2013 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Special Edition First Drive
Stating the Obvious
Yes, the 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Special Edition may look like a pumpkin on wheels, but it's far from Cinderella's carriage after midnight. At its core, this bright STI is still the same rally-bred sedan that will nail apexes at a local autocross and get sideways on a dirt road all in the same day. And with the fourth-generation model now here, this will be the last time we drive this version of the STI.
So what makes this STI so special? Aside from its orange paint, not much. There's contrasting black accents like the exterior mirror housing, 18-inch rims, and "STI" decal stripe that runs along the lower edge of the doors. One lady exiting her metallic beige Lexus RX wasn't a fan. "Who in their right mind would pick a bright orange car," she asked. Indeed, the overall look is a bit garish and polarizing, but totally appropriate for this Subaru. Inside, the color scheme switches, with black being the prominent color and pops of orange used for the piping on the floor mats and the contrast stitching on the seats and door panels. This special STI is priced at $35,565 ($500 more than a base 2013 STI) and Subaru only shipped 100 copies to the U.S.
Essentially what we have here is a super rare appearance package with no mechanical tweaks whatsoever. Not that the STI really needs any. The STI was pretty good from the get go when it first rolled into showrooms back in 2008. Since then, Subaru has unleashed a number of variants and improvements from the coveted, track-focused Japanese-spec S206 model to the previous Special Edition STI that came to the U.S. in model year 2010 riding on an revised suspension (more on that later).
This car is essentially unchanged from the 2011 STI sedan we tested, including its 305-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer-four that is bolted to a six-speed manual gearbox. That car raced from 0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds and completed the Figure Eight course in 25.5 seconds at 0.73 g average.
Yes, the numbers are great, but become slightly less impressive when you compare it to the cheaper, non-STI WRX Special Edition we tested (yes, it's also orange). That car was actually faster in a straight line, posting a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds. It was just one-tenth of a second slower around the Figure Eight. Unlike the STI, the normal WRX has received significant tweaks since its introduction, including a power bump to 265 hp. It even received the STI's body kit, making these two cars nearly indistinguishable from a distance (the STI sedan's ginormous spoiler makes it easier to spot than the hatch version).
From behind the wheel, however, the STI feels more buttoned down than the standard. Much of the credit goes to the aforementioned 2010 STI Special Edition, which had a lower ride height and received stiffer stabilizer bars and springs. The following year, an even better version of that suspension became standard equipment for the STI. As a result there's slightly less body roll than the WRX and mid-corner bumps do little to upset the STI's chassis. You don't need much elbow grease to operate the steering wheel, which could be a good thing on days you decide to have fun with this beast in the dirt and mud.
Aside from its suspension, the STI's six-speed gearbox feels more precise than the WRX's five-speed (though an aftermarket short-throw shifter wouldn't be a bad idea). Then there's the STI exclusive Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) that offers three modes that adjusts the ECU settings for the throttle. There's an Intelligent mode (essentially a comfort setting) and a Sport mode for most driving situations. Sport Sharp mode, however, makes throttle inputs hyper sensitive, much like a teenager who's downed four shots of espresso chased by a can of Red Bull. Despite that, the STI's boxer-four doesn't really come alive until the tach needle is somewhere above 3000 rpm. Once there, the engine provides a seemingly endless amount of grunt.
While the STI has lots of power, it also has lots of noise. Passengers will need to speak up if they want to be heard over the road noise or the deep growl from the exhaust. But you don't buy this car for refinement. Nor do you get it for cutting edge interior amenities. Sure, there's Bluetooth connectivity, but it must be reconfirmed every time the system reboots (and the car must be stationary). Did you notice an open window right as you were getting ready to exit the STI? Then you'll have to put the key back into the ignition and turn it to the "ON" position because this $35,565 Subaru lacked delayed power to operate accessories. Sure, these are relatively minor grievances, but tough to swallow for a car at this price point.
|2013 Subaru WRX STI SE|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.5L/305-hp/290-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve F-4|
|CURB WEIGHT||3400 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||173.8 x 70.7 x 58.1 in (est)|
|0-60 MPH||5.0 sec (est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||17/23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||198 / 147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.01 lb/mile|