DRIVEN: 2009 Subaru STi & WRX at Mosport

Written by By: Dave Pankew Photos By Lindsay Tadros on .

PRN Tests the STi and WRX at Mosport

No matter how much tracking you may do, when testing an unknown track, you do get the jitters. Especially when that track is seen in many IMG_2081_optYouTube videos introducing cars to its concrete walls. But at the same time you want to open up the throttle, dive in late and exit early to make a statement around media peers.
When Subaru Canada invited us to the STi and WRX265 test day we expected it to be a watered-down parking lot circuit to minimize mishaps. We were wrong because they booked one of the premier race facilities in Canada – Mosport International Raceway. This 10 turn, 2.4-mile course has loads of elevation changes, blind corners and off camber turns that will send you in to a barrier if you step out off the line. However, we were armed with the new highly capable 2008 Subaru Impreza STi and a racing instructor to build confidence and stay out of trouble. We also had an opportunity to do some hot-laps with Rally Driver Pat Richard in his Tarmac-spec STi from the Targa Newfoundland for inspiration!

2009 Subaru Impreza STi

Aside from the capabilities and advancements in the ’09 STi, the styling has been fiercely debated. Switching from a sedan to a 5-door was a big move IMG_2072_optand the public is basically still digesting the look of the previous generation when already a fresh aethetic treatment makes its way to dealers.

Viewed while cruising the streets, the STi really makes a statement with its voluminous rear end, LED tails and wind swept front features. The widened fenders and undulating belt-line really set it apart from the crowd, where the WRX (especially the sedan) appears more generic. From the rear, the thick 245/40R18 Dunlop SP600s fill the wheel wells and show off an aggressive tread pattern that gives an indicator that this car means business. The wheels, manufactured by BBS are forged aluminum and the STi has more options than in previous years. These 18x8-inch wheels are available in: silver, gunmetal or gold with the Sport Tech package. The standard wheels are a high-polish 18x8-inch flared five star, which are equally as attractive.

The standard package (if you can call this fully jammed vehicle that) MSRP is only $39,995, while the Sport Tech package will run you $45,995. The Sport-Tech package adds navigation integrated into an in-dash six CD-changer with Sirius satellite radio. There is also a power moonroof, Bluetooth and the aforementioned BBS wheels available in three colors. All of the other technological wizardry and related luxuries are all standard equipment.

The STi all by itself is one outstanding car for the price and lightyears ahead of its predecessors in terms of refinement. Simply put, it does everything better that the previous two generations, including cargo space considering it only comes as a 5-door. Aside from the frequent restyling of Impreza line, the major attraction of this iteration is the interior. The fit and finish of the interior components are first class and the various materials used are of a higher caliber than ever before. The two-tone suede sport seats are comfortable and provide enough bolster for the g’s the09STI_07A_opt STi will generate. These power high-backs feature functional racing harness openings rank top in the class. The interior itself is a treat, loads of cargo space, leg room and headroom for anyone who slips into this vehicle. The compact steering wheel with all of the onboard controls is ideal and on the level with sports cars costing far more. We also have to give credit to the small touches, the illuminated STi logo, the rubber grip in the illuminated storage box, the trademark sweeping gauges.

With all of the new styling and interior upgrades pushing the STI into a more upscale Audi Avant buyer turf, the car still has a dual personality. This is a turn-key track car. You don’t need fancy coilovers, or sticky R-Compounds or even get silly with a stripped interior and cage to be thrilled in this 5-door. Under the hood is a slightly tweaked flat-4 boxer engine displacing the same 2.5-liters. Now churning out 305hp with 290lb-ft of torque, the bump in horsepower and torque get this car moving 0-60mph in shade under 5-seconds.

On to the legendary Mosport track that was sure put this hyper family hauler to the test. Our instructor gave us basic instructions on where the line was and gave us the green light to get crazy. We turned to Subaru’s SI-Drive, a dial that selects between “Intelligent’ ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport #’ modes. hunt 021_optNaturally, we gravitated towards ‘Sport Sharp’ that enables the steering and throttle with cat-like reflexes. Sport is an enhanced mode and Intelligent reduces power and torque for everyday motoring, which wasn’t appropriate today. We left the Driver Controller Centre Differential (DCCD) alone until we got a feel for the car. As we gradually turned up the wick, the STi needed more rear bias to counteract the understeer. The STi will hold any corner with its unreal grip and although it may want to plow occasionally, just lay on more throttle. The weight transfer of the car is predictable and even though there may be more roll than we expected, this 5-door will simply not let go of the blacktop. Even up the steep grade of Mosport’s corners 5A-B-C the torque rockets the STi up the hill, then get off the gas turn-in and hammer the throttle.

hunt 006_opt hunt 024_opt hunt 027_opt

On to the climb of Mosport’s Mario Andretti straight that would see the STi reach over 200km/h. This would surely test the Brembo brakes which bit into those speeds without sweating. After several hot laps on the day, the tires, brakes and various temps held up well for a street car. Bottom line, this was one grin-inducing ride that we did not hold back on in the slightest and the STi was eager to deliver it to us.

2009 Subaru Impreza WRX265

Dubbed the WRX265, with no badging to identify it, this new Impreza trim level boasts 265hp with 244lb-ft of twist. A boost of 40 ponies over the WRX model it leap frogged. But it is more than just horsepower with the WRX265 and these underrated 5-doors and sedans list for only $3,000 more. What 09WRX265_17A_optthat includes are thicker sway bars, tuned dampers, sport seats, larger exhaust, larger turbo and more boost.

Stalwart WRX fans were slightly vexed by the luxury car makeover of the new Impreza and the critics were harsh. Subaru maintains that the WRX265 will silence the critics of the new version. The styling is improved with the roof spoiler on the 5-door, the gunmetal 17x7-inch wheels with 225/45R17 Dunlop SP SPORT 01 performance rubber as well. The sum off its parts enables the WRX265 to eclipse performance of the WRX but what else it is comparable to was a complete surprise.

When it comes to straight-line acceleration, the WRX265 is on par with the STi. And by on par we mean faster by 0.1s than its rally-inspired brother! It has the Subaru community lit-up with comments and concerns as to why the less expensive, lesser powered WRX265 is embarrasing the halo car.

Although there was no opporuntity to run comparasin track tests, the WRX265 was available to tear up the rural areas surrounding Mosport. With the fall colors on full brightness, the backdrop for the drive through the countryside could not have been more perfect. The rolling hills and twistingIMG_2095_opt country roads allowed the WRX265 to demonstrate the merits of its revised suspension and improved low-down grunt. The upgraded seating is livable over long distances, while the occupants are firmly planted during cornering antics.

With the price of the WRX dropping $3000 and the WRX265 now occupying its MSRP, the STi may be a tougher sell. The hot-hatch 5-door battle now sees the STi facing competition from within from the WRX265. Either way, the Impreza has something for everyone in its expanded trim line.

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