's no escaping the fact that a 22B is a wilder, naughtier, feistier Impreza. The same could be said for the P1 too, as well as various JDM imports - the STI comes to the end not in the form of its life and not with the last version being the very best, which leaves an inevitable dent in its reputation.


Nevertheless, that the Final Edition can still offer up proper entertainment (in the right scenario, granted) is a testament to just how right the basic Impreza formula remains. It's a reminder of what's been gained in the past few years but also what we stand to lose as cars become yet more homogenous, refined, user friendly and capable. With that engine, that look and that four-wheel drive system, the WRX STI is a totally unmistakeable and unique motoring entity. As those qualities continue to ebb away in modern cars, they deserve to be celebrated all the more strongly here. Farewell properly then Subaru, and thanks for the memories - it's been brilliant fun.


SPECIFICATION - SUBARU WRX STI FINAL EDITION

Engine: 2,457cc flat-4 turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 300@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 300@4,200rpm
0-62mph: 5.2 sec
Top speed: 158mph
Weight: 1,534kg
MPG: 25.9mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 252g/km
Price: £33,995

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

BeillyNoy

Original Poster:

341 posts

162 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
These cars will always have a place in the heart of Petrolheads of a certain age.

Twice I’ve come close to ordering one:
First time around I fell for the cliche and bought another Golf R instead - for its everyday usability. It’s an amazingly capable car, and my wife remains impressed with her R, but after a year I yearned for more fizz so sought out one of the Subaru Final Editions (I even bought the perfect Subaru number plate for it: SL18ARU). Alas all of the cars are apparently sold.

Perhaps, if Subaru’s Viziv lives up to the concept’s looks, there’s still hope for us to enjoy a fast Scooby in the future. I for one I’ll be watching with interest.

Until then a Civic Type R should be fizzy enough... :-)

N.

Edited by BeillyNoy on Saturday 3rd February 09:09

rossub

1,363 posts

116 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
The elephant in the room is that 2.5 engine that they’ve persisted with since 2007, despite all the head gasket and ringland failures. That’s what killed it for the enthusiasts - it’s just that the unsuspecting, non anorak public still bought them over the years unawares, but in ever decreasing numbers.

I have a ‘93 and an ‘06 Impreza (both imports) but I wouldn’t touch a UK one post ‘07 with a barge pole I’m afraid.

LasseV

965 posts

59 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
rossub said:
The elephant in the room is that 2.5 engine that they’ve persisted with since 2007, despite all the head gasket and ringland failures. That’s what killed it for the enthusiasts - it’s just that the unsuspecting, non anorak public still bought them over the years unawares, but in ever decreasing numbers.

I have a ‘93 and an ‘06 Impreza (both imports) but I wouldn’t touch a UK one post ‘07 with a barge pole I’m afraid.
What's wrong in 2.5 engine? Genuine question.

About that COG and boxer engine. Yeah, it is true that you can have performance gains from it. Heavily modded GT86 with FA20 engine did beat Tsukuba lap record:
http://www.speedhunters.com/2018/01/the-hks-tsukub...

There is a lot of of competition in time attack class in Japan.

Birky_41

1,916 posts

110 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
I had two back in the early 2000's

First being an EJ25 after blowing the EJ20 lump. They were great cars in their day that needed a bit of money spent to get them handling right

I remember at the time having a Impreza at 21 odd making 350 brake and 350 ft lb was just unreal. You look at the latest crop of German hatches now and things have really moved on

SturdyHSV

5,851 posts

93 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
That 22B just looks so right.
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Cambs_Stuart

157 posts

10 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
I feel suprisingly emotional about this. I came to the impreza fairly late after one too many fast ford let me down.
They are great. Noisy, hard and with a interior that is basic in the extreme but huge character and just great to drive. No car I've ever owned made me smile as much as my impreza. Increasing size of children has made me trade up to a legacy, but I'd have another wrx or sti in a heartbeat.

givablondabone

2,303 posts

81 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
If subaru coud have just made the engine more efficient I believe its popularity would have lasted much longer. If an sti gave similar co2 and mpg to a golf r it would be the scooby every day for me.

In theory that is as I can't afford either!

GravelBen

13,025 posts

156 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
SturdyHSV said:
That 22B just looks so right.
You'd probably pay a fair bit more for a 22b than the new one now too.

andymac

82 posts

209 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
Nice article in a way one of the last analogue performance cars in a world full of digital .
Still sales in US continue well and reliability of the 2.5 engine no issues
Will be missed a lot

GravelBen

13,025 posts

156 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
givablondabone said:
If subaru coud have just made the engine more efficient I believe its popularity would have lasted much longer. If an sti gave similar co2 and mpg to a golf r it would be the scooby every day for me.
To be fair owners real world fuel economy reports are often much closer between the STi and Golf R than the official figures, Subaru just don't put the investment into gaming (some would say cheating) the test cycles the way VW do.

BeillyNoy

Original Poster:

341 posts

162 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
GravelBen said:
To be fair owners real world fuel economy reports are often much closer between the STi and Golf R than the official figures, Subaru just don't put the investment into gaming (some would say cheating) the test cycles the way VW do.
Yep. 26mpg in my Golf R over the past year.

MB140

798 posts

29 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
Isn’t there a new Impreza coming out 2019/2020 time all be it hybrid. I swear I read an article about it. Looked pretty wild (latest civic type r look about it), never owned a Subaru shame really. I might have to change that one day.

garythesnail

45 posts

94 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
BeillyNoy said:
Yep. 26mpg in my Golf R over the past year.
That's what my 2012 sti saloon will do consistently tankfull after tankfull.

It will do more in a run, but a lot less if in a hurry.

Didn't realise the Golf's real world mpg was at that level. Are AMG A45's the same?

BeillyNoy

Original Poster:

341 posts

162 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
garythesnail said:
That's what my 2012 sti saloon will do consistently tankfull after tankfull.

It will do more in a run, but a lot less if in a hurry.

Didn't realise the Golf's real world mpg was at that level. Are AMG A45's the same?
I’m sure there are many golfs getting a better mpg than that so mine might not be representative. But over 14000 miles of mainly motorway commuting (albeit with a fair chunk of 40mph Forth Road Bridge roadworks) that’s what I’ve seen.

blearyeyedboy

4,350 posts

105 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
An Impreza STi brings joy to the heart.
But it does so in the same way that stream trains do to enthusiasts; time moved on and sadly, Subaru didn't.

I would dearly love Subaru to go back to the drawing board and come back with something commercially successful in a market driven by monthly lease prices and CO2 outputs.

There is a saying that if Union Railways realised that they were in the transport business, and not the railway business that they thought they were in, we'd now have Union Airlines. Subaru need to move on, and- much though I mourn the passing of the Impreza roaring through the Welsh valleys I grew up with- we enthusiasts need to move on too.

I reckon I might find a Mark 1 to put away and cared for before values rise to the level of MK2 Escorts today...

aaron_2000

1,048 posts

9 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
Just as the old 2000 Turbo was a better car in everyway than anything else for the money, the Golf R is a much better choice these days for the same kind of people, and actually probably the same buyers that were buying Imprezas in the late 90's are probably buying Golf R's and S3's now. Times move on, the car used to have the rally car for the road thing going for it, which really just doesn't apply anymore. They never moved on with the times, whereas everyone else did.

jwwbowe

66 posts

98 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
Great cars, shame to see them going, but it's an inevitable symptom of our love for clinical soulless things from Germany. Sat on the drive "premium" badges from Wolfsburg, Ingolstadt, Stuttgart and Munich in a imaginative shade of silver, white, grey or black, make us look intellectual and sophisticated to our neighbors. vomit When did the UK roads get so boring? It's unfortunate that the image association of early years max power magazine s**tboxes covered in plastic body kits and big exhausts has gone a long way to making a Subaru with a big wing and a exhaust burble socially unacceptable or chavy to some. Hopefully we'll see the return of Subaru STI, perhaps in a different form, but change could be a good thing, we have to embrace it and Subaru have got all of the know how to make a great car so fingers crossed we see a return to the UK shores.

Edited by jwwbowe on Saturday 3rd February 18:07

Gecko1978

1,724 posts

83 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
2007 I was 28 bought a new 2.5 wrx in black, big spoiler loved it had a new exhaust an a remap done in the first year made it drive much better. Kept it for 7 years an 22k fun miles including trips to europe an the ring.

downsides were tax an fuel costs. I wish I had never sold it an its always bothered me the versions that followed did not move things along. 400bhp an better emissions should have been possible an an interior that looked fresh possibly in 1995 in 2007 just did not cut it.

Shame but you must evolve or die

Zed Ed

828 posts

109 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
Still very tasty 2.0 offerings in Japan, STI S208 for example.

Is SVA still a viable route?

Gav147

804 posts

87 months

Saturday 3rd February
quotequote all
That 22B cloud9