Souped-up two door is far more than the sum of its lim­ited-edi­tion parts

Motor (Australia) - - MEANWHILE ON THE GRAVEL -

WE ALL know the story of Subaru Aus­tralia im­port­ing a batch of 400 first-gen STis and promis­ing there’d be no more. What it meant, of course, was that there’d be no more two-door STis be­cause the batch of 400 four-doors was al­most al­ready on the wa­ter. Cue out­raged two-door buy­ers.

But what Subaru Oz couldn’t get its hand on was this car, the Type R which was a souped-up ver­sion of the STi. This par­tic­u­lar car is a Ver­sion 6, bears an MY00 build-date and is one of just 1000 ex­am­ples world­wide.

Over a ‘stan­dard’ STi, the Type R got the roof vent, the ac­tive (DCCD in Suby-speak) cen­tre diff (which Aus­tralian-de­liv­ered STis wouldn’t see un­til 2005) a big­ger tur­bocharger, shorter gear­ing, a quicker steer­ing ra­tio, no sound dead­en­ing and a weigh­bridge ticket of just 1260kg. Com­bine that with the 206kW that was the man­dated limit by the Ja­pa­nese au­thor­i­ties (and was start­ing to be snig­gered at) and you were talk­ing a se­ri­ous weapon at the turn of the cen­tury. Still is, in fact.

This car is one of maybe three or four in the coun­try and they’re all, ob­vi­ously, grey im­ports. If you’re any­thing like me, the first-gen WRX is the one. To my way of think­ing, this – the very last of that series and very prob­a­bly the most ca­pa­ble ver­sion out­side of a 22B – is be­yond merely de­sir­able. Had the owner not been such a nice bloke, I’d prob­a­bly have dis­ap­peared in the Type R and never re­turned.

And I’ll tell you some­thing else for free – the cops would have needed to send their bravest and best (and fastest) to run me to jus­tice, be­cause this thing ab­so­lutely flies. And I don’t mean

in a pe­riod sense. As in, right here, right now. Even though it might have a bit more grip, I doubt that even the cur­rent­model STi would see which way this blue bomber went. And an­other thing: how come the cur­rent car leaves you piss­ing blood after a speed hump when this car, built al­most two decades ear­lier, rides so much bet­ter?

It’s not just a layer of plush that you weren’t ex­pect­ing, it’s the whole way the type R deals with crappy roads with­out ever feel­ing mushy through the helm or the seats. Speak­ing of the seats, they’re just lovely and while they look a bit flat and shape­less, they’re any­thing but. And if ever you needed proof that light­ness is a cor­ner­stone of good car de­sign, the feath­er­weight Type R pro­vides it.

It ap­pears that, like the Legacy RA, Subaru man­aged to en­gi­neer all the nasty out of the STi in Type R form. The clutch is light and pos­i­tive, the gearshift as close to id­iot-proof as a H-pat­tern man­ual will ever be and even though the ex­haust is a bit row­dier, it doesn’t drone at cruis­ing speeds, nor is it likely to have Plod look­ing up from his donuts.

And then, while you’re still mar­vel­ling at the ci­vil­ity of it, you go and step on the noise pedal. And the Type R takes off. There’s very lit­tle lag and the short gear­ing (that sees about 3000rpm at 100km/h) en­sures the thing al­ways has a head of steam up. Throw in the faster steer­ing which is as neu­tral and nat­u­ral as any Subaru I’ve ever driven, the high grip lev­els and the over­all to­geth­er­ness of the pack­age and the Type R emerges as much, much more than just an­other hyped lim­ited edi­tion.

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