To drive tuned usually means to drive compromised... In the quest of speed, we often give up on comforts. Deleted, heavy sound systems, spine-shattering suspension set-ups, lopey idling and a back seat full of roll-cage-scaffolding always makes even the quickest trip to the market a chore.
But this? Never have we driven something that was so hard-core, but at the same time, compliant, livable, and downright comfortable. Introducing the 2011 Subaru WRX STi by Cobb Tuning.
Let it snow.
So what's all the hubub? Let's start with the Subie itself. Subarus hold a lofty position in the Classic Car Club ethos. There's a beautiful complexity to the STi that reveals itself in a simple way—hardcore speed. The complexity comes from a rally-ready four-wheel drive system, variable locking rear differential and sophisticated four-banger up front that spins up an agressive forced induction turbo set up. This is the same system David Higgins used to claim the top step of the Rally USA podium, ahead of the likes of Mr. Ken Block.
Under the supervision of Cobb Tuning, this STi has been outfitted with a full kit of motorsport weapons grade bolt ons. Simple, but precisely engineered Cobb upgrades including a short ram intake, downpipe and tune turn this stock 305bph / 300 lb-ft vehicle into a 405bhp / 495 lb-ft hand grenade.
The fact that Cobb can squeak out an additional 100hp and 195 lb-ft of torque without swapping a turbo or changing internals is truly impressive. The Subie has just the right amount of upgrades, turning the fun up to 11 without ruining the driveability in any way. This rally-bred sedan begs to be road-tripped, in the worst weather.
Upon stepping into the Cobb STi, a few things are instantly noticable. First off, it's comfortable. The race seats offer firm support that are capable of keeping the driver and occupants firmly in their place while rocketing through the corners, but they're also fully adjustable, subtle and even heated. The dash provides an intuitive touch screen control system and cup holders able to hold an iPhone and a big gulp.
The other thing you notice is an a-pillar full of boost gauges. Turn the key, whip the engine up to speed and watch half a dozen analog instruments blink and spin up with the exuberance of a race car.
It's pretty loud too. not so loud that it droans you to death or requires you to shout to your co-pilot, but there's enough of an unholy note to remind you this STi commands your full respect and attention.
What a great gearbox. You don't so much put the car in gear. Instead, the Cobb shifter "accepts" your selection with a metallic clink and a snap. The torque rippling through the car just requires a light lift off the clutch and you're rocketing off.
So far, for such a heavy state of tune, the STi is happy to lurch out of the driveway and navigate a suburban neighborhood without any drama. Might as well be your English teachers' Prius. Once away from the cul-de-sacs and Christmas lights and on a twisty, two lane back road; the STi comes into its own. A healthy press of the pedal results in instant power that pushes you back in the seat and twists the wheel hard to the right as the front wheels cope with the wave of power that's been thrown at them while still grabbing at the cold gritty tarmac, in search of traction.
Once you regain control of the wheel, keep your foot down and the speed comes at very fast. The landscape passes by you in a blur. Grab second gear and that metallic shift snaps in like a round chambering in a sniper rifle. Back on the gas and the tidal wave of power in hard.
First, let's talk about the speed. It isn't supercar speed. It does't woosh you up to triple digits like other CCC rides. Instead, the STi, gives a bark and follows it up with a serious kick to the chest as the G-forces build. Once off the gas, the blow off valves release the built up pressure in the turbos with a shooooooosh noise reminiscent of crashing waves at the beach.
Steering is surprisingly sharp. The smallest inputs translate to immediate action. For a moment, I found myself over correcting small movements, and driving down the street like a drunk pinballing between the white lines. Once acclimiated to the sharp steering, it proved quite impressive. While carrying unnecessiliary quick speeds (we owe you a review, right?) approaching a corner, with just a slight lift for a second, just a touch of turn in and the STi displays more grip and speed than most anything I've driven.
Ultimately, this car presents one of the best examples of savage performance and everyday drivability, so go on your own rally and harken your inner McCrae.
Words by Mike Prichinello, photo/video by Jon Harper