Subaru WRX STI

Subaru WRX STI

After months, even years of having the “next thrilling chapter in the Subaru WRX STI story” dangled before us, to have a modern motoring icon cut down so abruptly is a shock. And the WRX STI is – was – an icon, no question.


DRIVEN TO EXTINCTION

SUBARU WRX STI FOREST FLYER FELLED TO SAVE… THE FORESTS?


In 1998, Australia got its first proper look at the WRX STi (lower case i back then). Compared to the WRX, the STi copped forged pistons for its turbocharged 2.0-litre EJ flat-four, the turbo itself was ceramic coated, there were upgraded valves, and an STi-specific ECU. Instead of the WRX’s 160kW and 290Nm, the STi made 206kW/353Nm. Like some Japanese cars with ‘206kW’ (lookin’ at you, R32 GT-R) the STi was rumoured to make a nudge more. Attached to that tougher engine was a five-speed (versus six in the WRX) gearbox with shorter ratios. Underneath its two-door body were upgraded struts and stiffer springs.

In total, 805 of the first-gen Impreza WRX STi made it here in two fast-selling 400-car batches; the remaining five being ultimate-spec WRX STi 22Bs (see below). Australians couldn’t get enough of the hot Subie, even at about $60K a pop.

Getting the first-gen model late meant a short wait until the second, during which time the Impreza took out the Wheels COTY gong even without the STi’s help. In 2001 the story of WRX and STi was so embedded that Subaru Australia made it a permanent part of the Impreza family. Gen-two (affectionately called Bug-eye, Blob-eye, or Hawk-eye depending on facelifts) WRX STI was, however, not as revolutionary as the first.

In fact, the second STi was a bit of a backwards step. It was almost 200kg heavier, outputs were down to 195kW and 343Nm despite the larger engine, and an inconsistent torque delivery was mentioned in reviews at the time. It did get that sixth gear back, and the price dropped, plus there were no 400-car limits.

Improvement came in 2005 with a 2.5-litre producing 221kW and 407Nm. If that sounds familiar, that’s because those remained the STi’s outputs right until the end. The same year also brought the Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD), allowing the driver to adjust the torque distribution.

Progress since then has been… mild. The third gen in 2008 included an STi hatch, and the choice of clothseat bases or leather-seat Spec.R. This would also become the last Impreza WRX STi – with the fourth generation’s development meaning WRX and Impreza are now separate models. STI is all capitalised, too. The final STI made little progress mechanically, yet 2015 marked the STI’s highest year of sales, even at around $60K against the circa-$50K Golf R and Focus RS. In total, about 10,800 STi/Is have sold since 1998. Subaru says it killed the STI because it’s looking to move on from hi-po ICE engines, and focus on future tech. It hasn’t ruled out the return of the badge, but if we see a WRX STI again in the future, the flat-four will likely be joined by electric motors… or gone entirely.

THE ULTIMATE REX?

Priced at around $130,000 new, the 22B gained, on top of stiffer springs, suspension bracing and other STi hardware, a water-spray intercooler, wide body, and larger 2.5-litre flat-four. Suspiciously, power was still officially pegged at 206kW, even with the larger engine.

OZRALLYCHAMPS

1996 Possum Bourne

1997 P. Bourne

1998 P. Bourne

1999 P. Bourne

2000 P. Bourne

2001 P. Bourne

2002 P. Bourne

2003 Cody Crocker

2004 C. Crocker

2005 C. Crocker

2016 Molly Taylor

Subaru Aus Rally Driver’sChampionships

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