The third quarter for our long- term 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI started with a full physical in the form of a 15,000-mile service visit. In addition to the normal oil change and tire rotation, the dealership checked the electrical and cooling systems, tuned the engine and added fuel-injector cleaner and an air filter. It also checked on the Brembo brakes, which still had 90 percent of material remaining after nine months.
"Either these Brembo brakes hold up extremely well, or we're just not driving it hard enough," one editor said.
The summer softened up the interior plastics, which made less noise than in the winter months, when they tended to squeak a lot more. Their silence did leave more room for tire and wind noise to work its way into the cabin.
As refined as this car is compared with previous generations, it still ranks low on driving serenity. "The STI remains very raw," one editor noted. "There were times it sounded as if debris was falling off, and the racket this thing makes simply moving down the road is rather intrusive to passengers."
But that's not what most drivers care about with the 305-hp WRX STI. Enthusiasts like us want a snorting muffler, a gaudy wing and the lightning throttle response that the WRX STI provides. It burbles at idle with a solid bass note before working up to a high-pitched metallic wail near redline.
It's an absolute terror on the road, too, shooting gaps wherever we point it. With a click of the SI-Drive control, the WRX STI goes from mild to wild, and fuel consumption seems to go from acceptable to "I can't believe we have to stop again."
The WRX STI has built quite a name for itself on the streets. Kids stop to admire, and older people curse the decibels while the pilot just smiles. The blue pearl paint gleams in the sun, striking a menacing silhouette in rear-view mirrors. People see the bugeye headlights and boy-racer wing and get out of the way immediately.
The WRX STI was solid mechanically, only requiring eight days out of service for an unidentified gouge in the front bumper. The return included a heavy wash and detail job, which almost made the body-shop visit worthwhile.