Supercar performance for family car money
SO you would like a car than can go from 0-62 in a shade over five seconds and hit almost 160mph… and all for less than £30,000?
Well, amazingly, you can now get near supercar performance for family saloon money in the shape of the latest Subaru WRX STi – which is quite a bit under that price band because the new model is £4,000 cheaper than the old one at £28,995 on-the-road.
But cheaper does not mean you get less as the model’s all-new bodyshell is an incredible 140 per cent stiffer due to the use of ultra hightensile steel, yet it weighs the same, which means handling is greatly improved… and, let’s face it, the previous, rally-bred 4x4 flyer was no slouch in that department. The better handling is also down to a revised suspension layout and new hydraulic power steering. To prove it is better Subaru took a standard WRX around the Isle of Man TT course in 19 minutes and 16 seconds – breaking the four-wheel record for the famous circuit by a huge 40 seconds... a record that was held by the previous WRX model.
So it’s fast and furious and, when I got behind the wheel, I felt a little like I should be in the film franchise of the same name. With its iconic ‘in your face’ styling, including that trademark WRX huge rear wing plus four beefy exhaust pipes, a racing underbody rear splitter and big bonnet air scoop, this is clearly a bit of a beast.
However, The new WRX STI is also more spacious and more comfortable than its predecessor, with a better level of standard equipment. The interior is much improved over the old model with soft-touch materials on the doors and dashboard and it also now has a race-derived D-shaped steering wheel, while Alcantara and leather sports seats hug the driver and front passenger.
That revised suspension system improves ride comfort without sacrificing the handling characteristics that have made the WRX STI so successful on the road and track.
But when you turn the key and the 300bhp flat four, 2.5-litre Boxer engine, with that big turbo and intercooler, bursts into life with the distinctive Subaru burble you know the powerplant, too, is a serious bit of kit.
Subaru say the engineering brief for the new WRX STI was to develop a car that provided ‘absolute power and driver control’. With all that power and 407Nm of torque on offer, plus a 4x4 drivetrain that allows the car to apply the maximum of both to the road at all times, the WRX STI is, claim Subaru, one of the fastest – and safest – performance cars in ‘real world’ conditions.
So to put the car through its paces in the real world – together with a mechanic friend of mine – I took a quick trip to see another old pal at my childhood stomping ground of sleepy Knott-End-on-Sea on the Lancashire coast.
Once off the motorway and A-roads – where the WRX was brilliant – it was on to de-restricted and deserted twisty Sunday night country lanes, which I know like the back of my hand, and the Subaru came into its own.
Whatever you think of that bold external styling and image, this is a superb driving machine. The power, once you get that big turbo spinning at over 3,000 revs, is blistering and the car corners like it is on rails. We both had huge grins on our faces as the foliage flashed by.
There is a three mode driving system which alters engine and throttle response. Intelligent Mode monitors driving conditions to deliver optimum fuel efficiency and smooth power delivery. Sport Mode is for all conditions, with improved power delivery and a more urgent throttle response, and Sport Sharp gives maximum acceleration and more precise rev control.
In ‘Intelligent’ the WRX is easy to drive and, apart from the slightly harsh ride, is a car you could live with as your daily driver. In Sport Sharp Dr Jekyll turns a bit more into Mr Hyde and the real fun begins.
Any niggles? Well there is no DAB radio or sat nav and, as you would expect with all that performance on tap, fuel consumption figures are not outstanding at around 27mpg. But then the Nurburgring is well signposted and you will be listening to that boxer engine roar rather than Absolute 80s as the fuel meter plunges into the low teens…
More info at subaru. co.uk.
●» The 2015 WRX STi Subaru is is an incredible 140 per cent stiffer than the outgoing model due to the use of ultra high-tensile steel, yet it weighs the same