2015 Subaru WRX STI Launch Edition Arrival
Recalibrate the Senses
I'm all for properly breaking in a fresh engine, but this time it was pure torture. Because when said engine propels a limited-run, all-wheel-drive performance sedan rolling atop forged aluminum footwear, with four-piston Brembos and a ginormous wing in its quiver of canyon-slaying weaponry, my automatic inkling is to blaze up and down every mountain pass known to man. I had to quash any such urges once the keys to our WRX STI Launch Edition hit my desk, for its odometer showed a mere 000052 miles. See? Torture.
There was procedure to follow. Per the owner's manual, I was to keep "my" turbocharged 305-horse, 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer under 4000 rpm for 1000 miles. That meant short-shifting its six closely gated gears, gently easing onto the 13-inch four-piston brakes, and never, not once, was I to stab the throttle. I was forbidden to drive at "one constant engine or vehicle speed for a long time, either fast or slow." I had no desire to diverge from these rules -- only 1000 of these cars will ever be built. I took chaperoning seriously. So, for 1000 miles, I drove our $38,000 rally racing missile like an 89-year-old man.
Some amazing things happened while in Grandpa Mode. Almost immediately, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru WRX STI drivers stared me down, watching my every move, likely wondering why I was jockeying my unique WR Blue Pearl steed at such an embarrassing pace. On the highway, many matched my speed, only to jet off seconds later in some lousy attempt to egg me on. One Evo driver shifted for the sake of building turbo pressure so that I would admire the totally awesome WHOOOOOSSSH of his $10 blow-off valve. I was unamused. That happened five minutes into my first highway cruise. Such is the plight brought on by our Launch Edition's exuberant wardrobe. I'll have to contend with such unfortunate attention for the next year. Don't worry. I'll manage.
I decided that after adhering meticulously to the manual's tenets, I would release my pent-up anxiousness by climbing one of my favorite Southern California roads, the S6, on Palomar Mountain in San Diego County. The game plan was simple: Once at 1000 miles, I'd set every electronic nanny in the most athletic setting. (On the street, I keep traction control on.) The Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) to a more lenient "Traction"; Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) to "Sport Sharp"; and the Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) to "Auto -", so as to direct more torque to the rear Dunlop Sport Maxx RT rubber (245/40R18) via the Torsen limited-slip differential. I'd aim, shift, and hold on.
Ahead of that highly anticipated ascent, I spent considerable time reacquainting myself with the Launch Edition's intricacies. Inside, its rare nature is indicated by blue leather bolsters on the Alcantara-wrapped sport seats; blue stitching accenting the doors, carpets, and shift boot; and a center console swathed in black Alcantara. The bucket seats are marvelous adjustable furniture from which all sorts of driving can be thoroughly enjoyed. They're supportive, comfortable, and stylish.
The structure's glass and insulation hardly muffle the distinct baritone rumbles and growls produced by the familiar boxer. I'm not complaining -- noise is an integral piece of the STI's charm. In fact, for 2015, engineers pump more sound into the passenger compartment. Its ride, though on the firmer end of the spectrum, is more civilized than that of any predecessor. The golden 18-by-8.5-inch forged wheels are only attainable with a Launch Edition. Its mechanicals are identical to those of its STI siblings, but it does get the otherwise optional STI Short-Shift.
As it is based on the entry-level trim, there is no navigation or Harman/Kardon audio system, yet product planners purposefully cherry-picked amenities perfectly suited for a staunch performance variant. Brilliant LED headlamps (halogen high-beams), keyless entry and start, rearview camera, auto dual climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and six speakers matched to an AM/FM/satellite radio (with AUX and USB inputs) come standard. For me, that's all I need. For those expecting the works (navigation, moonroof, sound system, etc.), you'd best choose a Limited.
Two weeks and many 240-mile LA-to-San Diego-to-LA trips later, I reached my mileage milestone. Grandpa Mode was six feet under. And just as I planned, I rolled slowly at bottom of Palomar Mountain when the odometer ticked past 000999, center differential settings engaged, Dunlops sufficiently filled, and fluids toasty. One hairpin was all it took to know: The STI I had been driving for the past two weeks was not the same STI I began hustling up my favorite tree-lined peak.
I had to recalibrate my senses. When not in fuel-saving "Intelligent" mode (the SI-Drive mode I chose for break-in), the STI became an even more vociferous turbocharged terrorist, whose sole intent was to ceaselessly run. It was always "on", eager to rev to its limit, as if perturbed by some trespasser who dared test its territorial boundaries. There is no perceivable middle ground to this fantastic fury. The turbo's 14.7 psi of maximum boost shove it to 60 mph from nil in just 4.6 seconds and a quarter-mile in 13.1 seconds at 104.4 mph. But it dances as well as it dashes. It averages 0.97g on the skidpad and stops from 60 mph in 108 feet. On the mountain, its grip never weakened and its Brembos feverishly clamped.
It took one sharp left-hander to realize that my STI driving technique needed major tweaking. And it took 15 miles of Palomar Mountain's tangled roadways to realize that for the next year, I may have some serious trouble keeping my California driving record free of points.
|2015 Subaru WRX STI Launch Edition|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$38,190|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.5L/305-hp/290-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3367 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||180.9 x 70.7 x 58.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.1 sec @ 104.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||108 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.97 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||24.9 sec @ 0.79 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/23/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||198/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMBINED||1.01 lb/mile|