Rabid fans of the Subaru Impreza WRX that we are, there was plenty of salivating at the news that an Impreza WRX STi Type RA Spec C was in the Subaru press fleet. Aside from the incredibly long title, this iteration of the super Scoob has more grunt and less weight than a standard WRX, a recipe that's hard to argue with.
This Japanese-spec, right-hand-drive version of the STi is basically a Group N rally car, without the requisite competition safety equipment. (Indeed, Prodrive in England uses the Type RA as the basis for customer rally cars.) Like the STi, it has a 276-horsepower version of Subaru's familiar turbocharged 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four. With a unique electronic control unit and camshafts, along with a low-friction ball-bearing turbocharger, torque increases to a meaty 283 pound-feet.
Unlike the regular STi, the Type RA has a quicker-ratio steering rack (13:1 as opposed to 15:1), a three-gallon water-spray reservoir for the intercooler, a stiffer sport suspension with beefier anti-roll bars, a mechanical rear limited-slip differential, and a driver-adjustable electronic center diff. The torque split is set at 45/55 percent front/rear but can be changed to 50/50.
To go with the handling and driveline tweaks, the Type RA Spec C went on a 308-pound diet compared with a standard STi, losing things like the undercoating, air bag, radio, air conditioning, and even the passenger's sun visor. In the process, it also gained lightweight glass and a thinner-gauge roof panel and trunk lid. The car we tried was a Type RA Spec C in the sixteen-inch wheel-and-tire configuration, retrofitted with seventeens. Just to confuse everyone, Subaru also offers a Spec C with seventeen-inch wheels, but that model doesn't have the variable center diff.
On the street, the Spec C is about as spunky as small cars get. The turbocharged engine is nowhere near as peaky as a standard WRX's and provides meaningful grunt from 2500 rpm all the way up to the 8000-rpm redline. The steering is quick and accurate, the STi's carryover brakes (with four-piston front calipers) are terrific, and the six-speed manual gearbox is sweet.
Best of all, though, is the handling. This car counters the critics who complain about the WRX's tendency to understeerwhich can be combated by lifting off the throttle to rotate the rear. The Spec C grips and goes, and it's easy to neutralize any initial turn-in understeer with a stab on the throttle pedal. Here's a WRX you can power-slide, should the mood take you. For neutral-cornering fans, just lock the center diff.
The ride is on the stiff side of firm, and the lack of creature comforts and sound deadening would make it a torturous everyday driver. Still, it's pure magic on backcountry roads. Even though you will never be able to buy a Spec C at your local Subaru dealer, the car gives a hint of what the dedicated Scooby tuners will do when the STi finally makes it here. Think awesome.