I have tons of dream cars. In an ideal world, my garage would be a cavernous, climate-controlled structure willed with a McLaren F1, a Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series, a Rolls-Royce Wraith, as many Figoni & Falaschi Delahayes as I could find, an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale, and the Batmobile. Unfortunately, I'm not Bruce Wayne, so I drive a 2009 Honda Fit with 90,000 miles on the odo and a passenger side door that needs some serious bodywork.
I also maintain what I call the "reasonable dream car," which is the awesome car that I want and which is priced in such a way that I might be able to purchase one in the foreseeable future without jeopardizing the rest of my life. The RDC needs to be practical enough for day-to-day life, it needs to be affordable enough to be a reasonable goal, and it needs to be awesome enough for a track day.
For me, this has been the WRX STI for some time. Four doors, a hatch, performance and handling that can shame many more expensive cars, and a price that's quite close to the average sale price of a new car make for a compelling package to someone who wants to go to rallycross events. Needless to say I was very happy to see this car show up in my driveway one morning.
The bodywork is hit and miss; the front end looks great with a well-proportioned grille, a more angular hood scoop, and some headlights that look both angry and focused, but once your eye drifts rear of the A-pillar everything suddenly goes very bland, with one exception. The roof-line and bodywork of most of the car simply looks like a generic small Japanese car. The spoiler that is so large that it puts my ironing board to shame (and that my wife describes as "embarrassing") gives it away as something more aggressive, however.
The interior might be the biggest upgrade over the STI's predecessor. There's rich-feeling leather with sharp red accents and switchgear that doesn't feel like it came from an econobox. It's a very different place from the cheap cockpit of a 2014 STI. Unfortunately, the infotainment system is confusing and awkward, but you can't have everything, right?
Subaru took what was already fantastic about the car, the engine, and left it alone. The result is that the car is still motivated by the same 305 hp 2.5L boxer that we, and the tuning scene is used to. That means that the STI is still really damn fast, and there are already tons of kits out there to turn that 305 up quite a bit. The sloppiness of the previous car in the corners, however, is completely gone. The chassis is stiffer and the suspension is stiffer, and the result is handling that finally suits this car's power.
All of this comes at a price, however, and that price is that it's really, really damn stiff and awkward around town. Your passengers might not be quite so happy about the ride, and traffic is damn near miserable. As a driver, it's an incredible car, especially for the price, but my passengers all report a certain level of head-bobbling discomfort. Everything on this car is so adjustable except the suspension; we'd love to see Subaru add a magnetorheological suspension system like the C7 Corvette's as an option to this car.
The WRX STI is even more of a performance bargain than it has ever been, but it's still a flawed automobile. It lurches awkwardly at low speeds, it causes your family's heads to bump against the headrests in an unfortunate way, and it doesn't come as a hatchback anymore. I loved it despite its flaws, because it satisfied me as a driver to such a degree, but others won't.
And I still wish it came as a hatchback.