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2015 Subaru WRX STI First Drive

Automaker's latest rally-inspired AWD compact sport sedan handles like the dickens

Scott Tsuneishi
Feb 15, 2014 SHARE

2015 Subaru WRX STI First Drive Details:

  • Route through Carmel Valley canyons and on Laguna Seca Raceway in California
  • More precise and improved feedback thanks in part to new steering rack
  • Under-steer common to previous models nonexistent on the new WRX STI
  • More agile and predictable at high speeds on both straights and corners
  • Overall a better handling machine than previous generations

The job perk of getting to drive the latest and greatest machines is one that comes with the territory, and one we try to never take for granted. And in truth, driving new cars is only half the joy of getting invited on "press" trips; the other half is getting to travel, sometimes to some pretty exotic or legendary places. It was the latter for the 2015 Subaru WRX STI first drive; the OEM invited a handful of media to flog its newest during an eventful three-day press trip to northern California.

2015 subaru WRX STI parade Photo 2/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Parade

The first leg of the trip was a 50-mile highway excursion though the twisty canyons of Carmel Valley, followed by high-speed runs around the world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

2015 subaru WRX STI rolling front three quarter Photo 6/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Rolling Front Three Quarter

Carmel Valley Canyon Run

Immediately jumping into the newest flagship, it took all but a few seconds to realize this car has more to offer than just a fancy exterior design. Holy crap, I thought to myself, as the limited edition STI quickly reached triple-digit speeds entering the first canyon corner. That escalated quickly.

2015 subaru WRX STI selector knob Photo 10/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Selector Knob

Lesson one about the new WRX STI is that handling is more precise and offers improved feedback than previous model STIs, thanks in part to a number of new car features including an improved steering rack design and quicker ratio steering (13:1). The STI's six-speed manual transmission (also offered in Sport Lineartronic CVT, with fully automatic electronic control) was crisp with every shift as was a noticeably improved throttle response over previous models.

2015 subaru WRX STI gauge cluster display SI DRIVE sport sharp Photo 14/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Gauge Cluster Display SI DRIVE Sport Sharp

New to the 2015 STI is the SI-DRIVE engine performance management system. Driver-selectable modes (I-Mode, Sport, Sport Sharp mode) tell the ECU to manipulate the vehicles DBW (drive-by-wire) throttle body to allow for a quicker or more measured throttle response. This was immediately evident switching from the more economical I-Mode to the Sport Sharp mode as we throttled though the twisty canyon roads. Subarus have a reputation for displaying inherent under-steer but it seems that engineers have done their homework.

2015 subaru WRX STI dash flat bottom steering wheel Photo 18/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Dash Flat Bottom Steering Wheel

Laguna Seca Raceway

The new WRX STI felt at home in the canyons and on the circuit, too, handling beautifully every challenge we threw at it, including a barrage of high-speed runs down the infamous Laguna Corkscrew. The characteristic push we have in the past often found ourselves batting on Subies while throttling out of the apex was a non-issue and pleasantly surprising.

Driver meeting 2015 subaru WRX STI launch Photo 22/59   |   Driver Meeting 2015 Subaru WRX STI Launch

This isn't your typical refresh version of the Impreza with a simple fascia upgrade; the factory rated 305-horsepower turbocharged engine worked in perfect harmony with a new, more rigid, high-performance chassis and an aerodynamically enhanced wide-body sedan design. Handling was enhanced with the stiffer chassis (only two pound heavier than 2014 models) using more tensile steel in key areas, firmer spring rates on all four corners, pillow ball rear control arms, and more durable bushings. The end production is a car that's more agile and predictable at high speeds on both straights and corners.

2015 subaru WRX STI shaka Photo 26/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Shaka

Another driver that was on our wave of the STI press trip may have said it best. After driving around the revered road course, he stated, "The car drives and handles years beyond the previous models. I wouldn't do anything to the car's suspension or engine. It's just that good."

2015 subaru WRX STI shifter knob Photo 30/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Shifter Knob

Smart Package

You don't have to be a professional driver to enjoy the handling capabilities of the new 2015 STI. The car is smarter and fully capable of aiding all types of drivers regardless of skill set, whether you're on the track or simply encountering an emergency road situation.

Helmets 2015 subaru WRX STI launch wave 2 Photo 34/59   |   Helmets 2015 Subaru WRX STI Launch Wave 2

Among the 2015 models, Active Torque Vectoring is one of many features that has been shown to improve handling. ATV is one of those features you won't really come to appreciate unless you're in a sketchy driving situation, as we did when we overcooked the first corner of Laguna Seca and needed to perform some evasive driving to stay on the track. Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control, and a Brembo Performance Brake System with Super Sport ABS are all part of the STI package.

2015 subaru WRX STI blue foreground white background Photo 38/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Blue Foreground White Background

Owning two previous model Subarus, it wouldn't be unfair to characterize me as a tad cynical, as I thought Subaru was attempting to pull a fast one from under our feet with a car that offered old technology with simply a new look. Boy, was I wrong. After a weekend filled with informative conversations with Japan's STI technical engineers and driving the snot out of the demo cars, I can honestly say it might be time to consider upgrading to a 2015.

2015 subaru WRX STI nurburgring racer Photo 42/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Nurburgring Racer
2015 subaru WRX STI setting mirror Photo 49/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Setting Mirror
2015 subaru WRX STI bottom corkscrew laguna seca Photo 53/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Bottom Corkscrew Laguna Seca


2015 subaru WRX STI nurburgring 24 hour race STI racing spec STI side under spoiler 26 Photo 54/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI Nurburgring 24 Hour Race STI Racing Spec STI Side Under Spoiler 26

2014 Nürburgring 24-Hour Race STI
Subaru Tecnica International (STI) is set to enter their newly released Subaru WRX STI in this year's Nürburgring 24-Hour Race (NBR) -42.ADAC Zurich 24H Rennen. The event will take place June 19 to 22 in Germany with STI aiming for their third win following 2011 and 2012 in the SP3T—a class for turbocharged cars with an engine of 2.0 liters or less.

2015 subaru WRX STI nurburgring race car 10 Photo 55/59   |   2015 Subaru WRX STI First Drive

The WRX STI NBR Challenge will be driven by Nürburgring veteran Toshihiro Yoshida, Kota Sasaki (who will be competing in the NBR for the fourth time this year), Carlo van Dam from the Netherlands, and Marcel Lasee from Germany who joined the team last year. We wish the drivers and team the best of luck!

NBR Challenge Vehicle Specifications
Subaru NBR Challenge 2014
Vehicle: WRX STI
Length: 4,890 mm
Width: 1,835 mm
Height: 1,395 mm
Wheel Base: 2,650 mm
Gross Weight: 1,230 kg
Engine: 2.0 Boxer DOHC 16-valve AVCS twin scroll turbo
Engine Model: EJ20
Displacement: 1,994 cc
Air Restrictor: 38
Power: 250 kw (340 ps) / 5,500 rpm
Torque: 461 Nm (47 kgf-m)/ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: Sequential six-speed transmission
Front LSD: Helical LSD
Center LSD: Automatic DCCD (Driver Controlled Center Differential)
Rear LSD: STI mechanical LSD (Gr.N VO)
Steering: Rack-and-pinion steering
Chassis: STI Flexible Draw Tower Brace (Racing Spec)
STI Flexible Draw Stiffener (Racing Spec)
Aerodynamics: STI Front Under Spoiler (Racing Spec)
STI Side Under Spoiler (Racing Spec)
STI Carbon Rear Wing (Racing Spec)
Interior: STI Push Engine Switch
Tires: Dunlop
Shock Absorber: Bilstein
Wheels: BBS 18-inch magnesium forged wheel
Brakes: Brembo (front: six-piston, rear: four-piston)
Exhaust System: Fujitsubo
Seating: Recaro
Lubricant: Motul
Driving Light: IPF
Wireless Transmitter: Kenwood
Team Tools: Mac Tools and DeWalt
Stuff Watch: Orient x STI

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By Scott Tsuneishi
247 Articles

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