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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, Jun 15, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Subaru’s new Impreza WRX STi is an all-wheel drive monster on the track, street and in the dirt.

By Greg Nakano The Body Having built two aftermarket WRX vehicles for Subaru for the SEMA show (the Mecca of the automotive aftermarket), I’ve grown very close to the new WRX.* So testing the new WRX STi is a no brainer: This is one vehicle that any enthusiast will want to get behind the wheel of. The STi has the same basic architecture as the normal WRX, but it’s on steroids. The first thing you notice on the new STi is the massive wide body fenders, which gives the STi its dominate look over the regular WRX. These new fenders with their stylish STi badging also hide air vents used to exhaust heat from the engine compartment. The front and rear bumpers have been sharpened to accentuate the wider and low appearance of the STi. The front grill inset is now in black to add to the sporty feel and a blacked-out wing has been added to the rear of the vehicle to add stability at high speeds. The front spoiler is designed off a three-dimensional with side air vents to improve brake cooling. Standard high-intensity discharge (HID) low beams and fog lights clean off the front end of the vehicle. While on the rear the clear-lens LED rear tailights and lower fascia panel integrates cutouts for the quad exhaust tailpipe tips. With all these improvements and design elements it really sets the STi in another level of the standard Impreza.


Chassis The STi, originally released in 2010, got some new upgrades for the 2011 model year, as Subaru’s brand commitment to both the owner/enthusiast made suggestions and feedback on the previous version. Like the previous year, high-tensile-strength steel is used at key structural points and suspension-mounting areas. Inverted struts in the front provide a quicker and more consistent cornering under extreme driving. Aluminum front lower A-arms reduce unsprung weight and a double-wishbone rear suspension over the previous model STi’s inverted design help widen the track over the stardard WRX. To reduce unsprung weight, even more BBS forged aluminum-alloy wheels painted in a silver-high-luster paint or from my point of wheel a nice clean gun metal color. These wheels offer over a 18 pounds difference over the standard WRX wheels. Wrapped in Dunlop SP600 245/40 performance summer tires provide a great deal of traction for the road. Underneath these great wheels are of course are a superior Brembo Performance Brake System. With a massive front ventilated disc at a 13” diameter with 4-piston calipers and a rear ventilated disc at 12.6” with a two-piston caliper. More than enough stopping power for the enthusiast. Another great feature of the braking system is the Electronic Brake-force Distribution or EBD system. What this does it will take inputs from a lateral g-sensor, steering angle sensor, yaw angle sensor and brake pressure sensor to control the rear braking forces independently of each other to help reduce understeer under cornering and the bias between front and rear for optimum braking.


So now for the new changes to the suspension for 2011. They lowered the ride height and new pillow-ball bushings in the front and stiffer bushing for the rear subframe which improve both the camber and toe stiffness. The spring rates are also increased by 15.6 percent in the front and 53 percent in the rear. A massive 21mm front and a 19mm rear stabilizer bar are both 1mm larger than the previous 2010 STi. This all equates to better handling, traction and more consistent cornering. This new STi is the best handling factory vehicle I have driven to date. It would give some full race cars I’ve driven a run for their money. Electronics, Electronics, Electronics With more and more cars making drive-by-wire the standard, a common complaint is the lack in throttle response or how lazy the car feels as most manufacturers will program in a lazy throttle response curve to help in both fuel consumption and providing a nice comfortable ride. Subaru decided to put that power back in your hands with the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) which is exclusive to the STi models. Choosing from three different modes “Intelligent”, “Sport”, and “Sport Sharp” via a rotary dial in the center console you can fine tune the performance characteristics of both the engine and throttle to meet your needs. The” Intelligent” mode will provide a more relaxed throttle response for commuter traffic and in Los Angeles bumper to bumper there is nothing nicer than not having all the power all the time when all you are moving is 5 feet at a time. The “Sport” mode provides a quicker throttle response and more powerful linear acceleration for a more sportier drive. The “Sport Sharp” mode offer a super quick throttle response and engine tuning to provide you more power sooner. I found myself mostly in both the “Intelligent” and “Sport Sharp” mode the most.


Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) also exclusively available on the STi. The DCCD employs planetary-type differential gears with a 41:59 split. This is coupled with a mechanical limited-slip center differential augmented by a electronically controlled center differential. The front differential is a helical-type limited-slip and the rear uses a TORSEN torque-sensing limited-slip differential optimizing the side-side power distribution. As most performance enthusiasts will tell you, this is great for cornering. The brains behind the DCCD AWD system has three different automatic modes. The “Auto” mode makes use of a range of different sensors for instance steering angle, throttle position, RPM, lateral g, yaw, brake, ABS and wheel speed to vary the split between the front and rear bias for almost any performance circumstance. The “Auto -“ mode will transfer more bias to the rear of the vehicle to handle more slippery surfaces like a wet track, gravel or snow. The “Auto +” mode will put the bias in your control to fine tune the bias up to a 50:50 split between front and rear to match your driving and road characteristics. Next on the map is the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), where the stability and traction controls are handled. Exclusive to the STi, this multi-mode VDC offers another three settings. The “Normal” settings will provide the most engagement of the system on the vehicle to pretty much control you every step of the way. “Traction” is a more performance oriented settings to give a little bit more freedom in driving the car around corners. Of course, the “Off” setting puts it all in your hands and disengages the VDC and traction control functions. This is more electronics than anyone is used to in controlling a vehicle, but the level of modes and changes available on the STi make it a performance machine that can be fine tuned to each person and driving situation. Most vehicles don’t allow this, leaving you are at the mercy of the manufacturer.


The Interior Some people may want the bare minimum in the interior for a performance vehicle, but most will prefer to have both the sporty STi and all the amenities and performance specs on the inside as well. The 2011 STi interior is finished in black and silver, exuding a more sportier feel to the inside of the vehicle to match the out. All metallic pieces are finished in a dark metallic and sharp silver color. Trim panels, steering wheel air bag cover and steering wheel stitches are now dark cast metallic. The steering wheel is a three spoke, leather-wrapped and offers both standard tilt and telescopic to match any persons driving style. The wheel also features quick control buttons to control a Bluetooth hands-free phone, cruise control and audio system controls at the touch of a finger without having to move your hands from the steering wheel. The test vehicle also came with the optional audio and navigation package that has a giant 7” touch screen display with a multEQ sound system. Which also bolstered a AM/FM stereo, single disc CD player, six speakers, 3.5mm auxiliary input jack, iPod control, USB port and XM/SIRIUS radio. The seats are designed behind a performance vision which offered great support for any type of driving while not sacrificing comfort. The STi is also equipped with aluminum pedal covers and footrest. Driving the STi you got the feel of a well oiled performance machine while having all the amenities of a luxury car.


The Power Like most Subaru vehicles it is equipped with a flat-4 Boxer style engine, but that’s where it stops. This being a ramped-up STi version with a turbocharged top mounted intercooled version pushing out 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque at 14.7 psi. This is no ordinary Subaru engine. The engine features an aluminum block with cast-iron sleeves and a semi-closed deck design. While the aluminum heads are a dual overhead cam four valve per cylinder with the Subaru Dual Active Valve Control System which provides variable valve timing on bother the intake and exhaust cam to provide great gas mileage and power throughout the entire RPM of the engine. With all this, it’s still a Low Emission Vehicle (LEV2). The engine is coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission. Conclusion The aggressive body lines and wide-body definitely live up to what is inside the STi. The interior is perfect, offering all the comfort and sporty feel. The power from the engine is great, from both a standing start and coming off of turns. The acceleration is very linear—not jerky like some performance cars we know and love. But the handling is the best part of the vehicle. I have driven a number of vehicles to date and this by far is the best handling vehicle anywhere near its price range in factory trim. The STi does what you want it to do. And even when you feel like you’re on the edge, you’re still in control. The body roll, for instance, is very minimal The STi plows through corners like it’s on the proverbial rails. * Editor’s Note: When he’s not writing for LA CAR, Greg builds tuner vehicles for Advanced Engine Management (AEM), where he serves as their Research & Development Engineering Manager. SUMMARY JUDGMENT Meet my new favorite vehicle in the supertuner sedan class. For more information about Subaru products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Subaru WRX STi Hatchback Price: $33,995 EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 17 city/23 highway Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve flat four with variable valve timing Horsepower: 305 at 6000 rpm Torque: 290 pound-feet at 4000 rpm Transmission: 6-speed manual Drive configuration: All-wheel drive with Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Four-wheel independent with MacPherson struts front suspension,double wishbone rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE), and Variable Dynamics Control (VDC) Wheels and tires: Painted alloy 18 x 8.5 in. wheels and 245/40R18 93W Performance tires Dimensions Width: 70.7 inches Height: 57.9 inches Length: 180.3 inches Curb weight: 3384 pounds Performance 0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds


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