Singapore's Allure For SpeedThe well-traveled enthusiast is oft infatuated by what those in other regions drive and how exactly those individuals' automotive cultures compare with their own. The lines are hardly blurred between USDM-destined Japanese or European makes versus said makes that remain in their respective homelands, which makes spotting the real deal, more often than not, a rare treat for the traveler. And this goes without saying when concerning those cars long unavailable to those stateside. Such admiration can be attributed to the U.S.' stringent automotive regulations, for outside our borders, manufacturers are freer to differentiate their products on a performance basis, which quite possibly makes such cars better candidates for tuning. When coupled with comparatively lax environmental protection and passenger safety laws, the models sold in other countries can be looked at as outlets for an arguably more enjoyable driving experience. Yes, driving and tuning practices can be quite the contrary to what we're used to when concerning countries in which its residents are less bound by automotive drama-laden legal mumbo jumbo.
Take Singapore for example, a bastion of contradictions, a city-state with just about the strictest rules for car ownership, but yet holds true to a genuine love for motorsports. Lofty customs duties on imported vehicles and pricey road-use charges make Singapore just about the most expensive place to own a car. Other regulatory obstacles make ownership even more difficult. A certificate of entitlement must be obtained from the government before one is able to purchase a vehicle in the first place. It takes more than money to get what you want in Singapore. Despite the challenges, Singaporeans have an insatiable appetite for cars. Recently, the government not only agreed to host the first ever nighttime Formula 1 street race, but the country's minister for community development also identified the motorsports industry as "a growth industry that will contribute to sports development and the economy." The aftermarket auto industry is quickly becoming a source of income and recreation for Singaporeans.
And why wouldn't it? Few things cross international borders as easily as the passion for modified cars. Southeast Asia is an important beneficiary in terms of its geographic proximity to Japan, the second largest automobile market in the world. Fast JDM-spec turbocharged imports are common sightings on Singapore's high-priced expressways and draw large followings when it comes to their version of the illegal street race. Slews of Japanese tuners have set up distribution centers for their products in the region, greatly contributing to the performance industry's growth. It appears that motorsports enthusiasts have developed a language that can be understood worldwide, although in this case it would not be tremendously difficult, after all, Singapore's official language is English. Consider how much information can be gathered from the pictures alone. Place a few vinyl decals of highly recognizable tuning establishments on the exterior of any vehicle and observers can derive the most pertinent information about the products underhood. Mention Prodrive, Motec, HKS, Cusco, A'PEXi, ARC, Tanabe, Tomei or Cometic and a mental image surely forms.
Now introduce the high-performance all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX, simply one of the best dollar-for-dollar performance cars that, with a few thousand dollars invested, offers up something more on par with a world-class sports car. Gearheads worldwide favor the 2.0L turbocharged boxer platform, which offers a solid low-compression setup that's nothing short of responsive when it comes to modifications. This Charge Speed-inspired right-hand-drive world market WRX from Singapore belts out an impressive 463 horses with a little help from more than a few bolt-ons, as you'll soon find out. Based on the EJ205 derivative of the EJ20, all WRXs bound for export come standard with 227 hp as opposed to the Japanese model, which is factory tuned at a healthier 250 hp. The lower power output is attributable to a different ECU, cams and pistons that allow lower octane fuel operation when mixed with the sillwater that's U.S. gasoline. This may seem like bad news, but simply readdressing the aforementioned factory modifications yields power improvements that one could hardly scoff at.
The detuned setup impacted the midrange torque of our Singaporean model; most noticeable was the lack of power below 3,000 rpm. Advanced camshaft timing courtesy of Tomei solved this problem. The famed Japanese engine builder also provided the forged full counter crankshaft as well as the forged pistons and H-beam connecting rods. Designed to take full advantage of Subaru's Active Valve Control System, the Tomei Poncam Type A camshafts improve torque from low-engine speeds all the way to the top end. The installation of a Prodrive recalibrated ECU allows this WRX tuner to remap fuel curves, discarding Subaru's more conservative settings. Motec, manufacturer of versatile non-vehicle specific engine management, ignition, and on-board data acquisition systems, handles the capacitor discharge ignition system necessary to produce the extra power this EJ turbo engine's needs. Through the HKS GT2540R turbocharger upgrade and downpipe that eliminates the catalytic converter and thereby the bottleneck, the engine is finally able to breathe. While an APS turbo inlet pipe delivers the air to the compressor, ARC is aptly chosen to assume responsibility for the air-to-air cooling needs of the compressed air making its way through the intake system with their front-mount intercooler system. The suspension department is overseen by Tanabe's Sustec Pro coilover technology. Their most prominent street-friendly suspension system is designed to give the driver control, but with minimal sacrifice in comfort. Superior Cusco driveline technology delivers twin-plate carbon clutches for added heat resistance, increased durability and smoother engagement for high-powered cars like the WRX. The type RS limited-slip differential, also from Cusco, reduces slipping and improves throttle response by using a low-pressure oil system and proprietary RS springs. It would appear this particular WRX has got all bases covered.
When it comes down to owning and modifying fast turbocharged cars like this right-hand-drive Subaru WRX, Singaporeans are not much different from their American counterparts and are equally driven and proud of their accomplishments-even if they do have a tougher time getting things done.