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Subaru WRX STi and STimulating

Broadcast dates : 18th July 2004
22nd July 2004


A couple of decades ago Subaru was known for producing tiny microcars with engines of around three hundred cc. Odd-shaped bubblecars with just enough power to putter around the streets of Tokyo.

By the late 1970s, however, this Japanese company was already making a reputation in America as a manufacturer of rugged four-wheel-drive station wagons.

These were ideal for upstate New Yorkers who had to deal with snow, slush and dirt roads throughout much of the year.

By the 1990's Subaru began carving itself a name in international rallying with its turbocharged, flat-four Imprezas. This led to Colin McCrae winning the World Rally Championship for Subaru in 1995. And the rest, as they say is history.

Today a Subaru Impreza is the car every adrenaline-fueled youngster wants his dad to buy. And many of those dads with similar inclinations are doing just that

The STi name plate on the Subaru WRX Impreza stands for Subaru Tecnica International - the company's motorsport division. That indicates the specialised handiwork that is part and parcel of every Impreza STi.

Large diameter alloy wheels anodised in gold, an outlandish boot spoiler nearly as high as the roof, winglets on the deep front spoiler and a gaping air intake on the bonnet. That's the STi statement.


See one of these pull up next to you at the stoplights and you should realise there is one hundred and ninety five kilowatts beneath that otherwise unremarkable bonnet.

And when the lights go green, the Impreza STi has all-wheel drive and rally-bred limited slip differentials front and rear, to put all that power to the tarmac - instantly.

Subaru claim a zero to one hundred time of just 5,1 seconds for the Impreza STi and when Car Magazine tested one back in February 2003, their team matched that time, recording five comma one-five seconds in fact.

The standing kilometre was knocked off in just twenty five comma two seconds and the car went on to record an electronically limited top speed of two hundred and thirty four kilometres per hour.

That zero to one hundred time is fractionally faster than the BMW M3 time recorded by Car, although above one hundred and eighty kilometres per hour the M3 will be drawing away - at least at sea level.

What makes the STi such a stop-light demon on the Reef is that it is turbocharged. The thinner air at high altitude has little effect on a turbocharged car, whereas a naturally-aspirated car such as an M3 loses as much as 17 per cent of its sea-level poke.

The STi is not all about straight-line speed though Ė itís about twisty road handling.

Apart from its all-wheel drive system developed on the world rallying trail, the STi has special strengthening braces across its chassis, on the front and rear axles and revised mounting points for some of the suspension members.

Yet the ride is not too stiff, as the STi still has plenty of suspension travel. But specially programmed limited slip differentials have enabled a much crisper turn-in when cornering, ridding the STI of some of the understeer thatís a feature of the standard Impreza.

Of course, for some people, enough is never enough.

Hence the STimulating version, a special South African factory development of the STi. The name, of course, is a play on the STi title, and for the 15 lucky owners of the Stimulating, they will agree whole-heartedly that the title sums up the experience.

The Stimulating incorporates some fairly minor engine tweaks with a handling package to sharpen up the STi experience. But these mods have made for some excellent performance benefits.

As far as the engine goes, there are two major changes. These include an exhaust system developed by Prodrive, Subaru's World Rally Championship team, and a locally-developed engine software upgrade.

The software package carries Prodrive approval, which means the Stimulating versions are still covered under the standard Subaru warranty.

Itís amazing what some computerised fine-tuning can achieve. Just the big-bore exhaust and some painstaking computer plotting has liberated an extra 15 per cent power on the Subaru, which would put the STimulating's peak power at some two hundred and twenty five kilowatts.

And breaking that five-second barrier for the zero to one hundred kilometre per hour sprint must be on the cars with this car.

Each car receives lower suspension, stiffer damping, and each Stimulating version is personally setup as far as wheel alignment is concerned.

And as just 15 Stimulating Impreza's have been produced, this car is already a collector's item.

Subaru claim that the total worth of the conversion amounts to forty thousand rand. But they priced the Stimulating at R395 000, just R13 000 more than the standard STi.

A glance at the interior of the car would have you believe that you may have over-capatilised on your personal transportation.

Apart from the race 'n' rally seats, metal-topped gearlever and polished-metal pedal cluster, the interior is very ordinary.

It has the type of finish you'd expect in a Toyota Corolla or a Nissan Primera costing around R140 000.

The quality of materials is good if unremarkable, but you aren't buying a Subaru for its burr walnut dashboard, or rather lack thereof.

Once you drive the car, its reason for being, and for such worldwide sales success, becomes apparent.

It has a feeling of amazing mechanical integrity, and as our upcoming feature on Subaru mechanicals will show, that feeling is the result of top quality design and craftsmanship in the engine, transmission and suspension departments.

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