WRX STI 22B
The ultimate STi – a performance watermark so high that modern Subarus are still yet to surpass it
THEY had me at ‘22B’. Seriously, as a bloke who road-tested the very first WRXs and then STis in the day, the thought of coming face to face with an honest-to-god 22B was giving me the metaphorical dribbles.
While the 22B was a proper kitchen-sink effort, it wasn’t built to satisfy any arcane homologation requirements. Nope, it was a celebration car – making note of the fact that, in 1998, Subaru had just won three world championships on the trot.
To mark that occasion, STi took a two-door Rex and grafted on big, fat boxed guards front and rear. With some carefully considered offset on the 17-inch alloys, it stretched the front track by 60mm and the rear by 100mm. To say this thing looks tough is an understatement and, particularly from the rear, it’s all muscle and a warning to others.
The 2.0-litre engine was hogged out to 2.2 (hence 22B), but there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, the block itself is different with a closed-deck design for rigidity. With more careful matching of port sizes, camshafts, compression ratio and turbocharger, the EJ22 makes the same nominal (and under reported) 206kW, yet it manages an 8000rpm redline.
Although similar in spec to a Version 4 STi including the active centre-diff, the 22 also featured a seam-welded bodyshell as proof of how serious STi was. Chuck in an adjustable rear wing, a water spray for the top-mount intercooler and pull a bunch of weight out of it with a ban on sound deadening (and even deleting the spotlights) and you had a 22B.
Take it as read that this grey import drives like a new 22B. But even that doesn’t convey how remarkable this thing really is. Before you’re even out of the car park, it’s obvious that despite the stiff body, the 22B isn’t going to rattle your brains. In fact, the ride is crazy good and, again, makes us question the current STi’s concretemattress impersonation. But the steering is equally friendly and the whole show is ballerina-light on its toes, but never feels nervous. Like the Type R, the 22B is a stark reminder of just how devastating excess weight is to dynamics and balance.
Then there’s the engine. Now, I know modern turbocharged engines are good, but I’ll put it out there and say that none of them are any better than this one, and most of them aren’t as good. The mid-range is enormous, the low kerb mass and short gearing disguises any lag (if, indeed, there is any) and there’s a fabulous exhaust note that is a million miles removed from the chaff-cutter persona of a normal Rex with a drainpipe zorst. The pedal placement is perfect, the Momo is a scalpel and only a slight buzz from the gearshift tells you the car has done any kilometres at all.
When Subaru announced the 22B in 1998, the 424 cars slated for production sold out in 12 hours. Despite a sticker of $132,000 in Australia, four or five cars did actually make it here while 400 were for Japan and the rest went to the UK. Two of which wound up in the hands of none other than Colin McRae and his co-driver Nicky Grist as a thank you. Nice.
THE 22B IS A STARK REMINDER OF JUST HOW DEVASTATING EXCESS WEIGHT IS TO DYNAMICS AND BALANCE
MAINThis particular car is a grey import (from Japan, of course) and has just 15,000km on the clock. Basically, it still drives like newBOTTOM LEFT The cabin, largely, button free with the Momo steering wheel and Recaro bucket seats ticking off performanceorientated boxes