Car: 2015 WRX STI ~20k miles.

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List Price: $35,000

Driving conditions: City streets, highway, ~20 minute blast through the mountains.

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So I took my ATS in for an oil change and to take care of a slight rattle in the interior. My only loaner option was an Escalade, which is not really my style, so I convinced the dealer to let me take a 2015 WRX STI from the used lot.

I’ve never driven an STI so I was pretty excited, particularly considering how I fawned over the original STI (in the US) when I first started college.

I don’t find the car to be particularly ugly like a lot of people say. The car is certainly not handsome by any means, but it’s not horrible. The spoiler is obviously ridiculous, and frankly a little embarrassing. That said, I find myself smiling when I walk towards the car. It must take me back to my late teens/early 20's or something.

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The first think I noticed about the car when I started it was how loud it is. The STI is an obnoxiously loud car, and it’s not a pleasant noise, particularly under normal driving conditions. When pushed, the engine/exhaust sounds nice, exciting, and and makes Richard Hammond-esq turbo noises but otherwise, it’s horrible. It drones at all speeds, although the droning is less bad on the highway where road and tire noise drown it out a bit. I complain about my ATS’ lack of sound regularly, but the STI has a bad mix of not sounding good coupled with being loud all the time.

At first though, the sound adds to the excitement of driving the car. After driving it with vigor, I would surprised to determine the car is is not a particularly eager car. It checks a lot of boxes such as heavily weighted steering, a stiff suspension, and lots of noise, but it isn’t a car that felt like it was dying to be driven hard at all times like an RX8. Don’t get me wrong, the car is very capable, it’s fast, it handles well, it stops fine, etc, it just doesn’t beg to be flogged. This is not a particularly “smile inducing” car.

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Engine and Transmission: The engine is great and has a lot of personality beyond the exhaust note. It makes great turbo noises and it’s an old school turbo motor in that it is a little laggy (in a good way) and likes to be towards the top of the tachometer as opposed to mid range like a lot of modern turbo cars, including my ATS. For me, the STI has the perfect amount of power for a daily driver and I actually liked the power delivery because it delivers a sense of drama.

The shifter was lovely. Short throws, I never missed a gear under any condition. The clutch is consistent and well weighted. Not quite as smooth as an RX8's but better than a 996 911's or a 228.

Steering, Suspension, and Brakes: Turn in is good, but not as good as my ATS. The steering is far too heavy. Despite the weight, feedback was minimal and there is too much a dead spot at center. Overall, the ride is best described as “punishing.” It was far too stiff to live with and, at least compared with my ATS, I could not discern any major handling improvements to justify the suspension firmness. The brakes were just fine.

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Interior: The interior was mostly tasteful. This is an economy car at its heart so I wasn’t expecting much and it was actually better than I thought it would be. My two complaints are the stereo/touch screen were embarrassingly bad. It’s almost as if Subaru just assumed all the stereos would be immediately replaced so they didn’t bother. Besides design, the interior was incredibly rattly for a fairly new car. If it has this many rattles at 20k miles, I dread to hear what it will sound like at 70k miles. Visibility was excellent, particularly from the front. I loved the small windows in front of the mirrors.

Verdict: If I was 10 years younger, I may have liked the car more. Perhaps I have become pampered in my 30's and driving a “luxury” car for the past couple years.

The car was fast, and fairly fun to drive. However, it lacks a certain “special-ness”like a Miata or Guilia. It’s not a car that begs to be driven hard, although the engine does like to rev.

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If you need four doors and speed on a “budget”, the STI is probably a good choice, but for $35k, if you don’t need 4 doors and AWD, check out a Camaro SS or Mustang GT. If AWD and 4 doors is necessary, I would probably prefer a used 335xi.

Random thoughts: Despite CUE’s issues, I’ve really become spoiled by the large screen. I found the STI’s backup camera screen to be startlingly small. Also, the STI’s key fob is tacky and seemed to come from a late 90's GM product. It also didn’t work while it was in my pocket. Finally, I’ve become totally dependent on having a heads up display.

This car also made me aware of my age. I would have loved the exhaust noise and looked past the radio, constant noise, and constant rattles. I’ve gone soft!

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Summary -

Good: Engine, fun noises when pushed, fast, roomy, good visibility. A simple, fast, pretty fun car.

Bad: Noise, interior rattles, radio controls, spoiler.

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Summation: A fairly fun, fairly fast, fairly good handling car that stops just short of being a “great”car.