A small econobox sedan isn't the traditional avenue for an automaker's white-knuckle halo car. That's just fine with Subaru, which has been doing things its own way for a while now.
The Japanese brand used the second media day at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show to unveil the all-new WRX STi, a high-performance sedan that's been the cornerstone of Subaru's street cred for years.
The 2015 STI still packs a tidy turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine but the torque is down with the new STi manual now producing between 387Nm and 392Nm at 4000rpm compared to 407Nm previously.
A six-speed manual transmission remains the only way to change the car's gears and there will be no hatchback version this time.
Because the powertrain is essentially the same, zero-100 kmh acceleration should happen in about the same 4.6 seconds as the previous model, Subaru said.
But expect big changes to the STi's handling.
The new model has a stiffer chassis thanks to the increased use of high-strength steel. A new torque-vectoring system has been incorporated into the car's electronic Vehicle Dynamics Control system. This VDC software allows drivers to choose between "normal," "traction," and "off" for the STi stability and traction control systems.
All-wheel-drive, a long-standing hallmark of Subarus, is standard. But it's no ordinary passive system on the STi. Drivers have further control over the car's handling with three automatic AWD modes and one manual setup with six levels of adjustability. The tunability continues with three throttle and engine response settings.
Aesthetically, the STi sets itself apart from lesser models with a more aggressive front and rear bumper, a new hood with a microwave-sized air scoop, quad exhaust pipes, LED taillights, and the large boy-racer rear spoiler the STi is known for.
Inside, upgrades include a flat-bottomed steering wheel, Alcantara seats and a 4.3-inch LCD screen that relays info like backup camera display, climate control and a boost gauge. Options include leather seats, a moon roof and a Harman/Kardon stereo.
The STi is based on the also-turbocharged WRX sedan that was relaunched at the LA Auto Show in November. Both cars use Subaru's compact Impreza sedan as their foundation. Despite their lame-duck status, both the WRX and STi models remained popular in 2013, with sales up 32 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively.
* Don't expect this "Launch Edition" to reach New Zealand's shores with just 1000 units being built and all are earmarked for the North American market.
-MCT/Los Angeles Times