The ease and effortlessness in which he wrangles the 305 turbocharged horses of the Subaru via the 6-speed manual gearbox is really no surprise…

AS Tommi Mäkinen Alexandra Straub

Ojai, California.

Four-time World Rally Champion (WRC) Tommi Mäkinen is behind the wheel of the 2015 Subaru WRX STI at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in the middle of nowhere, California.

I’m riding shotgun along with two others in the back.

The ease and effortlessness in which he wrangles the 305 turbocharged horses of the Subaru via the 6-speed manual gearbox is really no surprise. After all, he’s not a champion because he looks good doing it.

So, if the pro can make it look and feel as perfect as a summer’s day, I should be able to as well, right?

I slip into the captain’s chair of the STI – without Tommi in the car, thank goodness – and take to the 3.1-mile track.

Prior to the hot laps, I had driven the outgoing 2014 Subaru STI on the same course. I’d be back-to-back testing these all-wheel drive machines to see how the engineering prowess has, yet again, continued to make a vehicle with a cult-like following even better.

Rewind a few hours to the start-of-the-day’s press conference.

Masuo Takatsu, WRX STI Project General Manager, mentioned the modus operandi of the fourth generation STI was to create a vehicle that behaves as the drivers expects it to.

Mission accomplished.

Though I didn’t even come close to Tommi’s performance, that wasn’t my goal.

The goal was to experience first-hand how docile yet potent Subaru’s famed sedan took to the high speeds and corners of the club track.

I had no desire to hand the keys over to my colleagues as they eagerly anticipated their time in the Rally Blue beauty.

It would be sacrilege if I didn’t insert some technical jargon into the reasoning why the STI scored big points on the road test. Without getting too deep into the engineering, here are the top three take-home points of this incredible vehicle.

One: the increased use of high-strength steel makes for a stiffer and stronger body, and decreases its tendency to twist and bend in corners. The result? A more predictable handling sedan that isn’t easily irked and stays firmly planted to the ground. Furthermore, the 2015 STI achieves 16 percent less body roll than before.

Two: You have the practicality of added dimensions. There is 25mm added to wheelbase, there is 900mm more legroom in back and you get 20L more cargo space (from 320L to 340L.)

Three: The Base WRX and STI don’t have a rear spoiler. The Sport and Sport-tech WRX has a trunk lip spoiler and the corresponding STI trims have the “table for six” or very large spoiler!

Perhaps it’s also sacrilege to not put the emphasis of this review on the design and engineering of this new generation of STI. After all, it has been reimagined on both the inside and out.

But anyone who knows the vehicle is aware that it is in a class of its own, with few competitors that can come close to the emotional appeal that this sedan brings to the market.

And anyone not familiar with it should be aware that, despite its 2.5L turbocharged engine, which produces the aforementioned 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, it is as gracious and powerful as a samurai soldier and his sword.

Now, for those who are looking for similar excitement but not as many ponies, fear not, Subaru has their WRX to captivate you.

Also completely redesigned on the inside and out, you have the magic of the Japanese brand’s 2.0L, turbocharged engine that produces 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and also the choice of a manual or a Sport Lineartronic transmission (a CVT with 8 virtual gears; similar to that found on the new Forester but tailored specifically to the WRX.)

It too has the dynamism and pedigree to impress on the road and track.

Performance, good times, outstanding engineering and hot colours equate to the new 2015 Subaru WRX and WRX STI.

(WRC driver not included.)

The 2015 WRX has a starting MSRP of $29,995 whereas the WRX STI has a starting MSRP of $37,995.

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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