By KBB.com Editors
In a small market segment the 2008 Impreza WRX STI has just one true rival -- the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Like that car, the STI is in its third US iteration this year, this time with a full makeover, transforming the STI from sedan to five-door hatchback. Inspired by Subaru's WRC Concept shown at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, the production car loses none of the concept's menacing demeanor. The STI once again has a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, this time making 14 horsepower more than the 2.0-liter powerplant found under the hood of Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution.You'll Like This Car If...
The 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI remains the perfect car for those who rank ultimate point-to-point speed very highly but are unwilling to compromise utility and all-weather drivability to get it. The 2008 model adds utility and creature comforts without changing its heavily performance-oriented mission statement.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you consider yourself a hard-core performance enthusiast, you may wish that the STI felt more nimble and responsive to quickly change direction. And, the optional navigation system can sometimes seem counterintuitive to operate.What's New for 2008
The 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI gets a lot more than a facelift for the 2008 model year, which takes the car from four-door sedan to five-door hatchback, the only available configuration. The STI has grown in size and grown up, offering practicality and some modern day luxuries to broaden its targeted appeal.Driving It Driving Impressions
The WRX STI can be driven with incredible confidence in uncertain conditions. As a result, few cars are able to keep pace on a back road. The recipe is further honed in 2008 with more horsepower, better steering and increased chassis stiffness. Subaru's Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) system allows the driver to adjust throttle response to one of three settings. It's easy to tell one setting from the next, with "Sport Sharp" being the most aggressive. With the driver-controlled center differential set to "Auto (-)" the torque bias shifts rearward, which enhances responsiveness in cornering. The five-door wide-body shape actually creates some downforce which, combined with a wider track and an engine mounted lower in the chassis, contributes to the feeling of stability when driving quickly. The new STI offers considerably better brake feel than its predecessor and uses "Super Sport ABS" to electronically adjust brake-force distribution to an optimum level.Favorite Features
Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD)
In 2008 the STI's Driver Controlled Center Differential adds three different performance modes and six driver-selectable differential locking settings, making it possible to dial in just the right level of traction for any road condition.
Close-Ratio Six-Speed Transmission
The tightly geared six-speed manual transmission is a perfect compliment to the easily accessible torque of the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, making spurts of acceleration entertaining in any gear.
The 2008 STI has a much-improved interior compared to its predecessor. Seats covered in Graphite Gray Alcantara with Carbon Black-trimmed leather bolsters have replaced the fluorescent blue seating of the previous model and, for the most part, the plastics are of a higher grade. We could do without the aluminum-look trim that sweeps around the cockpit and feels inexpensive. Knobs, buttons and switches are within easy reach and the comfortable steering wheel now incorporates audio and cruise controls. The hatchback design offers more rear-seat room and notably more interior space than any STI to date.Exterior
The 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI looks fast standing still, in spite of its somewhat utilitarian five-door configuration. As with previous models, there is a gaping vent atop the hood and bulging fenders and rear quarter panels enhance the car's seriously sporting intent. Big, 18-inch wheels and wide tires complete the look from the side view, while quad exhaust pipes and a central underbody diffuser take the aggressive stance rearward.Notable Standard Equipment
Standard equipment on a 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI includes large 18-inch wheels fitted with 245/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 600 high-performance tires. The front 12.7-inch Brembo brakes are matched with 12.3-inch rears, which work with an electronic Vehicle Dynamics Control system (VDC) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD). There are front seat-mounted side-impact and full side-curtain airbags for front and rear occupants. A 305-horsepower turbocharged Boxer four-cylinder engine is mated to Subaru's noted symmetrical all-wheel drive and a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission.Notable Optional Equipment
There are only two option packages available on the 2008 STI: The BBS Package, which includes 18x8.5-inch BBS wheels and fog lamps, and the BBS and Navigation Package, which further adds a touch-screen GPS system and Bluetooth capability.
Subaru's 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer engine carries over from the 2007 STI, although not unchanged for 2008. Thanks largely to the implementation of the Dual Active Valve Control System (DAVCS), peak horsepower reaches 305, an increase of 12 over the previous model. Peak torque goes unchanged at 290 pound-feet, but arrives 400 rpm sooner, for quicker response. That said, the STI's close-ratio transmission makes it nearly impossible to be in a situation where the car lacks response. The STI is equipped with a Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD), which now offers three preset performance settings to send differing amounts of torque to the rear wheels. The system also offers six manual differential-locking modes. Finally, the STI now comes with Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), which has three driver-selectable modes, including "off".
2.5-liter Boxer-4 Turbocharged
305 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
290 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23
The 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $35,500. The BBS Package adds 18x8.5-inch BBS wheels and fog lamps and costs roughly $2,000, while the BBS and Navigation Package adds an additional $1,800. Navigation and Bluetooth are available only after adding BBS wheels and fog lamps, which means that a fully loaded STI tops out around $39,500 with destination and delivery charges included. We expect our Fair Purchase Prices to continue reflecting real-world transaction prices near MSRP. The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is priced similarly and remains the only direct STI competitor. As for resale value, we expect the STI to retain better-than-average residuals over time, remaining a few percentage points above the Lancer Evolution.