The Subaru WRX STI is beautiful, fast, and comes with a rich racing heritage.
It is not a status symbol like a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or BMW 3-Series, but for people who like cars – and like driving cars – it is a dream come true if they get the chance to own one.
At R853,000 new in South Africa, however, it faces tough competition from a range of vehicles with more prestige and bigger fan bases.
This includes the likes of the VW Golf GTI, BMW M235i, Audi TTS, and Mercedes-AMG A35.
The sporty German vehicles not only pack good looks and serious power – they come with a badge on the hood which is associated with “having made it” in life.
By comparison, the Subaru badge may not even be recognised by your modern-day “car lover”.
The WRX STI
The Subaru WRX STI – often still called the Subaru Impreza WRX STI by those who idolised it in the mid-90s when it won the World Rally Championship – is a sports sedan which is made to be driven fast and hard.
It was originally based on the Impreza, but in 2014 WRX models became a standalone range.
In 2021, it features a turbocharged 2.5-litre Boxer engine with 4-cylinders that produces 221kW and 407Nm of torque.
This power is then sent to an all-wheel drive system via a manual 6-speed transmission.
The result is a 0-100km/h time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 255km/h.
Stopping power is taken care of by high-performance Brembo brakes – in an eye-catching yellow finish – while you sit in sporty seats wrapped in leather.
Traffic warning sensors, a reverse camera, brake assist, climate control, keyless entry, a multifunction entertainment system, and much more are also included as standard.
Topping it off is a 5-year/150,000km warranty and a 3-year/75,000km maintenance plan as standard – with the option to extend the maintenance plan.
A tough call for many
At R850,000, a new Subaru WRX STI may be a tough sell in the local market.
Many elements which are seen as positives by car fans are often viewed as negatives by those simply looking to buy an expensive car.
A 6-speed manual gearbox brings tears of joy to my eyes – but no automatic transmission means the STI will not be considered by many.
The fact it is a Japanese brand is huge benefit. Great reliability, build quality, and included-as-standard options are all a given.
It’s not German, though, which means Instagram influencers cannot park it outside restaurants which charge R75 for a beer and take selfies.
It has a huge wing on the back and an equally-impressive scoop on the front, which means downforce and engine cooling (and a bit of look-at-me styling) is taken care of.
Unfortunately, I can see why your average mid-to-high income earner will view it as cast member from The Fast and the Furious.
Compounding matters is that when Subaru won the World Rally Championship with Colin McRae in 1995, many South Africans buying a car today were not born.
In fact, the parents of South Africans buying a car today may not have even met.
An easy choice for some
If you are more interested in the sound of your engine at 6,000rpm rather than how many people watched your Facebook Story last night, though, the WRX STI is an easy call.
Whether the yellow-and-blue livery of the Subaru rally team is burned into your heart, or you played Gran Turismo every weekend during the school holidays, or listened in awe to the sound of an aftermarket turbo dumping air as a Hawkeye drove past – it is impossible to not want the car.
A manual gearbox strapped to a turbocharged Boxer engine putting out well over 200kW is paradise.
Having people shake their heads in disapproval at the massive wing on the boot is heaven.
And pulling up to a set of robots and forcing the driver of the German sedan next to you to avoid eye contact, lest he want to lose a drag race, is the promised land.
If I had R853,000, I would be on my way to a Subaru dealership right now.