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Headline:FastSaloons.com Impreza WRX Sti Type UK RoadtestDate:31/08/2007
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com Subaru Impreza WRX Sti Type UK Roadtest

FastSaloons.com
Review


Subaru Impreza WRX STi Type UK



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STIll Imprezíd ?

Itís a matter of third time lucky for Subaru with itís second facelift of the now infamous bug-eyed Impreza. A definite case for evolution, as the latest Impreza is now far easier on the eye than the initial car launched back in 2000.

Exterior Styling

The front has always been the bug bear of the Impreza, quite literally, and with the latest round of changes Subaru has completely altered the carsí face. The overall effect is to give the car a more edgier look. The bonnet lines, lights and grille all work together to produce a more pointed look. In addition the front lip integrated spoiler has been simplified and looks far more part of the car.



Restyled front, strong flanks, rear retains original shape.
Subaru calls the new grille Ďspread wingsí and the new front lights Ďhawk-eyeí Ė so itís clear where the new looks are inspired by.

Front progression: 2002 2005 2006

From the side things are far more similar; in fact youíd be hard pressed to notice the differences. In fact the main difference is on the leading edge of the front wing, where the vent and fins have been swapped around. The last version the car had a vent at the front and horizontal fin behind it, in the new car this is reversed (coincidently this is more like the original car looked, albeit the new carís looks better finished). The car gets the now ubiquitous gold wheels, which again are the same as on the earlier car.

The addition of another spoiler, this time roof mounted, differentiates the car from the previous version and makes the car look more interesting and somehow seems to balance out the bonnet scoop and huge rear boot spoiler.

Side progression: 2002 2005 2006

The rear gets a number of subtle changes; the lights are now effectively reversed, compared to the later version with red over white vs. white over red. The unit itself is more transparent and Subaru describes the clusters as three dimensional. As already mentioned the car gets a roof spoiler which sits at the top of the rear window, in addition the car gets a rear diffuser under the car to smooth out the lower airflow. Also clearly visible is the large single Sti-branded chrome exhaust muffler.

Rear progression: 2002 2005 2006

So what do we think of the latest round of changes? Well we definitely approve, the Impreza is still not the beauty queen, but is no longer the ugly duckling it once was. The car also looks modern and fresh which is a not bad for an underlying design that was introduced nearly eight years ago.

However, it must be said that you soon get the impression that you are driving around in the motoring equivalent of a hoodie. Itís not your anti-social behaviour that causes this. You can be pottering around, way below the legal speed limit, minding your own business, only to be glared at people walking their dog, gardening or waiting for a bus. In fact your only comrades seem to be those who do have a penchant for Ďcasual-wear which includes head coveringí.

Itís equally baffling as the new Impreza is actually pretty quiet inside. The familiar burble is much more restraint. It could be the bright blue paintwork and hardly PC spoiler and bonnet scoop. Either way, the car is not for you if you are a shrinking violet, or like me are more into the Q car look. However if you like the opposite, youíll probably be hard pressed to find a car to stand out more in.


Interior Styling

Subaru has more or less left the interior as it was in the 2005 revised model. Unlikely the exterior the interior does look a little dated and as weíve commented previously there is definitely lots of room for improvement in terms of fit and finish


Well designed and specified interior.
It could be argued that you donít buy a Impreza for itís interior and to some extent that is true. However, when you see the leaps other manufacturers have gone to even with their entry level cars, itís clear your losing out here.



However, as a Sti buyer you certainly donít get short changed with a suitably lively interior combining blue suede effect and cloth seats. These are attractively embroidered with the pink Sti logo on the front seats, and left plain in the rear. Matching door inserts help lift the interior and gives the cabin a sense of excitement. In front of you is the dash has also been revised and now features electro-luminescent dials, as weíve seen before on the Legacy spec B. (The needles light up when you start the ignition and fly round to their maximum values and then back down to zero, before finally lighting up the whole dial fully along with another pink Sti logo in the centre of the revometer. A simple but pleasing touch, which adds some to making the car feel different. The dials themselves are clear to read being red over black. Revs have an indicated maximum of 7000rpm and the Speedo is graduated up to 160mph. Thankfully, the speedometer is perfectly readable unlike the one youíd find in an Mitsubishi Evo. Other touches are Sti floor mats, Sti gearbox surround and red stitched steering wheel and gear stick.



Getting onto the more important aspects like driving the car, things are much better the seats are comfortable, and you donít need to go on a diet to get into them. The wheel is feels a good size and can be adjusted. The pedal position is good, as is the position of the gear stick.

Looking out the windscreen you canít miss the intercooler vent; the bump on the bonnet looks even bigger from inside the car. Equally, the large rear spoiler visible through the rear view mirror is there to remind you this is no ordinary car. I like the fact these are clearly visible as so many cars these days, have no exterior whatsoever, visible once youíre inside them.


Ride, Handling & Steering

Right weíre into Subaruís territory now, this is the main reason why youíd buy a car like the Sti. Firstly, itís good to note that Subaru has stuck to seventeen inch wheels, sure they donít look as good as bigger diameter wheels but itís a well know fact that cars handle and ride batter on them. The choice of rubber is interesting too, Bridgestone Potenzas RE070 (sized 225/40) which have really good grip in both the wet and dry.



3 Suspension settings, AWD and well weighted steering.
The car actually rides quite softly, in that you donít get any crash and bang on uneven surfaces. The car feels connected to the road, in a reassuring way, if not quite as directly as youíd feel in a Mitsubishi Evo.

Cornering is also confidence inspiring with mild over steer seeming the carís natural behaviour. Push hard in the corners and you can really feel the massive grip the car posses. Even in the wet the car seems to doggedly keep its grip and hold you comfortably around the bend.

This car features an improved version of the Driverís Control Centre Differential (DCCD). Basically this means a switch located alongside the handbrake which can be used to manually select the torque distribution between the front and rear wheels. The new version includes an additional sensor that monitors steering wheel angle, which is now combined with the existing yaw-rate sensor. Also included in the new car is a new front helical limited-slip differential which is now torque-sensitive, reacting much earlier than before to varying road conditions. The upshot of these changes both hardware and software is that the car can maintain a heavier rear-wheel bias for longer, thus improving turn-in and under steer. Steering is also improved at the limit with less side-to-side tug on slippery surfaces.

Another result of the 2006 revisions is that the torque distribution in auto DCCD mode is now 41:59 (vs. 35:65 in the previous version).

One big negative and I hope as much down to our test car rather than a generic issue is general ride characteristics. This can be felt mainly at higher cruising speed, say on a dual carriageway or motorway. Itís not that the car rides hard, as I said earlier it doesnít, it is just that the car seems to bob up and down. Meaning it really didnít feel a good car for cruising. This is not a characteristic Iíve not noticed in any of the other Stis or WRXs Iíve driven and maybe the Ďpress carí status of our motor maybe to blame. Funnily enough you only tended to notice this when you werenít pushing the car, a result I guess that, your attention being elsewhere more than anything else.

Steering on the whole is quick but without much feel. It can feel a little vague around centre too, but as the rest of the car inspires such confidence, the fact that the steering leaves you a little short isnít a huge issue.


Engine, Gearbox and Performance

The new Sti gets a 2457cc (2.5-litre) high-pressure turbocharged engine. Up from the previous carís 1994cc (2.0-litre). This means power is increased from 261bhp @ 6,000rpm to 277bhp @ 5600 rpm. Torque is also increased from 253lb ft to 289lb ft (both @4,000rpm). In terms of raw numbers this means a slightly quicker 0-60 time now 5.0 seconds, and a higher top speed 158mph (up from 151mph).



2.5-litre turbo = 277bhp and 289 lb ft
In addition to the engine change the gearbox ratios have also been altered to give faster initial acceleration whilst ensuring more relaxed cruising and better economy. Fourth gear is now 16.3mph / 1,000 rpm (vs. 13.7) and sixth is 26.2mph / 1,000 rpm (vs. 24.5).

In practice the car is as you expect very fast. That is, providing the revs are above 3,000rpm as below this, things are distinctly different. Fifty miles per hour in sixth with your foot flat to the floor is not going to set you world on fire. However get the gearing right and most cars on the road wonít be able to touch you. Like all four wheel drive cars off-the-line acceleration depends on avoiding bogging-down the car, where traction overcomes power. The only way to avoid this is to dial in some revs before you release the clutch. Obviously this holds some risks and isnít necessarily the most mechanically sensitive thing that you can do to your car, but if done right can result in truly breathtaking acceleration.

The gearbox throw initially feels quite long, and a bit too long for fast changes. Fortunately, it doesnít take long to overcome this feeling and you find you can change gear as quickly as you need to. The clutch bite on our test car seemed a bit high and did cause a bit of agitation, although you do get use to this and soon forget about it.


The car features Brembo brakes which stop the car well and certainly from our tests suffered from very little, if any fade. Even after numerous hard braking moments. The ABS system is also created by Brembo and features electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), a system that shifts braking force between the front and rear brakes according to the behaviour of the car during deceleration. It has to be said that thanks mainly to the large amount of grip afforded by the tyres, we didnít actually sample the system very often. In all circumstances the carís poise under braking was never compromised.

From our tests we found the acceleration to be:



Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
Subaru Impreza WRX Sti Type UK (6 (06 - ))(5.0)
Subaru Impreza WRX Sti Type UK (6 (06 - ))
FastSaloons.com
(1.78)(2.84)(3.73)(5.82) (7.17)(8.78)(11.12)(13.26)
* all tests are carried out on private roads. FastSaloons.com does not condone exceeding the speed limit on public roads.




Practicality

The Impreza offers plenty of room front and rear and has a reasonable 395-litre boot which is easily accessed with a simple pull of the floor mounted lever in front of the driverís seat. Lifting the boot always brings a sense of amazement as you lift it with so much ease, which belies the size of the spoiler.


23.7 combined mpg = 284 g/km. Full marks for safety and useful Aux-in.
Economy wise as I mentioned earlier this is slightly better than the last Sti.

Urban 18.5 mpg
Extra urban 34 mpg
Combined 25.9 mpg

Emissions 257 g/km

The car comes with a 60,000 mile or 3 year warranty, a 12 year anti-corrosion warranty, a 3 year paint warranty and finally 3 years membership to Subaru Assistance (European home and roadside repair and recovery package provided by Mondial Assistance).

Safety wise the car gets dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, side airbags. The rear gets 2 isofix-compatible child seat mountings and three full seat belts.

Finally the car gets RAC Trackstar satellite security including 1 yearís free subscription.


Conclusion

We love the Impreza and mourn its imminent demise as a saloon. It may bring out the scowls and may have grown up just a bit too much, Confusingly the two donít seem to be linked. However it is a real drivers car offering a driving experience as the number one priority, something any petrolhead must appreciate. The car also offers a large amount of practicality and as such itsí running costs should be not too exotic.

As usual when it comes to competitors the Mitsubishi Evolution comes to mind first, the car now in itís ninth íevolutioní comes in 4 different flavours 300,320,340 and 360 (as well as the MR editions Ė with similar performance to the 360). Out of them the 300 is the closest both in power and price, albeit it £27.791 compared to the Stiís £26.495. In general the Evo will be more expensive to run but on the flip side offers an even more connected driving experience.

The usual suspects, Audi, BMW and Mercedes struggle to match the price and therefore canít put forward their performance flagships. Audiís 3.2 FSI Quattro SE costs £27710 (the sporty S line trim adds an extra £750 to that figure), itís S4 (£37,160) and RS4 (£50,675) both comfortably discounted on price. BMWís 325i SE costs £28,415 (the Msport version costs a further £2625) and the new M3 is expected to cost £50k+. Finally, Mercedes has the C230 Elegance which costs £27577 (or £29277 for the sport version); its own flagship the C63 AMG will cost comfortably more. In any regard, none of these cars will give an equivalent performance proposition, but itís nice to know what you could get for your money.

Other cars worth noting are the hot Vectra VXR (£25,605) which has almost the same power and torque, even if it canít quite compete in the handling department. And of course the Mazda 6 MPS (£24,100) which has similar power and also four wheel drive. Again it doesnít quite live up to the dynamics of the Subaru but it is not too far off and you have the stealth exterior (almost a direct opposite of the Stiís) and of course a more complete cabin and its £2,000 cheaper.

Final Verdict: Out and out performance saloon with few true rivals.


Neil.
Quick Section Links:†††††††††
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion

Related Links:†††††††††



Read this review in more traditional magazine format




Our review of the Subaru Impreza WRX STi Type UK PPP




Our review of the Subaru Legacy 3.0R spec B




Our review of the Subaru Legacy 2.5i SE




Full Set of Photos taken during the test



Subaru's UK website

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