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2015 Subaru WRX STI: New take on everyone's favorite daily rally car! (CNET On Cars, Episode 45): CNET On Cars

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CNET On Cars: 2015 Subaru WRX STI: New take on everyone's favorite daily rally car! (CNET On Cars, Episode 45)

23:57 /

The new WRX STI may be the most technically capable car in the world that you can (probably) afford. Car theft is on the decline thanks to technology, and we explain the mystical science of limited-slip differentials.

[INAUDIBLE] Sync, and off to the races. New WRX/STI regains it's focus as the everyday rally car. Limited-slip differentials demystified. And the top five reasons you still have your car. Time to check the tach We see cars differently. Nice. We love them on the road, and under hood, but also check the tech, and are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included, at no extra cost. [MUSIC] The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET On Cars. [MUSIC] Welcome to CNET On Cars, the show all about high-tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. Well, for 2015, The Subaru WRX/STI got a pretty thorough makeover. They dropped the five-door hatchback variance. And left off any sort of overt reference to it being an Impreza. It's all about them doubling down on what this car does best. Very unlikely, the most technically adept, everyday rally car, in the affordable range. Let's drive the all new one, and check the tech. [MUSIC] The WRX/STI. Perhaps the most technically specialized car in the world under 40 grand. Now heavily revised, for 2015. Let's drive this newest formula, of the average Joe's rally car. Now, spotting an STI [LAUGH] are you kidding? That's the easiest thing in autodom. Just look at the back where you've got that wing big enough to drive a BRZ through. Beyond that, it's back to being a four door Sedan only, in classic WRX historical route. I think it's the best looking, most cohesive one since the original, which I'm still partial to. They have thinned out and more rakishly extended these A pillars, and this wide body design is much more elegantly done than in the outgoing car. It's got a cohesive look, as if it was meant to look this burly, not a based Impreza that was bumped out to be that burly. And note this, LED low beam headlights are standard on this car. It's kind of a nice touch. [MUSIC] Now the cabin of the new WRX/STI is very gutsy. The carbon fiber trims, and I'm gonna go through a bunch of drive controls in a minute. Let's start with the head unit though, which base, is pretty basic stuff. I mean, that's a dot matrix display, no navigation, and your basic media sources. They're all there, but there's nothing that's gonna be eye-popping. I never look to Subaru to wow me in the head unit, and this is no exception. Now you can upgrade this, however, to a six inch touchscreen navigation system, that will also include voice command, we don't have that here, so I can't comment on it. You can also bump up to a Harman Kardon audio system, which I would recommend, because the sound system in here, is one of the few I noticed in the cars that I drive, because it's kinda cardboard sounding all the time. No matter what I did with the tone controls, I couldn't coax what I thought was a good sound out of it. Now luckily, you've got this helper display standard. It's small, it's far, but it's doing a good job with many things, like media display for example. It'll also take you into your various fuel economy and advanced trip odometers. You've got some real time fuel economy. That shows you what the drive train's doing in terms of steer angle and torque distribution. And you've got a virtual boost gauge for the turbo, that's a nice complement, both stylistic and functionally, for the instrument panel in front of you, which is all analog gauges, we have a small LCD helper. And that same little screen also displays your standard rear camera. I'm pleased that its there, I'm pleased that its standard, but its rather far, and rather small, to be as effective as I'd like it to be. [MUSIC] And for who would an STI be without its famous intercool flat four, a boxer flat flour in the Subaru tradition. You know it's intercooled because there's the air cooler, nestled where the functional front hood scoop will sit right over it. Now, the dimensions on this guy. Two and a half liter, flat four again. You've got two cylinders punching this way, and two punching that way. It's like part of a 911 engine put in here. The numbers are 305 horsepower out of that configuration, 290 foot pounds of torque, lofty numbers from a pretty compact engine, again, thanks to the intercooled turbo charging which maxes out near 15 PSI of boost. Zero to 60 for a car that weighs about 3400 pounds, happens in the low fives, possibly better, lets call it 5.2 to be conservative, while delivering 1723 mpg, not great for a compact car, but this car has got a special mission. And of course, these cars are all, all wheel drive, symmetrical all wheel drive, which is Subaru's brand. [MUSIC] Symmetrical all wheel drive puts the engine right in the middle of the drive train. Literally, instead of using a lot of added auxiliary shafts and power take-off gearboxes, to reroute the torque around the car. It's always on. Designed to be all wheel drive from the ground up. And another benefit of this whole architecture, is that it all sits down, flat and low, great for center of gravity, and goes only through a six-speed manual gearbox, of course. Now, translating what goes in the engine bay, goes through a variety of controls, primarily here in the central console. First of all, you got your intelligent drive controller here. Push it once, to go into an automatic mode, kick it to the left or counter clockwise, you go into a sport mode. Or go right clockwise, and you get what's called sport sharp. And those curves on the display there, give you the main gist of it. It's sharpening up the tip in and the ramp up of acceleration under your right foot. It's primary a throttle control contour. Now all that power in the front, gets translated through not one, not two, but three differentials in all WRX/STIs. Front, rear, and a very complex electro mechanical center differential. And that's controlled right here through this center differential control. If you put it in automatic, you can make a little bit of change to it, automatic plus, automatic minus. Plus is gonna handle slushy, slippery surfaces better. Minus is gonna be a little more locked, for gutsy performance. Or go all the way into manual, and you call the level. For most negotiation of difficult surfaces, all the way to locked for the highest performance on the tarmac. An STI has a base 41/59 torque split, but if you work your center differential right, you can get to just about 50/50. That's kinda your range of where the power is going, nominally. There are also three stability control profiles. Normal, traction, and off. And those are in order of sportiness. Off, by the way, also turns off torque vectoring, so you're handling things by yourself. [MUSIC] I've never driven a car, that I can recall, which is a throttle so responsive to a little blip, when you need to to a rev [INAUDIBLE] it is, like that, spot on, super cool! Next thing you hear is that great exhaust. These STI's have a great exhaust system, which is good. Because I'm not really a big fan of the sound of a boxer engine. The next thing I notice, is this car actually feels, the best way I can describe it, it feels square, which is a big compliment. It can go any direction that I want it to, without any sort of prejudice towards its longitudinal length. Most cars kinda wanna go the long way. This car will go wherever you put it! It's incredibly agile. There's a reason that STIs have this legendary following. They're very balanced. They're very agile. They have those rally routes, and that's where all that comes from. These are not overpowering cars. But they're exceptionally able to get where you wanna go, with precision. Oh, by the way, the steering on this car is really old school. Simple, hydraulic assist. They're doing nothing tricky with electric assist on the steering rack whatsoever. And finally the power delivery is real nice. They've dialed out a big piece of any turbo lag in this car, the only area I notice that is down real low, if you go to stab it, you gotta wait for things to get up to 2000, 2500 RPM, I feel, to really get the sweet spot. The clutch transactions are great the gearbox is a little notchy, but I suspect, I mean, our car's only got 2700 miles on it, I bet it'll smooth out a bit wear. I'm not a huge fan of the cabin. Hour in and hour out, it's a little bit dated and kinda tacky looking, I think. So what really shines is the way this car feels, not so much the way it looks. [MUSIC] Now, pricing the new STI is a pretty simple affair. You gotta buy one car, and add it to one option package, and off to the finance manager's desk. 35, three is your base for this car, and again, there's no transmission choice, and almost nothing else to pick from, until you get to the navigation and Harman Kardon audio package. For 2,500 bucks, I think it's a good value, even though I haven't had my hands on the [UNKNOWN] because it includes not only that, but 440 watts of Harman Kardon audio. Support for Aha music, audiobook, and radio station streaming. Keyless access, and a very appropriate push button start as well. [MUSIC] Find the full review on that Subi WRX/STI over at cars.cnet.com, where Antuan Goodwin did the full review, and probably wants to be buried in one. If your car is still out front right now, you can thank a host of electronic anti-theft technologies who have cropped up over the last handful of years. The ways that they irritate car thieves are of great interest, to the Smarter Driver. [MUSIC] We all know the sound. We all hate the sound. But believe it or not, you may be hearing it a lot less these days. That's because auto theft has been on a 20 year run down, and it's been way down. [MUSIC] In the U.S., the auto theft rate per 100,000 persons has been coming down since 1993. There was a plateau in the mid-2000s. Then we kept our erosion going. And the total number of thefts as halfed since twenty years ago. In the U.K, vehicle theft is down from 600,000 a year in 1991, to just over 100,000 cars stolen in 2011, a dramatic drop. And overall, across the G7 countries auto theft, way off. So what is going on here? Well, first and for most, technology. Crooks aren't getting any nicer ,and times aren't getting any easier, but it's a lot harder to get into a car and drive it off where you can dismantle it than it used to be. Technology makes that rather challenging. Now, the top cars that do get stolen, tend to have two things in common. One, they're popular models now. And they've been popular models for awhile. Cars that are out there that represent lots of existing cars on the road that need repair parts, are what feed so much theft. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top five stolen cars in 2012, were the Honda Accord, the Honda Civic, the Ford pickups, the Chevy pickups, and the Toyota Camry. Combine with that the fact that we are driving the oldest fleet ever in the U.S., we're at about 11.4 years right now as the average age, of a private vehicle on the U.S. roads. R.L Polk I don't think has ever seen it that high. Partly because of the recession. That creates a huge base of used cars out there, for which either unscrupulous repair shops or unknowing parties, are buying up stolen parts. [MUSIC] The other thing that stolen cars tend to have in common, is being unlocked with the keys left in them. Yeah, believe it or not, that's about 40% to 50% of all stolen car reports out there. So it pays to double check that you at least have your keys with you. If not, your car locked and the windows up. [MUSIC] Coming up, well figure out what goes on inside one of the murkiest parts of your car, when CNET on Cars rolls on. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] The BMW M3 has divided itself in two. One with four doors, one with two. The four door car remains the M3, a car that many have lusted over for generations. The two door car, it's got a new name. The M4. [MUSIC] Now, you see, due to BMW's naming structure, the odd number cars are the Estates and the Saloons, the sensible ones. Whereas the even numbered cars are the coupés and the convertible, the stylish, lifestylely type cars. [MUSIC] The party beast is the engine, and it is simply stunning. [MUSIC] Find more from the XCAR team of CNET U.K., at cnet.com/xcar. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNET on Cars. Coming to you from our home at the Marin Clubhouse of Cars de Whitiack. Just north of the Golden Gate bridge. Well you car would be about as sophisticated as a garden car, if it didn't have a differential. And lately, you may have noticed automakers are talking more and more about their limited-slip differentials, sounds like it's time for a car tech 101. [MUSIC] If two wheels are locked on an axle, so that they are not free to turn separately, one or the other, has to slide. So, engineers had to find a way to connect both rear wheels to the engine, without sliding and slipping on turns. The device which makes this possible, is a part of the rear axle, it is called the differential, because it can drive the rear wheels, at different speeds. [MUSIC] Now, before we talk about limited-slip differentials, let's get a quick refresher, on differentials. Here's one out a vintage Alpha Romeo. Good because it's fairly simple, and can get us down on the basics. The idea behind the differential, is to allow the two, in this case, rear drive wheels, to turn at different speeds, while going in the same direction. That's important in, let's say, turning a corner, where the outside wheel, is going to cover more distance in the same time, than the inside wheel. It has to turn faster. If it didn't do that, either the inside wheel would have to slip, or these gears in the middle, would take a beating. A differential, allows these two to operate somewhat independently. Power comes in here from the car's driveshaft here, turns this, which operates a pinion gear. That turns the ring gear, which turns planetary gears, which then turns bevel drive gears, that turn the axils of the output shafts. [MUSIC] Now, here's where this whole assembly falls down, as miraculous as it is, if one of these wheels loses traction, the power or the torque, goes to the path of least resistance, and spins that wheel, the one that's not giving any grip, while the one that does have grip, sits there getting very little or no power. That's just not a good thing. So, whether your car is slipping a wheel because of a poor service, or because of lifting during cornering, or just because you're standing on it, and one wheel is lighting up, a standard or open differential, tends to put the power in the wrong place when there's a lack of grip. That's where limited-slip differential comes in. It limits the slip that is natural to a basic differential. If a drive wheel loses traction, the differential sends power to the opposite wheel or axle, or with the best grip, or the slower moving wheel or axle. Now, front wheel drives have this thing function, but it's built into their transact so transmission assembly in this sort of car. Now, we could spend hours on the details of how these work internally, but basically there are several types. Geared differentials use spring loading and a more complex pack of gears, than a standard or open differential like we have here. Clutch or plate limited-slip differentials, use those kinds of parts to engage one output shaft with the other, based on wheel resistance. If a wheel spins, its clutch or pressure plates loosen, to send it less torque. Viscous coupled limited-slip differentials, rely on disks in the differential, spinning in silicone fluid, that gets either grabbier or less so, based on that friction of spinning. And electronic limited-slip differentials, are controlled by the car's computer. It reads wheel slip, and then commands clutches electronically, to tighten or ease up their engagement on one wheel or the other. And within those four major methods of doing limited-slip, there's also another layer. Some that will sense torque, and others will sense wheel speed, to make their decision about what to alter. So, now you know, when you get a car that has a limited-slip differential. It's got some kinda technology built into this power split device, that allows it to sense when a wheel's lost traction, and send more power or torque, to the one that hasn't. It helps you with performance, traction, and safety. [MUSIC] In a moment, where are the French? And top technologies to make you part of a downward theft trend, when CNET On Cars returns. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] The Formula Four Championship of Great Britain is now in its 48th year. And it's the only single seater championship, backed by a manufacturer in the U.K. [MUSIC] The car has changed quite a bit since the early 70s, and the 2014 spec machine showcases the very latest in road car technology from Ford. This 1.6 liter turbo-charged EcoBoost engine, is exactly what you find in the Fiesta ST, and kicks out an awesome 197 horsepower. [MUSIC] Find more from the XCAR team of CNET U.K., at cnet.com/xcar. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNET on Cars. I'm Brian Cooley. Time to get to some of your email, and this one comes all the way from Malta, from Zack G., who writes, I've always wondered about the situation in the U.S. when it comes to French cars, like Peugeot, Citroen and Renault. I know they used to be sold in the U.S. for some time and then gave up on the market entirely. I recall when each of them left. HIs question is, do you think there is a place for them today in the U.S.? Also are there any French cars left running around there in your country? Well Zack, that's what's interesting to me, French cars left in different phases over the last couple of decades. For example, Citroen left first,1974 the Citroen SM, ran into a big problem, with its adjustable suspension, moving the bumper height, and running afoul of U.S. law, and it wasn't worth the effort, for the volume they sold, to re-engineer and somehow come up with an answer. So they left the market in the mid 70s. Now Renault left the market in the late 80s, they held on quite awhile. The great cards of Europe, priced out of reach Until now. Renault bridges the gap between. But after a complicated dance of ownership between Chrysler, AMC, Jeep, and Renault itself, it just got dissolved and left. I remember the last car they had here that was doing pretty well, was the Alliance. And then that finally brings us to Peugeot, which left in the early 90s, when the sales of the 405, in this country, petered out to a pretty feeble 2,000 units or so. And it just wasn't worth staying in the market, so they were the last to give up the ghost. I'm always very pleased foremost, by, with the French cars I drive overseas when I rent them. I go to the international shows, and we see all these amazing French models. It's almost like a strange sort of a missing industry to us here in the U.S., I don't know of any major effort right now, to bring the French brands back. I will say this, we kind of have Renault on our roads, because of the pioneering Renault-Nissan partnership that began back in 1999. So a lotta Renault technology, underpins a lotta cars here. They just aren't called Renaults. You don't see a lot of French cars on our road though. It's something that you'll look at and say oh, look at that there goes a French car. That tells you enough. Now we talked earlier in the show about what's going on with technologies that keep your car from getting stolen. And the trend, of course, is towards a dramatic decrease in auto theft. Let's meet the five technologies that have been the most responsible for that. [MUSIC] Number five is Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. This is an OnStar only thing, and a real show stopper, but I rank it low, because time is of the essence when your car is ripped off, and this one kinda cuts the other way. You see, by the time you figure out your car is gone, you then have to file a police report, and then use that as authorization to get the police to talk to OnStar, to then go look for your car, and see if they can stop it while the crook's driving it. By the time this happens, your car could well be in a shipping container on its way to a warm, sunny place. Even OnStar claims a mere 250 cars, have been slowed down with a thief at the wheel, in five years, but if it's your's, the smug satisfaction is gonna be huge. Number four is GPS tracking. Knowing that you car isn't where it should be, and knowing that quickly, is the essence of dealing with vehicle theft. In the last few years, all kinds of products have cropped up, that let you use GPS to know on your phone, if your car's on the move when you don't want it be, and where it's moving. And of course this same tech, has the daily benefit, of monitoring a friendlier class of car thief, your kids. Number three is theft sensors. Here I'm talking about glass break sensors, and vehicle tilt sensors. They work right at the moment of theft, either triggering an alarm on the car, a horn or a bell. A shutdown of its ignition, and/or an alert on your phone. These are much more nuance sensors, than those dumb vibration things that power the standard vehicle alarm horn. That just keeps you awake. Number 2, remote locking. Even today, roughly half of all motorists, leave their car unlocked. And those cars make up a huge 40% of stolen cars. Drives insurers and cops nuts. So the presence of nearly ubiquitous remote locking in cars, was the first step, the key fob. Increasingly, higher-end cars now auto lock and unlock, via the proximity of your key fob, just leaving it in your pocket. And now growing fast, is the use of apps, that can check and change the lock status of your car, right from your phone, anywhere in the world. But people just like to leave their cars unlocked. Before I get you to the number one, you may ask, where is the car alarm? In hell I hope. It had its day as a deterrent a long time ago, but now it is generally accepted that people are desensitized to traditional alarms. As cars continue to become connected, I look to a day when a car alarm moves from blowing a horn under the hood, to giving you a notification on an app. Now that's meaningful. The number one technology that is keeping cars from getting ripped, are smart ignitions. Most thieves wanna drive your car away. And it wasn't long ago you could do that easily by twisting two wires over the dash. Then came ignition locks. You could still hot wire the car, but only drive it in a straight line, not real useful. More recently, we're enjoying the fruit of smart keys, which do this unique little digital handshake, between the car's ignition and the key, before anything's gonna start. It has made a huge difference in theft rates. The downside is that you've now got a $300 key you have to replace, it used to be a $2 blank. Hope you enjoyed the show. Thanks for watching. Remember, keep those emails coming with your thoughts and suggestions, that's oncars@cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley. I'll see you next time we check the tech. [MUSIC]
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