As we’ve reported in past issues, the privilege of getting even more fun versions of hot little cars like the WRX Impreza enjoyed by right-hand-drive regions is about to be shared with North America.
In summer 2003 we’ll get a steady trickle of WRX STi cars from Japan starting at around $35,000 apiece. In a good year, Subaru hopes to sell about 4000 to us. Judging from our quick drive experience in southwest Germany after the WRC German Rally, the waiting list even at such a price will be long.
The boost from the straight-inlet IHI turbocharger (vs. 90-degree Mitsubishi unit on WRX) is made greater on the STi (Subaru Tecnica International) by mounting a larger intercooler to force greater amounts of dense, cooler air into the turbo. At about 3500 rpm, the effect is like an S2000 at 6000 rpm. You’re suddenly in the “STi Zone” and the dual Suretrac limited-slip differentials are pulling all four wheels as hard as they can. The result is that you can push the WRX STi even more than you enjoy doing with a WRX. The sensation borders on invincibility.
Major interior differences are a special leather MOMO steering wheel and suede- effect Prodrive-designed racing seats in front. The gold 17-inch alloy wheels are inspired by Prodrive-engineered rally cars and the four-pot Brembo stoppers look nice through the spokes. Horsepower from the low-lying flat four in this version hits a reported 261 in all non-Japanese-spec cars. (In Japan, horsepower is between 270 and 280 thanks in part to 100-plus-octane fuel.) Torque is 253 lb-ft at 4000 rpm.
As displayed at the Paris show in early October, next year’s WRX STi wears a fresh face with new, more aggressive-looking headlights replacing the friendly round ones that have featured on WRX since its launch two years ago. This more sinister look resembles the previous-generation car, while underneath there’s some beefing up of the suspension mounts and parts to sharpen steering and handling response.