Subaru has often marched to a different, not to say odd, drummer. The Subaru WRX STI continues that beat.
The Brat, right-hand drive RFD models, and this weird all-wheel drive stuff have preceded the STI.
Others have caught the Subaru rhythm at least as far as all-wheel drive goes, and it was initially why Subarus were purchased in the country's frozen north.
The right-hand drive postal vehicle bit the dust in 1999. The erstwhile Brat? It was a little pickup truck introduced in 1978 with two rearward-facing seats in the bed, and a tendency to turn upside-down on occasion. Neither benefited from any tweaking from Subaru Tecnica International—or STI.
Today, all-wheel drive takes its place on the handling beat as well. It's especially useful for front-wheel drive vehicles. Hard off-the-line acceleration shifts the weight of the car to the rear. It removes traction from the front wheels and spins them fruitlessly.
The Subaru STI gets 293 horsepower from a 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That zooms the WRX STI to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. A visual aid is the tachometer placed in the center of the instrument panel with the speedometer on the right.
STI motors up steep grades in sixth gear with flawless turbo power. The shifter is fairly accurate but gears can be missed downshifting.
| Subaru WRX STI
•Engines: 2.5L turbocharged I-4
•Dimensions: 99.4" wheelbase; 175.8" length
•Base price: $33,495; As tested $34,399
•Fuel economy: 19/25 mpg
The "roo" is a scooter. Around big sweeping curves hangs in beautifully with hint of understeer. Take them too fast and the rear wheels start twitching – a signal to back off a tad. Mostly the STI doesn't take curves intuitively, but it does know what to do when you're in one.
All this scoot comes at a price. The ride is punishing, stopping just short of causing major organ failure. The ride even on smooth pavement is jittery and jiggly. This is a vehicle more at home on the track.
Presumably that's where the oversized jumbo rear spoiler and the smaller one over the rear window come into play. The STI is also 0.8 of an inch lower than the regular WRX and comes with ground effects, fender flares, and a hood scoop that feeds air to the turbocharger intercooler.
There are also four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock. But the real key to the Subaru is the all-wheel drive. It can vary the power to individual wheels to optimize performance.
There's a "stealth" version called STI Limited that deletes the two spoilers and includes heated seats and a sunroof.
Yet our STI with the big spoiler drew approving honks and thumbs up from wheels crowded with teenage males.
But, would they still honk for the Limited? Or the Brat?