2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual – Big Power and Performance at a Reasonable Price

2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual-0355

Subaru Impreza?

The Impreza name has now parted ways as being synonymous with the snarling beasts of the Subaru performance model. A sad day and yes, we know and love that name, but its new badge is just as well known anyway: WRX STI.

Oh, and don’t worry, this new model is does not let that famous moniker down, for it continues to be as mad as a hatter, and an absolute bargain in terms of the performance-for-money exchange rate. Read on to find out more..

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Side view 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual

Comparing the new WRX STI with the previous version, you’ll notice that overall the 2015 model is not dissimilar to it. Look more closely though, and you’ll see the body is completely new.

For starters, something you can’t physically see is that the body is an incredible 140% stiffer than the last generation, thanks to Subaru incorporating more ultra high-tensile steel. You’d think that because of that there would be an increase in the body’s weight, but actually it’s the same. The chassis flex has apparently been minimised using strategic reinforcement, which in turn means better steering response and a more refined ride quality.

Front grille 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual

Physical differences you’ll see include the Subaru-synonomous bonnet air intake being pushed forward and seated lower. Don’t worry, fans of this feature (I’m one of them), it’s still the same massive size, just lowed into the bonnet more to give it better aerodynamics and make it safer for pedestrian impacts, and actually the air intake control is even better than before, according to Subaru.

Front grille and bonnet air intake 2015 Subaru WRX STI

Its front end now has a sharper, more angular design and while there’s still the now-familar hexagonal grille, the rest of the STI’s front appears wider and lower – more mean overall, in fact. The headlights are narrower now, and more contemporary, the lower running and fog lamp is big, in line with the rest of the front.

2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual

Rear spoiler and lights 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS

 

The A-pillars have been moved forwards by 7.9 inches (200mm), creating a more squat and muscular front third of the Subaru. A rear three-quarter angle shows that the roofline is lower, and the rear arches are not as bulbous as previously, while the C-pillar is re-designed to make a smoother transition into the body behind the side glass, all of which makes the rear look slightly more stocky and ‘coupé-like’, according to Subaru.

This is a WRX STI, so I’d expect nothing less than something aggressive to show the cars you’ve just blown into the weeds, and the Scooby delivers – big time. There’s the token massive rear spoiler, which is 8mm taller than before, a lower diffuser that looks like it’s been pinched from a DTM racer, and no less than four large tailpipes finish the job off nicely.

Rear view 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual

All said on that chapter, the 2015 Subaru WRX STI is a rare breed. Its utterly unabashed, in-your-face styling tell you that this car is nothing but performance, and in a market full of samey-same economical, pretend-sporty-styled crossovers and city cars, it is a wakeup call, a trumpet blast directly to the ear that yes! this performance car is still alive and well, and yes! Subaru still make one of the most insane-looking four-door sports saloons on the market. Now, please offer us an estate version.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Suabru WRX STI 2015 dashboard

Up until this generation of Subaru, the Impreza/WRX STI’s cabin still used similar switchgear and trim parts to the older nineties versions, and while the physical looks changed, those parts didn’t, which meant outdated-looking buttons, and thin door panels that appeared to have been taken from the early Imprezas. While the car was fast, the cabin left me distinctly underwhelmed, and especially so on a car costing around £30,000.

The question is, has this new version changed enough? Yes and no, in short. The good news is that first off it looks slightly better than previously. The dash is chunky and rubberised, and the inner door panel tops are thicker and look less flimsy than before, and there seems to be a lot less thin, horrible plastics use this time.

3.5 inch colour LCD display Suabru WRX STI 2015

Subaru have also changed the steering wheel for a thicker, flat-bottomed one which not only looks better, but it feels good too. The instrument binnacle has also been changed, and you not get a cool 3.5 inch colour LCD display, which shows information such as which SI-Drive mode you’re in, how much diff lock you have on, what your economy is, and more.

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Unfortunately, because the fuel and temperature gauges have lost their own dial, they’ve been crammed into the speedo and rev counter instead, and this, alongside the dials lighting all being one colour, mean the instruments looks crowded, too fussy and are actually harder to read than the previous ones. While I like the new LCD display, I get the feeling that Subaru have been a little lazy in their design of the dials. They’re not easy on the eyes, and they should at least have had separated the dials with different colours.

Stereo 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS

Another thing I dislike is the stereo system. It’s the same crappy one as before, and about as outdated as they come. There are just six speakers which provide fairly poor sound quality, and there’s no DAB either. You do get Bluetooth for music and calls, (which unlike the last model actually stayed connected to the phone for the duration of the journeys), and an iPod connector, but that’s about as good as it gets.

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A new feature for the 2015 WRX STI is the 4.3 inch colour LCD screen mounted in the centre of the dash. It displays things like the fuel economy stats, active safety and the status of the all-wheel-drive system too. More importantly though, it displays the stuff we really want to see: a turbo boost gauge screen, providing analogue and digital representations of the accelerator opening, current boost pressure and boost pressure peak value. Sweet.

Front seats Suabru WRX STI 2015

Up front, the deep-bolstered leather and Alcantara sports seats are not only supportive in keeping you firmly held, but they’re also unexpectedly comfortable too, and longer journeys aren’t an issue. At the rear, passengers benefit from better elbow, shoulder and leg room, and the rear seats are improved over the last WRX STI with a 20mm raised hip point for better visibility. Although you’re sat a little more upright than I’d like, the actual seating is well padded, and the build quality and design is better than previously.

Front and rear seats Suabru WRX STI

At 460 litres behind the rear seats, boot space is 40 litres larger than before. It’s a decent size, and about what you’d expect from a saloon of this size.

460 Litre boot space Suabru WRX STI 2015

The standard spec of the new 2015 WRX STI also includes dual-zone climate control, a windscreen wiper de-icer (a great feature for winter), cruise control, keyless entry and start, the Si-Drive system, plus front, front side, curtain and knee airbags.

Overall, whilst the Subaru WRX STI’s cabin has got better in a fair few areas, it still feels strangely behind the times, rather basic, and there’s still a lot of room for improvement in terms of the stereo system, instrument cluster, spec level, and the general interior design overall.

Engine & transmission

While the WRX STI’s engine is the same one as before – a 2.5 litre, 4-cylinder in a horizontally-opposed ‘Boxer’ with twin-scroll turbo – but it’s been modified and improved since the last model’s. There’s a larger intercooler, a retuned ECU, better boost pressure control to reduce the dreaded turbo lag, and throttle response is now sharper, plus it also has lower emissions to fit in with EU regs.

2.5 litre, 4-cylinder boxer engine 2015 Subaru WRX STI

Interestingly, the engineer’s briefing for the WRX STI included creating ‘an engine that can provide decisive acceleration at any engine speed and in any gear.’ The Boxer has Subaru’s dual intake and exhaust Active Valve Control System (AVCS), which ‘optimises torque between 2,000 and 4,000rpm, the engine speeds typically used by owners on a day-to-day basis, improves acceleration response at higher engine speeds.’

Power produced is now 296 horsepower (300PS) at 6,000 rpm, and the max torque is stated as 300 lb ft (407Nm) at 4,200 rpm, and it’s put down through Subaru’s now-famous Symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD), which I’ll talk about in the next section.

2.5 litre, 4-cylinder boxer engine 2015 Subaru WRX STI

The six-speed manual gearbox is now more refined and smoother, offering a shorter throw between changes, a more connected feel for the driver, whilst noise and vibrations have been reduced too.

Zero to sixty-two miles-per-hour is achieved in just 5.2 seconds (so that’s perhaps just under five seconds to sixty mph), and it’ll go on to max out at a very respectable 159 mph.

Official UK mpg stats are as follows: urban: 20.2, extra urban: 33.6, combined: 27.2, with 242 g/km CO2. You may be surprised by the real-life stats too, as I managed averages of 25.7 and up to 33.3 mpg on motorway runs!

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Driving the 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS

The Subaru WRX STI is an exciting car. Even before you enter, that racer-for-the-road bodywork makes your imagination run wild, with visions of curvaceous tarmac cutting through perhaps a forest or around mountain. A press of the starter button sees the hairs on your arms stand on end, as the quad exhausts blow one of most legendary soundtracks through them, thanks to the Boxer-configured pistons.

It’s a loud roar as the revs jump on startup, and then a satisfactory bob-bob-bob-bob burble as the engine idles. A prod of the throttle will slap a huge cheshire-cat-like grin across your face, as the exhausts emit a loud rumble on way up the rev range, popping on the way back down. It’s addictive, and your neighbours will surely love you for it. Or not.

Setting off, and changing through the gears, I notice just how short and precise the throw is, and I immediately love this gearbox. It genuinely feels like a race version, and changes are immensely positive and pleasing. The STI’s clutch is not light though, and if you’re in heavy stop-start traffic you may not love changing so much after a while. Still, commuting in the WRX STI makes me imagine how a caged lion must feel; cooped up, and maddening as the need for a good run get stronger by the minute.

Subaru have improved the STI’s stability, agility and traction, but the ride over bumps at low speeds isn’t actually too bad, and definitely liveable-with. Good, considering this is a seriously quick sports car designed for both road and track.

Rear spoiler 2015 Subaru WRX STI 300PS

With an SI-Drive dial allowing to choose from three different levels of acceleration and response. If you want to save fuel and have a throttle feel that won’t throw you back in your seat every time your foot pushes down slightly, a push of the SI-Drive dial (and the mode it’s in as standard) sees Intelligent (I) mode chosen. Especially good if you’re doing a lot of urban motoring.

If there’s a gap in traffic and you want your Subaru to fill it, twist the dial to the left and you’re then in Sport (S) mode. This allows for better throttle response and upped power, which flow smoothly across the rev range. In S mode, you’ve got a sharp reaction to your right foot pressing down, but it’s not brutal or harsh.

SI-Drive dial 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual

What is both brutal and harsh is when you dare yourself to twist the SI-Drive dial to the right, which then puts the STI into Sport Sharp (S#). Do this and accelerate a little in slow moving traffic, and you may find the bumper of your Subaru buried into the car in front. Yes, it really is that razor-like and aggressive.

Once you’ve got the room, and you’ve braced your head against the seat, raise that rpm dial to about 4,000 revs, drop the clutch, and then watch the view out of the windows go blurry exceedingly quickly. The AWD traction and turbocharged acceleration is honestly ferocious, and considering you’re paying a shade under £29,000 for it, the 2015 Subaru WRX STI is a complete steal.

 

With your foot hard down on the the throttle, the experience of going though the gears and watching the speedometer needle rise crazily quickly is an experience that any speed freak or petrolhead must try at least once. It’s addictive, and you’re constantly accompanied by the phenomenal Boxer soundtrack from the quad exhausts.

Do not underestimate the 2015 Subaru WRX STI, for it is absolutely a serious contender in the sports car world. Subaru state in their press information that the STI was benchmarked dynamically against the Porsche 911 Carrera S throughout its development, and that alone shows the kind of customer Subaru are aiming their fire-breathing AWD monster at.

The WRX STI’s handling is exceptional, benefitting from Subaru’s exceptional Symmetrical all-wheel-drive and a centre differential which uses LSD (limited slip differential, not the drug). The centre differential lock can be adjusted using the C.DIFF button on the centre console. This has a automatic or manual mode, with three automatic and six manual settings.

Gear stick 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS manual

In brief, with the C.DIFF in full auto, the system estimates the road and driving conditions using signals from the wheels speed sensor throttle position sensor, steering angle sensor and brake switch. It then controls the amount of torque the LSD put out, to optimise the diff action of the centre differential.

In Auto [+] mode, you get the best traction and limits the diff action. You’ll want to use this if it’s raining heavily, or you’re driving on snow, ice or any other slippery surface. For those fast, tight bends, Auto [-] gives better steering response and a smoother drive.

With the C.Diff in Manual mode, you can keep pushing it until the centre differential is locked completely. If you want straight-line acceleration and the best traction, then this is the mode for you. Again, if you’re driving in snow, mud etc, then this is one you’ll want. For a mix of traction and cornering, use the lower C.DIFF manual settings.

To add to the traction and stability of the car, Subaru have given the STI their version of ESP (electronic stability programme) with Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), plus traction control, plus brake assist for when you really have to haul up fast.

The WRX STI is an amazing car to drive hard. The handling and acceleration at just about any speed is incredibly good, and you’ll love just how sharp and positive the steering responds to your inputs. It genuinely feels like you’re driving on rails with this Scooby, such is the way it sticks to the road. It’s not a heavy car with a kerb weight of 1,534 kilos (3,382 lbs), but it’s also not exactly light either.

Driving the 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual

However, when you’re pushing it hard down the road, it feels like a lightweight sports car because of the way it so positively brakes (using Brembos) and turns in on those narrow little country road bends, showing very little body roll halfway around, before firing out the other side like it has a rocket attached. Brilliant stuff.

You can have an exceptional amount of fun in the Subaru, and it’d be interesting to see just how well it kept up with the 911 Carrera S on a tight track or a snaking mountain pass, bearing in mind that the Porsche is almost £57,000 more expensive.

Price

(figures correct Nov. 2015) As mentioned in the above paragraph, the 2015 Subaru WRX STI offers a whole load of bang for your buck, with a price tag of just £28,995, which is a whole £4,000 less than its predecessor. I think it’s a bargain for the amount of performance you get, and I can’t fault it on price. Yes, the interior is still outmoded and feels a little cheap next to some of the competition, but the sheer incredible drive of the STI is so overwhelming that all that is forgotten from the moment you touch the throttle.

However, because the fast Scooby’s arch-rival – the Mitsubishi Evolution – is unfortunately now a thing of past, there’s only really one contender now, in terms of price, performance and practicality – the Volkswagen Golf R 300PS.

The Golf R offers a superbly made interior, AWD, 296 horsepower and 280 lb ft (380Nm) of torque (just twenty lb ft less than the STI), an almost exact same 0 – 62 mph time, it’s better on fuel and has lower emissions. And it starts at £30,820. Just over eighteen hundred pounds more than the Subaru. Tempting.

So, why on earth would you buy the STI over the R? A couple of reasons. The Subaru looks mad – like a proper track car for the road, and it goes like one too. The Volkswagen’s looks are less obvious, more demure, and while the drive is – believe me – absolutely sorted, it’s not quite as hell-for-leather as the WRX STI, and the accompanying soundtrack isn’t as good either. The VW is more grown up, whereas the STI gives you the same kick as it would have when you were eighteen.

2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual verdict & score

Front 3/4 view 2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual

 

Unless you’re willing to pay a much higher price, there aren’t really many cars like the Subaru WRX STI being produced any more. In some ways – like the interior materials and the lack of on-board tech and gadgets – the STI is somewhat behind the times, and clearly there’s still room for improvement in that area.

However, what it lacks in a modish cabin, it more than makes up for in the performance department. The Subaru has character in abundance, and the insane grip, speed and way it drives will leave a huge grin on your face each and every time you drive it. We should be glad the WRX STI exists, because if it ever left us, the void would be distinctly noticeable.

Do you own a 2014> Subaru WRX STI, or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below! Read more of our Subaru reviews here.

Exterior  9
Interior  6
Engine  9
Gearbox  8.5
Price  9
Handling  9
Ride  7
Overall Score  8.5 / 10 

Specs

Model (as tested)  2015 Subaru WRX STI Saloon 300PS Manual
Spec includes  18″ alloy wheels, LED front and rear lights, quad exhausts, rear diffuser, huge spoiler, windscreen wiper de-icer, SI-Drive, controllable LSD, heated door mirrors, heater ducts for rear passengers, cruise control, hill-start assist, multi-function display with boost gauge, dual-zone auto air conditioning, 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, AUX & USB, iPod See website for more detail
Options you should spec  N/A
The Competition  Volkswagen Golf R 300PS
Price  (Nov. ’15) £28,995
Engine  2.5 litre, horizontally-opposed (Boxer) 4-cylinder with twin-scroll turbocharger
Power, Torque  Power: 296 bhp @ 6,000 rpm | Torque: 300 lb ft (407Nm) @ 4,200 rpm
Drive, Transmission (as tested)  Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive | 6-speed manual
Boot capacity  460 litres
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 159 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 5.2 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not tested
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 20.2, Extra urban: 33.6, Combined: 27.2, | CO2: 242 g/km
Weight ( kerb) 1,534 kilos (3,382 lbs)
Websites  Subaru UK, Subaru USA, Subaru global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies / selected Subaru media interior images

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