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…
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.
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.
Many singles I know decide to get something a little less “practical” in the grand scheme of things…
So, you’re not married. That’s okay!
You don’t have kids? No worries.
You pretty much have the pick of the litter when it comes to buying a car. Why?
Because you don’t necessarily have specific requirements that need to be met when selecting a vehicle. Meaning, you don’t need to consider having a large enough backseat to fit car seats, unless you want a big back seat for other reasons. Like, you have a dog that weighs as much as an adult. Or you don’t need four doors because you’re pretty much the only one going to be inside the cabin at any given time.
Unless your profession requires you to haul around equipment or gear, you don’t have to buy a crossover, minivan, sedan or SUV… if you don’t want to.
That said, many singles I know decide to get something a little less “practical” in the grand scheme of things. Less practicality is usually spelled with five letters: coupe.
So, to those individuals who are the alpha of their one-person wolf pack, here are a few coupes under $30K to consider.
Honda Accord Coupe: Base MSRP $26,400
I’m starting off with the Accord because it’s a cool car. The current generation has so much going for it and definitely has developed more personality in the redesign. You have the option of two engines: a more economical 2.4L 4-cylinder or a more powerful 3.5L V6. Either way, you can get them equipped with a 6-speed manual or a CVT transmission. Only the EX-L Navi trim with the V6 has the option of a 6-speed automatic transmission. No matter how you slice it, you’re getting a great car. Better yet, it has a decent cargo capacity of 379L so you could easily dump your hockey gear inside. The interior is spacious and comfortable, and heck, it looks good.
MINI Coupe/Roadster: Base MSRP $25,950/$28,900
With room for two, even the base model of MINI Coupe or Roadster is a hoot. Specs-wise, it has the least impressive engine of the lot (only putting out 121 horsepower,) but that can be overlooked because of via driving dynamics. It has one of the best manual gearboxes for a car of its size and has an abundance of pep.
They’re not cheap, though. So it has that working against it in some regards. And you could argue that a Mazda MX-5 is a better value (you won’t be wrong) but it’s still loads of fun.
Dodge Challenger: Base MSRP $26,995
If you’re driving a Dodge Challenger, you’re getting noticed. You don’t even need to have the grunt and roar of the SRT’s 6.4L V8 HEMI to turn heads. Inside and out, this two-door has style and power. The base SXT trim comes equipped with a 3.6L V6 and 305 horsepower.
Kia Forte Koup: Base MSRP $20,550
For just over $20K, the Kia Forte Koup is a solid value. And it’s not a bad looking car either. Inside, the interior is well finished and isn’t cheap.
Furthermore, you have many great standard amenities that come with the base model like 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, air conditioning and more.
VW GTI: Base MSRP $29,375
The 3-door VW GTI is one of my favourite cars. The front-wheel, German engineered bundle of excitement has poise and pizzazz, along with a fabulous interior and a tried and tested engine. What’s great about the GTI is that it works for all ages. You could be 16 and driving it, or 60, and you’d still look good. You wouldn’t look out of place and people would give you nods of approval. Granted, the current generation is on its way out and the seventh generation (2014 model year) is coming soon. So if you want a killer deal on a 2013, now’s about as good of a time as any.
Women are a huge driving force (pardon the pun) in the car-buying world. (more…)
Amy Lawson, 35, leads an active life.
She likes to be outdoors, to play sports, surf, bake and has a thriving social life.
Professionally, she was recently promoted to be the Territory Manager for Drydock Footwear Group. Her territory covers British Columbia and Alberta.
Being on the road is a sizeable component of her work.
When it came time to trade in her Nissan Xtrail – which she loved to pieces – she was torn when deciding what vehicle to purchase.
“The Xtrail has been a fabulous car, but I’ve outgrown it and need something that can better accommodate all my equipment,” she says.
In the process, she considered SUVs, hatchbacks and crossovers. The Ford Flex, Ford Escape, Honda Pilot, Mitsubishi Outlander were on her list to look at.
Amy states, “When I started to research vehicles, the No. 1 thing on my priority list was interior space. I needed lots of it.”
She continues, “I didn’t mind if the vehicle wasn’t sexy! I need functional. Good looks were secondary to me.”
Because of her current role, it requires travelling around the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, BC and Alberta with various promotional gear, display units, sample products and more.
Not to mention, if she can pack in her sports equipment like her bicycle, snowboard or surfboard in, too, that would be even better.
Price was also a factor for her.
“I had a budget to work with, and I needed my payments to be around $500 a month,” Amy mentions.
“And since I’d be spending a fair amount of time behind the wheel, I’d need something that was comfortable, too.”
When chatting about potential matches, the idea of a minivan came up.
I saw the excitement in her eyes.
In her personal life, she is not the typical minivan candidate. With no children to drive to hockey or soccer practice, some people might question her enthusiasm.
But to her, it seemed like the perfect fit.
“I was just so excited about it. Minivans make life so much easier and you can just do so much with them,” she explains.
“It made a lot more sense than a pickup and much more sense than an SUV.”
A few minivans/minivan-esque vehicles she looked into were the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Mazda5.
Though the Honda and Toyota appealed to her, it was the Dodge Grand Caravan that had exactly what she was looking for. It was in her price range and had some handy features that would allow easy loading and unloading of her gear.
She even really likes its look.
Amy tells me, “I can fit two mountain bikes inside with people and still have room for more.”
The Dodge Grand Caravan that she selected is the Crewe trim, which also came with some extras. She has a towing package, a rear DVD entertainment system (perfect for passing time on ferry rides!), Stow ‘n Go seats, remote keyless entry to the doors and liftgate and more.
While she can’t be happier with her purchase, the signing on the dotted line did make her heart beat quite a bit faster.
“There’s a lot of anxiety to buying a car. It’s a big purchase and you want to make sure you make the best choice you can.”
And speaking of choices, the biggest question when selecting her chariot of choice?
“Should I get the white one or the black one?!” she jokingly asked.
She went with black.
When looking back on the experience and looking at her Grand Caravan, she happily says, “What I didn’t think would be very sexy vehicle ended up being the sexiest to me. And there’s so much space!”
Ladies, if you’re looking at buying a new vehicle and would like some suggestions/assistance, email the Car Girl’s Garage and you could potentially be featured in Driveway.
Include your name, email address where best to be reached, a little bit about yourself, what you’re looking for and what price range you need to work with.