2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI First Drive
Don't overthink this update to the 2011 Subaru WRX STI. It's simple, basic and necessary. It's a subtle change, and now that we've driven it, a welcome one.
But don't mistake subtle for frivolous.
As we discovered charging up the 12,095-foot Independence Pass, just outside Aspen, Colorado, the suspension tweaks Subaru made to the new STI manifest themselves most apparently in the action of the steering wheel. What was once a collection of small inputs is now a single, steady and deliberate pointing of the wheel. Constant-radius turns once filled with corrections to keep the car on line are now a single input carried through corner exit. And that kind of improvement can't be called frivolous.
The tuning is subtle, but in the right conditions it changes the STI dramatically. Kind of like the fact that you can now have an STI sedan as well as a five-door hatchback.
From a powertrain perspective, nothing about the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI has really changed. The same turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter flat-4 cranks out 305 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 290 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.
Power flows through the same six-speed manual transmission and the same front, center and rear limited-slip differentials. Subaru's Driver Controlled Center Differential is still present, while SI-drive lets you change throttle mapping. Even the tires are the same: 245/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 600s at all four corners. There's also no change to the brakes, including the 13-inch front discs with four-piston fixed calipers.
Instead, the Subaru engineers have put all their effort into refining the WRX STI's chassis. This means new spring and damping rates, a ride height that's 5mm lower and stiffer antiroll bars, not to mention structural braces and improved rigidity not present in the standard WRX.
Front and rear spring rates are increased 16 percent and 53 percent, respectively. The antiroll bars are the same as those used for the 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Special Edition: 21mm front and 19mm rear, each 1mm larger than in the 2010 WRX STI. Meanwhile the 2011 WRX STI's rear subframe bushings have been stiffened to reduce deflection-induced camber changes in the wheel alignment. The lower control arms of the front suspension also utilize a rubber-isolated heim joint to improve toe control under high cornering loads.
Read More/Pics: insideline.com/subaru/impreza-wrx-sti/2011/2011-subaru-impreza-wrx-sti-first-drive.
By most accounts, something went awry while Subaru was baking the last generation Impreza WRX STI. Maybe someone slipped in an extra cup of civility or forgot to add enough dashes of hardcore, but what was once little more than a thinly-disguised rally stage escapee had come out of the oven a little weaker than its predecessor. Subaru itself diplomatically admits that the priorities for the last generation STI were somewhat different from the 2011 model. The company stripped the line down to just the five-door hatchback in 2008, stressing functionality over style, and the whole recipe simply felt less focused than what we had come to expect from Japan's all-wheel drive hero.
But that was then, and this is now. The company assures us that for 2011, we can expect a return to the fundamentals that helped establish the STI as a force to be reckoned with. Though the drivetrain remains unchanged, a slew of suspension adjustments and a lower stance have given the STI the ability to hoover up tarmac and gravel stages indiscriminately once again. It isn't a completely new generation – more like a much needed do-over – but the changes are enough to make the 2011 model instantly recognizable from behind the wheel.
If that's not enough to convince you, allow us to direct your attention to the rear of the resurrected four-door body style, dominated once again by the kind of spoiler that could double as a civil engineering exercise. Yeah, baby. The STI is back, and on more than just a wing and a prayer.