FOLLOWING THE RECENT release of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8 MR (AW, Feb. 23), Subaru wasted little time in firing the next shot in the battle of the world’s fastest evolving sports cars with the release of its rally special Impreza WRX STi.
At first glance it might appear little has changed in the 2005 STi, but that would be a mistake. On the exterior, a slightly wider rear fender, which is cleanly incorporated into the rear bumper, allows Subaru to increase wheel width from 7.5 inches to 8.0 inches, shod now with 235 rubber (up from 225). On the Japan-market model we tested, an aggressive lightweight rear spoiler, borrowed from the Japan-only Spec C racing version of the STi, sits on the aluminum trunk lid.
Inside, it is clear Subaru has taken seriously some of the complaints about the STi’s spartan accommodations. The center console has been redesigned and borrows heavily from the new Legacy. There is a new leather-clad steering wheel, and materials and layout are much improved.
Substantial work has gone into providing the driver with increased agility and feedback. Larger front and rear strut bars take care of chassis stiffening, while a larger-diameter front-hub bearing and a redesigned steering-damper valve add a welcome increase in communication through the steering wheel. Rear suspension links are now aluminum, saving a few pounds.
But the most important addition is a yaw-rate sensor that works in conjunction with the active center differential and the new helical front differential to provide increased cornering grip and reduced understeer.
Out on the road the improvements are instantly noticeable. With the center differential set on automatic, the grip is truly phenomenal. Aggressive prods of the throttle instantly break traction at the rear, allowing the car to set up for satisfyingly fast corner exits, no doubt thanks to the yaw-rate sensor. Understeer is still present at the limit, but that limit is now well beyond the normal Impreza range. In the 280-hp Japan-spec car, torque is marginally increased (303 lb-ft at 4400 rpm) thanks to a larger intercooler and freer-flowing exhaust. Power figures remain the same for the U.S.-spec car, 300 hp and 300 lb-ft.
Full Story HERE