Motors recently took a couple of highly entertaining Subarus for a spin in Northern Ireland: the legendary WRX STI and the nimble little BRZ.
BRZ is the sister car to Toyota's GT86 and is an absolute hoot to drive! Subaru led development of this super little 2+2 coupé, which is a nice way of saying the GT86 is a Subaru in all but name. That said, without Toyota's support we wouldn't have either car and that would be a tragedy.
Japanese car maker Subaru, as you may know, made its name with symmetrical all-wheel drive machines so it is unusual for BRZ not to feature four-wheel drive - but in this case it's a good thing! 220hp is delivered via a quick steering rack and tight short shift manual gearbox to the rear wheels. Relatively skinny tyres, for a performance car, feature. This means that the compact coupé is both rewarding and engaging to drive.
Behind the wheel you can knock years off your age as the BRZ is grin-inducing. It is precise and depending on the road surface, a little skittish. On less-than-good surfaces BRZ is not the best car for passenger comfort as the ride will prove tiring for all bar the driver. BRZ will be a rare sighting in Ireland as the Toyota GT86 will outsell it by a huge margin. For many petrol-heads BRZ's coolness and limited numbers are, in fact, its biggest appeal.
From the BRZ we got into a true rally legend, the WRX STI saloon. For the record, WRX STI is not an 'Impreza' WRX STI, simply a model in its own right: WRX STI. Instantly you are aware of the increase in power and bulk compared to BRZ. The five-seat car has a stiff bodyshell, thanks to ultra high strength steel use.
During WRX STI's development the Japanese engineers used a 911 S as the benchmark to test against and you can feel their efforts when behind the wheel. Under the bonnet there's a boxer, turbocharged, 2.5-litre petrol engine that pushes out 300hp and 407nm of torque. Going 0-100km/h takes 5.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 255km/h (159mph).
While the engine might be Euro6 compliant, the fuel consumption still suffers with 10.3l/100k (27mpg) quoted as the combined average. As for taxes, WRX STI pushes out 242g/CO2. Massive 17-inch ventilated Brembo brakes do a good job at scrubbing off speed when necessary.
When you put the foot down WRX STI takes off with relentless intent. The chassis and suspension setup feels far softer than the BRZ but sophisticated at the same time. A new hydraulic steering system features a quicker rack and offers better turn-in, plus there are loads of other enhancements.
A multi-mode centre differential (LSD) is standard and it can be controlled very precisely by the driver with the flick of a switch. The normal setting spreads the power out 50/50 between the front and rear wheels. If the wheels slip the system can automatically adjust the distribution of power for maximum traction.
Manual and three Auto modes are selectable depending on driving conditions. This type of witchcraft is brilliant for novice drivers and essential for serious enthusiasts. WRX STI also has selectable driving modes: Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp, each more performance-orientated.
A short throw manual six-speed gearbox is standard for cars bought on the island of Ireland. While WRX STI is just under £30,000 in the North, it will be a lot dearer in the Republic and only bought on special order from Subaru Ireland.
With symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive gluing the four wheels to the road, WRX STI has more grip than my mortal driving talents can use.