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CNET On Cars: On the road: Subaru WRX STi

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CNET On Cars: On the road: Subaru WRX STi

7:52 /

Brian Cooley drives the new 2015 Subaru WRX STi and tells you why it just might be the most technically adept, affordable car on the road.

[MUSIC] The WRX STi. Perhaps the most technically specialized car in the world under 40 grand, now heavily revised, through 2015. Let's drive this newest formula of the average Joe's rally car, and check the tech. Now spotting an STi. [LAUGH] Are you kidding? That's the easiest thing on autodom. Just look at the back, where you've got that wing, big enough to buy a BRZ through. Beyond that, it's back to being a four-door sedan only, in classic WRX historical roots. I think it's the best looking most cohesive one, since the original, it comes 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 base Impreza that was bumped out to be that burly. [NOISE] And note this, LED low beam headlights are standard on this car, kind of a nice touch. [MUSIC] Now the cabin of the new WRX STi is, very gutsy. These 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 looked 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. But 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 kind of 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 drivetrain'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 stylistically and functionally, for the instrument panel in front of you which is all analog gauges. With a small LCD helper. And that same little screen also displays your standard rear camera. I'm pleased that it's there, I'm pleased that it's standard. But it's rather far, and rather small, to be as effective as I'd like it to be. And of course what would an STi be without its famous intercooled flat-4. A boxer flat-4 is a Subaru tradition. You know, it's intercooled because. Because there's the intercooler, and [UNKNOWN] where the functional front hood scoop will fit right over it. Now the dimensions on this guy, 2.5 liter flat-4 again, you've got two cylinders punching this way, and two punching that way, it's kind of like part of a 911 engine put in here. The numbers of 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 3,400 pounds, happens in the low fives. It's possibly better. Let's call it 5.2 to be conservative. While delivering 17/23 MPG, not great for a compact car, but this car's got a special mission, and of course, these guys are all all-wheel drive. Symmetrical all-wheel drive, which is Subaru's brand. 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 that power take-off gear boxes, 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. [NOISE] Now translating what's in the engine bay goes through a variety of controls primarily here in the center console. First of all, you've 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 to the 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 [UNKNOWN] and the ramp up of acceleration under your right foot, primarily 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 by 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, this 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. From most negotiation of difficult surfaces, all the way to lock for the highest performance on the tarmac. An STi is a base 41, 59 torque split, but if you work your center differential right, you can get to just about 50, 50. That's kind of your range. Of where the power's going. Phenomenal. 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 everything yourself. [MUSIC] I've never driven a car that I can recall. Which is a throttle so responsive to a little blip when you to do need to a rev match. It is like that. Spot on, super cool Next thing you hear, is that great exhaust, the STis 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, and the best way I can describe it is it feels square. Which is a big compliment. It can go any direction that I want it to without any sort of prejudice toward 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 roots and that's where all this 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 wrap whatsoever. And finally, the power delivery's real nice. They've dialed out, a big piece of any Turbo lag in this car. The only area I noticed it is down real low, if you go to stab it, you gotta wait for things to get up to 2,000, 2,500 RPM I feel to really get the sweet spot. The clutch transactions are great. The gear box is a little notchy, but I suspect, I mean, our car's only got 2,700 miles on it, I bet it'll smooth out a bit with ware. I'm not a huge fan of the cabin, hour in and hour out. It's a little bit dated and, kind of tacky looking I think. But what really shines is the way this car feels, not so much the way it looks. 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. 35,3 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 Harmon Karman audio package. For 2,500 bucks, I think's a good value, even though I haven't had my hands on the [UNKNOWN]. Because it includes not only that, but 440 wats of Harmon Karman audio. Support for Aha music audio book and radio station screening, keyless access, and a very appropriate push button start as well. [MUSIC]

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