I could do without the big wing perched on the trunk lid, but as a whole, I rather like the way the new STI looks, what with its protruding wheel wells, strong shoulders, sparkly yet purposeful wheels, and rally blue paint. Nice.
I also appreciate the interior theme, which is all business. Great seats. And, oh, what’s this? A dial to choose between “sport”, “sport sharp”, and “Intelligent”. No comfort setting here, folks! And in my right hand I find a traditional six-speed manual transmission. And under my left foot I find a clutch pedal with just the right feel and take-up and tension; this has not always been a Subaru strength. Then, of course, we have the 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer four, all 305 hp of it. The engine is peaky, as always, so we need this nice gearbox and nicely calibrated set of three pedals to wring every bit of performance out of it.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I disagree with Joe DeMatio about the rear wing. The STI’s wing is positively inoffensive to anyone who has had their rearview mirror filled with the Evo’s wing. At least I could tell if there were cars behind me in the STI. I’d still prefer a smaller wing, but in this case the large wing is functional so I don’t hate it.
Actually, inoffensive is a good way to describe the STI as a whole. The design is rather tame and bland, even with the more aggressive STI parts. I find the Mitsubishi Evolution to be much more menacing in both the way it looks and the way it drives. There’s more steering feel in the Evo and the engine is more explosive, even though it’s putting out slightly less power than the STI does. Of course the Evo only offers five forward gears if you want to shift for yourself and the six-speed SST is not going to please everyone. Either of these two rally-bred choice comes with some compromises.
I know the 2011 STI gets some substantial suspension changes that are supposed to improve handling greatly. I couldn’t notice a difference between this year’s car and the 2010 model during my driving on public roads. Attacking an off ramp with about as much confidence as one can muster on a public road still didn’t faze the STI. I would love to explore the handling improvements on a closed track, which is about the only place you’ll ever notice them anyway.
– Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Whenever I get a chance to drive a Subaru WRX, I wish for a firmer suspension, another forward gear, and better steering feel. The STI achieves two out of three, and adds 40 more hp as icing. Compared with the somewhat soft WRX, the STI exhibits barely a smidgen of body roll such that, like Phil, I was able to dive bomb a highway off ramp with little drama. As noted, the sixth gear is nice, although the STI still drones much louder at highway speeds than its tamer little brother. Subaru made an honest effort to improve the limp steering for 2011, with new control arms and suspension bushings. It definitely makes a difference — turn-in is now super quick, much like in the rival Mitsubishi Evo. Unfortunately, the power assist is still dialed up to eleven, so there’s absolutely zero feedback from the steering wheel. It’s actually quite unnerving to drive such a twitchy car with so little information traveling to your hands. Now I know how Beethoven must have felt leading an orchestra after his hearing loss.
Of course, the STI adds something else to the WRX — cost. To my mind, the WRX is a screaming bargain at $26,000. For another $8000, the STI is certainly better, but it’s also close in price to a BMW 135i, not to mention the Evo, which remains a superior all-wheel-drive canyon carver.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I’m a hatchback guy, but the new Subaru Impreza WRX STI sedan has the looks to support the 305-hp turbocharged engine. Credit most of that attitude to the huge rear wing, which doesn’t bother me one bit. Vision out the back is hardly affected and the wing doesn’t scream nearly as loud as the vibrant blue paint on this car.
When Subaru announced it was making changes to enhance the steering on the STI, I was expecting a wholesale revision in the tactile feedback delivered through the steering wheel. What we actually got was something much less perceptible. While firmer bushings may make turn-in quicker, the power assist still saps steering feel. The capability factor is high, but the joy is diminished by such lousy feedback.
The STI is still plenty capable of putting a smile on your face with the tenacious grip and the huge thrust that comes into play around 3500 rpm. The seats are excellent, and you have to respect a company that’s still fighting the good fight by only offering a six-speed manual transmission. The same cannot be said for Mitsubishi, which would prefer to sell you on a dual-clutch gearbox. Sure, you can get a manual on the Lancer Evolution, but it requires sacrifices in what equipment you can have. While the Evo may offer more communicative steering, I’d take a three-pedal car as my first choice.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Base price (with destination): $33,995
Price as tested: $35,995
2.5-liter turbocharged horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Brembo 4-piston caliper brakes
18-inch BBS forged wheels
Driver controlled center differential (DCCD)
Vehicle dynamics control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Aluminum pedal covers with rubber grips
AM/FM premium stereo with in-dash single CD player
iPod and USB ports
XM satellite radio
Automatic climate control
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Leather-wrapped shift knob
60/40 split fold rear seat
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation package — $2000
7-inch touch-screen GPS navigation system
Single-disc CD/DVD player
Sirius satellite radio
RCA audio jack and video auxiliary input jack
Key options not on vehicle:
Limited trim level — $3350
Power tilt/slide sunroof
18-inch BBS wheels
Fuel economy: 17/23/20 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.5L turbocharged flat-4
Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 290 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight: 3384 lbs
Wheels/tires: 18 x 8.5-inch cast-aluminum alloy wheels
245/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 600 summer performance tires
Competitor: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution