Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Still a Rally Car


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.  Still, I 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.  And 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 cars, it's so great to see how capable and focused this car still is.

Monday, April 24, 2017

WRX STi: Get a GRiP!

The iconic "Boxer Rumble" of the Subaru WRX STI, brought out by Unequal Length (or UEL) headers, may be going the way of the Dodo by 2020.  When I decided to finally give mine some aftermarket exhaust, I spent a lot of time researching to find the right one.  Reading reviews, watching YouTube videos, and talking with owners helped me get an idea of the different features, designs, and brands available to get the "right" sound.  Of course, there's not really any one right answer for this.  There are trade-offs and compromises to everything, so finding the right mix is important.

For me, it came down to minimizing cabin drone and producing a throaty rumble without being too obnoxious.  When my research was complete, the exhaust I felt had the best of these characteristics was the ARK GRiP Catback Exhaust.  This exhaust utilizes Helmholtz resonators to alter the sound of the exhaust note and for differences in power delivery by adding two chambers to the exhaust.  In turn, these resonators help cancel out unpleasant frequencies of sound in the exhaust.  This technology and build quality comes at a price, so to save money, I managed to find one that was used and in great shape!

I paired this exhaust system with a Grimmspeed Catless Downpipe (now out of production), a Grimmspeed Electronic Boost Controller, an Innovate Motorsports LC-2 Digital Wideband, and had it professionally tuned by Boosted Performance Tuning.  Numbers are running around 300whp and around 330tq.  The power increase is instantly noticeable and, thanks to the added flow of the downpipe, there's a significant reduction in turbo lag.  It's also more consistent and predictable so driving it is even more of a blast than before.  Installation was relatively simple for everything.  The only thing that tends to be a pain is the STI's intercooler, which needed to be removed to install the Downpipe and heat shield.

Overall I'm incredibly happy with it.  All the sound I love without ruining the cabin with obnoxious drone.  Put up the windows and you can still talk to the passenger while you row through the gears.  Add in the music being created by the ARK GRiP exhaust and it's too easy to smile with each pull.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rallycross Super Weekend 2017

On April 22nd and 23rd, the Nebraska Region SCCA Rallycross program hosted a Super Weekend at I-80 Speedway.  Saturday saw a Rallycross School instructed by veteran drivers during the day with a Twilight Rallycross competition held in the evening under the stars.  Sunday served as the main points event with a full day of competition.  Given that the first two events before this had been cancelled due to poor site conditions, participants were eager to hit the dirt in this 2-Day event.  

Students worked with national-level talent during the Rallycross School.  Instructors Jon Simmons and Alex Reinkordt are both Rallycross veterans and have extensive experience.  They teamed up with Jan Gerber, a 5-Time SCCA Rallycross Champion, to help students improve their rallycross skills considerably.  Tie that in with hours of invaluable seat time and two consecutive competition events to put their new abilities to work and the Rallycross school was a big hit!  
The Twilight Rally, held at dusk going into the cover of night, saw record turnout.  18 competitors drove through a Glow-Stick marked course adapted from the Rallycross School held earlier in the day.  Dry and Dusty conditions paired with a setting sun made visibility a challenge, but the group powered through and kept the pace right up to the final run.  Some competitors even saw their times improve despite the low visibility!
The weekend continued with Sunday's Rallycross Points event for the NRSCCA.  26 competitors were welcomed by dry sunny conditions and a gentle breeze to help move the clouds of dirt and dust along for each pass.  Using a course adapted from the previous two events, competition went strong through morning and afternoon heats.  There were a few stops for mechanical issues and a course adjustment for safety near the end of the day, but everything ran smoothly.  

You can see my photos from this event in my Flickr album.  Pictures for this event start on Page 2.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Refreshed Outback adds More

Alongside the mid-cycle refreshes for the 2018 WRX STI and 2018 Legacy, the Outback is poised to take yet another step towards refinement.  Since it's redesign as a 2015 model, the Outback has built on and improved it's flagship status for Subaru.  The changes for it's 2018 version (being released in the Summer of 2017) go further than the usual updates Subaru usually addresses.

Space and size remain as they had from the 2015-2017 Outback models, but the entire infotainment system in the Outback has been revamped to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  The display itself is larger, has better resolution, and multi-gesture touch control has been improved from the previous system.  The climate controls just below the 8" Touchscreen have also been revamped and simplified.  

Among other interior updates, the Outback receives an additional interior color option: Titanium Gray.  The existing Slate Black and Warm Ivory interiors remain as well as the Java Brown leather that is exclusive to the "Touring" trim levels.  That's a total of four different interior colors available on the Outback (double what was offered in 2015).

There's the usual suspects for updates on the exterior.  New steering-responsive headlights grace the redesigned front bumper and grille.  There's also new 18" wheels for the Limited trim Outbacks.  Enhancements made throughout the Subaru Outback chassis include revamped suspension dampers for a smoother ride, along with retuned Electronic Power Steering and brake systems for a more direct feel.

Subaru's quietest riding vehicle just got quieter.  The Lineartronic CVT for 2.5i models now uses a quieter short-pitch chain, and adjustments to engine timing under acceleration that reduces powertrain noise. It's reshaped exterior mirrors, new sound-insulating glass for the front side windows, and thicker rear wheel well aprons all reduce cabin noise.

For revisions that will only stick around for the 2018 and 2019 model years, seeing this level of improvement is impressive.  These updates will keep the Outback competitive and fresh until it moves to the Subaru Global Platform in 2020.   

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Next Stage - "Higgins Blue" STI

When I first picked up my Series.HyperBlue WRX STI in October of 2015, it was the quickest car I had ever owned.  For the first few months of driving, I was convinced the car was driving me around but after I got used to the power, I had a better understanding of how to use it without getting out of sorts.  Shortly after, I had it tuned by a professional to smooth out the power and make the car more predictable to use and have really enjoyed it.  But now it's time to take my "Higgins Blue" STI another notch up.

It took me awhile to even decide if I wanted to start modifying this car at all.  The subtle rumble from the exhaust, the point-and-click passing power, it's still fun.  There's more power that can be tapped into without going bonkers under the hood.  More free-flowing exhaust and boost control can go a long way, so I did a little research through the seemingly endless supply of forums, online stores, and reviews to find some things to get to the next stage.  "Stage 2, Bro!"

Cliche tuner culture remarks aside, I'm getting it all put together this month.  A GrimmSpeed Catless Downpipe, GrimmSpeed Turbo Heat Shield, GrimmSpeed Electronic Boost Controller, Innovate Wideband, and a ARK GRiP Catback Exhaust should transform how this car moves.  More power, less turbo lag, and better control throughout the powerband... not to mention the music that the ARK GRiP will create out of the Titanium quad tips.  There aren't many other folks in my area using this exhaust either, so getting something unique was a plus.  It also will reduce cabin drone, which will make long trips a little easier on my ears.

Once it's all installed, I'm off to go get it tuned the next day and be ready to roll just in time for the Wednesday Night Meet.  I'll post an update with sound clips once it's all done!