Subaru’s WRX STI, soon to retire, digs deep on Ontario’s new race track

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We’re giving the 2021 Subaru WRX STI a good start on the dirt contour of a world-class racing course under development

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Oro Station, ON — The fifth-generation 2022 Subaru WRX STI will be upon us soon. But ahead of the big debut sometime this year, we took another workout from the retiring 2021 model – and not just street workout, but track workout on a dirt course that will soon become a racing course. full fledged.

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Here at Oro Station, about two hours north of Toronto and across from the Simcoe Regional Airport, lies the makings of a remarkable new automotive complex that will see, by 2023, a racing track of four kilometer which has just won the FIA ​​design approval award, which means it can safely hold sanctioned international racing events. The 320-acre Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park will also house a number of garages and buildings within its business park and has already signed automotive engineering and testing companies. While planning and development work has been going on for years, physical work on the track and the park is just beginning.

Before the asphalt hit this 16-turn circuit designed by British firm Driven International, however, Subaru Canada gave us a day in the 2021 WRX STI to test the AWD prowess of the STI in the earthen foundation of the new Oro. track, a track that will undoubtedly open up new opportunities for motorsports other than those of the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

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The STI, of course, remains one of the latest rally-inspired sports sedans that comes with enough power and handling right from the showroom floor to make it as much a dirt darling as it is a highway 400 sprinter. In other words, when the weather is bad, the STI shines. With the extinction of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and the Ford Focus RS, the WRX STI is now in the company of a rare company, only VW’s Golf R giving it real competition. That it comes with a close-speed six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment is even more remarkable today.

By the way, this drivetrain is excellent, much tighter than VW’s manual, with nice short, crisp throws. With 310 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, the power flowing through the transmission is excellent. The gearbox is operated mechanically, not electrically, via a hydraulic clutch that marries a center differential that can adjust torque flow to the front or rear wheels, but only to a maximum of 41% up front, 59 in back.

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Yes, it would be nice to be able to go 75 or 80% rearward for a hooligan type drift, but that wouldn’t benefit the overall forward momentum much. As it stands, with 59% of the torque headed south, the traction was ideal for doing circular drifts in the dirt and traversing a tapered course.

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On the dirt track, the WRX’s torque and all-wheel drive paired with a Torsen limited-slip rear differential made the difference between driving like Antoine L’Estage – the most successful rally driver in Canadian history. , who was on hand to show us the course – and Homer Simpson. Flying around the turns in Oro at insane speeds, with rocks and roots flying in all directions, was as easy as ordering a double-double as Tim passed. The car simply reacts to where it is pointed, makes its way forward, and pulls front and rear forward to the red line.

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It is easy to drive this car quickly. Like an iPhone, it’s intuitive and smart. Braking, thanks to torque vectoring and six-piston Brembo calipers painted in a distinctive lemon yellow, is superb. A handbrake makes it easy to start a turn.

If there was one problem, it was that the 2.5-liter flat-four boxer engine is rougher than, say, an in-line six, with an exhaust note that is not very satisfactory. I’m all for loud and obnoxious if that sounds good or distinctive, but the STI exhaust note isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of coffee. Road noise is also louder than it should be, and the suspension leans heavily on the firm side.

Still, driving this car is an absolute pleasure: the visibility is excellent and the feedback is excellent. The steering feel couldn’t be much better. He wants to go fast and has the confidence to do it. The WRX STI makes me question my deference to the smoother Golf R, which we all know has a much superior interior.

The new WRX STI 2022 will of course benefit from a completely new interior. Whether the 2022 is available in a hatchback after being discontinued in 2015 (please, please, please, yes) is less important than whether a new WRX STI will perpetuate the tradition of being a four-wheel-drive superstar who can haul home a rally trophy on Sunday and handle the morning commute on Monday. Long live the STI, with or without a park bench spoiler.

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