There are times when I wish that I could always be behind the wheel of a true sports car like a Subaru STI. case in point: my return trip to Los Angeles from the mazda Raceway Laguna Seca after test driving the new five-door hatchback. Had it not been for American Airlines canceling my flght and postponing the next available until much later that afternoon, I would have never hopped into an Avis rental (a Kia Spectra, mind you) for a forgettable sprint down california's main artery highway. Talk about a piece of crap without any balls; my rental was the complete opposite of what the STI stood for: relentless power on tap, ultra handling and looks that get more "oh snap" faces than the "ha, he's driving a Spectra" looks I got for the four and a half hours it took for me to cross into L.A. county. Just for the record: yes, you can make it from Monterey to Los Angeles in under five hours, but had I done it in a STI, it probably would've been under four. In all fairness, comparing the STI against a tattered Spectra is probably not an ideal comparison between two cars-it's the proverbial apples and oranges tale if I've ever told one. however, it truly does require an absolute pile to make you appreciate a fine specimen of a car.
The first and very obvious thing that everyone notices about this geneation is its new radical design, which is a love/hate affair. Gone is any semblance of Subaru's traditional box-shaped sedan; now it's more Euro hatchback, or as many have said, "looks like a Focus." We agree-this is not the STI we're used to, but that doesn't mean we won't grow to love it. Remember when honda dropped the EK civic? People who owned the EF and EG hated it, but it eventually wound up becoming one of the better looking hatchbacks to date. I believe the same will happen for the STI hatch. because it is five-door now, you get more utility room, but only if you fold the seats down and use the rear hatch opening to your advantage. Subaru added plenty of bulk to the body panels of this STI by giving it wider front fenders (with integrated brake cooling air ducts) and rear quarter panels, thus adding to the aerodynamics. The base STI wheels should be upgraded as soon as possible, but it's too bad you can't opt for the optional bbS wheels alone; they only come as part of an upgrade package that includes front fog lights.
Since we currently house a '07 STI in our project car fleet, I've already become familiar with the STI and how it performs on a day-to-day basis. From a personal standpoint, the second-gen STI must be pushed out of the low rpm range to experience any pleasure, and its transmission can be somewhat notchy, almost too mechanical for my tastes. What I instantly noticed about the '08 STI was how smooth and linear the engine felt as the gas pedal was depressed and the rpm needle jumped upward. It almost seems to be the current trend for automotive manufacturers, taking the blunt performance and massaging the little kinks out of it. While it was announced at the Tokyo motor Show that the JDm STI would come with a 3.0L boxer engine, ours receives the 2.5L. And despite the extra 0.5L of displacement, the U.S. engine comes with 305 horsepower, which is 12 more than the last, and 290 lb-ft, the same as last, but now it comes on 400 rpm earlier, which equates to better response. This new engine also features variable valve timing-dubbed Dual Active control System (Dual AVcS)-on both the intake and exhaust valves, whereas the '07 engine used valve timing only on the intake side. The Dual AVcS is the key in helping to create that "smooth and linear" feel for the driving experience; it also doesn't hurt that it improves fuel economy and is more environmentally friendly.
The highlight of the '08 STI is the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), which is pretty freakin' awesome considering the options you're now given to improve and control your driving experience. Adjust to your liking-it's like shifting your "boys" when "it's" not sitting right-by manipulating the car's driving characteristics with a twist of a knob from three modes: Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp. Each mode electronically adjusts engine torque and power to a specific throttle response curve and can really help depending on the driving situation. The '08 six-speed gearbox remains somewhat unchanged from last year's model (same gear ratios at least) but uses an enhanced Driver control center Differential (DccD) version of Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive found only on the STI and, again, gives you three modes-Auto, Auto(-) and Auto(+)-to adjust the torque bias of the limited slip differential by shifting bias, releasing the lock or tightening the diff based on mode selection. There's always the go-to manual mode as well, where you can vary the front-to-rear distribution of torque (max of 50:50) and if you want to mess with traction control, you can toggle through the three modes of the Vehicle Dynamics control (VDc): Normal, Traction and Off. With this many modes of driving available at your fingertips, it can almost seem overwhelming trying to dial in each function while driving, but of course we don't recommend that. Let's just say that if you left the car in normal pursuit mode, it handles just fine and can take a pounding, but you can get it to react to your personal driving style. That gets an A+ for effort in our book.
But the cool new features don't stop there; yes, the STI isn't just a new body with a new engine and drivetrain. Don't forget the interior must-haves for the '08, like the optional touch-screen nav that comes pre-wired for xm or Sirius radio and has bluetooth capability; you've also got more trunk space thanks to a 60/40 split rear folding seat. The seats aren't as form-fitting as the Recaro-equipped STIs, but they are still quite comfortable and the dashboard is much better looking with a brightly lit instrument cluster and space-age trim. Subaru also managed to squeeze in a special treat for those of you living in the bay Area or who have trouble driving stick up steep inclines: the Incline Start Assist, which keeps the car from rolling backward while taking off from a stop. believe us, that came in real handy in a lot of places.
What Subaru's really done for us with the STI is given us a whole lot of car with a whole lot of power, but also for a whole lot of moola. That's right; this one's not going to be cheap as it's going to start off with a price tag of $35,640 for the base model, $37,640 with the bbS wheel option and $39,440 for a fully loaded STI. but will that stop the true enthusiast? Probably not, and that's OK. This STI is worth every penny.
That New Car Smell
'08 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
The Sticker Starting at $35,640
Under The Hood 2.5L DOhc Dual AVcS turbocharged
The Power 305 hp at 6000 rpm; 290 lb-ft at 4000 rpm
Scale Tipping 3,395lbs
Layout Front engine, all-wheel drive Gearbox six-speed manual
Stiff Stuff 4-wheel independent, high performance sport-tuned inverted front struts and rear doublewishbone; front/rear stabilizer bars; all components designed by STI
Rollers 18x8.5 cast alloy (base); bbS forged alloy (optional)
Stoppers brembo 4-wheel disc brakes with 4-channel 4-sensor Super-Sport anti-lock brake system with g-sensor;
Electronic brake-force distribution and brake Assist
At The Pump 17mpg (city)/23 mpg (highway)
The Pack mitsubishi Lancer Evo x
Deep Thoughts You better have the necessary funds in order to play with this STI. Now's a good time to consider dumping those Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie cards.