Motor Image is looking to reignite the Subaru brand in Malaysia with the introduction of the new Forester and Impreza hatchback between June to August. This includes the highest factory spec Impreza possible, the 2.5-litre, 16 valve, turbocharged WRX STI.
Shannon Teoh was in Singapore to get an introductory feel of the two new Imprezas that will appear on our shores this year.
The problem with a launch in Singapore is the lack of any feasible area to test a car outside of everyday driving situations. While this might be fine for any normal family car â€“ which the plebeian versions of the Impreza definitely are with its sedate new styling â€“ the 247hp 2.0 S-GT, let alone the 296 in the STI, demand a more clinical challenge.
Motor Image did locate a short slip road with a couple of switchbacks but due to the fact that there were only two STI testers and media from the entire region were here for the one-day only event, we were each limited to one pass each way, hardly allowing us to build towards the limits of the STI’s adhesion.
In under eight minutes with either car, a few snap judgments had to be made. If motoring journos in Malaysia are fortunate enough to get their hands on a test unit when it finally arrives here â€“ prospectively in August â€“ then you’ll probably hear more about the STI’s performance on Malaysia’s more “liberal” roads.
What I can tell you is that the two cars are worlds apart. The S-GT is basically a WRX spec car and a twin-scroll turbo results in it producing 247hp at 6,000rpm and 333Nm at 2,400rpm. Despite these figures actually trumping the 2.5-litre WRX (224hp and 306Nm), it certainly doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t even feel like it could outrun, say, a Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Although this might be due to some sort of transmission lag with the rather unsatisfying four-speed auto ‘box. Certainly, it didn’t seem like peak torque was coming at 2,400rpm and in fact, was closer to 4,000rpm before the car seemed to make haste.
If there is a manual version, it’s not coming here, which is a shame since apparently, the manual 2.5 WRX beats the 2.0 S-GT in the 0-100km/h sprint by two seconds with the S-GT coming in rather unimpressively, just under 8 seconds.
There was no real opportunity to test the symmetrical all-wheel drive â€“ where weight distribution of the drive system is evenly balanced between left and right thanks to the four-pot boxer engine â€“ although the ride seemed decent enough.
Motor Image will be bringing this car in as the ‘warm’ family car, with the auto ‘box making it simple enough for non-enthusiasts while the Sportshift would allow some scrolling through of the four ratios for a more involved drive. Early indications are that it will be priced at 170 grand plus change, making it a cheaper and more sedate alternative to the Golf GTI or Honda Civic Type-R.
But if cheap and sedate are not words in your dictionary, it looks like the acronyms WRX STI will be in the next few months.
With 296 ponies charging in at 6,000rpm and 407Nm coming through at 4,000rpm, the UK spec STI will be a real steal if it does come at the RM300,000 mark that Motor Image Sdn Bhd general manager John Lim is trying to price it at. Reported to do the 100km/h sprint in under 5 seconds, it’s about half a second quicker to the ton than its longstanding rival, the new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (the Evo IX was priced at RM284,872 without warranty).
It’s interesting to note that the UK-spec STI is different from the Japanese-spec STI. The JDM car uses a 2.0 litre boxer-4 engine with a twin scroll turbo good for 304 horsepower, while the UK-spec one we are getting uses a 2.5 litre engine with a single scroll turbocharger.
The thing that’ll strike you first when you climb in is how the interior doesn’t look or feel like the traditional rally-derived performance car. Subaru have tried to make this feel like a car that’s priced in its range.
With the as-confusing-as-an-M5 electronic dials and switches to adjust your Driver’s Control Centre Differential and Subaru Intelligent Drive, it definitely lends itself to the idea of state-of-the-art.
There is in fact a tangible difference between the three SI-Drive modes â€“ Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp â€“ each getting progressively happier to give you all the power you want. There was no time to fiddle with the DCCD though, which will decide the locking behaviour of the differential, giving you either more traction or more turning capability with its rate of response in re-channeling torque.
What I do know is that the AWD works in Auto well enough. Variations of throttle input in corners translated to minimal under- and oversteers in the cornering line which was held to firmly otherwise.
The only dodgy bits are the slightly under-communicative steering and the styling. If the non-STI versions are just plain boring, the STI tries to counter this with some adjustments to the front and rear end and most tellingly, bloody huge fender flares.
The wheel arches are so huge now that you certainly can’t call them boring â€“ it’s more love it or hate it. Whatever the case, you can’t ignore it when it’s there in the flesh.
With the rather short drive time, perhaps the thing that was most impressive was the damping of the ride and low noise levels. Unlike the Evo, which usually tells you it’s a fearsome car by rattling your bones and booming out a loud four-pot harmony, the new STI is nearly disappointing in how well it reduces its 2,500cc engine to a drone rather than a roar and the way it handles bumps, holes and inconsistencies in road surfacing.
In any other RM300,000 car it’d be applauded. In an STI, well, I’m happy that my bum is comfortable in its bucket seat, but I’d have liked a bit more music.
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