- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

Subaru’s newest offering in the performance passenger car market is also its most powerful. The WRX STi has a 300-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer engine, all-wheel drive and an aggressive, rally-inspired exterior straight out of “The Fast and the Furious.”
  
  Based on Impreza, the midsized sedan with somewhat mediocre market appeal, the WRX series is the road-ready way for Subaru to express its inner rally car. Equipped with high-performance engines and hood scoops, WRX has been a boon to this Japanese automaker, whose biggest sellers for decades have been functional, unsexy wagons.
  
  The new STi version is named for Subaru Tecnica International, the high-performance and motorsports division of Fuji Heavy Industries that also co-produces Subaru’s rally cars with Prodrive. This niche marketer’s rally roots go back to 1980, when Subaru first scored wins in international races. The first Impreza, the 555, made its rally debut in 1993 at the 1000 Lakes race; Subaru has won four world titles since then.
  
  On the outside, the STi has a stiff “ring-shaped reinforcement” body structure with a hydroformed subframe, the same as its stablemate WRX. However, layered on top is an updated skin that features a restyled front end with a prominent functional front air scoop and four-beam high-intensity (HID) headlamps, with a leveling system for the lamps. Four side doors stretch back to a rear end dominated by a dual-plane rear spoiler and taillamps with smoke-tinted lenses. A single-output exhaust pipe caps the back end; 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels are standard.
  
  Subaru’s latest street/rally hybrid has a 2.5-liter boxer engine producing 300 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque. The largest displacement powerplant ever in a WRX model, the motor is matched to a six-speed manual transmission tweaked to handle the higher output from the turbocharged boxer. This is the first time Subaru has brought a six-speed to the United States. A large intercooler, cooled by air from the front scoop, has a manually operated water spray for additional temperature reduction.
  
  The STi is equipped with all-wheel drive with a DCCD (driver-controlled center differential) and 35 percent/65 percent rear power split. Drivers can choose either automatic or manual mode; manual lets the driver control the torque distribution up to a 50/50 split to vary with road conditions, while automatic lets the car do the work.
  
  Technologies such as Subaru’s active valve control system (ACVS) help boost engine performance and responsiveness even further. ACVS adjusts intake camshaft timing, so that intake and exhaust valve timing optimizes engine performance, reducing the need to trade torque for horsepower in crucial moments. ACVS also boosts turbo performance, helping the turbo deliver 14.5 PSI an improvement from 13.5 PSI in the WRX.
  
  Inside, styling cues evoke the performance under the hood. Side bolsters, integrated head restraints and perforated blue fabric upholstery on the functional performance seats are a few of the interior design touches; the lack of a standard sound system and lightweight rear window glass are examples of functional design touches that reduce weight for greater performance. Floor mats also are left out, as is the center console and rear pass-through that are included on other Impreza models. Power windows, locks and mirrors, and an air-conditioning system are standard.
  
  “STi” badging and aluminum accents highlight the cabin, which has room for five adults and their beverages cup holders were not left on the cutting-room floor. Both steering wheel and handbrake are leather-wrapped with red stitching, while pedals are covered in aluminum. Gauges, including the 160-mph speedometer, are illuminated by red LED lighting. A sport-designed cluster has a tachometer in the center, which has a warning buzzer that sounds at red line. A shift light is adjustable.
  
  The stiff body structure is supported by a four-wheel independent suspension derived from rally roots but tuned for street wear. Aluminum components and an inverted strut structure make the system lightweight and highly responsive. STi has a quicker steering ratio than its WRX cousin 15.2:1 as opposed to 16.5:1. Four Brembo ventilated discs provide stopping power and are helped by ABS and EBD.
  
  Safety equipment includes front seat side/chest airbags and front bags, as well as three-point safety belts with pretensioners and force limiters.
  
  The newest model in the WRX lineup that comes straight from its World Rally Championship racing is not gentle, not for babies, and not for taking baby steps around the block. The STi is a full-fledged race car that’s street legal. If you buy one, take the one year’s free membership in the SCCA that comes with the purchase of a new WRX STi and get to a track soon!

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