2016 Subaru WRX STI Series.HyperBlue review
There aren’t many blues I’d pick over Subaru’s famous “WR Blue Pearl” but this “Hyper Blue” is one of the few. This exterior is exactly how I’d spec out a WRX STI, black wheels, big wing, six-speed, meaty tires for winter. I snagged the keys for a weekend of Christmas shopping and cross city driving; the only thing missing was a thick coat of December snow. Instead we had a few 60-degree spring-like days. Mental note: The WRX is just as fun on damp-dry pavement as it is on dirt or snow.
The STI launches like a rubber band with all four wheels clawing for grip on hard starts. The clutch pedal has some weight to it, which I like, making the narrow friction point easy to navigate once you’re used to it. If the clutch is too light it makes it harder to take off smoothly in some cars. It also catches right near the floor, an important feature for anything that needs to be driven fast.
First gear goes by quickly, and before you know it you’re at the top of second gear at 50 mph. At this point I usually send it to fifth or sixth gear, because I’m on the street and not a psychopath. With the windows up you can hear the turbo and blowoff, though the tire noise does its best to block it out. The WRX was always a little thin in the noise cancellation department. My only complaint throttle-wise, and it’s not really a complaint, is that at 75-80 mph in sixth gear, the tach is right in the powerband. That means it’s a little hard to keep at a constant speed. If your foot moves a centimeter, your head snaps back, if you let off a smidge, it pops forward. It’s a great system for driving fast, not good if you’re trying to keep it under 80 mph. The Brembo brakes are solid with a nice bite at the top and a short, progressive stroke after that.
The STI is sprung the stiffest out of the Impreza family and I go back and forth whether this is too stiff for daily driving. At 35 years old, I still say “not yet,” but we’ll see how I feel in five years. The winter tires dull the reactions a tiny bit, which may make all the difference. Overall, it would probably be considered too bouncy by anyone but an enthusiast, but for me it’s fine. It’s not so stiff as to bang over potholes like the BMW M3 or Mini Cooper S.
Subaru changed the steering wheel up last year, and it’s nearly perfect. A small portion of flatness at the bottom makes it feel sportier, and it makes it easier to get in the car, so, double win. It’s also a little thicker than in the past and the blue stitching on the HyperBlue model accents the interior well.
The Starlink radio’s touchscreen works flawlessly and it has two redundant knobs for volume and tuning, which is a godsend when trying to change radio stations at speed. On the other hand, the little clicks are too small and short to feel each station, so it still takes some fiddling. The seats are suede, much better and stickier than leather in the corners and the seat heaters work well, though I didn’t need them this weekend.
Now, the biggie: Is it priced right?
We’re not sure. Forty thousand surely isn’t peanuts. You can get a Mustang or a Camaro, a Nissan 370Z, a BMW 328i xDrive or a C-Class for that. The Mitsubishi Evo is there too, but you better get that now if you want it, as far as we know it’ll be gone after next year. The STI is four-season car, hands down, and there’s probably no need for winter tires if you get the all-seasons instead of the summer rubber. The wing is still a little too boy racer for adults, but that would be easy to swap, or delete as well. I suppose this color is a little boy racer too.
I guess what we’re saying is that buyers will be a selective kind, ones that can probably only afford one car, are serious enthusiasts and don’t mind being looked at zipping down the road. The base STI is 35k, but for an extra few grand you get all the premium content and this kick ass paintjob? Personally, sign us up; at least the giant wing doesn’t block the rearview anymore.
-- Jake Lingeman, road test editor
"In 2006, I moved back to my hometown, bought a house, dumped my Audi 90 for a 2006 VW GTI and started spending a lot of time at the U&I Lounge, which was a great place to hang out when you could still smoke in bars. I was shamefully high on myself then. Without much in the way of hesitation, two of my friends did the right thing and showed me up, buying a Blob-eye WRX STI and an Evo VIII. The Evo always seemed to be on the verge of blowing up, but after driving the STI a few times in the snow, then in the dry, I began to look at the GTI with disdain--too soft, too cute, too slow. I sold it after 7 months and bought an old 911. We got in the habit of loading the STI up with drunk friends, rolling over to the elementary school parking lot and letting it come to a stop in the center. Then, the driver would crank the wheel all the way to lock, pin the throttle and dump the clutch turning last seasons snow tires into fragrant black smoke. It was great.
This new STI is more comfortable, it has a fancy stereo and navigation. The seats and steering wheel look like they belong in a real car and the styling is generally more grown up. But there’s still a big, ridiculous wing in the rear-view mirror the shifter still feels like it fell off of a 20-year-old race car. The power still comes on with pace and brutality you don’t expect--You stand on it, you get a little lag, then if feels like you’ve been rear ended and the shift light is on and the dash beeps, clutch, bang, beep! SHIFT! It’s the best. Yeah, this is still an STI and I want one real bad."
-- Rory Carroll, content director
When the STI finally hits boost, it rips. Though, if you’re looking for low-end torque, you’re not going to find it here. Peak torque hits around 4000 rpm, which makes driving like a sane person frustrating. Of course, when it does hit the sweet spot, you’ll be rewarded with the classic boxer sound and the whoosh of a spooled turbocharger. The WRX, by the way, hits peak torque at just 2,000 rpm.
-Wesley Wren, associate editor