Saturday

2007 Subaru WRX STi Limited review

In 2002, Subaru got attention from the US car enthusiast crowd by FINALLY bringing their rally machine, the WRX, to American soil. People had been clamoring for this car to come over, especially the Gran Turismo crowd, and finally it did. The WRX was well received by enthusiasts and the automotive press. It performed admirably, packed a lot of features, and wouldn’t break your wallet. In 2004, Subaru upped the ante with the WRX STi – a fire breathing 300hp AWD monster. This thing was made ready for the track, and looked every bit of it. Expensive BBS rims with ultra high performance rubber came standard, as did an aggressive body package that included a huge cop-hiding spoiler on the rear deck. Subtle it was not.

In 2007, Subaru released an 800 unit run of the STi that was the “grown up” version called, unimaginatively, the Limited. The huge rear spoiler was replaced with a normal looking one.
A leather interior was installed, as was a power sunroof. Does that mean it drove like a grown up car now too? That’s exactly the question that I needed to have answered.

Even in Limited trim, you can tell this car is all business. The same expensive BBS rims are present, in silver color. Huge Brembos peek through the spokes of the rims. You imagine the only reason for brakes to be that large is to scrub off serious amounts of speed. Look at the tires and they show barely any tread at all. That’s not because of abnormal wear – that’s because these tires are one step away from real racing spec rubber. They are meant for one thing only – unholy amounts of grip. The functional hood scoop on the STi is larger than stock, used best to feed copious amounts of air to a hungry, turbocharged engine.

Inside has everything you need and nothing that you don’t. Seats are sport themed, comfortable, and supportive. STi labels abound, reminding you that you bought the expensive one. A big tach stares back from the front and center of the dashboard, cluing you into the mission and focus of this car. Pedals are perfectly spaced for heel and toe downshifting. The shifter clicks confidently from gear to gear, with just a little vagueness in side-to-side movements. Options are minimal but adequate.


The one I sampled had several mods on it, including a cold air intake, performance exhaust, and AEM strut bar. Twist the key and the exhaust erupts in a bass-emitting tone. The boxer engine has a definite presence about it; the song it plays is quite distinctive. Tap the accelerator and the engine spins freely. It doesn't take a genius to realize this engine was built for performance. Be sure to feed it enough revs when letting the clutch out in first gear. The AWD allows no slippage and will not suffer unskilled coordination. Screw this up and everyone in the intersection will notice. And laugh you to the nearest turnoff.

Get it out on the road and it’s difficult to keep the revs below 3000rpm no matter how hard you try. It wants to RUN. Push the tach needle over 3k and the turbo comes strongly into play; the power increases all the way though the rev range. Depress the clutch to shift and the engine lets off a final WHOOSH before reengagement. Snap it into the next gear and the STi resumes instantly from where you left off. Power just explodes the faster you spin the engine; you’re in jail bait territory before you know it. If your radar detector goes off (and you better be packing the best one you can afford in this car), the Brembos will slow you down RIGHT NOW without breaking a sweat. There is no mush in the pedal; just solid stopping power with limitless reserves.

Handling is, as expected, phenomenal. Trying to explore its upper limits on a normal road will only provoke an introduction from Johnny Law. It changes direction with your thought alone. Even running hard through a turn, jumping off the throttle, and coming off the boost suddenly will not upset this chassis. There is just the slightest twitch as the STi instantly recalibrates itself, compensating for your bone headedness with no further penalty - ask me how I know. The quicker you work the shifter and the pedals, the more the car comes together as a whole package. This car is built for performance. It never lets you forget that fact and encourages you to explore it at every opportunity. Don’t be fooled by the Limited badge; this car is every bit as raw as the flamboyant body kit on the standard STi suggests.


Naturally, there is another side to all of this performance, and the severity of it will depend on your tolerance for discomfort. This car is a nonstop chorus of noises – intake noise, turbo whoosh, tire roar, and exhaust noise. You cannot relax. The stereo will not drown it out. There is no such thing as not giving the STi your full attention AT ALL TIMES.
Just in case you try, the ride is similar to riding a nonstop pogo stick. You feel everything there is in the road, good or bad. The lightweight hood and scoop are always fluttering in the wind. Being that there are 6 speeds in the tranny, it demands you constantly row the gears. This car would be an absolute joy on a track. Real roads…..eh….not so much. Call me old, but I couldn’t see myself living with this day in and day out on a daily slog.

On the plus side, build quality is outstanding. The body is tight as a drum; no squeaks or rattles were detected on my drive. That’s amazing given the stiff suspension and frameless side windows. If Subaru can build a car this tight and with this level of performance without pricing the STi in exotic car territory, well, there are a lot of companies that should reexamine their own product and ask their engineers why they fall so short.


The experience of driving a car as focused on the thrill of driving as the STi is most certainly worth it. I highly suggest anyone who calls themselves a car enthusiast drive one if given the chance. It makes you realize qualities that are missing from so many cars today, even ones that claim to be performance machines. Furthermore, if you believe anything bone stock from the factory is never as good as it could be (i.e. the thrown-in-is-better-off-thrown-out theory), there are many options for turning the STi into whatever you want it to be. Bigger turbos, intercoolers, stiffer suspensions; practically anything you want is available for turning it into your vision of the ultimate street monster.

Would I buy this car? Honestly, no – not as a daily driver. In a different time and place, and if I had easy access to a track, then unequivocally YES. Show up to a track day in one of these and you’ll make Porsche drivers sit up and take notice. Even they know they need to be 100% on their game that day or they’ll get passed up. If I were to buy one, I would get the standard edition with all of its cartoonish look-at-me bodykit and gold rims. The STi is what it is, there’s no point in hiding its racing lineage. If you’re going to put up with what it has to offer, you might as well let it scream “Get out of my way” to everyone sharing the road with you. It’s a dedicated driver’s car in every good and bad way you can imagine. If you’re into customizing and tuning, it makes a fantastic platform to express your creativity. It certainly is a memorable drive, and don’t turn one down if given the chance. The engineering that has gone into the STi is simply amazing.

Think carefully before committing yourself or others to it everyday. In fact ask yourself "How deep is my commitment to automotive performance?" because that is the question the STi will ask of you EVERYTIME YOU DRIVE IT. Just understand exactly what it is and exactly what it isn’t. Its ultimate limits are far beyond what you’ll ever be able to use on the road. One fact remains however - you won’t be bored in this car - EVER.

Photos property of Subaru

3 comments:

Boz said...

I also had the privilege to drive a standrd STI and a brief moment to drive the limited. The STI had a "sport shifter" that simply made the throws more uncomfortable - not shorter or more accurate. I agree with Chris about who should buy the car and why. I found the more frills Subaru would put in the car would merely cheapen the experience. If you want something more than a standard STI will give you... do it yourself. And do it well - the STI doesn't seem to like things foreign.

Lee Douglas said...

I own the a 2008 STi in World Rally Blue with the gold BBS wheels. Firstly, lets get one thing clear for those readers unfamiliar with turbo charged engines. The hood scoop DOES NOT feed the engine. It is actually used to direct air onto the intercooler, which is essentially a radiator used to cool the pressurized air from the turbo. The air intake for the car is actually on the front left side of the car (as you are facing it) under the hood. Secondly, not a daily driver....hmmm. I guess I'm not really sure what qualifies a car as a "daily driver" these days. Does it start in the morning when the temperature is -40C/-40F....yes (I reside in Canada). Does it get you back and forth to work reliably and safely all year round with a terrific symmetrical AWD system....yes. Can you take your co-workers for lunch in the car....yes. Does it get descent gas mileage for a performance built sports car....yes. Does it have cup holders, a glove box, and a storage compartment under your armrest....yes, yes, yes. Does it have heated seats and cruise control....yes, yes.

I have installed a full turbo back exhaust system, modified intake both air filter/box and inlet hose, external wastegate and bypass valve......this car makes the coolest sounds you will ever hear on the road. If you don't like those kinds of sounds, buy a Prius. I think that car qualifies as a "daily driver"?

Miguel Best said...

I own this limited and enjoy it very much. its a car made for the US market but i had it brought to Canada were im from. #390 of 400 silver and 400 white. its a daily driver and even took me across the nation and back and still runs clean and strong! and it was used when i bought it! great car. shifting is smooth and the car is fast and firm.

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