Laguna Seca Raceway outside Monterey, California is hallowed racing ground. The foggy 2.2-mile stretch of tarmac is arguably one of the most famous tracks on the planet.Even if they’ve never driven it, most modern motoring enthusiasts are at least somewhat familiar with Laguna Seca. Just hearing the name will conjure images of every one of its 11 turns – most infamously the corkscrew.
As a driving purist, there are a few key things I want in my ideal car: a turbocharged engine producing 300 horsepower or more, all-wheel drive, manual transmission, stiff chassis and suspension, big and powerful brakes, hydraulic power steering, four doors, and robust but sporty interior.
Essentially, if I could design my own car, I would build the 2015 Subaru WRX STI.
Before I dig into the driving impressions, let me first pull apart the differences between the 2015 WRX and the 2015 WRX STI:
- The WRX has a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder making 268 hp. The STI’s 2.5-liter boxer four makes 305 hp.
- The WRX has a cable shifted six-speed manual, while the STI has a parallel linkage six-speed manual.
- The WRX’s all-wheel drive is continuous, where as the STI’s is a Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) unit.
- While electrons move the steering rack in the on the WRX, a hydraulic unit moves the STI’s wheels side-to-side.
- The differentials on the WRX are open front and rear. The STI, by comparison, has a helical limited-slip in the front and a Torsen limited-slip in the rear.
On the road
Before racing the STI around Laguna Seca, we journalists first hit the back roads of Carmel, California. Having just been in this neck of the woods a few weeks previous in the 2015 WRX, I had some preconceived notions of how the STI would handle. They were wrong.
At first grip of the steering wheel, you know you’re dealing with a different beast.
The STI’s hydraulic power steering is heavy but alive. You have to work the wheel to get it to do anything. Out on the road, though, it twitches and wrestles with you like a big, flapping marlin. Unlike the WRX’s electric power steering, STI’s hydraulic unit transfers every roadway imperfection into your palm. If you’re not a driving enthusiast, you’ll hate it. If weekend back-road crusades are your lifeblood, you’ll love it.
After lunch we were taken to the track. There, we were given head-socks and helmets and told to choose our cars. We were instructed to put the all-wheel drive into ‘Auto Minus’ and the traction control into ‘Track.’
Spaced a few seconds apart, we were introduced to Laguna Seca and to the other personality of the STI. Out on the streets of Carmel, the STI proved a keen canyon carver. On Laguna, it became a – pardon the cliché – track tamer.
The only other cars I’ve driven on Laguna were the F10 BMW M5 and the F12 M6. While those