When the WRX STI first came to the US fifteen years ago, it was an out-of-the-box rally car. Raw, rumbly, and ready for the rough stuff, it was honest about it's intentions. Over time, I had thought that the WRX STI had become diluted with frills and convenience features and lost sight of that. However, if there's one thing the WRX STI has been criticized for: it's the aging driveline still at it's core. Regardless of what shell it's attached to, the guts that made the first car great are still there... and that has never been more obvious than last weekend.
That's because last weekend I was forced to use my 2016 WRX STI Series.HyperBlue in a local rallycross event as my '99 RS was having suspension issues. Brilliantly, I had sold my all-season tires for the STI a month before and had nothing but summer tires to run on. I still needed to get through the event and I knew if I just took it easy, this street car would be fine. After it's first surprisingly good lap... I had a feeling I could open it up a little more. Then a little more after that. Not long after a few laps finding the limits of Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires on dirt, I had managed to land the second fastest time of the day. Oh, and that was 2 tenths off of the fastest time set that day by a 6-time SCCA Rallycross Champion.
Sure it's got push-button start and a Harman Kardon audio system. But the beating heart of the WRX STI that came to us years ago is still in there... and it still knows what to do. This car really impressed me given that I had a generous helping of power with minimal grip at my disposal, but I found speed and confidence with a car I had expected to only be good for some pretty pictures.
I can only imagine what this car would've done with some more appropriate tires. In fact, I'm starting to wonder why I don't use this instead of my '99 Impreza Coupe. Despite all the creature features and the slammed tuner "brotella" vape scene that has been associated with some of these newer WRXs, it's so great to see how capable and focused this car still is. If it still performs this well, I have no complaints about the STI's continued use of this seemingly outdated platform. Given the right tires and a little more talent, I wouldn't be surprised if this car could be a dominant rallycross contender.