There was a time in the mid-nineties when the launch of a new Subaru Impreza STi was show-stopping news. Colin McRae drifted his way to the 1995 World Rally Championship in one, and it was at the very top of every performance car fan’s wishlist.
These days the standard Impreza isn’t even sold here, while the performance versions have drifted into obscurity – not helped by the poorly received previous-generation hatch. But now the WRX STi is going back to its roots – it’s a fast, four-wheel-drive saloon with a boxer turbo, blue paint and gold wheels.
The big surprise is that, under the 2015 WRX STi bodywork, it uses Subaru’s older engine and gearbox. The 2.5-litre turbo produces 301bhp and 392Nm of torque – the same as the previous standard car – while a heavy-duty, short-throw, six-speed box transfers power to all wheels.
In normal driving, the distribution is 40:60 through the front and rear tyres respectively, although all-wheel drive and active torque vectoring can instantly shift that ratio depending on grip.
The 2015 WRX STi might have an old engine, but the all-new chassis is stronger than before thanks to stiffened crossmembers, bigger stabiliser bars and higher spring rates up front, plus a more rigid sub-frame and springs at the rear. On a skidpan, it’ll pull 0.98g in corners – just less than a Porsche 911.
Of course, the WRX STi is fantastic in bends. Thanks to hydraulic-assisted power-steering and a quicker ratio, it dives in and communicates brilliantly through the wheel what all four tyres are up to. Three selectable modes control throttle response and steering behaviour: Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp.
Subaru says Sport Sharp’s been tuned for 50 per cent better throttle response, which is evident on a track. Intelligent mode optimises throttle and steering responses for comfortable long-haul trips, while bigger Brembo brakes slow the WRX STi with ease.
The outside of the car is dramatically different. More defined panels are well complemented by the iconic hood scoop and huge back wing. Subaru refused to say exactly how much downforce the latter actually creates, though – all we know is that it’s high enough not to hamper rear visibility. We do have some nitpicks inside, however. Although the WRX STi’s interior has received a much-needed upgrade, it’s still way behind that of other performance four-doors such as the 296bhp Audi S3 Saloon.
Red-accented Alcantara seats are the highlight thanks to increased bolstering and better positioning, although the dash and materials still feel cheap to the touch. While it’s better, it’s not the best. Subaru has also upgraded its stereo to a Harman Kardon unit, which helps drown out some of the road noise.
More aggressive than the styling, perhaps, is the price. Subaru is bringing the WRX STi to the UK this summer for £4,000 less than the old model, so it starts at £28,995. And while US buyers can order a Launch Edition with blue paint and gold BBS wheels, this version hasn’t yet been confirmed for the UK.
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