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I am getting damn tired of waiting for our STi. :xPaul Hansen said:Got a chance to drive an actual production STi last night (JDM spec) thanks to a friend that was willing to let my slightly abuse it. We did some runs in it on my favorite road course, a section of road that is entirely made up of curves, you'll never get out of 3rd in the STi, other than one or two short straights. I know it like the back of my hand, which is useful when driving a car to get a feel for it's handling. The other vehicle was a built-up B4 Legacy that is a ways from stock.
It was really good to get into a non-press car, it is always illuminating to find out what the actual consumer gets in the end. Surprisingly enough, the engine felt all there compared to the cars I drove at Fuji Speedway. Very strong, very torquey throughout the entire rpm range. Low-end is tremendous for a 2.0-litre, STi really went through this engine and produced an absolute gem, probably their best engine ever, bar the 22b 2.2-litre. Even then, I think for a stock setup this is possibly the best they've ever made. Another 500cc's of displacement for Americans along with AVCS will more than make up for the lack of twin-scroll, especially with the low-end difference that much displacement entails.
The 6-speed is the same as before, whether you want to call it notchy or mechanical in feel, it's no uber-smooth Honda unit. Given the power that it is routing around to 4 wheels, I'm not surprised. OTOH, I had no problem getting into any gear at any time, so while it may lack smoothness, there's no problems finding the right gear and shifting. Once you become familiar with it the feel becomes rather reassuring, feedback that there is some strength to this tranny.
The balance of the car is amazing. Bloody amazing. You'll need some real guts and experience to push it anywhere near it's limits. In fact, getting to it's actual limits is a rather daunting task, because they are so high that even at the track, you'll be going a lot quicker than you are used to. While standard 070's certainly help, the fact that the rear end is so much more stable than past Subaru's really helps you get the job done. Where the B4 had to be left-foot braked and finessed around corners at 80-90kmph, I was literally cruising in the STi at those same speeds or even a little more, and certainly had some headroom left. It's very chuckable if you like to do that. The new setup and turn-in eliminate that need if you want to drive it smooth, it will turn-in quite well and just plain goes where you want it to. Once again, I felt no need to leave the DCCD in anything but automatic mode, it just plain works. When working the tyres a bit the handling front to rear is very neutral with little understeer. This was a standard STi, not a Spec C RA, which means less turn-in than the Spec C. However, it did reinforce my impression that the standard STi setup may be a bit better for on-the-road driving, away from the track. Given the incredible performance of the car a little bit of a safety margin was nice, especially if you needed to hammer the brakes mid-corner.
That brings me to the one area that does not measure up with the press cars. Brakes. When properly set up, they are more than adequete. They brought me down from 100+mph speeds at Fuji Speedway without drama. There was little, if no fade in them there. Great stuff. But not something you get on the actual car that you buy from the dealer. Just trying to keep up with me on one run through the "course" resulted in massive brake fade for the STi. The B4 Legacy non-stock setup (4-pot calipers, DBA rotors, metal lines, 4.5 fluid and semi-carbon pads) was absolutely rocking for brakes, even when left foot braking through the entire course, but the STi on the stock Brembo setup was not. While the pads/rotors probably became glazed early on, the fluid and lines were also not up to snuff. This won't effect most owners, but for the enthusiasts out there that do courses with a lot of braking, mesh lines, fluid and possibly better pads are a necessity. This is why I was glad to test a production car rather than a press car, for while the press car may have had the pads and rotors bedded in better, the fluid and lines were simply better than what the consumer recieves. I would hope that the American market STi would get better, but I doubt it. Something to remember, though, is that my driving will not reflect what 90% or more of STi owners will ever do, even at the track.
All in all, a complete work of art, with only a minor niggle about braking. STi has really got the entire package working in one symphony of ferocious motion. And I solved the problem with the brakes early on, by simply not using them.