KELOWNA, British Columbia – In light of stiff new competition from the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R, the Subaru WRX STI is getting spruced up for 2018, which includes a few touch-ups and some technical modifications.
The STI’s passenger compartment has also undergone subtle modifications with the addition of black mouldings, a small integrated screen – borrowed from the Impreza – in the centre of the dashboard and gauges with white numbering and red needles, which is the opposite of the previous version. Moreover, all STIs are now equipped with red seat belts and a central armrest with two cupholders for the back seats.
Subaru took us to Kelowna region, where we travelled more than 1000 kilometres in two days on the area’s gorgeous roads and did several laps on the new Area 27 circuit designed by Jacques Villeneuve. The car is just as dynamic as before and its reactions remain very precise, due to the excellent front-end geometry, new tires and the hydraulically assisted steering that helps gauge traction levels.
The WRX STI’s chassis is so balanced that the car could easily handle a 350-plus horsepower engine. That being said, the 2.5-litre boxer engine does an excellent job with very subtle torque delivery, so thrills are guaranteed. Add to that a remarkably precise six-speed manual gearbox and you’ve got an exceptional sports car with classic handling. All the ingredients are there, it could just use a little more punch coming out of turns.
The WRX STI stands out as a real beast thanks to looks, performance and classic handling. Unfortunately, it isn’t alone. The Ford Focus RS can be every bit as radical and the Volkswagen Golf R delivers similar performance with a higher degree of refinement to boot. The 2018 WRX STI is more balanced and more dynamic than the previous version. It has most certainly evolved, but it’ll be a few more years before the WRX STI truly enters a new era.