by Matthew Wilson
When the current generation Impreza WRX STI debuted in 2008, many devout fans were horrified at what they saw. Subaru had somehow came to the conclusion that offering their famed rally inspired machine as a five-door hatchback instead of the traditional four-door sedan was a good idea. The logic was that customers wanted something more practical that could be combined with all of the power and street credential of the beloved sedan.
While the power was achieved, the new configuration was met with much dismay. Subaru messed with a winning formula and in the words of Jay Leno as he asked Hugh Grant in 1992 about his then-recent prostitute scandal: "What were you thinking!?" Fortunately, Subaru admitted their indiscretion and for 2011 the sedan returns along with its famous rear wing spoiler. Other than this, the car is mostly the same as last year. All STI's come standard with body markings such as the mentioned huge rear wing, special red badges on the front grille, fenders, and trunk lid.
From the moment you look at it, the sedan looks absolutely sinister. Due to the widebody additions of the rear quarter arches and enhanced front end, the STI appears lower and wider than its five-door counterpart. And that's exactly the point. Subaru has successfully removed any sense of refinement and pumped in as much adrenaline as possible. The excellent turbocharged 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder is also a carryover from last year. With 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission, it'll go from 0-60 mph in a blistering 4.9 seconds.
Considering this is a sedan with all-wheel drive, that number is downright amazing. Although there's a bit of turbo lag, the overall performance of the sedan has improved over the hatchback's due to superior aerodynamics. Top speed has been recorded to be 158 mph, which is just slightly faster than the hatchback. In comparison to the less powerful WRX editions, the STI benefits from a stiffer platform due to the use of high-strength steel reinforcements added to various parts of the overall structure. This helps the car to handle the increased horsepower.
Another new addition for 2011 are improved front springs that Subaru claims are 16 percent stiffer than the 2010's. Want more? The rear coils are now 53 percent stiffer and the ride height has also been slightly reduced. The interior, when compared to the base Impreza, is a huge improvement. Combined with STI badges located on the headrests, console, and steering wheel, there are leather bucket seats and black plastic accents on the dash. All told, the cockpit genuinely feels like its sole purpose is to provide the driver with the most rally car-like experience possible.
Pricing is also extremely reasonable for something of this performance magnitude. Starting at $33,995, the sedan - with the famed rear wing - is actually $2,000 less than the five-door hatchback. Subaru has done the smart thing and returned to a winning (sedan) formula that carries a large and devout fan base. As the WRX STI sedan makes it triumphant return to market, Subaru has remained true to its unapologetic street warrior. And fanboy racers and wannabes couldn't be happier.