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Subaru Impreza WRX STi at Performance Car of the Year 2005: Classic MOTOR

By David Morley, 26 Nov 2017 Performance COTY

Subaru Impreza WRX STi main

Chassis tweaks eliminated the push for more shove

Proving our numerical scoring weighting is pretty much spot on comes in the form of the news the top three spots in the top six remained precisely as the raw numbers dictated even after the semi-human element (welcome back Robbo) had been stirred into the mix.

This article was first published in MOTOR magazine's March 2005 issue. 

Which means that the Subaru with its brand spanking new active diff and gorgeous billet alloy suspension bits and pieces finishes a fighting third. The engine is equal parts amazing and disappointing, and the torque hole below 4000rpm that has plagued all STis for the last few years remains to spoil the picture.

Subaru-Impreza-WRX-STi-side.jpgAt Winton, the lack of urge below that mark on the tacho was of little consequence since the short gearing in the six-speeder ensures that the flat four is always giving its redline a big fright. But out in the real world – especially when you’re not giving it large – the soft torque curve is a real pain in the buttski.

Catch the Subaru in a gear too high and it just bogs down and wheezes away at the job of piling on revs. Until it gets to 4000, that is, when it goes berko and suddenly starts hurling you, it and anything else in the area at next week. This is nothing new in STi-land but it makes us wonder if it doesn’t have variable valve timing after all.

Ride quality is another thing that hasn’t changed. Actually, lack of ride quality is a better description and, once again, while it works beautifully on a racetrack, it’s less than perfect as a road warrior. The sharp ride makes the whole car feel a bit underdone and the flapping rear wing and bonnet scoop (which makes the whole bonnet lift and shudder) is not really good enough.

1999-Subaru-WRX-STi-22B-hubcap.jpgBut what you can’t argue with is the brilliance of the new active centre diff. Set it for maximum rear bias and it’s a gas on the dirt, while leaving it in auto mode (where it makes the calls on how much torque to send to each end) makes it a hard act to follow, literally, at Winton.

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In fact, its poise and balance through the fast Winton sweeper, not to mention its ability to change line, stamps it as something special indeed. The interior feels a bit low rent (but not as cheap as the Lancer’s) but the seats are terrific and allow you to make the most of the grip rather than trying to find some for yourself.

The bottom line with the STi is that it only really works best when you’re driving it like you stole it. Back it all off to five or six tenths and it starts to show its flaws. Then again, PCOTY has never been about sloping around the suburbs at a trickle, short-shifting and playing doof-doof tunes. Hallelujah to that.


Speed is the thing in the latest STi, but not, it seems, in a straight line. It’s actually no faster than the last STi we had on PCOTY (2003) in sprinting. Like the C55, though, additions to its chassis package have made an enormous difference to its driveability and, more importantly, its lap times at Winton.

Quicker in all straight fights, the ’03 STi punched to 100km/h in 5.43 seconds, ran over the standing quarter in 13.61 at 161.9km/h and the standing kilometre in 25.15, carrying 207.2km/h. Yet, around Winton it was a stunning 2.3 seconds slower than this year’s STi.

How? Well, the STi now runs three things that make an enormous difference, not only eradicating the trademark mid-corner, on-throttle push, but making smarter use of power as well. Tyres, limited slip front diff, electronic centre diff. There’s the difference, 2.3 seconds, ta.

Subaru Impreza WRX STi Specs:
Drive: all-wheel
Engine: front-mounted 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve turbocharged flat-four
Power: 195kW @ 6000rpm 
Torque: 343Nm @ 4000rpm
Weight: 1475kg
Transmission: six-speed manual
Length/width/height: 4415/1740/1440mm
Fuel Economy: 19.8 litres/100km (60L tank)
Price: $56,630

0-100km/h: 5.74sec
0-400m: 13.82 @ 160.1km/h
0-1000m: 25.65 @ 201.0km/h
Winton lap time: 1:41.47
Winton top speed: 168km/h