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Driving Impressions:
Subaru Performance Tuning –
Enhancing the Journey

Impreza WRX STI




  • STI Lip Spoiler STI
  • STI Aluminum & Leather Shift Knob-6MT
  • STI Short-Throw Shifter-6MT
  • STI Shifter Bushing
  • SPT Strut Tower Bar-Front
  • SPT Lower Chassis Brace
  • Front and Rear STI Pink Springs – STI springs are stiffer and lower the vehicle ride height by 10mm; they reduce body roll and improve handling
  • SPT 5-Door Cat-Back Exhaust System

The Pearl White STI that I picked up the second day was equipped with many of the same features as the WRX – shifter and bushing, shifter knob, front lip spoiler, strut tower and chassis braces, and performance exhaust system. It also had a set of STI Pink Springs and Ferodo brake pads.


The feel of the STI was more deliberate than that of the WRX – perhaps approaching the difference between a performance road car and a track car. Although the STI was tractable, lazily poking through rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles made me feel impatient – not because of the slow pace, but because a car like the STI demands freedom! Wheeling around mountain curves and jutting up valleys are more the STI's forte.


I toured the Rim of the World Scenic Highway (SR 18) from SR 210 to Big Bear City, then returned on SR 38. These roads were busier than Angeles Crest, and an early portion of SR 18 was four lane. But the twists, turns, and turnouts were there – and at higher altitudes. Along this route, you reach at least 8,440 feet above sea level.


The STI came alive in the mountains – so much so that I wanted to go around again! It's completely undaunted as it gobbles up the road. While on the one hand it takes driver input without hesitation (particularly with the Subaru Intelligent Drive set in Sport #), on the other hand it can be vicious in laying down the power. You can feel it grab through the steering wheel as well as the seat of your pants.


The Final Word


If you ever have a chance to follow either of the two routes, take it! They're thrilling to drive, and there aren't many like them across the country.


And here's an oft-repeated, but sincere, admonition brought to mind by driving the two cars: Be prepared when you drive something as powerful as a WRX or (especially!) an STI. Enroll in a performance driving course. The more powerful a vehicle, the more difficult it is to control – under acceleration, braking, and turning. All these dynamics gain added dimensions with added horsepower and torque.


For more about the 2009 WRX, go to Fall 2008 Drive at and to Version 5.3.


Find SPT parts and prices at




To see more images from the mountain drives, click here.


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