While the current VA generation STI is old and a new one on the horizon teasing a fanboy’s burning desire, the 2020 STI remains a very potent weapon of mass distraction on our roads for Subaru.
Few cars will deliver the same blend of performance and practicality at this price point with four doors, five seats and a useable trunk. And though the looks might be too boy-racer inspired, it caters to a very specific market of enthusiasts who are die-hard about the boxer cult.
On twisting winding roads, on the track or fast and flowing B-roads, very few cars will keep up with this tarmac terrorist.
The 2020 STI had a rather late start in our market, no thanks to COVID19.
New are the Subaru EyeSight safety suite, the revised SI-Drive and a tweaked differential to deliver a more rear-biased feel, and on the outside, bigger 6-piston brake calipers from Brembo finished in iridescent green clamping down on massive 350mm rotors, covered by new design wheels. And did I mention you now get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with it?
Unfortunately, the Achilles’ heel of this all-wheeled wonder is its super stiff suspension. The lack of compliance probably slows it down when the roads get bumpy, overshadowed by the brilliant Honda Civic Type-R that has a more forgiving suspension set-up despite riding on massive 20-inch wheels and liquorice-thin tires. The suspension is so stiff, that in most of Metro Manila’s and the neighboring Calabarzon’s country roads, my belly fats got so sore from all the jiggly-wiggly. Fortunately, the aftermarket can quickly cure this problem. Top pick would be KW’s V3 double adjustable coil-over suspension, transforming this wild bronco into an almost smooth, magic carpet ride.
Suspension aside, the new 2020 STI drives better and smoother than its pre-facelift brethren. The revised differentials, torque vectoring and the firm suspension, coupled with the grippy Dunlop Sport Maxx 245/40R18 tires deliver a turn-in so sharp, with massive corner-exit traction that allows you to boot the throttle instantly. Yes, as with most all-wheel drive cars, there’s a hint of understeer all throughout, but just wind in more lock and the STI follows your steering input, albeit with a tad more effort. Realistically, you’ll never find the limits of the STI’s massive grip on public roads, such that the terminal understeer you might be concerned about won’t rain on your hooligan antics.
Should you exceed the STI’s limits (and your common sense), the Subaru comes equipped with ABS-EBD brakes, six airbags (front, side and curtain bags) and traction / stability control. And trust me, you’ll have to be going really fast, enough to go to jail fast, to exceed the limits of adhesion on public roads.
The STI never feels settled nor precise; it likes the wild, buck-board ride enthusiasts will simply classify as ‘character’ and truthfully, the STI has loads of that, and thus appeals to the very specific clientele as mentioned earlier, particularly if you order it with the massive rear wing. Thankfully, when you need to do some responsible, adult tasks, like motoring to and from work, hitting the grocery or church, Subaru’s Eye-Sight Safety Suite helps out like a co-driver that barks out warnings sans expletives when you cut it really close.
The powertrain is also a very strong suit. The EJ257 engine has been in service for the better part of two decades. And though racing and competition engine builders will moan and complain about ring land failures and oil-pick-up problems with the EJ257, these issues are easily mitigated by good preventive maintenance, good tuning, good fuel and, should you target stratospheric power levels, good aftermarket engine internals. Keep it simple (quality bolt-on performance parts, good high-octane fuel and a proper custom-tune from the country’s many respected and knowledgeable tuners) and the STI can deliver many miles of problem-free motoring. In stock form, the boxer engine outputs 300 horsepower and 400 Newton-Meters of torque, channeling power through all four wheels via its vaunted Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, and s slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission. The gearshift is short, firm but very much a joy to row through. On the highway, I found myself double-declutching, blipping and at times, my odd attempt at heel-toe downshifting just for the sheer joy of rowing through 6th all the way down to 2nd gear. People complain that the low-end is lacking, but I surprisingly found power eager enough at just over 1500rpm all the way to the 6500rpm redline.
The 2020 Subaru STI feels raw, in a good way to suit enthusiasts that crave an experience bordering on brutal. Many aftermarket tuners can make it even more focused, more specialized and more raw in its driving experience. But it does show its age: despite the 5.9 inch information screen and 7.9 inch infotainment display to make it look high-tech, the seating position is more MPV / crossover than sports sedan, the seats themselves are more lazy-boy lounge chairs than proper bucket seats, the steering wheel could use more reach adjustment, and the interior plastics look dated.
While Subaru aims to go more mainstream, I sincerely hope they don’t abandon their core loyal followers and fans who crave for a more exclusive, raw and emotional driving feel with the upcoming STI. Until then, this current 2020 STI will continue to soldier its way to the hearts of fans and enthusiasts wanting a piece of that world rally championship winning heritage.
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.