Posts tagged ‘subaru’


By James Wong


It’s been a while since I last checked in with a staffer update, so here’s what’s been happening with this 320bhp monster.

It feels like the S204 has settled down to a comfortable routine the last few months as it has been running like clockwork without a hitch at all. The engine starts strong and true every morning, all fluids are in check and the tyres are wearing down nicely. Even the air-conditioning is holding up well on a hot day despite repeated usage. I guess this is a taste of what Japanese reliability is all about.

A couple of weeks back the Pivot boost controller’s backing gave way, and the controller plummeted to the floor causing it to snap apart from the connecting cable. I was secretly happy this happened as I never used it anyway and the car feels no different without it.

The suspension noises which have been around have not gotten worse, but it is quite annoying though not enough to justify a whole new suspension set yet. The COE renewal date is looming and once that is done (or if) I’ll get this along with other issues sorted.

It has also surpassed 100,000km. It’s a nice milestone and like when I crossed it in my MkV GTI it was pretty satisfying knowing the car was well-engineered enough to last at least that long. It feels like it can go another 100,000km!

Also, a pleasant finding in the last two fuel top-ups is fuel economy – the car is managing to hit at least 400km quite comfortably before needing a re-fuel, something it only ever did once before. I’m not sure what’s causing the good economy but our Lenspeed debates point to a thinning engine oil viscosity as it ages, together with cool weather which may mean the turbos are working more efficiently. With the lower fuel prices recently, it means the S204 feels cheaper than ever to run, which is great considering the sort of performance you get. 8km/l is really not that bad at all!

The last thing to sort in 2014 for the car is its front carbon fibre lip. It’s been out of the car for a long while now, and while in the beginning I thought I didn’t really care for the look of the car without it I’ve come to feel that the car really does need it on. It’s OK if the rest of the car looks coherent but in this case, the front looks too tame and is a mismatch with the rest of the car. So, I’ve decided to put it back on. Thing now is I have to restore the lip and find some way to better protect its surface before I do it. If you have any recommendations on good CF experts, please shout!


By James Wong

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It seems like tyre-changing season here at Lenspeed, with the staff DS3 recently changing to Bridgestone RE002s and the LS460 fitting on Dunlop Sport Maxx TTs. The latter car actually wore Pilot Super Sport tyres, which were great if not for the fact that the Lexus was so far removed from the road, that you can hardly feel the tyres working! They were definitely quieter than the new Dunlops, but what shocked us was the rapid wear rate of the PSS rubber, which was already due for a change after a measly 15,000km. This seems at odds with what others have reported with their PSS tyres so far, so we were not so quick to dismiss using them again, although it did put some reservations into our minds when choosing the next tyre for the S204.

It has to be said that the set of PS3s on the S204 has endured its fair share of hard driving. When I bought the car it only had about 60% of its tread left, so it was only a matter of months before they were due to be changed. The pivotal moment came when the car was brought to a empty tarmac plot where the sidewalls of the front tyres really suffered from incessant understeer. Following quickly after that, the rear left tyre also punctured due to a nail, and the 204 limped along with a second hand tyre (which is in greater shape than all of the rest!).

When I started looking for tyres, it seemed inevitable that I would turn to the PSS. Although feeling like I have been having Michelins on my cars forever, the PSS does seem to be the best tyre around these days, mixing all weather ability with a decent wear rate (300). It certainly isn’t the party pooper like the PS3 was, and is quite rightly the true successor to the Michelin PS2 that preceded it.

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However, being stubborn and wanting to try new things, I looked at Pirellis, Dunlops and even the AD08R from a fan recommendation on our Instagram page. They all were pretty close in price to the PSS however, a bit too close for comfort.

There was a stalemate for a while until I decided to call a shop for a price quote. To my disbelief they gave me a price that was $75 a tyre cheaper than the next best quote! I could hardly believe it for a 235/40 R18 size, and went in haste to get the tyres done.

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As it turned out, there was no gimmick to the price and I left a happy man.

So far, it’s the running in stage for the tyres so I’ll leave my comments for later, but already the grip is pretty phenomenal. In fact, sometimes I have been cornering a bit too hard already and can smell the scent of tyres when I park up…

Another worrying result from getting the car on a lift: I noticed what looks like rust in the bottom left of my suspension. Before scaring myself further I’m heading to a workshop this weekend to get it looked at. It can’t be rust, can it?

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Text By James Wong, Photos By Amrit Changaroth


I find it a bit of a struggle to wake up at 715am every day. However, like all petrolheads out there, I tend to make an exception when it comes to driving. I have woken up like clockwork at 4am at Switzerland to catch the first sunlight for mountain roads, 5am in Singapore to hit the B-roads just when the sun rises, and I’ve never really complained. Neither has my body. I find it incredulous, none more so than my alarm clock which has had more than its fair share of snooze snubs.


Along a fabulous piece of B-road one faithful morning, there lies an even more terrific thing – an empty area of tarmac that, according to banners put up by possibly nobody, is used for drifting events. I’ve never seen any drifting event held there, and I am happy for it. It’s a place where it’s safe to put a car through its paces, where there are cones and tyres already in place for you to set up your own course. In short, there cannot be a better place to drive to within 2 hours of Singapore…

So, three cars assembled for the short blast, incidentally all with a real fetish for the letter ‘S’. Suzuki and Subaru are the brands, and Suzuki Ignis Sport (SIS), Suzuki Swift Sport (SSS) and Subaru S204 are the models. Call them the Triple S.


Every road trip seems to have its eventful twist, and each of the Triple S had their fair share of white-knuckled moments. Along the B-road, the SSS was traveling ahead of the S204 and a truck, and disappeared left on a blind corner. Moments after, I (in the S204) saw the truck braking and as the road became visible, the SSS was nowhere to be found!

Before panic set in, I saw it scurrying back onto the road, slipping nonchalantly in front of the truck as if nothing happened. Over the intercom we had to ask incredulously, “What the heck happened?!”

As it turned out, rear tyres as bald as a monk gave way mid-corner, possibly due to a sandy surface and water seeping through the grass. The car oversteered, and went into the hedge! Thank God the casualty was only a frayed bumper and a missing number plate, but we did go retrieve the number plate later.


The next moment happened when an innocent squirrel stood firmly on its paws on the road, having what must be the best nuts in the world as it didn’t want to move when the S204 approached it… Quickly deciding that I didn’t want any squishy bits to bring home with my car, I swerved, got onto a dirt patch along the side of the road and oversteered a little before the sterling AWD brought me back to the road with little sweat.


The SIS was spared any incidents when we reached the tarmac area. Given the experience of two drivers on the trip of driving the wheels off their cars, they quickly devised a track layout and we started time trials. I had a go in all 3 cars, and it was pretty clear that power is of little importance here. The SIS, with its short wheelbase, gave an agility that likened it to a sniffing dog onto a treat trail. Its gearing was perfect for the conditions, giving short bursts of acceleration that, while wasn’t fast, was enough to thrill the driver and reward clean shifts. At some points, going into gear 1 and then pulling the handbrake was necessary, which is where the SIS excelled again as it yawed on its front axis like a natural. Cocking up the inside rear wheel was, of course, something the SIS did everywhere it went. It sounded the business too.


Dropping into the SSS, it was startling how similar some things were, like the upright seating position (giving great visibility) and the ease of controls. However, the SSS felt more mature and better built, adding a slight heft to its handling that deprives it the razor sharp responses of the SIS. It however had a more confidence-inspiring steering feel, and definitely felt like a proper hot hatch, again cocking up its inner rear wheel as it resolutely held its line rather than understeering severely. It’s no doubt the SIS felt more natural in the narrow confines of this circuit though.


As I drove the S204 on this circuit I gathered that, like many enthusiasts think of Subarus, there is a inherent understeer bias. What surprised me was how difficult it is to quell it to get a clean lap; with the DCCD left in Auto the car simply preferred to understeer into the hedge rather than move power around to fix it. As such I felt backing off the throttle was necessary, although I much preferred to power through and let the car ‘sort itself out’. I tried the same lap again on different settings on the DCCD, this time heading down the progressive chart and finding out the difference. Although with each lap the difference was hardly noticeable, by the time I reached the opposite end of the scale from Auto, the car was much cleaner on its lap and power was being distributed more efficiently to neutralise the handling. By then however, my front tyre sidewalls were already melting, and mechanical sympathy stopped me from going further!


Although the S204 clinched the fastest eventual lap time, the clear winner from behind the driver’s seat is the SIS. From ground up, it was built for situations like this and it was completely at home. Pity this specific model is going to be scrapped in two weeks…

Anyway, we left off where the SIS has no incidents, but before it got back to Singapore it unfortunately wasn’t spared. On the B-road back, a serious off-camber corner nearly drove the car into the oil palm plantations, and upon reaching Gelang Patah the car started leaking coolant fluid. A stone struck the radiator, just a small wound, but enough to give the car the thirst of a parched athlete. It limped back to Singapore and stopped periodically to get its coolant topped up!

All in, it was an incredible Saturday morning that showed thrills are never too far away from our island. We just need to know where to look.


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By The Lenspeed Team


Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd (FHI) has just announced the launch of a representative office in Singapore, comprising a grand total of 3 staff. Although seemingly insignificant news, this is part of a wider push by the company to do feasibility and research studies about the region for further expansion of Subaru. It has identified ASEAN as a future growth region after finding success in China, Australia, Japan and especially the United States.

This is of course something we have seen before with other auto firms. Today, there are more than a handful of car manufacturers which have set up regional offices in Singapore, a fact that is still unknown to much of the Singaporean populace whose hopes of owning a car have been left high and dry. And rightfully, they would be feeling bewilderment at first too – why Singapore, one of the most hostile places for cars in the world?

As it seems, things can thrive in other ways. These manufacturers do not set up offices in Singapore to actually sell cars here; taking advantage of the business-friendly environment, low taxes, offshore banking facilities and great transport links to the world, Singapore has emerged as an ideal hub from which to manage the automotive business across Asia. China has proven to be too politically attached and polluted, while Japan is not as globalised as Singapore is for business. Hong Kong is a viable alternative, which is why some companies, like Infiniti, have their head office there. But mostly in Asia, they’re in Singapore or they’re moving here.

Among the big names with operations here, just to name a few: Porsche AG, BMW Group, Daimler AG, Jaguar Land Rover and most recently General Motors. It’s a bit like having candy in a bed of thorns. All inaccessible to the general population, but there they are…

What’s good news, however, is that car enthusiasts in Singapore who may not be able to buy a car can most certainly rejoice in the fact that they may find it easier now to work for a car manufacturer, with more openings in this industry than ever before for Singaporeans. If you love cars but find them too expensive to buy, this is your next best option, and admittedly a pretty good one… You’d have to travel across the world (mostly halfway or more) to find another auto regional office to work for! And in Singapore, they’re located in swanky places too, like Ocean Financial Centre and Raffles Place…

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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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