Scooby doo's the

business

Subaru WRX STI, track, action, front
Subaru WRX STI, track, action, side
Subaru WRX STI, interior
Subaru WRX STI, front, action
Subaru WRX STI, front
Subaru WRX STI, rear

RECAPTURING the thrill of the legendary Impreza turbo has become something of a challenge for Subaru - until now.

Blasting back after an absence of more than three years, a new muscle machine is ready for take off - and in many a way it's got all the qualities of the original but in a slightly refined way.

It's also lacking the Impreza name.

Sixteen years after the Scooby became the must have car for performance fans, the newcomer will be known just as the WRX STI.

Apparently it's down to some ‘global realignment' by Subaru's masters in Japan but whichever way you look at it this car is critical to the fortunes of Subaru in the UK.

The latest Impreza was launched in 2007 but only as a hatch - something which did not go down too well with aficionados. Now the STI is making a return as a saloon.

It's also going to cost some £5,000 more and that, says Subaru UK, is all down to the strength of the Yen against the Pound.

Nevertheless, at £32,995 the WRX STI is on the same price grid as other pieces of heavy metal such at the Mitsubishi Evo.

The near 20 per cent price hike applies only to the STI, which is available in both hatch and saloon shapes and the rest of the Impreza line up is unchanged.

Price aside it is the return of the saloon which will be whetting the appetite of Scooby purists who were left pining for the classic shape and the lack of a works rally team where Subaru made its name.

Although the latter is not on the cards the saloon certainly looks the part with a characteristic air scoop on the bonnet, a mean nose, bulging wheel arches and the like.

It is squat and powerful but perhaps it could do with a bigger spoiler on the boot. Equally, the quad exhaust system would look better if the back box was not quite as visible.

Subaru says it has worked hard to get the burble from the flat four boxer engine back on song and while it is there in the background on the STI it is still not the same as you got from the wide bore exhaust favoured by enthusiasts.

Neither is the ride as spine-tinglingly rock solid as the original nor does the mid-range acceleration feel quite as punchy.

The first taste of an STI of old was a defining moment for many a driver who craved that shot of Scooby and while a new boy would be well impressed with the latest STI the old hands will notice a difference.

Get to grips with the new car and you'll soon discover that although modern day electronics have taken the edge off the feel, the systems have actually enhanced performance.

Without a doubt the STI has a kick. The 2.5-litre engine develops 300bhp and that's enough to give it a 0 to 60 time of 5.2 seconds, maxing out at 158mph.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 26.9mpg on average and emissions a ghastly 243g/km but the high tax which goes with that won't deter real fans.

They want the massive grip from the all-wheel-drive, the quick throw six speed gearbox and the rapidity of the steering rack - and they'll be well pleased with what's on offer.

Electronics such as stability and traction controls and power distribution can be varied to suit conditions - the latter from a control unfortunately badged C-Diff positioned aft of the gear lever.

Throttle feel and response can also be changed electronically - and the differences are marked, flagged up on the instrument panel which itself is a multi-coloured feast of symbols worthy of any performance machine.

Unfortunately the rest of the dash - with the exception of some higher quality trim inserts - is the same as on any other Impreza costing half as much.

Recaro sports seats deliver plenty of support in the front but it's a standard set up in the rear. Headroom is immense and generally there is a good feel in the cockpit which is definitely not Spartan.

Keyless entry, a starter button to fire up the engine, climate and cruise control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity plus a mighty audio system are now all part and parcel of muscle motoring Subaru fashion.

Some will find such goodies essential to the STI's street cred - others will be more won over by the car's rigid body and stiffer suspension.

Putting the STI through its paces on a track is an unusual place to discover an all-wheel-drive car's abilities but a circuit session in the new car proved the saloon to be head and shoulders above the previous hot hatch when it comes to handling, acceleration and all round comfort.

Sinewy roads are the car's speciality and out in the open the STI is genuinely good fun. Moreover, when high speed cruising, it's possible to stretch fuel economy to more than 30mpg.

For the old brigade, smitten by the Scooby bug back in the 90s, that has probably become an important feature for 2010. So will the boot which has a 420 litre capacity - 121 more than the hatch.

Last chance saloon for Subaru? I don't think so.

 

 

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