So after Nationals this year, I was toying with the idea of upgrading from the WRX to a 2017 STI. From the horrors in the finance department I had experienced before, I was kind of wary of returning to Kearney Mesa Subaru, but I decided to let bygones be bygones, and give them another shot. I was positively delighted with the level of courtesy and customer service. I came in completely out of the blue and with no appointment hoping to see my old sales guy Ron Holder, and sure he enough he was working this past Sunday.
I had driven many a cars in both competitive and in non competitive form but never one of my wife and I’s childhood heroes: the Subaru STI.
With the 2017 WRX’s starting to hit showrooms, I wanted to get a feel for what the car was like on the inside. I have to say the new 6″/7″ touchscreen infotainment system is a nice upgrade from the basic old school head unit that’s in my 2015. A few other niceties have been added such as one touch up/down for the passenger side window, and the new WRX in “Premium” trim has the 18×8.5″ wheels with a Dunlop Sportmaxx 245/40/18 square setup and the nice little spoiler in the back bringing the car completely together.
But I already knew this. After a drive and hike up to Palomar, Kristen and I decided that the STI should be on the short list for an upgrade – but we needed it to be a worthy upgrade. I went into the dealership ready to make a deal, honestly, on one condition: that the STI could wow me as much as the WRX did when I first test drove it back in 2015.
I’m not going to bore you with motor stats, because it hasn’t changed since like 2004, but rather focus on what I feel the 2017 STI does better than my 2015 WRX:
The steering feel is much more direct in the STI than the WRX
The STI steering feels infinitely more tethered to the front wheels than the WRX. You really do get a sense of incredible feedback, and a sense of wanting to really fling the car into a corner and hoon about.
Brakes (this is arguable)
The brakes themselves felt on par with those in the WRX, but my suspicion is that they’d shine in a track setting given it’s 12.8″ discs and Brembo 4 pot calipers. Apparently though there are people that feel this system is not adequate for the chassis and can’t hold up. I haven’t tested this personally so we’ll call this a potential maybe. On paper it should work…but then again a lot of things should work that just don’t in the real world.
The wizardry of the limited slip diffs allow you to do some pretty incredible driving even if you mess up corner entry. The ability for the car to pull itself out trouble is nothing short of amazing. Get it right though and you really do feel as though you’ve to a metric-fuckton of talent.
Subie rumbles and blow off valve noises.
Because yes we’re all 12 and this is important. The noises this car makes are sublime and scream classic Subaru. UEL headers FTW (thanks Annie!)…unless it’s for efficiency and power gain…then…not so much…
It’s all about the 6-speed.
Ok here’s a huge thing – the STI transmission is significantly better than that of the 6-speed in the WRX. Gear shifting feels organic and exceptionally brilliant. While it doesn’t glide perfectly between the gears of say the Getrag that’s in the Focus ST, the 6-speed in the STI is quite sublime. If the forums are to believed, the transmission is actually a Porsche design, but take that with a grain of salt as I have had no concrete evidence that this is the case.
Cornering Results quite “shocking”!
Shocks seem slightly better dampened in the STI than in the WRX. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there. Combined with the LSD’s, the turn in of the car is substantially better. I’ve watched reviews where they complain about the harsh dampening and stiff ride quality. I found the 2017 STI suspension exceptionally well dampened and sprung. It really wanted to dig into the corner and rotate it’s way out of it. It’s a hoot.
The Issue Lies in it’s Heart
As much as the chassis is amazing (and it is), the EJ25 engine doesn’t match the rest of the cars’ amazing dynamics. At 305hp and 290-something torques mostly at the top end, the situation is this. The Fa20 DIT motor in the WRX, offers more real low end grunt with much quicker spool. This also means corner exits on super tight hairpins are going to be be quicker exited via the non STI variant. The EJ25 is a good engine in it’s own right, but the issue with it it feels lack luster compared to the rest of the car.
Overall the car is quite special and feels like a solid and quality product. It works well and offers great practicality. The biggest issue for the STI isn’t a competitive brand – it’s the talented little brother – the WRX gets better gas mileage, is cheaper on insurance, cheaper to buy, and unlike the STI, extremely competitive in within the SCCA autocross classing minefield. Almost feels as though Subaru trolled the buyers pool and the engineers put the effort in the non STI variant to see if the public was paying attention. So while I was ready to drop the money on a STI and drive home with a shiny new grey one pictured here, I figured I’d save up and get some shocks to dial in the incredible chassis that is my base-model WRX, the car which in my opinion is still the better car to buy.
Paging Dr. YAWSPORT to the service bay please…Dr. YAWSPORT to the service bay.