Auto Review: 2016 Subaru WRX STi Premium

ICONIC. It’s as simple as that.

The 2016 Subaru WRX STi Premium is the continuation of an icon. Lovers of the ‘Rexy’ will attest to its beauty and wonder as a high performance road car, particularly in its STi form and especially on the back of its incredible history as a leading piece of kit in the World Rally Championship.

But Subaru don’t play in that paddock any more, and there were plenty of crazy rumours that the 2016 variant would offer an unhinged new version that was nothing like we’d ever seen before – and Subaru fed that demon with an amazing concept car it revealed at the New York Motor Show.

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What we got was a pure performance car. Under the hood it’s the same 2.5L four cylinder boxer engine that generates 221kW of power and 407Nm of torque as the previous models (like the 2014 version), but the car that’s built around that engine and its six speed manual gearbox is a whole new animal – and it likes to play.

That new animal includes a bucket load of safety and technology, significantly improved interior and a host of improvements all over the place, both inside and out.

The days of the basic interior are gone, with Premium definitely the name of the game in the top of the line STi. To start with, there is technology everywhere.

Not one but three LCD screens grace the new look WRX, two together at the top of the dash, with the first one displaying the dual zone climate control. The second screen shows a host of data, including fuel consumption, live turbo boost pressure, torque distribution and a host of fuel economy information.

The main infotainment system is a seven inch touch screen, featuring everything from SatNav to voice control, stereo settings and Subaru’s cool MirrorLink, which essentially mimics the display and functions of your smart phone, integrating it with the vehicle.

On the safety front, where this car stands out, you’ll find blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, auto-dimming rear view mirror, auto high beam and side view monitor – a very cool piece of technology that uses a camera in the passenger side mirror to indicate the distance from the kerb or a parked vehicle while you’re reversing into a spot.

Part of Subaru’s Vision Assist package, we think this system (side view monitor) is perfect for guiding you into that parallel parking spot, or over difficult terrain. Luxury and comfort haven’t been left out of the equation either.

Let’s see, leather interior with power front seats (with okay but not awesome side bolsters) that are genuinely comfortable, a surprisingly roomy cabin that seats four adults in comfort, and it offers good family friendliness in terms of catering for car seats and kids.

The stereo system rocks with a harman kardon unit that boasts eight speakers and a 440 watt amplifier that offers exceptional sound quality, thumping bass and full support for USB, Bluetooth streaming and even the built-in Pandora app (commercial free).

The boot is decent with 460 litres of room hidden under the boot lid, and the whole thing rides on styling (dare we say sexy) 18 inch alloy wheels that are custom designed and matched to the WRX STi Premium.

On the drive front Subaru’s traditional WRX STi gurgle is still there and is beefier than ever thanks to an improved exhaust system, and it will make plenty of noise when you make it work hard – as you would expect.

The gearbox is solid, but can be temperamental in the hands of someone not used to driving a performance car – it’s looking for plenty of revs to take off, and it is not particularly a fan of hill starts – we are happy to admit despite our experience even we stalled it a few times on hills.

Subaru has however hooked up some wicked features to get the most out of the engine, including the driver controlled differential system that puts the ability to turn this beast into a real wild child in the hands of the person behind the wheel – making for some serious fun.

But there are some down sides and turbo lag is one of them. The WRX STi can be hard work to drive in inner Sydney suburbia – it’s got an all-wheel drive system, performance clutch and gearbox that’s geared towards exactly what it sounds like – performance driving. It wants to be driven hard, and in fact needs to be.

Remembering it’s a performance car will also help you forgive its other nuances, like the fact it can be hard on its occupants in terms of ride – especially on poor country roads (which we experienced first hand after being forced onto very bad dirt roads during our road test).

It’s also super thirsty. We’re talking 10.4L/100km here and if you drive it like you stole it – as all good WRX STi’s should be driven, you can pretty much double that thirst. With a 60 litre tank you can expect to be refilling often.

That said, we took this car to Cooma for the Snowy Mountains 1000 (sadly we didn’t belt it down the runway against the clock in an official race capacity) and we got from our offices on the NSW Central Coast to our destination on a single tank of fuel – mind you we sat on the speed limit the whole way and it was running on vapor when we got there – but still super impressive.

Does it have competitors? Sure. The VW Golf R and the Ford Focus RS on the performance front (but these are not sedans like the WRX STi Premium), and the up coming Mitsubishi Lancer Evo (Final Edition or XI – whichever you prefer to call it), which is released in February.

But we had an awesome time putting this car through its paces, and it was definitely more than fun to drive. If you can afford the dollars (which are significantly lower than they used to be), we highly recommend you get your hands on one of these, or at the very least test one out. The safety factor alone should make it easy to convince the ‘other half’ you need one.

You can drive a 2016 Subaru WRX STi Premium out of the showroom for a little over $61,000 (drive away), in any of the seven colours that now grace the entire model range including Crystal White Pearl (as tested), Lapis Blue Pearl, Pure Red, WR Blue Pearl, Ice Silver Metallic, Dark Grey Metallic, Crystal Black Silica (and for a limited time Hyper Blue).

Our test vehicle was provided by Subaru Australia. To find out more about the 2016 Subaru WRX STi Premium, contact your local Subaru dealer.

Mark Holgate
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.



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