REVIEWS: 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Sedan

April 26, 2011
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The Subaru Impreza WRX STI, previously available only as a wagon, is newly offered as a sedan for 2011. Our black-on-black test car looks pretty cool, although there's nothing subtle about the huge rear wing, which Subaru claims "maximizes the aerodynamic configuration." I figure it also maximizes your opportunities to be noticed by the police, but what the heck, it's part and parcel of the WRX STI experience, just like the big hood scoop. The eighteen-inch wheels are also new for 2011 and are lighter. The changes for 2011 are not just cosmetic, as the suspension has been retuned with higher spring rates, bigger antiroll bars, and new bushings.
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Emblem
I showed the STI to a buddy who owns a Mazda Miata and is a bit of a car nut. He'd never been in a WRX and was very impressed by the aggressively bolstered front seats but offered that he could do without the rear wing.
Despite these changes, the STI feels very familiar, with that raspy turbo four churning under the hood, the short-throw manual transmission, the rigid but not too rough ride, and the ability to catapult you down the road as long as you work the turbo boost and the pedals properly. Yet you can also drive it quite benignly around town.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
After attending the launch of the new Subaru STI last summer, I thought at the time that the steering felt vague during our track drive. Now, after driving a Mitsubishi Evo just a couple weeks before this, I still stand by my original comments. However, the Subaru STI still brings out the rally star in you all with its fabulous all-wheel-drive system, powerful turbocharged-boxer engine, and tight 6-speed manual gearbox.
For 2011, Subaru brought the sedan back for the first time since 2007. The 2008 redesign was hatchback only. Now buyers have a choice of hatchback or sedan for their STI. Personally, I still prefer the hatchback.
The STI may soon be all by itself amongst the rally-inspired street performers as rumors are the Evo may be disappearing from Mitsubishi's lineup. Perhaps the new Volkswagen Golf R will slide into its place once that car arrives here later this year.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Auto Manu Button
I drive a 2009 Subaru WRX sedan quite regularly (my dad is founder, president, and perhaps only member of the Fifty-Year-Old Jewish Professional WRX Owners Club). For about $25,000, it's a strong proposition, offering lots of power, all-wheel-drive traction, decent handling, excellent front seats, and Japanese reliability for the price of a modestly equipped mid-size car. Considering the value, I can gladly overlook flaws like numb steering and so-so shift action.
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Left Side View
The STI, however, is a more complicated story. It's better at all the things the WRX is already good at -- even quicker acceleration, flatter handling, more traction -- but it fails to address the drawbacks. Steering is still numb, and even with a short-throw shifter and an extra gear, shifts feel sloppy for a sports car. The interior is functional but lacks for style and materials quality. And despite the cosmetic enhancements, the Impreza still is not a particularly attractive vehicle. Again, these are acceptable imperfections for $25,000. For $35,000, there are other options. I'd consider a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo GSR, Ford Mustang GT, Chevrolet Camaro SS, and BMW 135i (slightly more expensive, but worth it). That said, the STI still has its selling points. For one, none of the vehicles just mentioned offer as much practicality. It's a four-seasons, four-door sports car that yields decent fuel economy, although it does drink very heavily when you drive aggressively and has sufficient cargo room even in sedan form. If those qualities match your requirements, the STI is certainly worth a look. But so is the cheaper WRX.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
This STI sounds awesome at idle when you're standing behind the car, as I learned while warming it up on a cold morning. And from inside the Subaru, the glorious sound continues through much of the flat four's rev range. I think it's more fun to listen to the sounds of the engine in the STI than that of its Mitsubishi Lancer Evo MR archrival, particularly since Subaru offers a stick shift in its most powerful rally star. That fact alone would probably lead me to buy an STI over an Evo MR with its high-tech, quicker, but less involving TC-SST dual-clutch automatic. Most likely, though, I'd pick a base Evo and enjoy its slicker shifting gearbox, better steering, cooler looks (in my opinion), and lower monthly payments.
I almost slipped on my ice-glazed driveway when I got home late last night, but the sticky Pirelli Sottozero winter tires on the STI had given me little hint as to the marginal conditions of the roadways; they just kept begging me to push this amazingly grippy car harder and harder. Don't mind if I do.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Engine
This car is outright addicting -- I have never had more fun just going to get my dry cleaning. Then again, how often does a trip to the dry cleaners lead to a Mitsubishi Evo X driver following you to the parking lot with a barrage of questions? The low-frequency growl out of the quad exhaust is just as intoxicating as the boost of power that the turbo flat four delivers above 3000 rpm; although I do feel a little sorry for my neighbors who had the endure the growl every time I came or went.
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Rear Left View
I found that in the adjustable center differential's dry setting, which sends two-thirds of the power to the rear, gave just the right amount of balance between front-end bite and all-out power. However, once it started raining, leaving the diff in auto mode will make a WRC champ out of any driver. The engine had plenty of down-low power for around town, although I found the clutch to be a little too vague (a problem I've had before with Subarus), making low-speed driving in traffic a chore. Speaking of vague, while the brakes were firm, the pedal supplied little feedback, making stop-and-go modulation a little on the jerky side at first. Another lesson learned from around-town driving is the magnetism that rear wing has to police. At a surprising number of stoplights I found a cop in the lane behind me; and as an STI-owner friend pointed out to me, that wing is also perfectly situated to cover the police light bar.
As someone to whom Subaru is trying to appeal with this car, I am not sure that the blistering powertrain and exhaust note fully make up for the low-rent interior. Are the uprated components and large wing really worth ten grand over a non-STI WRX? I don't think so. That said, the all-weather, all-terrain, all-fun, and general all-rounder capabilities of the car really outshines anything it could be put up against.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Front Seats
I need to address the issue of the large rear wing and its potential to attract attention from the law. Last night I was getting ready to blow past one of the typical left-lane dawdlers on my commute, and I noticed a State Police car in the median just as my speedometer moved from a two- to four-point infraction. I quickly lifted, applied a little brake, and stuck with legal speeds after I saw the car. I was positive I'd be meeting another brave member of the law-enforcement community on the side of the freeway, but he never left the median. I can't call this wing a ticket magnet anymore.
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Rear View
Of course the real fun started when I left the freeway and had the opportunity to blast away from stop signs on two-lane roads. Even the cold, wet roads didn't pose a problem for Subaru's hottest hatch. I haven't had this much fun behind the wheel in inclement weather since our Four Seasons Mitsubishi Evolution MR left us. Pick as many nits with the styling or interior accoutrements in these civilian-class rally rockets, but you can't deny the powertrain's potency.
I totally understand why people are willing to pay $10,000 more for an STI than a WRX, and not one of them cares about the interior. These buyers want the maximum performance per dollar and willingly trade interior refinement in the name of speed. In a perfect performance-car world, everyone who enjoyed fast cars would be driving something like a Porsche 911, which has an interior as well executed as its powertrain. But in the real world, most people have to make compromises. Not a lot of people are willing to make the sacrifices to drive a car like an STI or an Evo, but the folks who decide to trade comfort for performance have no reason to be ashamed. If you also happen to be into outdoor sports like mountain biking or kayaking, the STI's more utilitarian interior could even be a bonus. It should be easy to clean and wear well over time.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Spoiler
This STI sounds awesome at idle when you're standing behind the car, as I learned while warming it up on a cold morning. And from inside the Subaru, the glorious sound continues through much of the flat four's rev range. I think it's more fun to listen to the sounds of the engine in the STI than that of its Mitsubishi Lancer Evo MR archrival, particularly since Subaru offers a stick shift in its most powerful rally star. That fact alone would probably lead me to buy an STI over an Evo MR with its high-tech, quicker, but less involving TC-SST dual-clutch automatic. Most likely, though, I'd pick a base Evo and enjoy its slicker shifting gearbox, better steering, cooler looks (in my opinion), and lower monthly payments.
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Engine Parts
I almost slipped on my ice-glazed driveway when I got home late last night, but the sticky Pirelli Sottozero winter tires on the STI had given me little hint as to the marginal conditions of the roadways; they just kept begging me to push this amazingly grippy car harder and harder. Don't mind if I do.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The Subaru WRX STI's charm lies with its engine and drivetrain. And that's about where it stops. I have immense respect for the gnarly, beefy turbocharged four-cylinder and the sophisticated all-wheel drive, but all that power and traction raise the bar to a level that the chassis, suspension, and steering can't match. The steering is vague, artificially assisted, and somewhat imprecise, which is completely inexcusable in a performance car of this caliber. Given the roads that the STI will likely spend most of its time on, the engineers also seem to have taken the rally-inspired theme a bit too far. Rather than the firm, planted, ready-to-respond feel of a tarmac racer, the STI seems engineered for the rare high-speed sprint down a dirt road. Even the transmission is in need of work to tighten up the precision of the throws. If I were shopping in this segment, I'd be much more inclined to purchase the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with razor-sharp reflexes and a more street-oriented chassis setup.
There's one place where the Subaru STI does look markedly better than the Mitsubishi Evo, and that's price. A comparable Evo with a five-speed manual is only about $400 more than this Subaru, but since you're more likely to find the Mitsubishi with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the price difference is more likely to be $4000. At $36,520, this nicely equipped STI is a good value.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Front Left View
The Subaru WRX STI is a car for which performance really is everything. The flamboyant rear wing, the large hood scoop, and the red STI badges stitched onto the leather seats never let you forget that you're driving Subaru's most performance-oriented vehicle. And neither does the 305-hp turbocharged engine, which tantalizes you into goosing the throttle just so you can hear its rumbling exhaust note--and leave the surrounding traffic in the dust.
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Spoiler
The STI will never win any beauty contests, but both its front and rear ends have been subtly restyled to further enhance its sporting looks, the leather and suede seats are supportive and not unattractive, and the brushed metal pedals look very cool. I'm not a fan of the orange instrument panel gauges, but at least they have a high visibility factor.
I'm not in the target demographic for the STI, both because I'm over at least a decade older, and a different gender, than most of its buyers. Still, I can see how it entices buyers, offering its own particular brand of all-wheel-drive rally-car-like performance at a relatively affordable price.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Speedometer
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Sedan
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Front Left View
Base price (with destination): $34,720
Price as tested: $36,520
Standard Equipment:
2.5-liter DOHC turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Symmetrical all-wheel drive
Driver-controlled center differential
Vehicle dynamics control
Front and rear limited-slip differentials
Brembo 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Automatic climate control
AM/FM/CD audio system
Steering wheel mounted audio controls
Bluetooth connectivity
Auxiliary audio jack
Cruise control
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Power locks/mirrors/windows
Remote keyless entry
Alcantara-trimmed upholstery
60/40-split rear seat
Heated front seats
HID headlights
Options on this vehicle:
Option package 10 -- $1800
GPS touch-screen navigation system
Key options not on vehicle:
BBS package -- $2000
Auto-dimming rearview mirror -- $165
Fuel economy:
(city/hwy/combined)
17 / 23 / 19 mpg
Engine:
Size: 2.5L turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 290 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Drive:
Four-wheel
Transmission:
6-speed manual
Curb weight: 3384 lb
Wheels/tires: 18 x 8.5-inch aluminum wheels
245/40R18 Pirelli Sottozero winter tires
Competitors: Mitsubishi Evolution, Volkswagen Golf R
What's new?
The STI sedan version is back for 2011. It disappeared when the hatchback STI came out in the 2008 model year. Now you can get both the hatch or the sedan.
2011 Subaru Impreza Wrx Sti Emblem

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