The banzai AWD Japanese saloon lives on
By The Lenspeed Team
Motor Image revealed the WRX and WRX STI to the media and public in Singapore today, 6 May, in light of a sobering market that has proven to prefer quick-shifting automated gearboxes and smaller, more fuel-efficient engines for their sports cars. While the answer to this convenience-biased and cost-conscious market could well be the CVT equipped WRX (also available with a manual) with an all-new engine sporting 268bhp / 350Nm, the WRX STI will remain a distinctly left-field choice with its >S$200,000 price tag and manual-only configuration.
Whether consumers will open their wallets or not for the WRX STI is a question best left to number crunchers over at Subaru, but it is clear that the new car is distinctly out on its own with the Evo’s future still in stark limbo. The Scoobie is also still, notably, substantially cheaper than the AWD European competition such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3 and Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.
However, it shows. Jump into the interior and the plastic bits still feel largely cheap, although there has been some effort to replace the top dash with softer plastics. It is not a vast improvement from any previous Subaru, and definitely is nowhere near any of its European competitors in terms of interior material quality. It doesn’t even have much added functionality, like a navigation system or an in-built hard disk. That said, from our primitive initial knock-and-hear test and past records, one can assume that the interior build quality will be of a high standard, which is at least of some comfort.
Compared to Lenspeed’s staff S204, the WRX STI’s clutch is shockingly light, understandably made to appeal to a wider audience. The gearshift action is still slick and has a very short travel, which is reassuringly familiar and one feature that Lenspeed is glad to see is still intact. The seats are shaped in a more cossetting way now, and marks have to be given for their comfort level, though we’ll have to verify this for sure when we go for a drive in it soon. The steering wheel is also now nicer to hold, adopting an European feeling to its texture and shape.
Interestingly, the WRX STI uses largely the same EJ25 from the previous Euro-spec WRX STI, but the WRX will use an all-new engine. We’re not sure why this has been done, but we hope it is not because of nostalgia because the EJ25 wasn’t exactly an award-winning engine, anyway. While the WRX’s engine has impressive outputs, one cannot help but wonder why such a sporting car has been equipped with a CVT gearbox. Maybe – just maybe – our bias against CVTs may be changed forever with Subaru’s take on it. But until we try it, it appears to us a rather odd choice of transmission indeed.
What will whet our appetite is more details of the JDM WRX STI, which will most certainly be the one to watch. Until then, we thirst to take the WRX and WRX STI out for a test on our roads, and to see for ourselves whether the rally reps for the road still live up to their name, and to their ancestors…
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