2012 Subaru WRX STi 340R review – Vicious Beast Devours More Expensive Sports Cars

Insanely fast, purposeful design, ‘go-kart’ handling, great price

Interior barely changed since mid-nineties, useless bluetooth

Subaru WRX STi 340R in a tunnel with graffiti at night

Subaru WRX STi 340R?

Any self-professed petrolhead knows of the Subaru Impreza. A car coming from humble beginnings in the early nineties, the Impreza quickly got a reputation as a fast car, and once it appeared on T.V. on the brutal World Rally Championship, mainly sideways and driven by the greats including Colin McRae and later on Richard Burns and Petter Solberg, it grew to be  a household name.

The Impreza rapidly grew a large fan-base who bayed for faster models, and Subaru answered them with versions like the WRX STi, upping power and torque to crazy levels. It’s a sad, sad day though, as Subaru U.K. announce they won’t be selling the WRX STi in the U.K. for at least a couple of years, so 2015 might be the next time you can buy one new.

Subaru U.K. though, have graced us with one final car – the rather insane WRX STi 340R.

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Night time photoshoot of the Subaru WRX STi 340R in a tunnel

In 2007, Subaru made a rather humongous gaff. They released a hatchback version of the Impreza. It was not exactly warmly greeted amongst the hardcore base of Impreza owners and was deemed ugly and boring by the majority of fans. Why Subaru thought this was a good idea, we don’t know. Thankfully, they saw sense and re-released the saloon version in 2011, and did a pretty good job of updating it too.

The WRX STi 340R I had sent was in bright red. This car is not subtle by any standard, and the red made it stick out like a sore thumb. I’d seen the 340R in photographs, but seeing one in the flesh made me gasp a little. This thing looks truly monstrous. The wheel arches caught my eye first, especially the front ones. They are wide and angular, and the fronts have black mesh in them, looking like vents for the heat off the brakes.

Subaru WRX STi 340R front wing

The eighteen-inch 14-spoke Prodrive wheels are an excellent choice, and suit the 340R perfectly in both terms of looks and fitment, giving little gap between the Dunlop tyres and the arches.

Move your eye forward and you’ll see more large vents in the front bumper, and a huge, gaping mouth in the centre to push air into the radiator. The immediately obvious sign of any turbo’d Impreza was the bonnet air scoop, and the 340R has an enormous one which also features thick, black mesh – likely a safety measure to stop children, wildlife and foliage from being sucked into the engine bay.

Subaru WRX STi 340R looks mean on the streets

Around the rear of the WRX STi and the angular look continues, with sharp edges. The 340R comes with the obligatory boot spoiler of course, but the one we had was positively subtle compared to the larger versions you can get! It’s certainly a purposeful-looking car, there’s no denying that. A favourite part of ours are the uprated, large ‘PRO R’ stainless-steel quad-exhausts at the rear. The only trouble with these is the gap between the two exhausts each side is just the right size for flicked-up stones to jam in between.

Overall, a the WRX STi 340R looks a brute, and both driving and at a standstill draws as much attention as King Kong wearing a lederhosen would.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Interior of the Subaru WRX STi 340R lit up

Let me start by saying this. The 2012 WRX STi interior has changed little from when I owned a 1995 Impreza Turbo 2000. That’s seventeen years gone by right there. The door cards are much the same, thin and very plasticy, as is the switchgear such as the power window buttons and door locks. There’s even the little flaps in the handles that hide screws which always came loose or broke in the old Impreza’s – and here they are still, making me all sentimental by flapping away loosely as merrily as a seagull.

The centre console differs with new shiny dials, but again these aren’t of the highest quality either. There’s contrast-stitched leather in a few places, such as the door panels and arm rest but that’s about it for ‘luxury’. A hugely annoying and maddening thing was the stereo in the 340R. It’s not a completely basic system, as you can plug in a USB and it has an auxiliary port – both situated under the armrest – and apparently it has bluetooth. I say apparently, because it was the single most awful system known to man. It would disconnect from my iPhone for no apparent reason, cutting out music and phone calls, and the ridiculous thing is that you cannot re-connect the bluetooth on the move ‘for safety’, even though all it requires is pushing a ‘menu’ button a couple of times – the same as you would to change a radio station.

Drivers area of the Subaru WRX STi 340R

The boot on the WRX STi saloon is not huge either, although fitting a couple of suitcases in wouldn’t be a problem, and there’s more room if you drop the seats too. But then again this isn’t some flippin’ airport taxi y’know. Hire a man smelling of cigarettes who talks non-stop rubbish, and who drives an old Skoda Octavia with a zillion miles on if you want that.

Subaru WRX STi 340 boot space

Positives about the interior include, the super-comfortable and deep Recaro bucket seats. These are German-made and designed specifically for the WRX STi. Half-leather and half Alcantara, they are truly comfortable, and anyone sitting in the front seats commented just how good they were. They wrap around the occupant beautifully and although there’s only basic adjustment on the seats – which includes height-adjust for only the driver – the seats are designed for comfort as well as for holding you firmly in place, and the well positioned lumbar support was especially decent. I was never uncomfortable in the 340R, and you’d have to be built like a massive Rugby player for the seats not to fit well.

Subaru WRX STi 340R review-front back recaro seats

The rear seating is also good enough, at least on the sides – the middle isn’t overly pleasant. The rear leg-space isn’t massive either, but it’ll seat four adults no problem.

The drivers console is clearly designed to be as simple and easy to read as possible. The dials glow super-bright in red, and overall it adds to the speed-orientated feel. I loved that the rev counter is sat bang in the middle of the console, and the speedometer is to one side. You soon find out why…

Lit up dash of the Night photoshoot: Subaru WRX STi 340R in a tunnel with graffiti

In summary, the WRX STi interior is basic but comfortable and all told, you are clearly paying out mainly for performance and handling over plush insides.

Engine and gearbox

The WRX STi 340R is a performance upgrade available only in the U.K. As these are going to be the last new WRX’s sold in the Britain for a while, you’d best be quick if you want this upgrade. At £1,599 over the standard price, it’s an absolute bargain especially as it won’t effect your warranty. Over the standard STi, you’re getting nigh-on 40 horsepower more and over 60 lb ft (83 Nm) of torque to boot, bringing stats to a 340 PS (335 hp) and 361 lb ft (490 Nm).

Subaru WRX STi 340R Engine

The 2.5 turbo’d Boxer configuration engine is spectacular, and a triumph of Japanese engineering that this much power can be extracted from the ‘standard’ unit. Of course, the 340R has a couple of uprated parts to push up the power, and they include a re-mapped ECU and an totally new exhaust system for better airflow.

The sound from those exhausts will give any Scooby fan goosebumps. It’s the familiar burble that any petrolhead will know instantly from miles away, and although the new exhausts have a nice tone to them and are definitely way more audible than the standard WRX STi, they aren’t overly loud or so obnoxious that you’ll have your neighbours shouting at you every time you leave early or come home late.

The gearbox is a 6-speed manual, and a joy to use. The throw between gear selections is short, precise and tight, and meant hitting each gear in rapid succession when accelerating hard (which owners of the 340R will do a lot) was a guarantee. The gearbox really made driving the 340R a pleasure, and in a world where ‘flappy paddle’ ‘boxes and auto’s are becoming the norm on sports cars, the Subaru remains an unadulterated drivers car.

It’s also got a nice long sixth gear, meaning long distance driving is relaxing and the engine is under very little stress, and also that the fuel economy won’t make your wallet sob. At eighty miles-per-hour the needle on the rev counter hovers around 3,000 rpm, and the car runs quiet enough that you can have a conversation without shouting loudly at your passengers.

Talking of fuel ‘economy’, a 2.5 Boxer with a whopping turbo and 335 hp was never going to be awesome on fuel let’s face it, and so you’re looking at around 26 mpg combined, and about 20 mpg urban. Hammer it and I’m taking an educated guess that you’ll be getting around fourteen miles-per-gallon. You’ll also be getting stung on car tax, as with 243 g/km CO2 emissions you’ll be paying a hefty £465.00 per year! Gulp. Still, who gives a crap when a car is this fast.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Subaru WRX STi 340R driving

The Subaru WRX STi 340R is delivered by a nice chap, who immediately informs me “you’ve got a bit of a monster there”, before passing me the keys. I’ve just had a Jaguar XF 3.0L S/C for a week on test, and that packed a punch, so this will be interesting. I wave goodbye as the guy and that beautiful XF drive away, and I’m left a little sad by its departure. My head turns to the right as the Jag rounds the bend, and I catch sight of the bright red 340R. Instantly, a mental switch flicks and my dull mood flips to excitement in a flash.

I’m walking over the the 340R, and as I get closer the excitement builds – it’s been a while since I was in a WRX STi but the memory from last time is still strong. I open the door and slide into the driver’s Recaro seat, and my heart rate quickens a little further. I see the Start/Stop button, push the clutch down and press the starter.

Subaru WRX STi 340R drive controls

In a heartbeat the street is filled with the rich burble from the 340R’s quad exhausts, and I’m grinning from ear to ear. I blip the throttle and a laugh escapes me. I’ve been a fan of fast Subaru’s for a long time, and that Boxer growl is something I love. I did not expect this one to be so mean-sounding, but it is, and so it should be!

Sat writing this article, simply the memory alone of driving the 340R is a thrilling thing. It will be seared on the part of my brain marked ‘exhilarating moments’ forever. I select first gear, and pull off down the street, the noise of the WRX STi reverberating off the buildings around me. It’s not ridiculously loud, but you cannot ignore it either.

I find a national speed limit after a few minutes and put my foot down, and… I’m not that impressed. Sure, it’s quick but not massively so. I glance down to near the gear stick, and spot a silver dial with ‘Sports’ and Sports Sharp’ on either side. I’ve literally jumped in the car and had no time to look through the manual, so I’m using an educated guess that the dial may do something.

Si-Drive selector on the Subaru WRX STi 340R

I set off again, and pull the lever into second gear, turn the dial to the Sport Sharp setting and give the 340R a boot to the go pedal. Things are a bit hazy after that but my memory goes something like this; everything gets very blurry outside of the car, my heart rate skyrockets and I get an adrenaline shot similar to bungee-jumping off Mount Everest. Before I can do anything, the rev limiter beeps a warning as it flies passed the 6,300 rpm mark. I glance at the speedo at the same time and realise I’ve passed the national speed limit too.

I back off and regain composure, dropping the Subaru into fifth gear to let it cruise. That. Was. Insane. My heart is still racing as I slow down. Let’s do that again. At 40 mph, I put the Subaru into 2nd and floor the accelerator. Within a couple of seconds I’ve reached 60 mph, and again I get an adrenaline spike.

View of the rear of the Subaru WRX STi 340R driving

The 0 – 60 mph time by the way, is decent 4.7 seconds. That’s faster than a Porsche Cayman S and Boxster S, Nissan 370Z, Mitsubishi Evolution X FQ330 and on a par with the Audi RS 4. I’d love put it up against the Porsche’s past sixty miles-per-hour, just to see what the Porsche’s £22,000+ extra really buys you in terms of performance.

Having a read through the WRX STi’s instruction manual, that ‘silver dial’ turns out to be the SI-DRIVE (Subaru Intelligent Drive). Push it down and ‘I’ (Intelligent) will appear on the dash, and gives ‘well-balanced performance… power delivery is moderate… for maximum fuel efficiency‘. That’s what I had it in when I was unimpressed. Turn the dial to the left into ‘S’ (Sports), and you’ll get quicker acceleration. Turn that dial to the right to select Sport-Sharp (‘S#’). Subaru put it politely – ‘Sport Sharp… [makes] the throttle become more responsive regardless of engine speed… ideal for twisting roads, merging and overtaking‘. My take on it is this; it’s like poking a Tiger with a sharp bamboo stick. The reaction on your mental and physical state is swift, vicious and unrelenting. My SI-DRIVE alternative tags are ‘I’ for calm, ‘S’ excited, and ‘S#’ wild, angry behemoth.

Light trails at night of the Subaru WRX STi 340R in action at night

The 340R is beyond exciting to drive – it’s monumentally fast. It will bounce off the adjustable rev-warning in first to forth gear without even trying, and in fifth and sixth the 340R will keep pulling as strongly as a locomotive.

The last car to give me that high and make things go all burry was the awesome Jaguar XKR. During the week I had with the 340R, the reaction from every single person I take out in the Subaru is one of disbelief at how insanely quick it is. As the WRX STi passes 3,500 rpm and turbo starts to spin up, the wave of torque builds from stream to raging river – that’s when the fun begins. Reaction highlights included a half excited/mainly scared ‘woooooOOOOOOOOW‘ from people as the Subaru surged forward, and a variety of loud expletives I can’t type from a couple of petrolheads who probably won’t forget their 340R experience in a hurry.

Once the initial playing is out of the way, and you settle the Subaru down clicking in ‘I’ mode , it’s actually quite a subdued drive. It doesn’t jump or pounce its way through traffic and the clutch is very workable too. No need to give it a stack of revs to pull away either, as the torque is low enough to start you off without a problem. On the motorway, the exhaust noise isn’t invasive or overly-loud and it will settle down nicely at 70 – 80 mph, the long sixth-gear allowing it low-enough revs to be relaxing.

Subaru WRX STi 340R review_IMGP1623

The suspension and chassis are are excellently set-up too. On the streets, I thought the 340R would crash and bang over and into bumps and that I’d be visiting the chiropractor after a few days, but it doesn’t. It rides the roads well, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well it deals with bad surfaces. Get onto a windy bit of road, put the car into Sport Sharp to get the best of the power, and the Subaru will reward with a seriously thrilling drive.

A couple of the drivers likened the feel to driving a go-kart. The steering is ultra precise, and the handling as sharp as a razor-blade. Head into a corner at and haul on the huge PRO-R brake discs – which bite nicely but aren’t too severe – and then let the WRX STi clip nearly around the bend, the wonderfully sticky Dunlop SP Sport 600’s gripping with gusto, before getting back on the accelerator and blasting out the other side of the turn is a rush you’ll want again and again.

The 340R is obviously permanent all-wheel-drive (AWD), but Subaru have included a Driver’s Control Centre Differential (C.DIFF). It’s easier to let the drivers manual tell you how this works, so here goes; ‘The C.DIFF allows you to freely change the degree of limitation the differential action (LSD torque) of your vehicle’s centre differential.‘ The C.DIFF has a manual and auto mode, although unless you’re planning on getting every ounce out of your WRX STi, it’s best to simply use the  + and – settings in auto mode. + will give you maximum traction and would be perfect for a rain-drenched or snowy road, while – gives ‘quick response from the steering wheel…for smooth driving’. Auto without selecting either of the above just does everything for you, using sensors placed on mechanical bits around the car to work out your driving style.

Subaru WRX STi 340R in a tunnel with graffiti at night

Other features for safety on the WRX STi include the usual traction control (TCS) and ABS, plus vehicle dynamics control (VDC) and hill-start assist control – a feature I particularly like.

A regret I have is that I didn’t get the chance to take the Subaru on a race track. Out here in the real world, the Subaru’s power and handling feel like a waste. There’s so much potential that there’s simply no way to fully exploit it without being a danger to other road users or yourself. A track with the room and plenty of time to correct overcooked the Scooby would be the place to really test the 340R. Shame really.

Price

If you can still find a brand-new Subaru WRX STi 340R for sale in the U.K., they can be bought at around £28 – £29,000 including the 340R upgrade. That is a very tempting price considering the performance and drivability of the Subaru. It beats its rivals easily in terms of price when you consider the Mitsubishi EVO X FQ330 is £36,000, the Porsche Cayman S and Boxster S £48K and £46K (before you start to spec them out), the Audi RS 4 Avant £55K (plus options) and the Nissan 370Z at £30,000.

Subaru WRX STi 340R_IMGP1649

Subaru WRX STi 340R verdict & score

The 2012 Subaru WRX STi 340R is a pure-blooded sports car through and through. It’s relatively inexpensive, incredibly quick and handles superbly. This is a car to be respected, admired and feared if you pull up next to it at the lights. It’ll embarrass fast cars worth much more in the zero-to-sixty run and upwards, and leave them floundering in a wake of exhaust noise and dust on twisty sections. Yes the interior is outdated and even poor in places, but you’re buying the 340R for it’s intense power and handling – not for luxury.

Do you own a WRX STi 340R or similar-spec Subaru? What are you thoughts? Comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  5
Engine  9
Gearbox  8
Price  8.5
Drive  8.5
Overall Score  8 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested)  2011/2012 Subaru WRX STi 340R
Spec includes Driver/passenger Recaro bucket seats, CD, AUX/USB port, bluetooth system, cruise control, power windows, PRO-R discs all-round, PRO-R stainless exhaust system, HID headlights,  
Options you should spec  N/A
Price (as tested)  £28 – £30,000
Engine  2.5 litre hhorizontally oposed(Boxer) 4-cylinder, 16-valve, dual active valve control system, high-boost turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  335 hp (340 ps), 361 lb ft (490 Nm) | CO2: 243 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  AWD with controllable centre diff, 6-speed manual gearbox
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, EuroNCAP  Max speed (limited): 158 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 4.7 seconds | No NCAP rating as yet but last gen.  achieved 4 stars.
Fuel economy (mpg)  Combined: 26.9 mpg
Weight (base)  1,505 kg (3,317 lbs)
Websites  Subaru UK, Subaru America, Subaru Worldwide

Check out our other car reviews

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Jason Fanthorpe, Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

6 responses to “2012 Subaru WRX STi 340R review – Vicious Beast Devours More Expensive Sports Cars”

  1. WickedW

    Thanks for a thoroughly great review! Now the 2015 STI is out with the same engine, here’s to a 340R engine upgrade and it should be truly special! 🙂

  2. John Armstrong

    Great review.Would appreciate a reply please : have a chance to buy an sti 340 on Friday from Subaru garage.It’s a 60 plate hatchback.Haven’t test drove it yet,but salesman says the 340 upgrade is all official Subaru stuff.In your expert opinion would you guess that the same kind of performance and sound is probable as your 1st May,2013 review car ?
    Yours sincerely,
    John Armstrong.

  3. Jeff

    “Interior barely changed since mid-nineties”, I guess neither has the weed that you’re smoking. Complaining about “flaps”, 90% of cars use those flaps you baboon. The interior has vastly changed, and by no means is it perfect, but it is slander to say it hasn’t. I’m not sure what you were expecting in the car, it is not meant to be a luxury vehicle by any standards and it more than excels in its class.

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