2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Top performer in Impreza stable earns a freshening and adds four-door sedan body style
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"The Wing Is Back!" That's what marketers are saying about the sizable rear spoiler that rises from the top of the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI sedan's trunk. For the first time, Subaru's performance flagship is offered in two distinct body styles. Not only is the revived wing new, but so is the four-door sedan body style, which has joined the STI four-door hatchback (usually called a five-door) for 2011. The new STI sedan adopts the same wide-body profile as the hatchback.

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WRX STI Style and Dynamics

Subaru has offered a WRX edition of the Impreza since 2002, and a top-performing WRX STI model since 2004. (STI stands for Subaru Tecnica International.) Major chassis upgrades for 2011 include a retuned suspension that features higher-rate springs, thicker front and rear stabilizer bars, and new bushings. Subaru claims even sharper handling, with reduced body roll and more neutral responses. Last year's WRX STI Special Edition previewed some of the suspension enhancements that mark all 2011 STI models.

Spring rates have increased by 15.6 percent in front and 53 percent in the rear. The 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI has lowered ride height and new pillow-ball front bushings. Subaru tests its STI model on Germany's Nurburgring racetrack.

The hatchback (five-door) model exhibits revised front styling, shared with the four-door, to emphasize its "wide and low" appearance. The oversized rear spoiler on the WRX STI four-door aims to provide stable high-speed handling and zero lift. Subaru's wide-body design means widened front and rear track dimensions, along with wider and more pronounced front fenders and rear quarter panels. The WRX STI four-door sedan is 6.5 inches longer than the hatchback, but on the same 103.3-inch wheelbase.

All WRX STI models have sharpened bumper corners and wider, blackout foglamp nacelles. Up front is a black grille insert with a blacked-out Subaru floating wing. The jutting lip spoiler features three-dimension detailing.

The larger rear spoiler was designed exclusively for the WRX STI four-door. That body style has its own version of the stainless steel quad-tailpipe exhaust, enlarged to 3-inch diameter.

New, lighter 18-inch aluminum wheels weigh 17.6 pounds less than before. Optional 18 x 8.5-inch BBS forged aluminum-alloy wheels may be mounted. Hatchbacks have a cargo area cover and clear taillight lenses. Out back are polished stainless steel quad tailpipes.

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WRX STI Power and Performance

Under the hood, a high-boost turbocharged/intercooled "boxer" engine develops 305 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 290 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. A six-speed manual is the sole transmission. Equipped with three automatic modes, the Multi-Mode Driver Control Center Differential is STI's own version of Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. The 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI earns a fuel-economy estimate from the EPA of 17 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway-hardly thrifty, though appropriate for a car of this caliber.

Exclusive to the WRX STI is Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE), which lets the driver use a rotary dial on the console to tailor driving characteristics to three selectable modes: Intelligent, Sport, or Sport Sharp. SI-DRIVE regulates the Engine Control Module and fine-tunes the Electronic Throttle Control system. Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control features a track performance-optimized mode and has three settings: Normal, Traction, and Off. The Brembo Performance Brake System uses ventilated Super Sport all-disc brakes with 13-inch front rotors.

WRX STI models have aluminum-alloy pedal covers and a driver's footrest. Front seats integrate the backrest and head restraint into a single structure. The revised speedometer and tachometer display fine numeric gradations. A standard all-weather package includes heated front seats and mirrors.

Refined overall, the WRX STI is solidly built, too. That helps produce a sense of confidence even under demanding conditions, helped by the knowledge that all-wheel drive is present-and welcome.

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Subaru Racing Development

Subaru is still involved in heavy-duty racing with the WRX STI, recently setting a one-lap record at the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course. Driven on a racetrack, the STI exhibits energetic but civilized performance. For the less-experienced driver, an STI is vastly easier to control on the track than some race-ready models, partly due to Subaru AWD system. If rain begins to fall, or the surface becomes slippery, all-wheel drive can make the difference between confident control and continuous uncertainty. Serious drivers have plenty of choices, led by Subaru's three-position SI-Drive setup, but most of them can be ignored by less-demanding owners.

Well-balanced even when pushed hard; the Subaru Impreza WRX STI is wholly civilized for ordinary driving. Despite the bold nature of its tall rear spoiler, that's this car's number one plus point, coupled with lovely steering feel and response. Mild exhaust rumble is noticeable at idle, but overall, the STI's strength is relatively subtle rather than flashy.

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Welcoming, Comfortable Interior

Occupants get comfortable, supportive seats in a welcoming interior. Electroluminescent orange-lit gauges are simply superior-the kind that every serious automobile should have.

A 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI can be driven home for a Manufacturers Suggested List Price of $34,720 (including destination charge). Sedans come in a $38,070 Limited trim level that adds 18-inch BBS wheels, foglamps, power moonroof, and leather-trimmed upholstery. In comparison, a regular Subaru Impreza WRX goes for $26,220. Redesigned 2012 Subaru Impreza models will emerge this fall. www.subaru.com

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI sedan
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