With only 125 of these special edition STIs produced in Aspen white and barely 1,000 miles on the odometer, I was a little cautious about what we did with this Subie. Unfortunately, it also meant I was susceptible to a cruel April fools joke by a fellow staff member involving a picture of the car, a tree, and Photoshop.
Jokes aside, the stiffer suspension on the special edition is noticeably different from a base STI, especially at higher speeds, like a highway off-ramp or on-ramp. The car is actually pretty well balanced, and Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive works like magic and holds the road extremely well without an insane amount of understeer.
For the buyer who prefers performance upgrades in place of interior amenities, this is for you. Perhaps the best part: it costs about $2000 less than a base STI. Dropped from the options list is the 6-disc CD changer, 10-speaker sound system, HID headlamps, and automatic climate control. In their place, Subaru opted for a single CD player, 4-speakers, manual air conditioning, and halogen headlamps. The entire package works quite nicely. Other color choices for the special edition include World Rally Blue Mica, Dark Gray Metallic, and Obsidian Black Pearl.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
I haven’t had a chance to really put this STI through its paces, but so far, I’m a bit underwhelmed. In particular, this special edition’s suspension enhancements don’t seem to have improved the WRX’s mediocre steering. At highway speeds, it’s still too light and slack on center. Needless to say, it can’t compare with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo’s mind-altering responsiveness. That doesn’t mean the Evo would necessarily win out at the racetrack or in an autocross, but on the street, the STI still has some catching up to do.
All of this isn’t to say the Subie is a bad choice. How could it be, with 305 horsepower, a superadvanced all-wheel-drive system, and a sub-$35,000 starting price? That’s quite a tasty combination, if you ask me. I often wonder why anyone would load up what is essentially a cheap compact with luxury-car amenities like HID headlights and fancy stereos, so I’m glad this Special Edition model doesn’t have them.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Japan must not have a lot of potholed and/or gravel roads, because the JDM-spec suspension on this Impreza WRX STI Special Edition lets the car bounce too much over bumpy surfaces, rather than soaking them up and keeping all four driven wheels in tight contact with the roadway. No matter the road surface, though, the 305-hp STI can haul ass incredibly well. There’s no disguising that this is a high-strung turbocharged rally car.
I must agree with David, though, when he says that the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution feels quicker on the street and has nicer steering. But the good thing about the Special Edition STI is that, at $33,690, it is $2000 cheaper than the “base” STI, which conveniently also happens to put it below the $34,335 base price of a Lancer Evo GSR. Sure, that $2000 savings means you have to give up automatic climate control, some stereo speakers, and HID headlights, but you also gain these supercool, fourteen-spoke, charcoal-colored wheels, which look particularly hot with the SE’s launch paint color — Aspen white, which will cover the first 125 Special Edition STIs. It’s too bad that the SE doesn’t also clean up the Impreza’s unattractive, platypuslike front end.
The STI’s gearbox feels too notchy even for me, and I normally like notchy shifters more than most of my colleagues. That said, it shifts very positively, and you always know where you are; the clutch is stiff, too, but seems about right for a car that performs like an STI.
A couple more positive comments: I was pleased to find more back-seat room than I remembered in the new Impreza. Second, the STI’s cabin disguises its economy-car foundation a bit better than the Evo’s interior.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
You’ve gotta love a special edition car that costs less than the base model. I know Subaru stripped some features off this particular STI, but I couldn’t tell you exactly which ones. That’s because everything you need is still intact. I agree that the STI still doesn’t provide the turn-in quickness or steering feel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, but the Subaru does have its strengths. For one, there are six forward gears in the manual transmission. I also like the selectable throttle mapping that creates recognizable differences in pedal response. My favorite feature, though, is the adjustable center differential; Subaru claims that the STI’s all-wheel drive as one of the most advanced systems in the industry.
Contrary to Rusty’s assessment, I found the clutch pedal to be extremely light. The actual pressure plate, however, seems like it’s clamping with the force of Godzilla’s right foot. Combined with the shifter’s flip-the-switch notchiness, the STI begs you to repeat quick and sharp gear changes mile after mile. It may not be the most satisfying way to swap gears, but it sure is fun and complements the STI’s blitzkrieg personality nicely. For 2011, all STIs receive suspension updates, many borrowed directly from this Special Edition car. Unfortunately, the changes aren’t enough to erase the STI’s woes, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2010 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Special Edition
Base price (with destination): $33,690
Price as tested: $33,690
2.5-liter horizontally opposed Turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Driver controlled center differential
Multi-mode vehicle dynamics control
Front and rear limited-slip differentials
Brembo high performance brakes
Spec C performance suspension
18-inch Spec C alloy wheels
Summer performance tires
Air conditioning with filtration system
AM/FM/CD audio system with aux input jack
Steering wheel mounted audio controls
Cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering
Remote keyless entry
STI exhaust with quad outlets
Options on this vehicle:
Key options not on vehicle:
17 / 23 / 19 mpg
Size: 2.5L turbocharged boxer four-cylinder
Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 290 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Curb weight: 3395 lb
18 x 8.5-inch 14-spoke charcoal-colored JDM spec C wheels
245/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport600 summer performance tires
Competitors: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
From Subaru media website:
The 2010 WRX STI Special Edition is aimed at the driving enthusiast who is willing to trade a few amenities to gain an extra measure of handling performance over the already extraordinary WRX STI. Suspension for the new version of this high-performance machine is adopted from the Japanese domestic market WRX STI spec C model, which adds a 1-millimeter-thicker rear stabilizer bar, stiffer rear sub-frame bushings, plus upgraded and retuned springs. The front springs are 16 percent stiffer, while the rear shocks have been stiffened by 29 percent.
The WRX STI Special Edition was developed by Subaru Tecnica International, the high-performance and motorsports subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. Compared with the standard 2010 WRX STI, the WRX STI Special Edition features halogen rather than HID headlights; a single-disc CD player / 4-speaker audio system instead of the 6-CD /10-speaker system; manual air conditioning in place of automatic climate control, and body color side mirrors.