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Subaru’s dark knight rises


A TOUCH of darkness is most effective when accompanied by a thundering sound track and dominating silouette. Moving like a shadow in the night, our black test car roared and growled as it hunted the streets.

This cult car has quite a following and the time I spent with it resulted in a lot of oohs, aahs and stares. In case you’re wondering, this stalker of the night was the new Subaru WRX STI. With limited numbers reaching our shores this year, the hard-charging and iconic WRX STI looked impressive in the flesh and with a feisty engine, in the form of a 2.5-litre turbocharged Boxer powertrain, it produces 221kW and 407Nm.

Thankfully, this power is tamed by the symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, which allows for responsive handling, but should you want to explore the limits, there’s a host of features  like the multi-mode Driver-controlled Centre Differential (DCCD), which lets you adjust the car’s setup, allowing for even more play or control.

Having driven the new WRX, there was a lot riding on the STI reincarnation and sadly, the new STI hasn’t quite lived up to its repuation as a bad boy street racer. In the looks department the Scooby’s tar-hugging body kit and chubby tyres pair well with the strong side silloutte and sweeping bonnet. That said, Subaru hasn‘t made the huge strides forward, which other brands have done, particualrly in the powertrain department.

With downsizing the new trend, the STI’s big 2.5-litre engine immediately seems dated and the performance, while decent, feels somewhat lacking. For instance, Subaru claims a 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, while VW, with its 206kW two-litre Golf R claims a 0-100km/h in just five seconds.

The Golf also feels a lot more confident and better put together with class A finishes. While the STI does offer fun-to-drive characteristics. The noises emanating from the differential and clunky gearbox have agricultural elements, which leaves a bitter taste. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to like this car, given it’s Impreza heritage (see what I did there?). However, everyone I spoke to about this car had their own little qualms and complaints.

Even the owner of the only Subaru Impreza 22B STI (the original rally icon) in South Africa expressed coldness towards this new offering, stating that the brand just hasn’t made the massive engineering strives other manufacturers have in recent years.

But it’s not all bad news, because the STI still commands a lot of street cred and if you do feel like unleashing the darkness, it’s more than willing to oblige. Subaru has also managed to keep the pricing similar to the outgoing model, with vastly improved updates.

Ultimately, I would stick with the WRX derivative.It offers plenty to shout about and enjoy without the big STI price tag.

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