THE RIDE: Five-door, five-passenger 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI all-wheel-drive hatchback.
DOWN THE ROAD: Launched first in the United States in 2004, this rally-bred car from STI (Subaru Technica International) has been redesigned this year. It gets a longer wheelbase and wider track but stays true to its form of a performance-oriented car that can kick dust regardless of road conditions.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: It's all about performance in the STI-derived car. A 2.5-liter DOHC horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder turbocharged engine pumps out 305 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 290 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The six-speed manual transmission is flawless. The symmetrical all-wheel drive is mated to a Driver Controlled Center Differential, which offers three performance auto modes and a manual mode with six driver-selectable differential locking settings. Suspension is handled via inverted struts and forged aluminum lower A-arms in the front and a double wishbone design in the rear. Fear not for your safety as the WRX STI is equipped with substantial 13-inch front and 12.6-inch rear ventilated disc rotors.
LOOK & FEEL: STI rules! Its insignia is everywhere, from the 18-inch tires to the steering wheel, to the front headrests to the sides of the car. The aggressive fascia sports an aluminum-alloy hood with functional air scoops, HID low beams and LED taillights, huge rear gate spoiler and quad exhaust pipes. Alcantara upholstery with leather-bolstered seats conveys a classy ambience, along with leather adorning the three-spoke steering wheel, shifter knob and parking brake. The electroluminescent instrument panel round gauges for tachometer, speedometer and fuel/water temperature are straightforward. What we liked is the information message center above the dashboard depicting outside temperature, miles per gallon and digital clock. There is a height-adjuster for the driver, a 60/40-split fold rear seatback and plenty of storage areas, including the doors and under the dashboard.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, vehicle dynamic control, front and rear limited slip differentials and crumple zones, front-seat active head restraints, three-point seatbelts for all positions, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.
OUT THE DOOR: $34,995, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 245/40R18 summer; wheelbase, 103.3 inches; length, 173.8 inches; weight, 3,395 pounds; fuel capacity, 16.9 gallons; highway, 23 mpg; city, 17 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Obviously, this thrilling ride is not everyone's cup of tea. However, performance-oriented motorists instantly will take a liking to the rally-bred racing brute, which can go from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds. Besides, the standard safety and interior features are aplenty to round up this attractive vehicle from Subaru.