2006 Subaru WRX STI

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0509 Subaru Wrx Sti 445

Word that Subaru's new corporate schnoz--with two wings flanking a central grille to denote the aviation history of Subaru's parent, Fuji Heavy Industries--would spread beyond the new B9 Tribeca crossover to the Impreza, the Impreza WRX, and eventually the rest of the Subaru lineup might not have been greeted with keen anticipation, but now that the first post-Tribeca, new-look Subaru is here, it isn't quite the object of fear and loathing some had imagined. Get used to it, because, although it's the third totally new front-end design for the Impreza in the past five years and the last before the all-new, third generation arrives in 2007, it's a corporate identity that's here to stay.

Both the base Impreza and the WRX and STi get the new nose, but the STi also gets aero tweaks and chassis changes to boost traction, stability, and response and make it even more fun to drive. Engineers have modified the limited-slip center differential and fiddled with the front-to-rear torque split, which now stands at 41/59 percent versus the previous 35/65 percent setup.

The resulting car is electrifying through bends, with razor-sharp turn-in and a breathtaking ability to change directions and hold the line, whether you're in a fast, sweeping curve or a tight apex. The steering, at just 2.2 turns between locks, is go-kart quick, but the Brembo brakes require a firm push.

The STi was always a little raw (which was part of its appeal), but it's now better able to harness its pounding horses and put them on the road. The suspension is very firm, the body is stiffer, and the six-speed shifter is one of the best in the business.

Although the Japan-market car we drove differs slightly from the U.S. model, it shows the direction the STi is moving. Whatever you think of the styling, this is the most enthralling WRX STi to drive so far.

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