07 July 2007

Subaru’s WRX STI—The Little Sleeper That Woke the Dead

The WRX comes ready to go with wide low-profile tires, huge brakes, and super-firm, high quality suspension components. Plus, the all-wheel drive and snappy throttle response make this little Subaru a blast to drive. Once released to the public, it quickly became the poster child for street tuners and high performance racing.

The Impreza started life in the unlikely world of rally racing. Quite popular in Europe, rally racing is kind of an off-road/street race for heavily modified sedan and hatchback style vehicles. These cars are some of the best handling and most versatile of all race cars. They can carve a corner like dad carves a holiday turkey and catch the kind of air Evil Knievel would envy. Rally drivers are also hailed as the best drivers in motorsport.

The race-bred version of the Subaru Impreza is the WRX STI. The STI stands for Subaru Tecnica International which is Subaru’s in-house racing program. They put a lot of time and money into the program to become the winningest constructor in the professional series. Subaru decided to put this same race-winning engineering into the WRX STI.

Besides the all-wheel drive and radical suspension mentioned earlier, the WRX boasts a turbocharged 4-banger powerplant. Don’t get fooled by the absence of the other 4-cylinders—this baby cranks out nearly 300 horsepower and 300 ft-lbs of torque, without any turbo lag. The Subaru WRX really is one of the fastest sleds on the hill.

The only drawback to the WRX—that’s actually a plus—is the looks. This thing is ugly—real ugly. Those egg-heads at Subaru sure know how to make a fast, tight-handling ride, but they don’t know a thing about aesthetics. This is good though. When you obliterate Joe Hotrod’s ’66 Nova in your Japanese econo-box, that unsightly Subaru sheet metal will be the last thing on your mind. The WRX is simply the perfect street package; sleeper looks and hell-fire under the hood.

But of course, you’re a street tuner, and that means you just can’t leave stuff alone. If you were the kind of kid that hot-rodded your mom’s hair dryer or fabbed-up a wing for dad’s riding mower the WRX STI is for you. Since the car is so popular, there’s a healthy aftermarket industry supporting these Subaru racers—as if they’re not fast enough.

Since the WRX is already wildly potent, souping it up is pretty basic. The traditional chip, intake and exhaust trifecta is the quick and easy way to parlay extra performance. Anything beyond these mods and you’re treading on track-only territory. For street reliability and drivability, it’s best to stick with the basics. K&N, Borla and Unichip all make killer gear for the WRX and each boasts a long, storied reputation in the industry.

So whether you leave it alone or hop it up like a jack-rabbit on steroids, the Subaru WRX STI is one bad ride. With an unassuming look and a belly full of turbocharged horsepower, the WRX is the definition of the modern, soon to be classic, street rod.

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