2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Review

By Brendan Moore

06.23.2008


Since I had a fair amount of time with the previous iteration of the STI, I was really looking forward to a week with the new one in order to see what changes Subaru had wrought.

I didn’t have to look hard as the new STI looks different just walking up on it. What look like small differences in the photos are meaningful in the “Sparks Silver Metallic” metal, with a revised nose, flared fenders, etc. It is simultaneously more aggressive and upscale. This carries over when you get inside; the interior looks better, the materials look and feel more expensive, and it’s quieter, although the doors still shake a little when you slam them shut and the sound they make is a bit hollow. Overall, the looks are improved, inside and out. Subaru gets kudos for keeping the good stuff (great Alcantara seats) and improving the rest. The car looks and feels less boy-racer and more grown-up.

The base price of the STI that was dropped off at the office by Subaru was $34,995 USD. My tester had only two options; a cargo tray for $75.00 (money well-spent, I assure you) and a center armrest for $163. From my perspective, the only thing noticeable to most prospective buyers by its absence was a navigation system, which you cannot get from Subaru without buying a set of BBS wheels (STI center caps) with it, which costs you another $3800. I think a lot of buyers would consider that worth the money, but the regular wheels look pretty good to me, and I don’t use a nav system that often, so I would probably stick with the car that they sent me.

The standard features were plentiful:

• Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
• 18 x 8.5-inch 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels
• Brembo® performance brake system
• STI high-performance-tuned exhaust system with quad stainless-steel outlets
• High-performance sport-tuned 4-wheel independent suspension
• High-intensity discharge headlights
• SIRIUS® satellite radio capability
• 80-watt 10-speaker audio system with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, MP3/WMA capability and SRS Circle Surround Automotive™ audio enhancement
• Auxiliary audio jack
• STI-design instrumentation with aluminum gauge trim rings, center-mounted tachometer, gauge needles full-sweep on start-up and adjustable tachometer red-line warning with audible indicator
• Leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with audio system and cruise control buttons
• STI-design front seats with fixed integrated head restraints and embroidered STI logos
• Graphite Gray Alcantara® upholstery with Carbon Black leather bolsters

The STI has a 305 hp flat-four turbocharged engine rated at 19 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The engine gained 12 hp from last year, and it also has 290 lb-ft of torque that arrives 400 rpm earlier courtesy of a valve timing change. The STI comes with a six-speed manual transmission that has very short throws.

The STI has a longer wheelbase, a more compliant suspension setup and a better ride overall than its predecessor. It seems a lot quieter overall. It has lost some of that banzai character it had before, but I think the overall driving experience is a net improvement. Some people will undoubtedly disagree with me, saying that they loved those rough edges and that they want their racer toy back.

The STI has a few adjustable driving setups that will provide endless pleasure for a certain percentage of its drivers.

The first is DCCD, Subaru’s take on the customization of AWD. To quote from their sales material, Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) All-Wheel Drive: Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) All-Wheel Drive uses an electronically managed multi-plate transfer clutch and a mechanical limited-slip differential in conjunction with a planetary-gear-type center differential to control power distribution between the front and rear wheels. Featuring manual and three automatic modes, DCCD splits power 41% front and 59% rear. Sensors monitor parameters such as wheel slippage, steering angle, throttle position and braking to help determine torque distribution and direct it to the wheels with optimum traction. DCCD also features a limited-slip helical front and Torsen® rear differential.

The second is VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control), which lets you employ full stability control, a traction mode with heightened performance parameters, or, you can have it off completely. All done with three separate electronic settings, of course.

The third is ETC (Electronic Throttle Control) which also offers three throttle map settings; Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp (Sport #), all controlled via a tuning knob in the console.
I can see lots of hours spent going through all the possible permutations on favorite roads.

In any setup, the STI is still very, very fast. Driving one feels like you are sitting on top of a bulldog straining at its leash. The little car with 305 horsepower wants to go, go, go. Its great fun, and exhilarating, and it is very difficult to keep your foot out of the thing.


The STI is able to embarrass much more expensive cars – it punches way above it weight, and it tends to easily knock just about everything else in it’s price segment into a cocked hat. It corners on rails, never puts a foot down wrong and imbues even an average driver with tremendous confidence in the corners. The handling is nothing short of superb. And should the road be wet, well then, the Subaru STI’s advantages become even more pronounced.

But, as I mentioned before, it’s not all sacrifice in the name of speed. The STI is a very pleasant place now to spend a lot of time; not a luxury car, by any means, but a well-equipped car that will either lope along at legal speeds or tear up the pavement at extra-legal speeds. It is your choice. And, it’s a four-door wagon with a huge cargo area! When gasoline costs above $4 a gallon, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI starts to look like a very logical choice if you can have only one car in your driveway. You can carry people, you can carry things, you don’t have to fear inclement weather, you get decent fuel economy and it is also a wonderful performance car. That’s a lot of boxes checked. I don’t like Subarus that much, never have, as I have always considered them fairly boring cars, but this is a Subaru that I would spend my own money on, and not look back with any regrets six months later.

A big thumbs-up.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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3 Comments

  1. It doesn’t hurt that the new STI looks like a beauty queen next to the regular Impreza & WRX.

    It’s almost worth the extra $10k just for the “ugly-delete” option.

  2. The old STi was more hardcore. This one is soft in the middle and says please don’t hurt me, Mr. Man.

  3. frogger, the new STI is a better car all-around in terms of driving it every day. It’s lost extremely little in performance and gained a lot in everything else.

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