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The 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

The 2011 Subaru Impreza STI

In the gorgeous heights of Aspen, Colorado, we listened as the Subaru folks dished the details on the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI. Our introduction to the updated WRX and STI covered a lot of the improvements to the vehicles, both dynamic and aesthetic, many of which will not seem unfamiliar to you if you’ve been following headlines and auto show coverage. The big news, as we know, is that the WRX got wider, and in the process acquired lighter, wider, seventeen-inch wheels, adding an inch in width to each shoe. Wider fenders help keep the rubber from sticking out the sides. This also helps it achieve its more bulldogishly aggressive stance.

The STI, though, was our main focus, and it received its share of improvements for 2011, too. Its suspension has been stiffened and its ride height lowered. It suffers less body roll, and is capable of .93g on the skid pad. Aerodynamics have improved, offering an extra three miles per hour to the 2011 model’s top speed. Most notably, though, this year sees both hatchback and sedan versions of the STI, the latter with a really gruesome (we mean that in a good way) rear wing that looks as though it could have been developed by Lockheed-Martin. From what we were hearing and seeing, we were expecting a straightforward evolution of the car we already know: raw, visceral, and stupidly fast.

Both cars have grown up a bit, and besides sharing exterior looks, the interior of each has new, more mature touches. They share a new instrument cluster, with red lighting on the gauges. Both have darker interior trim, giving the cabin a more sophisticated feel. The sound system has been improved, and is USB-, auxiliary input-, and Bluetooth-capable. This new level of sophistication can also be felt in the driving dynamics. The quirkiness of models past is less apparent here, and the everyday driver will feel more at home in these performance Imprezas.

After our briefing, we drove to the track at the Aspen Sports Car Club—a 1.1-mile road course consisting of eight turns—where we met up with former rally racer John Haugland, who was on hand to give driving tips. After accompanying us for a few laps in the 2010 STI, we ventured solo in the 2011 sedan to suss out the differences, away from the prying (yet rather helpful) eyes of the professionals.

While we didn’t notice a difference in road feel coming through the suspension—the track surface was too smooth to really have much effect in that regard—we did notice a difference in handling and response. The 2011 version, even without the helpful guidance of Mr. Haugland, seemed more willing to cooperate. We felt less roll while turning, which allowed us to carry more speed through the corners. Setup for corners was a little better, too, as the brakes dragged us down to entry speed with ease. We also found the 2011 model to be especially forgiving, and our sloppier moments were easily corrected for quicker recovery of our line. The only thing we could have asked for would have been a bit more heft from the steering wheel in our hands. Impressive stuff, really, as while we didn’t notice a greater sense of feedback, there was definitely a noticeable amelioration of poise as we pushed the 2011 ever harder.

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