Subaru Impreza STi: the lowdown
This is how the new Subaru Impreza STi will look when it is unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. CAR Online’s exclusive artist's impression is based on the styling of the standard new hatchback Impreza, with input from Subaru insiders who have shaped the new STi. And yes, it’s a hatchback. In an attempt to capture more Golf buyers, Subaru will only offer the Impreza as a five-door in Europe. The US saloon version won’t be offered here, and the estate dies. As our images show, the STi version loses its hallmark rear wing but will keep the huge bonnet air scoop and blistered wheelarches that made the old car so distinctive. Dinner-plate foglamps, gold wheels and world-rally blue paintwork will all be options and should help appease die-hard Impreza nuts disappointed with the new car’s styling. And of course, add a few stickers and you’ve got Subaru’s next WRC car.
So how have they spruced up the dull new Impreza?
At the rear is a venturi and a small lip spoiler over the rear screen, ice-effect lenses on the rear lights and vents for the uprated brakes. Under the bonnet will be a development of the current car’s 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four making close to 300bhp and launching the STi to 60mph in 4.5 seconds. Unlike the Mitsubishi Evo due to be launched at the same time, Subaru is sticking with a six-speed manual transmission; its rival will offer the option of a paddle-operated twin-clutch automated manual, similar to Volkswagen’s DSG system. But the changes to the Impreza’s bodyshell are more significant and bode well; the firm claims that the hatchback is lighter, stiffer and has a lower centre of gravity than the outgoing car as the engine sits lower in the chassis. The new rear double-wishbone suspension will improve handling and boot space. And the stronger structure is claimed to give improved crash performance.
And what's the new STi going to be like inside?
The wider track and longer wheelbase won’t just help handling and ride; Subaru claims cabin space has improved considerably. The STi will come with the option of a large, high-mounted sat-nav screen and inputs for MP3 players and games consoles, as seen on this US-spec 2.5i pictured here. All Imprezas will benefit from a more stylish dash and upgraded cabin materials, with brushed aluminium-effect highlights. But only the STi will get the thumbwheel-operated DCCD, or Driver Controlled Centre Differential which allows the drivers to manually alter the torque split between front and rear axles, useful when there’s 300lb ft of the stuff. Subaru UK is also thought to be considering a stripped-out version of the STi to bring the cost down from the £27,000 the full-house version is likely to cost when it goes on sale here in March 2008.
But why oh why has Subaru killed the WRX?
The reason for the planned cut-price STi is that Subaru won’t be bringing the WRX to Europe. For years the mainstay of UK Impreza sales, the basic blown WRX has been killed partly for emissions reasons and partly to focus attention on the standard Imprezas of which Subaru needs to sell more. The 224bhp WRX pictured will be offered in America and the same engine will be offered in the Japanese-spec S-GT, but it won’t be sold in Europe. Currently, 70 percent of UK Imprezas are turbocharged and around 3600 are sold each year. Subaru wants to double sales and reverse that split. The non-turbo Imprezas will go on sale here at around the same time as the STi is unveiled in Frankfurt in September 2007, but will have the showrooms to themselves for six months. While the STi might grab the headlines, it’s the planned flat-four diesel engine due to appear first in the new Legacy and Outback late in ’08 and in the Impreza in ’09 that will really boost sales and make the Impreza credible competition for its European hatchback rivals.