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Simply Fast


By Warren Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2003; Page G01

I once angered some of you by saying a car enthusiast is anyone who buys a car. After all, paying thousands of dollars for anything requires a certain amount of passion and commitment.




Still, I was wrong.

An ordinary car buyer would neither understand nor appreciate the 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi. A regular car person would not ring my doorbell in the middle of the afternoon and beg me to come out and "Rev the engine, please. Just once, can you rev the engine for us?"

Three teenage boys did that. I complied. They were thrilled. Some of you might nod and ask, "What else can you expect from teenagers?"

Well, I'm no teenager. I have gray hair and 55 years worth of joys and woes. But I absolutely love the WRX STi, love it with its ugly hood scoop and higher-than-heaven, view-obstructing rear spoiler. It has everything to do with speed, movement, balance. It is the exhilarating feeling of being at risk, yet remaining in control. Not everyone understands that. Most car enthusiasts do.

They are the people who know why Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru automobiles, built the WRX STi without a standard radio or CD player. They know why the car comes without floor mats and why there is little else in the car -- other than its blue Escaine fabric seats with black knit bolsters -- that can be considered luxurious or extra.

Fluff adds weight to a car whose sole purpose is to run as fast and corner as sharply as possible without straying from its intended path. The all-wheel-drive WRX STi does that.

The car is the product of Subaru Tehnica International (STi), the motor-sports development division of Fuji Heavy Industries. It is an expensive little ride at $31,000, especially considering that it lacks the standard goodies found in similarly priced automobiles. Car enthusiasts know why. They focus on engineering. They look beneath the hood.

There, they find the WRX STi's turbocharged, intercooled, 2.5-liter, double-overhead-cam, horizontally opposed, 300-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. Horizontally opposed? Think of two cylinder banks, each containing two cylinders. The cylinder banks are side-by-side, instead of being lined up four in a row (in-line) or shaped like a V.

That horizontal, or "boxer," cylinder configuration allows Subaru to concentrate the engine's mass in a smaller area. That helps to lower the WRX STi's center of gravity, which helps improve handling and steering.

The engine is turbocharged to force more air into its cylinders, thus creating a better and more combustive air-fuel mixture. But turbocharged engines run hot. Intercoolers help reduce that heat. The ugly scoop atop the WRX STi's hood channels air to the intercooler.

That highflying, dual-plane rear spoiler, an eyesore that compromises rear vision, manages air in a different way. It reduces lift -- the tendency of the front end of a car to lift during acceleration, or for the rear end to lift during braking.

It all comes down to this: the joy of seeking and finding abandoned roads or strips, or gaining entry to a legal track and letting the WRX STi rip! I did this and enjoyed every wonderfully senseless moment of doing it.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company
 

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Great article! I had a similar experience with my Type R. A couple dropped by while I was washing it, and asked me all manner of questions about it. Turned out that the girlfriend had wanted one of these for quite some time, and hadn't really got a close look at one before. The look I got when I said, "so you want to sit it in the driver's seat?" was priceless.

Sounds like the author knows his stuff with the STi. Although I'd hardly call the hood scoop 'ugly'. Guess he never owned a 60's-era musclecar...
 

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Yep, it was a good article. Even at 55, this guy sounded like a young kid at heart.

By the way, when I took my STI in for a reflash earlier this week, the week before they had sold an STI to a 62 year gentlemen who lived in the foothills of Northern California. He had tested other high performance cars but was swept off his feet with the STI. Basically, your never too old to enjoy a sporty car. :)
 
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