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6 February 2024

Subaru WRX STI Is A Magnificent Brutal Boxer

Like Rowan Atkinson on his moped I drove the Subaru WRX STI “damn hard”, testing this much loved, iconic rally car on the Hill Track at Millbrook Proving Ground, around country lanes and cobbled streets in old English towns. At first I confess I was not a fan. It was a saloon with a spoiler you could see from space, dressed in electric pearl blue and it’s brutal. More importantly it made me feel like a ham fisted and footed fool on my first drive. The clutch bites down in a millimetre, whilst the accelerator in race mode goes straight to 4000 revs at the slightest encouragement. There is no massive leeway as you move through the gears, each and every move up or down must be perfect, with little room for error.
But, the more I drove it, the more I liked it. My driving skills, spoilt by years of high end luxury cars that do everything for you and forgive all driving peccadilloes, improved swiftly. By the third day I was mastering the clutch, accelerator and gears akin to a virtuoso violinist, synchronising every movement like a pro rally driver. This demon demands to be driven well, or it will shriek revs as you change gear, so precision is key as this car will reward performance driving with superb performance of its own.
You see the Subaru WRX STI is a bygone classic, yes you can alter the differential from back to front and there are different driving modes, but its appeal and mastery is that it focuses on what a performance car really needs. A massive engine, superb body dynamics, expert steering, impressive balance and powerful brakes. The superb 4 stroke high-boost turbocharged boxer engine with 300bhp goes from 0-62 in 5.2 secs. The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive independent front and rear suspension generates a lateral G-force just 0.1 seconds after turning, on a par with the Porsche 911 Carrera S, which means you flash round corners like an electric rabbit that will never be caught by any greyhound. It’s already fast on the straight, but by golly you can take corners as if tethered by a rope, literally swinging round with no yaw at all.
The suspension gives you an Auto mode for every day driving, an Auto + mode for slippery conditions that limits the torque and an Auto- mode that increases the steering response and gives you more torque at the rear, which is great for track or hills and doughnuts. You also get three driving modes, Intelligent for fuel efficiency and smooth driving, Sport which delivers more throttle and Sport Sharp that gives you the full force of that lovely boxer engine, which is thrilling and brutal. The six speed manual gear box means you can stay at peak torque up to 159mph and lets you manage that engine for maximum acceleration with just a tiny flick of the stick. Stopping is equally good, with Brembo brakes that are less brutal than the acceleration, but rein in the car confidently and quickly.
The interior is good, with a single streak of carbon fibre across the passenger side’s dash. The sports seats are very well designed, extremely comfortable and support well in the corners. The dash, doors and entertainment system are fairly basic, you can connect your phone and it has keyless entry and a push button start system. It has touches of leather and alcantara on the steering, gear and seats, with appealing stainless steel door plates. There is good space in the back and the boot is huge. This can double as a family car, if you can keep a straight face while convincing your partner that you have no intention of racing at all. The beefy exterior grows on you and it does look pretty mean from the front with its distinctive bonnet scoop.
The Subaru is a boxer in every sense of the word. It has a boxer engine. Think of a v shaped engine then flatten the pistons down so they face each other, punching laterally from each side, which lowers the centre of gravity dramatically, another reason this car corners so superbly. It has a boxer’s character, it is brutal, aggressive and supremely strong, but deft, agile and technically skilled. It is pugnacious in its appearance and style, with a loud spoiler that proclaims its rally credentials. It is a heavy weight that delivers the utmost performance you can possibly get for £32,005, (in Blue Pearl: £32,555) which is why it deserves its legendary status amongst those that appreciate “real cars”. It is a Japanese muscle car that can actually take corners and give many supercars a run for their money. Driving the Subaru WRX STI is like getting in the ring with a bare knuckle fighter, you better be ready and you better be good.
Thanks to Subaru for reminding me what real driving is. I was not sure about getting this car, bloody glad I did. It garnered huge respect in the form of appreciative waves, thumbs up and the occasional request to “rev the engine”. It may not be luxury, but it is absolutely excellent. If you can get your hands on one and are really into driving, (not just flashing the cash) do. By the way the song for this car should be Johhny Cash “Ghost Riders In The Sky”.
Total On The Road Price
WR Blue Pearl
Car As Tested
Colour Options
Crystal White Pearl
Dark Grey Metallic
Ice Silver Metallic
WR Blue Pearl
Crystal Black Silica
Horizontally-opposed, 4- cylinder, 4-stroke, high- boost turbocharged with large capacity intercooler, petrol engine
Valve train
DOHC 16-valve
Bore/Stroke mm
99.5 x 79.0
Capacity   cc
Compression ratio
Fuel system
Mul -Point Sequential Injection (Port injection)
Fuel tank capacity lit.
All-Wheel Drive type
Driver’s Control Centre Differential type All-Wheel Drive
Rack and Pinion
Suspension (Front)
Inverted MacPherson strut type
Suspension (Rear)
Double wishbone type
Minimum turning circle at tyre m
Brakes (Front)
Brembo performance brake system, 4 piston calipers ventilated disc brakes
Brakes (Rear)
Brembo performance brake system, 4 piston calipers ventilated disc brakes
Tyre/wheel size
245/40R18, 18 x 8.5″J
Dimensions & Weight
Overall length mm 4,595
Overall width mm 1,795
Overall height mm 1,475
Wheelbase mm 2,650
Track (Front) mm 1,530
Track (Rear) mm 1,540
Ground clearance mm 135
Boot volume (Seats up) lit. 460
Sea ng capacity (persons) 5
Kerb weight kg 1,534
Transmission – Gear Ratio
1st 3.636
2nd 2.235
3rd 1.590
4th 1.137
5th 0.891
6th 0.707
Reverse 3.545
Final drive axle ratio 3.900