Brett Middleton test drives a new MY08 Subaru STi.
"Having just recently driven the Subaru MY08 STi, I’m going to give you an update on my
personal opinion on what I felt it was like driving a brand-new, standard STI. I’ll also talk about some of the features and benefits I can see that would benefit listeners and readers and maybe make a decision to buy one. We’ll touch on comparing it to the Evo X as well where we can."
|Audio Running Time: 24min 42sec|
"Starting with the outside of the STI, it looks very similar to the body shape and chassis of the Impreza WRX, albeit obviously completely different with pumped- guards, flared rear guards, rear spoiler and things like that. One of the striking things with the model is the STI badge on the front. Interestingly, Subaru decided to change that again so it’s no longer pink; it’s a little bit more subtle and not as obvious as the previous-model STI badges.
The STI has got some vents on the side of the guards as well. It’s a little bit hard to tell at the moment, whether they effectively work or whether they’re there for cosmetic reasons. Immediately above the guard, it’s got the popular STI badge on a chrome background. Again, it’s not as pink as what it used to be—more of a deep red color.
The front spoiler has got spotlights, unusual for an STI model. In the past, the STI has never had the spotlights, or the fog lights, depending on what we want to call them. They are there to be used straightaway and not hidden behind a fog light cover.
The other interesting thing is the new model has got the black, painted Brembo calipers front and rear instead of the previous gold ones on the old model. Some of the Impreza models such as the limited editiuon WRX;s and MY07 model had red (4 pot) calipers, whereas the STI had the (larger) gold ones. It’s got a white STI logo on it as well, so maybe Subaru decided to be a little bit more subtle in the brake department, on the way it looks as well.
Looking from the rear of the car, it’s got quad outlet rear tailpipes, two pairs of tailpipes on the other side underneath the rear bumper bar. This comes from quite a complex muffler underneath the back of the car, which is not exactly going to be something that is easy to replace and change straightaway. Talking about the right-hand drive model, the muffler’s the same whether it’s right-hand drive or left-hand drive.
But when we’re talking about passenger side, (on the left-hand side) the rear muffler has the inlet coming from the front of the engine. It goes around and up and over, into the top of the barrel assembly with the bottom side of the barrel at the front edge, being the outlet for the left-hand side, (or the Australian passenger-side rear pipes. )
On the right-hand side it’s not quite as complex because it doesn’t have the inlet to the muffler being present, and of course it’s just got the single outlet that then converts into a dual-outlet assembly, or tailpipe.
One of the striking things when you first get in to the car, that I noticed as a driver, is the revised instruments behind the steering wheel. On the left-hand side you’ve got the fuel gage and engine temperature gage.
On the right-hand side you’ve got the speedo in kilometers an hour from zero to 260 kilometers in 20-kilometer-an-hour increments, like 20, 40, 60, 80, 100. It’s on an orange, backlit format with a pinky-red outline on it. In the center, you’ve got the major (larger) display, which is the tacho to 8,000 RPM with a graduated gage from 6,700 RPM and onward, which is around point of the rev limiter. Of course it’s got the small STI badge on it as well.
In the middle of the tacho at the bottom is an LCD display which indicates some simple functions such as trip and odometer, etc but it also has the indication of the locking of the center diff. On this particular model it’s actually changed a bit. The center diff lock control, (through what used to be a thumbwheel on the old models), is now a push-pull toggle button in the center console and you can take it out of automatic mode and into manual lock mode, which is graduated by a series of LCD displays as a bar graph, all the way up to the “lock”-indicated setting.
One of the things that is different on this model compared to previous models is when it’s in the automatic mode, the center diff has a setting, not like the previous model with just auto mode setting. It’s an auto with an arrow and a plus, or to the left and a minus. Not having time to read the details in the owner’s manual, I would only assume that that is an indication of how the center diff controls the rate of change of torque through to the front and rear of the car.
Of course, the model has got SI-Drive as well, so the control wheel in the middle has the ability to change the settings from Sport Sharp to Sport and things like that. That is one of the other benefits of this particular model. Depending on how you want to change the settings of the SI-Drive, the performance of the car can be dulled down or enhanced.
That’s probably it for the nitty-gritty on the dash. One of the other things I noticed was just physically sitting inside the car, it makes you feel as if the car is actually quite large. It’s similar to the current Impreza WRX model,.
The current model definitely has that feeling that the car is a lot larger from the inside. In fact, looking out over the bonnet, it’s not daunting in size but it’s very, very hard to see the front of the car because the nose drops away quite significantly. For a person like myself, driving an Evo 9 and an MY07 STI quite regularly, it is certainly dramatically different.
The car that I’ve just driven had the double din center stereo / GPS sat nav control with the two different knobs to control the stereo, etc which is built in, and then the three dials in the lower center to control the air conditioning and other typical functions. There’s a six speed gear box with a normal type of setup as the previous model and of course, a STI logo neatly on the center console in front of the gear stick on a brushed-chrome type aluminum-finish background.
The STI logo is also in the middle of the airbag steering wheel with a whole array of push button controls on the steering wheel as well to use for various functions of the car. The other thing which is similar to the WRX is the sunken-type digital display on very top of the dash as well, which is not that obvious when you’re looking from the outside in and not as obvious as the previous model.
The seating position, from my point of view, was reasonably good. I didn’t get to drive the car a great distance, nor did I get to drive it quickly around corners so it’s a bit hard for me to comment from that point of view, but it felt reasonably comfortable and certainly fairly firm. This car didn’t have the leather interior; it was the Alcantara-style suede seat with either a leather or vinyl-type of leather-look sides and rear. From my point of view I was fairly satisfied with that.
The other thing that was fairly obvious was when I drove the car, the steering was fairly sharp, but probably not as sharp as what I felt the previous model was. It’s a bit hard to say with this particular model, not being sure how hard it’s been driven being a fairly new model car as well. Enough said about the model as a whole, but you’re probably more keen to know what it was like to physically drive.
The performance was fairly brisk, what I would expect being a standard WRX STi Impreza—not as quick as some of the modified cars we’ve done—but then again, what would you expect with a brand-new car? The boost comes on fairly strong, between 3,000 and 4,000 RPM. I think if I looked at a dynograph or a power graph, it would probably indicate that it starts building boost around 3,000, but as a driver looking at the tacho when I’m driving it, it feels as though it really starts to come on hard around 4,000 RPM.
It’s got that kick-in-the-pants type feeling to it. It’s not as linear or as flat as the current WRX, or as the more sedate touring-car type boost control that you’d expect to feel when you’re in a Liberty GT. Being in the performance end of the market, they expect you to want to feel that type of surge and boost as the car comes on, and it felt fairly good.
So from that point of view, it was quite enjoyable. Just driving around town it wasn’t very obvious to me to be able to pick the differences between the settings of the “SI Drive” but I think from that point of view, it’s not something you would expect a great deal of difference until you get out onto the open road or on the freeway. Or after the car was reflashed with a good ecutek tune.
Steering was as expected. I didn’t push the car through any corners to try and see if there was an understeer or oversteer, but I fiddled with the diff settings to see what it does in doing U-turns and tight turns. As I expected, with the center diff fully locked, the wheels skipped and clunked and made the typical noise it would on any STI when the center diff control is locked right up. That’s nothing to worry about there.
The car overall was certainly pleasant from my point of view, having looked forward to it for some time. It’s a pretty mean-looking car with a pretty good spoiler on the back and dramatically different to the Impreza WRX model as well,. From a technical point of view, getting the car up on the hoist, you’re probably interested to know what we found was different to the WRX. On early investigation, it’s not dramatically obvious that there’s a whole lot different there.
The suspension layout is fairly similar to the WRX. The rear suspension with the new upper and lower links, having done away with the Chapman/MacPherson strut suspension setup, effectively has one really big lower link where the shock absorber joins to and then a small, cast-iron upper link that joins to another part of the hub assembly with the spring located from there up to the underside of the body.
Then it’s got a forward and aft lateral, longitudinal link which locates the suspension from moving back and forth in the chassis. The rear sway bar is mounted in a similar fashion to the earlier-model car, slightly similar in shape but not transferable between the different models.
It has a bracket that comes down off the chassis cross member that the D saddle holds the sway bar in place and then the bar points forward and is connected to the suspension by a link with a uniball joint at both ends, which is a fairly similar type of link that has been used in the Subaru and Impreza models for the last couple of years, having done away with the old plastic-style links.
The front suspension has an alloy front arm, similar again, to the Legacy/Liberty-type suspension layout with a vertical pivot and a rubber bush at the back, mounted off the bottom of the body, whereas the front inner pivot of the alloy lower control pivots off a similar chassis lower cross member, similar to the previous model.
The sway bar is connected to the aluminum lower control arm in a similar fashion to the previous model again, with a link with an upper and lower, uniball-type setup. I’m pretty sure that the parts are interchangeable in that particular thing because the length looks similar but we’d have to check that. The front suspension is similar to the WRX in its overall layout, so from that point of view we didn’t expect to see any dramatic differences in that area.
We would expect the spring rates, shock rates and sway bar rates to be different but at the moment, we haven’t had an opportunity to measure those in detail yet, but that’s going to come fairly soon. Overall, if you look underneath the car, with the exception of the muffler change, it really does look very similar to a WRX, but we’d have to get both cars side by side and then look at the detailed differences.
Under the bonnet, the biggest and most obvious change is a much, much larger intercooler. It’s got a similar blow off valve arrangement to the WRX and the previous models, where the valve is bolted to the intercooler on the left-hand side with two, eight-millimeter steel bolts, and then the recirculating part of that tucks down underneath the electronic throttle body and then goes back into the inlet manifold.
The inlet boost side to the intercooler comes off the roller-bearing turbo, through a silicon intake and up into a dual inlet underneath the back of the intercooler. Interestingly, I haven’t got a split inlet on the inlet side tank of the intercooler like they do on the old spec. C and what we do on our reaplacement intercooler , of course. I’m not sure why they haven’t done that. I would expect it’s probably just to keep production costs down.
Most notably is the turbo is using the “old” style clamped joint connection from the turbo to the inlet pipe, as opposed to the WRX that has a flanged joint. So there is one major difference, no more swapping STi turbo’s onto WRX’s!
It’s got an aluminum, crinkle-coated inlet manifold, which is fairly common on the STIs for many years now. As sopposed to the plastic type on the WRX. Most of the other components and layouts in the engine bay are pretty much the same as the WRX, with the revised air box from the previous model with a built-in airflow meter sensor and then a bit of a convoluted, tight bend into the inlet side that passes under the inlet manifold to the turbo.
We haven’t had an opportunity yet to check and see whether the radiator is bigger or were there any other critical differences to the WRX, but common sense tells us the internal parts of the engine are different to the previous models, and different, of course, to the WRX.
One of the interesting things that I have noticed on the new Subaru models now is they have a slightly different built-date ID tag on the base of the B-pillar on the left-hand side, or the passenger side, headed up with a known Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., then it says “built date” and this particular one is a December ’07-built car. It then has the GVM for Australia bearing a gross vehicle mass of 1,990 kilos.
Then it’s got two other weight ratios, which I haven’t had a chance to look up, with the acronym GALR-F at 1,050 and GALR-R for 1,040. I would assume that it’s probably an indication of the front axel weight and the rear axel weight. The VIN starts off with JF1GRFKH and then it has two letters, typically 38 with a G. So an indication for a VIN on this particular model would be JF1GRFKH38G and then it has six numbers starting with 013 and I won’t say the final three numbers.
Underneath it in smaller letters, interestingly, they repeat the VIN. They’ve got the applied model code, which is a perfect way to tell the specification of the car and in this situation it’s GRFAKEH. Those types of codes indicate a lot of the specification and the features of the particular model. The next thing on the left-hand side is a trim code. In this case it’s G60 and then the color code is C7P, and the option code is AS.
The next thing, which is to keep a record of and compare for other models, is the engine type, starting off with EJ25 because it’s a 2.5-liter engine. Then it has a 7LG1LE. I haven’t got my code book here in front of me, but on our website we talk about the different codes and how you can distinguish what features that particular engine has.
One thing which is always a disappointment is that Subaru doesn’t put the engine-type codes on the actual engines themselves, so if the engine is taken out of this car and not kept a record of with this ID plate, it is very hard to know what are actually the specifications inside the engine if the engine is sold separately to the chassis.
The final bit of data on the ID plate is the transmission type. On this particular one it was TY856UG1KA. Again, if you refer to the data on our website you can look up for yourself what the specification of the transmission is as well. If you’re looking for that ID plate, it’s on the base of the B-pillar on the left-hand side, passenger side, facing outward so you have to open the door.
The Australian compliance plate is located in the usual location, under the bonnet on the top of the driver’s right-hand side strut tower, which has the approval number 37484, the category, and then it’s headed Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and has the Subaru model embossed, JVM, the number of seats. In this case when the compliance was done on this particular car it was January ’08 so we know the car was built in December ’07 in Japan. By the time it gets to Australia and gets the compliance done it’s about a month later, and then it’s got the VIN.
One particular point which a lot of people don’t realize is that the pop rivets that hold the aluminum Australian approval ID plate to the car actually have Subaru etched into them, so if you ever want to double check on your particular car if that has been changed or moved, that is a big giveaway if you want a little tip on knowing what to look for.
One of the other things I noticed when we closed the bonnet is the massive bonnet scoop has some air-direction veins molded into the underside of the scoop on the bottom side, obviously to make the best of getting the air into the intercooler the most efficient way possible. One of the other things I thought was rather interesting is, on the passenger and driver sides, the scuff plates on the bottom of the door frame have that brushed aluminum look with the STI logo on them.
I’m not sure whether the car comes standard with them, but this particular car had floor mats, front and rear, with the STI logo embroidered on them. One little thing I noticed is the car still has power windows with the ability to have automatic up as well as automatic down, which is one particular thing that I actually miss in my Evo 9. Our MY07 STI has exactly the same switches as the MY08.
Obviously there are a lot of things that Subaru carries across in the different models, and the switches in this case are exactly the same, so it’s good that they’ve continued with the automatic-up feature as well. It’s a small thing that I’ve noticed in driving the car and one other small thing, which is carryover from the previous model STI, the rear diff has got a temperature sensor coming out of the rear housing as well.
That’s about as much as I can think of at the moment to talk about the new MY08 STI. If you want more information and specification of these particular models, refer to our website: MRTPerformance.com.au in the “Subaru Secrets Revealed” section. Of course you can download a great amount of information and an electronic version of the Subaru Performance Handbook at SubaruPerformanceHandbook.com."