2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STi image

Text: Iñigo S. Roces / Photos: Iñigo S. Roces | posted October 20, 2008 00:00

Not just another 3 letters

There has got to be some legal limit to the length of car names. I believe they're starting to get out of hand these days. Just look at these examples: Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera or the biggest violator of them all, archrivals Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR and Subaru Impreza WRX STi. That's a whopping 14 syllables each wasted on cars that already have cult-like followings.

Shakespeare once said that "a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet." Yet if that's the case, why do these two car companies spend so much time and effort on their cars' name?

In Mitsubishi's case, the "Evolution" is certainly a key part of the name as it's obviously no ordinary Lancer. It's one that's been engineered and perfected over generations practically a literal definition of the Darwinian term.

In Subaru's case, it might not be as obvious. For the uninitiated, the key here is the "STi" group of letters. Take a look around one and it's pretty hard to miss all the "STi" markings around the body and interior, especially since they're all a bright pink.

So what's the big deal about STi?

It's not simply a matter of wheels, body kit and leather seats. Subaru takes it nomenclature seriously and this dedication is clearly seen in the difference between the WRX and STi. STi stands for Subaru Technica International, the motorsport division of the automotive company. They take winning rallies seriously, after all, that's what Subaru was started for in the first place. They wouldn't likely place their mark for mere superficial changes. There's a lot that goes in considering the difference between the two is a hefty PhP600,000.

You can tell it's no ordinary Impreza by appearance alone. The STi, has wider wheel arches, more vents, larger and better performance wheels and tires, a spoiler, twice the number of mufflers, and of course those STi badges.

Inside, the pink "STi" lettering is everywhere from the gauges, seats, center control panel and yes, even the horn. But seriously, all this branding is there to remind you that this PhP600,000 package is not just an "upgrade." It's a different car entirely.

Much of the changes are in the powertrain. For one, the power jumps from 230 to 300 horsepower thanks to a larger turbo and intercooler. The 5-speed transmission from the WRX gains a 6th gear in the STi. Differential controls, stability control and on-the-fly engine re-mapping, via the SI-Drive are added to the equation. If that's not enough, the suspension, brakes and clutch have all been beefed up to handle the massive increase in performance. The result is a car that is fearsome on the street, race track and even loose roads it's a mix of abilities hard to find all together in one car.

Inside, the performance commitment continues as the seats hug tighter, the brake is harder and the clutch is heavier. There's more kick from the throttle, and turning yields very little to body roll, thanks to the stiffer suspension.

The STi's true character reveals itself when you pour on some speed. All of the electronics come to life and their true purpose is harnessed. The computer distributes power to the appropriate wheels making your turns sharper, your throttle inputs more commanding and the body, ever so stable in spite of the seeming chaos. The car astounds you with how tight it can turn, how fast it can accelerate and how easy doing it all seems.

You might have heard some complaints that the new STi has gone soft compared to the old one. And while the ride is indeed much more comfortable, the power and handling has certainly become sharper. Throttle input is now more precise, and thanks to the SI-Drive and Active Diff, is easier to adjust to your personal preference. Handling is sharper as the oversteer isn't as wild as the previous and therefore easier to get under control. Sure there's no more tail out fun, but for serious racers, this is a boon because less sliding also equates to better times.

Perhaps the best improvement at all is that the new STi isn't as uncomfortable as most race ready vehicles of this performance caliber are wont to be. It still suppresses most bumps and dips in the road and makes for a comfortable ride even when driven leisurely. There's enough clearance to go through village humps and parking is hardly a chore with no trunk to worry about.

The looks may be a bit of a sticking point for some and the space is much less than your typical four door sedan. Of course, people ought to expect that considering this car was made for sport first, and family second.

It's always been difficult justifying the purchase of an STi, particularly if you plan on using it on a regular basis. The new STi, simply makes that decision easier. There's much less compromise this time around. All your daily commuting needs will effortlessly be addressed with one addition, making excitement just a full throttle away.

You could spend a good million on your current car to give it this kind of performance and still lose the comfort it used to have. The STi gives you both the performance and flexibility for just PhP600,000 over the WRX. It begins to beg the question, "What's in a couple of letters?"

Two cars in one and an infinite number of ways to enjoy them, that's what.