Rear spoiler? Check. Turbo? Check. Gold wheels? Check. Boxer engine? Check. All-Wheel-Drive system? Check!
Commonly known as the “Rex”, the latest Subaru WRX STI can be thought of as an all-wheel-drive (AWD) jet.
We saw two of these “jets” when we travelled to an arid Clark International Speedway in Manila, the Philippines – about two hours away from our hotel in Pasay City – where two of the latest turbocharged WRXs had their regional unveiling: the entry-level WRX and the performance oriented WRX STI.
Under the hood, the entry-level WRX gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engine (commonly known as a boxer engine) with direct injection, which produces 264bhp at 5,600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2,400rpm to 5,200rpm.
That powerplant is mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a Sport Lineartronic, which is fundamentally a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Equipped with paddle shifters, the CVT allows the driver to cycle through six steps (like a six-speed gear shift) when in Intelligent or Sport Mode and eight steps when in Sport Sharp mode.
The WRX goes from 0 to 100kph in 6.3 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 240kph, but with a six-speed manual transmission (M/T) the WRX is quicker by 0.3 seconds to 100kph and has a lower top speed of 215kph.
In terms of fuel consumption, it drinks 8.6L/100km (9.2L/100km with an M/T) and emits 199g/km of CO2, on a combined cycle.
Power is transmitted to an All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) system equipped with variable torque distribution, while a centre differential gear coupled with viscous rear limited slip differential is is used with the manual.
On the scales, the WRX with the Sport Lineartronic weighs the heaviest with a kerb weight of 1,528kg, while the manual is 1,465kg.
The more visceral WRX STI slots itself in the middle, weighing in at 1,509kg.
Its 2.5L engine is equipped with a multi-point sequential injection over the entry-level WRX’s direct injection, and produces 296bhp at 6,000rpm and 407Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.
The STI is only available with a six-speed manual transmission.
It’s hard to differentiate between the new and outgoing model because both wear similarly styled sheet-metal.
Thankfully, the all-new WRX STI dons a new front bumper and grille, a rear diffuser, a large rear spoiler and an oval fuel cap.
The cabin speaks in a sporty language, with faux carbon fibre predominantly found along with red accents within its dark cabin, yet there is a hint of refinement thanks to the perforated leather clad semi-bucket seats.
The exhaust note doesn’t seem as throaty as one might expect, but it does make its presence known once the accelerator is floored.
This allows for some exhaust drone to enter the cabin, which is thankfully not overwhelmingly.
With the Filipino heat raking at our skin, it was the perfect working environment for the up-rated Brembo brakes.
It features a pair of four-piston brake callipers and ventilated discs at the front and dual-piston callipers and ventilated discs for the rear – partially hidden by 18-inch aluminium alloy wheels with 245/40 tyres.
When we threw the car around the track, the Brembo brakes worked flawlessly, and allowed us to brake deeper into corners than the outgoing model without much roll and rear-end fuss.
The engine felt free and was effortless in putting down its power as the rev-counter ran to redline on the first gear.
Though there’s some travel when shifting through the gears with the light clutch, finding each gate required little fuss.
Being a left-hand drive, applying heel-and-toe isn’t too easy with the centre tunnel interfering with the heel and making it hard to blip the throttle when down-shifting – keeping it from bucking around the corners.
Although our on-track moment helming the all-new WRX STI was brief, it was evident that the understeer that had plagued many of its predecessors seemed to have been nullified, finally.
This was attributable to Subaru’s latest AWD system which features a driver’s control centre differential.
But according to Subaru vehicle research and experiment department Tetsuo Fujinuki, the key was to provide handling characteristics that would behave as the driver intended.
To achieve this, steering response had been upped – better than a Subaru BRZ two-door rear wheel-drive sports car - it seems, along with more rear-tyre grip and a flatter cornering behaviour.
Thankfully, a BRZ was also available for us to make a comparison.
Both cars do have a rather flat cornering behaviour, but the STI’s cornering abilities were more confidence inspiring, while the BRZ’s required a tad more work.
Another stark difference was how unobtrusive the electronic stability controls were, which helps the driver achieve the desired effects rather than simply reining in the power when things get dicey.
Since there just wasn’t much interference from the electronic stability controls, meant it could turn a situation with the potential for panic into gobs of fun.
With such characteristics, a driver’s senses isn’t put into high alert with a light rear-end or excessive roll thanks to its firmer and revised suspension tuning.
That said we weren’t able to note how the STI’s firm suspension would absorb uneven road surfaces, since we were on a relatively smooth racetrack.
The WRX STI (with an estimated price of RM270,000) should be highly sought after by connoisseurs while the entry-level WRX may be priced at RM230,000.
“We are looking to launch the all-new Subaru WRX and WRX STI in Malaysia by the third quarter of 2014 with the estimated prices,” said Tan Chong International and Motor Image Subaru CEO Glenn Tan during the car’s launch in Manila.