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2018 Subaru WRX STI track review

By Dylan Campbell, 18 Jul 2018 Best Value Performance Cars

Once-great athlete feels close to retirement age

2018 Subaru WRX STI review

With its fancy new, understeer-nixing active Driver’s Control Centre Differential, the Subaru WRX STI recorded 0-100km/h in 5.53 seconds and 0-400m in 13.71sec at 159.7km/h. Its blistering turbocharged pace, in a straight line and around Wakefield Park, won it Bang For Your Bucks, coming out on top of a monster 25-car field. That was 2005.

This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2018

Thirteen years later, the WRX STI is doing 5.29sec to 100km/h and 13.51 second quarters. Time has stood still for Subaru’s much-loved rally rocket, while the game, and its rivals, have bolted off into the distance in the full embrace of progress.

In fairness, the blob-eye STI was wearing Bridgestone RE070 semi-slicks when it recorded those straight-line times in 2005, and if you fitted modern equivalents to the 2018 STI, it would doubtless be even faster, and even more brutal, as the performance testing method, in this launch control age, remains the same – redline and pop the clutch right out, as the driveline threatens to explode out the bottom of the car.

While you can launch, say, a twin-clutch VW Golf R all day long if you so wished, we can’t imagine many owners redline clutch-dumping their WRX STI very often, somewhat affecting the relevancy of its straight-line numbers.

That aside, the fact remains that the STI is still a right weapon and continues to wow and entertain in equal measure on a racetrack with its relentless turbocharged acceleration, tenacious traction and lateral grip. That its fundamental hardware still feels rock solid from a performance perspective, even though it’s a bit of a classic driving experience, says a lot about the enduring appeal of the STI formula.

It’s not perfect, of course. The peaky, laggy, boosty turbocharged power delivery is a bit 2010. The hydraulic steering sounds all sorts of pure on paper, but we’d replace it with the BRZ’s EPAS system in a nanosecond. The brake pedal also gets a little disconcertingly long and the engine temps disconcertingly high. With its 1:40.4 lap time, it was also getting beaten by cars like the less powerful, front-drive i30 N.

MOTOR comparison: WRX STI v Golf R v Focus RS

But it’s still fun. It’s an experience, the STI, with its raw turbocharged rush and the spooky ability to tighten your line as you pick up the throttle. It’s also cheap – the STI in 2005 was $56,630, or about $75K in today’s money. In a sense, you can get the same Japanese all-wheel rocket driving experience, brand new, for $25K less in 2018.

Why you’d want to, we’re not sure. Buy a used one. Or wait until the next STI comes out in the next few years, supposedly sporting a brand new hybrid powertrain. We can only hope it not only catches the STI up to its rivals, but puts it back on top as the cut-price performance technology king.

Sound money matters on Bang For Your Bucks 2018

Subaru WRX STI BFYB 2018 Results - 11th place

0-100km/h: 5.29sec (5th)
0-400m: 13.51sec @ 165.81km/h (5th)

Lap Time: 1:40.40sec (9th)

Price: $50,890

Bang Index: 128.3

Bucks Index: 98.7

BFYB Index: 115.0

Judges' Comments

Warren Luff - 12th
“The STI is really good. It’s got a great chassis that really gives a lot of driver feedback. Probably its biggest downfall is the ergonomics inside. You feel like you’re sitting on a park bench as there’s no support from the seats in either the back or in the base. And that’s probably the biggest downside of it. Chassis-wise it’s really strong. The brakes, a usual Achilles heel of the STI, started to give away a little bit, but overall it’s a fun car.”

David Morley - 12th
“Why do I still like it when it beats me up so?”

Dylan Campbell - 14th
“It’s a blast from the past – as in, 2009”

Scott Newman - 14th
“Has been passed by its rivals, literally and metaphorically”

Louis Cordony - 14th
“As hot hatches get better to drive each year, this gets worse”

FAST FACTS 
2018 Subaru WRX STI 

BODY: 4-door, 5-seat sedan
DRIVE:
 all-wheel
ENGINE: 2457cc boxer-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 99.5mm x 79.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 8.2:1
POWER: 221kW @ 6400rpm
TORQUE: 407Nm @ 4000rpm
WEIGHT: 1572kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 141kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
SUSPENSION: struts, coil springs, dampers (f); A-arms, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 340mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 326mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 8.5-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Yokohama Advan Sport V105 245/35 R19 89W (f/r) 
PRICE: $50,890

Bang For Your Bucks 2018

Bang For Your Bucks 2018The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
15 of the hottest new fast cars under $100K roll up to take on our famous formula. Which will be number 1?