Subaru Impreza WRX STI 2.5 A-Line 5Dr Review
Automatic Choice

Story and photos by Raymond Lai
2 Dec 2009

An automatic gearbox for the hardcore Impreza WRX STI doesn’t make much sense at first. Let’s see if our minds change after a drive in it.

STImulus package

The automatic gearbox is commendable for its swift response to throttle inputs. Prod the accelerator a tad and the gearbox is always eager to kick down to provide maximum acceleration.

The automatic gearbox seems to be increasingly popular among the performance car posse here. Take Porsches as an example. More than half of the Porsches here don’t have a third pedal. So it’s no surprise that car manufacturers are introducing automatic versions of their sports models here.

The latest of which is the Subaru Impreza WRX STI A-Line. The manual transmission WRX STI is loads of fun but the question is, will this fun be diluted with an automatic gearbox? While the manual gearbox has six forward ratios, the auto only has five. With one less ratio, overall gearing is certainly longer in the auto and this blunts the STI’s performance.

On the road, the auto feels markedly less urgent than the manual version. Subaru doesn’t quote official performance figures but 0-100km/h should take 5.5 seconds. The automatic gearbox though, is commendable for its swift response to throttle inputs. Prod the accelerator a tad and the gearbox is always eager to kick down to provide maximum acceleration. It’s no lightning quick twin clutch affair here though as the torque converted auto needs time to react to throttle inputs before a kick down is executed.

There is a ‘+/-‘ manual selection mode with paddle shifters. The latter are steering mounted so that you won’t get disorientated with the paddles when twirling the steering wheel in the bends. Despite the manual selection feature, it’s best to leave the gearbox to its own devices though as it’ll pause a moment or two before reacting to the driver’s gear change inputs.

The STI’s unit is the latest iteration of Subaru’s venerable 2.5-litre flat-four, this time making a whopping 300bhp. With up to 350Nm on tap, maximum torque output in the A-Line is down on the manual model’s 407Nm  at 4,000rpm. Subaru might have turned down the wick on the torque numbers presumably to preserve the longevity and reliability of the torque converter automatic.

The motor suffers from a bit of lag at low revs but once the turbo gains momentum though, the Subaru will hurtle down the horizon like a rat down a drain pipe. On boost performance is extremely strong and you’ll enjoy that ‘massage your kidneys’ feeling whenever you bring the engine on boost. Moreover, you can still enjoy that off beat boxer warble that characterizes Subaru.

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