2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
First Drive Review

They say we all have to grow up sooner or later, and it appears that the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, one of autodom's brashest bad-boy sedans, has succumbed to this somber inevitability, at least to some degree. Unveiled at October's Tokyo motor show, the STI has morphed from a bellicose little four-door into a five-door hatchback, and its you-talkin'-to- me? persona has been tempered by adult concerns such as general utility and comfort.

A Disturbing Trend: Not Much More Power

This is not to say that the latest STI is some sort of relaxed-fit, middle-aged shadow of its former self. A new variable-valve-timing system and new IHI turbos give the output of the STI's turbocharged and intercooled flat-four engines—2.0 liters in Japan, 2.5 liters in the U.S.—a small but useful bump. At the L.A. auto show, Subaru revealed the U.S.-market specifics: 305 hp, 12 more than the previous 293, and the same 290 pound-feet but it peaks 400 rpm earlier.

The flat-four propels a hatchback that's slightly bigger than its predecessor. Overall length has shrunk 2.0 inches to 173.8, but width (70.7 inches) has expanded 2.2 inches, the roof is 58.1 inches tall, and the wheelbase has stretched 3.7 inches to 103.1, a key element in ride quality, which figures to be considerably more civilized.

Expanded dimensions, plus comprehensive body-shell stiffening and extensive (and seemingly effective) work in the area of sound deadening, yield higher curb weights—a claimed 3400 pounds for the U.S. car. The last STI we tested ["Bad Boy Sedans," February 2005] weighed 3308, which means the new car won't likely accelerate any quicker than the previous STI (0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds, the quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds).