The general package of a sharp handling, all wheel drive sedan with a healthy 300 turbocharged horsepower is still surely a very, very good thing. As an object unto itself, the new 2015 Subaru WRX STI continues to offer a fun and engaging driving experience, as it always has. The problem for me, and much of the Subaru-loving community, is that the STI has been exactly the same for over ten years now– to the point where it has gotten boring, and boring is the worst crime a car such as this can commit.
I’ve owned my 2004 Subaru STi for over seven years, and I’ve never, even once, wanted to “upgrade” to any newer STI. This is because ever since 2004 Subaru’s focus has been on softening the STI, and not making it faster, more hardcore, or better in any meaningful way. In fact, values of 2004 STIs are starting to increase now because enthusiasts have recognized the 2004 as being the pinnacle, so far, of the STIs available to us here in America.
So when I say that the new STI does nothing for me when I look at it, that poses a major problem for Subaru. I remember the excitement my 2004 STi brought me when I first got it, and I know it still brings that sort of excitement today. Whether it’s the looks or the performance, the 2015 STI cannot even come close to the level that my STi was on when it first hit US shores back in 2004. While the 04 STi was slaying the Porsche 911s, BMW M3s, Ford Mustang Cobras, and Pontiac GTOs of its day, the new STI is barely capable of out running the current V6 Toyota Camry.
Despite the old car and the new car having exactly the same sort of performance, side by side, in competition with other cars of their respective eras, the new STI is not even half the car that the 2004 STi was, and that is the big problem.
For those familiar with economics, the issue with the STI is a lot like the concept of inflation. Basically, if you have ten dollar bill today, and you put it away in a drawer for ten years, when you go to spend it after a decade, you won’t be able to buy as much with it as you would have been able to ten years earlier. The ten dollar bill itself hasn’t changed, but the world has changed, and the bill’s relative value in the world has changed.
In the last ten years Subaru hasn’t really changed the STI in any meaningful way whatsoever. It is the same exact object in 2015 that it was back in 2004. The difference is that in 2004 a Porsche 911 and BMW M3 were both similar objects to the Subaru STI, whereas now, in 2015, both the Porsche and BMW have grown to far exceed the Subaru in terms of performance. Being that these are all high performance cars we are talking about here, performance is in fact the “end-all-be-all” bottom line.
Subaru’s big mistake has been their emphasis on softening and refining the STI. Basically they had a great thing going, and have been steadily ruining it over time. Now, I want to clear this up, their mistake has not been in offering the STI with a nicer interior and Sat-Nav and whatnot, their mistake has been in focusing on softening the car’s edges in place of focusing on raising its level of performance. All of that fit and finish stuff is great to have, but not at the expense of the STI’s primary purpose in the world.
For $40,000, if I just wanted a nice, comfortable, “refined” car, then I’d be purchasing a BMW 3 Series or a Volkswagen CC, and surely not a hardcore rally machine like a Subaru STI. It seems clear to me that Subaru has lost sight of exactly who would buy the STI, and what their priorities are.
You see, at this point I would argue that the STI costs far too much for what it is, and the level of performance it offers. There are many 300hp cars out there these days, and you don’t need to spend anywhere near $40,000 to get them. The new Mustang with the four-banger turbo I think is a very real threat to the STI, if it is indeed the sports car that Ford is claiming it is. Additionally, for around the same kind of money, you can get much faster and much nicer cars than an STI. The Mercedes CLA45 AMG and Audi S4 both come to mind, and they each cost only a few grand more than a loaded STI in their basic trim.
I’m afraid things get even worse when you look within the Subaru range. In truth, the new 2015 WRX may be the best WRX Subaru has ever made, and I don’t think the STI will be worth spending the extra money for. One of the main reasons to buy an STI in years past was to avoid the flimsy 5 speed transmission in the WRX. Now Subaru has given the WRX a proper 6 speed manual, and for what its worth, a decent option for those who don’t want a manual in the form of a CVT.
The WRX and STI are as close now as they have ever been in terms of what each car offers, and really the WRX is not at much of a deficit at all. Basically a simple ECU reflash should get the WRX the extra 30hp it needs to match the STI’s 305hp (maybe even surpass it). Add in some decent coilovers and a big-brake kit, and you can likely meet or exceed every aspect of the STI’s performance for a good bit less than the STI will cost.
Basically, I don’t think the new STI is going to be worth buying. There are way better cars out there for the same money, and if you want a fast Subaru, just get the WRX and modify it a little. I know it sounds single-minded to complain about horsepower alone, but the STI needs another 100hp for it to be at the level that it should be… ten years later. Even if Subaru has done a lot to further improve the handling of the 2015 STI, what is the point of being able to go around a corner at 100mph if the car is only capable of reaching 85mph on the approaching straight?
In my mind, Subaru has had four chances now (2006, 2008, 2011, 2015) to improve the STI, even if just a little, and they haven’t. The fact that simple modifications and tuning can get an STI up to 350-400bhp shows just how lazy Subaru has been with this car. Plainly, it is entirely unacceptable for the current STI to not have at least 350bhp in stock form at this point.
The new STI is now really just a very lightly upgraded WRX with a bigger wing and a pink gear knob.The STi we all fell in love with back in 2004 doesn’t exist anymore, and hasn’t really existed since then. If you really want an STI, save your money and buy a nice 2004-2007 example for $20-25K. Otherwise, I advise getting something else. Until Subaru’s infatuation with mediocrity ends, it seems we Subaru enthusiasts must either find interest in other cars, or continue to look to the past.
A reminder of what once was… I don’t think the new STI would be able to show up the new Mustang 5.0 GT in this manner:
-Article by Nick Walker