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