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