Let's face the facts once and for all: when Subaru came out with this hatchback on 'roids and slapped on an STi badge on the back, don't even front like you weren't as shocked as I was. I remembered distinctly how much I was flabbergasted when I first saw the photos of the new version. I think it was a Monday morning as I worked out my delts, balancing atop a bed of nails, surfing the Interweb when I came across a picture that Elliott Moran sent to me. It was a photo of what seemed like a cross between a Ford Escort and the Saab my uncle used to drive. When I saw the badge names and slowly realized that Subaru done gone wild like a college sorority sister, I nearly pissed myself. I was flabbergasted, so much so that I checked my flabbers and found that they were indeed thoroughly gasted.
It took me a while to finally accept the new look. In fact it was just this year that I finally stopped shaking my head, looking down, and walking the other direction every time I saw a GR chassis. My change in heart was probably due to the recent JUN WRX STI Super Street cover car (April '09) since JUN was one of the few street tuners to make it look oh-so-normal, or perhaps it was the mental image of the old GDB chassis slowly fading away in my brain. Either way, I began to start appreciating it. One tuner that also helped change my mind is the all-in-one body shop for all things rally, L'aunsport. Based in the Chiba prefecture of Japan, L'aunsport is slowly climbing the ranks among the hardcore rally enthusiasts across the globe. Of course, their favorite blank canvas to which they can Jackson Pollock the hell out of is the GRB-A chassis WRX STi. It's a venerable match made in rally heaven seeing that L'aunsport is only known within the hardcore audience, and the new STi is vast becoming the hardcore fan's hardcore ride. I caught up with the rally heads at L'aunsport earlier this year at the Tokyo Auto Salon and they had this to say:
"We do our best to rally all fellow fans! And around the foot for dress-up look from the street rally, creating a circular WRC. Keyword is 'rally custom.' The watchword is 'rally custom!!!'"
Translate at your own risk, but what I got from it is that they mean business when it comes to customizing their rides. So far, they have three '08 Impreza STI project cars, ranging from mild to hot to speecy spicy. The one we caught on film is the hot version. It's outfitted with the latest L'aunsport outerwear but lacks the punch from the inside. In other words, and to quote one Mr. Sir Mix a Lot, she has "little in the middle but she got much back." The L'aunsport goodies include WRC-inspired body kit, featuring a front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, diffuser, rear hatch wing, door mirror cover, hood, and aero scoop, all of which were made in glorious carbon-fiber. They added a lightweight hood damper, a spring antenna, silver carbon graphics, and a red racing dummy hook as special touches.
Underneath the chassis is a set of very choice Ohlins DFV adjustable coilovers with Eibach springs, a suspension setup that will run you an arm, a leg, a black-and-tan mini-dachshund, and the last will of your grandmother, if applicable. It's an expensive setup that can only be coupled by equally expensive and equally dope wheels in the form of 19x9.5 Prodrive GC-014i wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tires. If anything, this STI is ready to sling you from the driveway of your house to the front door of a Mitsuwa supermarket in the most fashionable way. Inside the car is no different than the rest. L'aunsport customized the interior with Kevlar yellow Recaro seats, custom 33pi replica steering wheel, al'Mat flooring, and a WRC custom replica shift knob. They spared no expense in making sure the exterior and interior looked and felt like a WRC whip. Of course, the only notable difference would be the engine. But at least the stock motor of the Impreza WRX STI is nothing to scoff at. It's sure as hell faster than Project Car's CRX or your uncle's lollipop-powered Saab.
All-in-all, I liken the look of the WRX STI to a bowl of Natto, a traditional Japanese food made with fermented soybeans. At first, you'll spit it out like a professional porn star, and after more tastings and peer pressure, you'll grow to like it, look for it in every Japanese menu you come across, and swallow it whole like, well, a professional porn star. The new STI is exactly like that, and the peer pressure comes in the form of these crazy Japanese tuners like L'aunsport, who continually strive to create the ultimate WRC-inspired Imprezas, in spite of the fact that Subaru withdrew from WRC. They keep hope alive and most importantly keep me in check the next time I decide a car is just too ugly for my taste.
2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (GRB-A)
Hometown: Noda, Chiba City, Japan
Daily Grind: Rally Custom
Under The Hood: P555 WRC GRB single exhaust; STI header
Drivetrain: STI transmission, clutch, LSD
The Power: 413hp @6000rpm
Stiff Stuff: Ohlins DFV complete kit adjustable coilovers with Eibach springs
Rollers: 19x9.5 Prodrive GC-014i wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE050 265/30-19
Outside: L'aunsport WRC Custom 2008 show model, front bumper carbon-fiber clip, side skirt, rear bumper carbon-fiber diffuser, carbon-fiber rear hatch wing with stop lump, carbon-fiber door mirror cover, carbon-fiber hood, carbon-fiber I/C hood, lightweight hood damper (carbon red), '08 aero scoop, '08 GPS and camera case kit, spring antenna (AM/FM), silver carbon sticker, racing dummy hook (red), six stars pink emblem
Inside: WRC custom café Kevlar yellow Recaro bucket seat, custom 33pi replica steering wheel, Prodrive Rapfix boss, paddle shift (dummy), al'Mat, non-clutch coupler, WRC custom replica shiftknob
Props: Domo arigato, Mr. Roel Roboto for being such a pimpo
WWW: launsport.com, wordsling.com