My first experience with the current-generation STI took place in late 2007. The good people at Subaru had invited a few journalists to test their new creation at Fuji Speedway in Japan. All the big-wigs from the company were there along with the entire design team, marketing department and pretty much everyone else who was responsible for producing the new car. So out of respect, I threw on my poker face when I saw it and held back my overwhelming desire to scream, “What the hell is that, and did you seriously put Altezza taillights on it?!”
Fortunately, I’d become acclimated to presentations of repulsiveness in the preceding days. On the eve of my test drive, a dish with a single raw shrimp was placed in front of me. The body had been peeled, revealing a translucent wiggly carcass. The legs were gone but the head remained with a facial expression as horrified as my own. I wasn’t sure where to start, but the head had to go. I locked onto the body with a pair of chopsticks then secured the head to the plate with a salad fork. For a split second, I think its eyes looked back as if to warn me, “Hey, buddy, you don’t want to do that.” But it was too late. Its brains were soon strewn across my plate with vivid colors that I hope to never see again.
The new STI needs to be modified. Once the boost is raised, the exhaust is uncorked and the suspension is locked down, the different generations are all awesome. But unlike the older cars, which were reasonably raw right out of the box, the new version is a little too refined in its stock form. It doesn’t rumble the way a boxer should and the ride is a bit on the cushy side. If a car’s going to have pink STI badges, it had better be able to back them up.
It was then that I realized not everything that is Japanese is better in Japan. The JDM STI was fun to drive on the track. It was surprisingly competent at its limits. But it didn’t compel me to really hammer on it the way that some of the older USDM STIs had. At the time, I chalked it up to the puny JDM 2.0-liter motor and all of the new electronic performance countermeasures. But there was more to it, and it took me a while to piece it all together.
By the time the cars arrived in the U.S., my reservations on the body styling were long gone. Sans the taillights, the new STI looks killer and in hindsight it’s clear that a complete redesign was absolutely the right move for Subaru. That said, the overly complicated stability control defeat routine required to make the car go fast is something that only an evil team of lawyers could have come up with. For a long time, my frustration with the electronic gizmos threw me off as to what really separated this car from previous versions. But when I finally heard a modified one go ripping around a racetrack—gizmos and all—it came to me.
If you’re going for sub 2-minute lap times at the Super Lap Battle Finals, the parts lineup from Subaru Performance Tuning (SPT) probably won’t quite get you there. But if you’re looking to subtly tune your STI or WRX to where it deserves to be, they’re definitely worth checking out. The parts are of the highest quality and are sold through Subaru dealerships in America.
I recently had the opportunity to compare a bone-stock ’08 STI against one with a variety of SPT parts at our usual Streets of Willow test track. The SPT car had its aluminum front shock tower brace as well as a lower chassis brace which links the subframe to the engine crossmember. The only other suspension modification was a set of STI Performance “Pink” springs, which are about 25 percent stiffer in the front and 19 percent stiffer in the rear than the standard STI springs. They also lower the car by about 10mm. The shifter had been replaced with an STI short-throw version along with a firmer shifter bushing and leather STI shift knob. The upgrade I was most impressed by, though, was the SPT stainless steel exhaust system which ups the diameter to 3 inches all the way back to the four 2.5-inch outlets.
The first thing I noticed when firing up the engine was that it sounded like a Subaru. It wasn’t all that loud, but the distinctive rumble was definitely there. Out on the track, the car reacted quicker in the transitions and felt a little more composed under heavy lateral loads. None of the upgrades really made a night-and-day difference in how the car drove—it was more that the sum of the parts brought the cart up to where it should’ve been from the start.
With the right parts, the new STI is capable of being tuned as hard or as soft as you want it to be. For a car that gets driven daily, the SPT exhaust is a must-have. It’ll let you enjoy hearing that boxer under the hood without attracting any unwanted attention. Similarly, the springs are a mild upgrade that are completely livable on the street, and who wouldn’t want pink springs on their STI? As for eating raw shrimp in Japan, just save half a bowl of miso soup and pray that sucker sinks.
Specifications & Details
’08 Subaru STI With SPT Upgrades
SPT after-cat exhaust
STI short-throw shifter, STI hard bushing
SPT front STB, lower chassis brace, STI “Pink” springs
STI front-lip spoiler