Test Drive: Subaru WRX STI
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By David Haueter

Cars intended for consistent driving on public roads are always going to be compromised as track cars, but thanks to the growing popularity of the tuner market, auto manufacturers are now offering cars that have fewer compromises than ever before. Models such as the Subaru WRX STI, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Dodge Neon SRT-4 and even the Lotus Elise are all very capable on the track right out of the box, but are still comfortable enough to drive on a daily basis.

Subaru drew on their knowledge from many years of racing in the World Rally Championship (WRC) to create the road-going version of the WRX STI (STI for Subaru Tecnica International, which is Subaru's racing and performance group) and it has quickly become a favorite at track days. It's no wonder, as Subaru has packed some serious hardware into a car that only costs around $35,000, which is around twenty grand less than a BMW M3 and thirty-six grand less than a Porsche 911 while delivering similar performance figures.

At the heart of the STI is a 2.5-liter turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 300hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. For braking, Subaru has equipped the STI with 4-channel Brembo Brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution.

Subaru has made a name for themselves with their all-wheel drive technology and enhances the system even further in the STI with their driver controlled center differential (DCCD), which is exclusive to the STI. The system uses an electronically managed multiple plate transfer clutch in tandem with a planetary gear-type center differential to control power distribution between front and rear wheels. The driver can choose to either leave the diff in auto mode and let the car do the work (with normal driving splitting power at 41% front, 59% rear), or push a button to get it into manual mode and choose on their own how the power is to be distributed. For the suspension, the STI has a 4-wheel independent suspension, with inverted struts front and rear along with stabilizer bars on both ends.

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