MY2002 - Export-Specification Impreza WRX STi
Test Drive of STi UK Prodrive Style
Thanks to Quenbys for letting me play in their STi UK Prodrive Style on the morning my P1 was in for its two year interval service (I've had it that long?) This was their second demonstrator and I had missed out on the first because I had tried to wait until it had some miles on it first...they went and sold it! Anyway a month or two on I finally got to have a play...once Chris and Nick remembered where they had left it! ;-)
The car had just passed the 1000 mile mark and had just seen its 1000 mile service so normal precautions about not over revving the engine past the 4000rpm mark too much with a new demonstrator didn't apply (grin).
Looking over the exterior of the blue black Prodrive Style the front still looks strange to me. Those blanking plates just don't work in my mind. The bigger intercooler scoop is not that obvious until you get into the car and look out the front windscreen. I quite like the rear wing and there's no sign of paint bubbling or cracking (hey I'm a P1 owner) ;-)
The interior was fairly familiar BugEye WRX, but slightly more upmarket. The STi seats, seen in the UK300 were as good as I remembered, and slightly better than those in my P1. The instrument dials were nicely laid out with a (very) dark blue background. The (fake?) aluminium surround to the gearstick shouts STi and you have to look to spot it is a 6 speed. A nice touch by Quenbys was the radar detector fitted to the widscreen. I haven't got a clue why :-)
So out into Baldock High Street. The ride isn't as soft as I was expecting, not as hard as the P1 but it is a lot harder than the standard WRX. There is also a lot more feel to the steering, and I have always felt that the standard WRX is over assisted. The brakes also had better feel to them (I always nearly go through the windscreen on a standard WRX the first time I apply the brakes). Looking in the rear view mirror the Prodrive high wing doesn't obstruct the rear view that much... a big improvement over the P1 park bench which has a thicker cross member and is slightly lower right where you want to see.
STi UK Prodrive Style vs P1 rear view mirror comparison
Getting out into the country, I turn onto the test route which I have driven around since first testing an MY96 Turbo back in 1996. For those who know the area it is the Baldock to Buntingford road, turning towards and through Rushden Green and then back into Baldock on the A505. Unfortunately within a few miles I have caught up with a stream of traffic following Scoop the Digger but it does allow me to appreciate the better ride quality of the STi in this situation. What then follows is a bit of a cock up as I finally get behind the digger just as the road goes double white line in the middle. I have a flippin' great arctic up my bum too, who then starts to harress me to overtake! Its ok for him as he is high enough up to see miles ahead over the obstructions!...so he overtakes us both. Gulp. Once he is past it is then clear for me to see miles ahead, I boot it, and away the STi flies. I take both the digger and the arctic but manage to hit the rev limiter in the process (oops).
This is one problem I see about the STi-UK engine. To use the power you need to be above 4000rpm, there isn't that much below (relatively). BUT the red line is only at 7600rpm, so you are playing in less than 50% of the rev range. Combined with the 6 speed box, you are constantly up and down the gears which I was finding a bit tiresome. As for 6th I only tried it once along a dual carriageway and at 70mph it was struggling to do much more than keep a steady speed. Perhaps I should have set the warning buzzer to help, but it had been turned off just before I left and I couldn't work out how to get it back on.
Along the route I stopped to take some photos. You will see that the car has been fitted with some chrome 18in alloys...sorry I meant to say Titanium Silver Prodrive OZ 18in alloys fitted with Pirelli P Zero Nero. A bit bright for me. Do they go with the gold Brembo calipers?
After the photoshoot it was off again and try out the car proper. As I was approaching the end of the test route I thought I'd go around again as the tractor/arctic incident had marred it a little. Joining the same section of road there wasn't anything in sight. :-) Acceleration as the engine rises above 4000rpm is pretty good and the car snicks through the gears nicely although the gearchange does take getting used to. A few bend later and I was really enjoying myself. As I reach the same double white no overtaking section I come up behind...yup another arcticulated lorry! No problems this time as I hang back knowing when the solid whites will break and I can see well ahead. The driver even waves me past! No rev limiter this time and we accelerate safely past. There are a few challenging bends later on and is composed as those Brembos haul the speed down and the car turns in with purpose. Kept above 4000rpm, stir that gearbox, this car is very rapid. I started to enjoy myself a lot.
Handling is very different to the P1 and difficult to describe how. I can push my P1 with confidence but this felt different enough for me to be fairly cautious (ok and yes its not my car too). It didn't stop me from having fun though. What it didn't lack was that Impreza inspirational confidence giving feeling as you drove it. Something I experienced 6 years ago for the first time and that is still there in the latest marque.
I was tempted to do the route for a third time but the little orange "you are about to take a long hike to a fuel station" light came on so I thought better of it. Mmm I had started out with 1/4 of a tank!
The STi gets a larger intercooler and red crinkle finish on the engine. I didn't try out the water spray....shame. Soundtrack is enhanced by a single exit exhaust silencer giving the WRX its boxer beat voice back. Looking underneath it can be seen the visual size has also been enhanced to make it look bigger.
So would I buy one? Yes.
Would I change the P1 for one? No.
If I was presented with a P1 and an STi which would I go for if I had neither? Difficult choice. If you were paying for them and the P1 was still original price I would go for the STi. If it was a gift (as if) then the heart would probably say P1 but mind STi....as long as the P1 had a decent brake upgrade.
Driving my P1 later it felt substantially more solid, the quick shift gear change was crisper and more precise, and the power delivery easier to drive lazily.
Thanks again to Quenbys for obliging. It was worth it also to see your faces when you were trying to work out where the STi was when I walked in ;-)
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