First Look: 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Sedan

The 2010 WRX STI Special Edition doesn't make much sense as a business plan. With an upgraded suspension and a slightly decontended interior, it's a better handling STI for less money. Unless you just have to have HIDs and a trunk-shaking sound system, there's no reason to look higher up Subaru's performance hierarchy. That is until late this summer, when the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, which is making its debut at the 2010 New York show, reaches dealer lots.

The Special Edition as it turns out is a preview of sorts of the 2011 STI, which will be available as a hatchback and a sedan for the first time ever in the U.S. It employs the same go-fast JDM Spec C suspension as the Special Edition. The basics are also the same: Inverted struts up front with aluminum lower L-arms, a double-wishbone out back, and high-tensile-strength steel used at the suspension mounts. Changes consist of stiffer springs all around, thicker stabilizer bars, a lower ride height, front pillow-ball bushings, and stiffer rear subframe bushings. Subaru says the upgraded suspension means "reduced body roll, more neutral handling response, and higher lateral-G capability." From our brief time in the Special Edition, we can attest that the changes are for the better: it returns easier rotation and a more neutral feeling.

The drivetrain remains the same. The 2011 STI routes 305 horsepower from the same 2.5-liter flat-4 through a 6-speed manual transmission to all four wheels, meaning a blast to 60 mph will take 4.8 seconds, and the quarter mile in 13.5 seconds at 100.6 mph, as it did in our departed long-term STI. The robust Brembo braking system, which is good for a 109-foot 60-to-0 mph stopping distance, is unchanged. While the Special Edition keeps the black Spec C wheels (has to be special for a reason, right?), the STI gains new 18-inch rolling stock that weigh 17.6 pounds apiece. Besides assisting in the looks department with silver paint, a set of optional forged aluminum BBS wheels reduce unsprung weight even further, according to Subaru.

But Subaru didn't stop at the wheels with the cosmetic upgrades. The hatchback dons bumpers styled to appear sharper and wider, black trim around the fog lights, and a lip spoiler. Black also finds its way to the new front grille and detailing in an attempt to exaggerate width. The STI sedan's rear fenders stretch out past the tail lamps, a shape that Subaru says improves the STI's drag coefficient. Interior changes include a black and silver finish and a dark cast metallic color for the steering wheel. The base single-disc stereo boasts Bluetooth audio, iPod connectivity, and satellite radio, while a navigation system is optional.

You'll still find dials for the power-biasing Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) and throttle-map-adjusting SI-Drive, both of which can adjust automatically or by driver preference. Incline Start Assist for hill starts comes standard, as does stability and traction control with a performance-orientated mode. The suspension changes we previewed in the Special Edition benefited the STI's overall driving experience. But is it enough to compete with the poise and controllability of the Lancer Evolution? Consider us primed to find out.

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