Winter is inevitable for us Toronto residents. Every year just before Christmas, the road conditions worsen significantly, and it seems that the driving skills of the general public deteriorate at a similar rate. I personally enjoy driving in the winter – when I have something with all or rear-wheel-drive and a serious set of snow tires, I’m unstoppable. Even more enjoyable is driving in inches of snow – some cars are much better suited for this environment than others. I had a week with the 2014 Subaru WRX STi Tsurugi Edition, the “last hurrah” to the current-generation WRX.
The day after I picked up the Tsurugi, my home in Georgetown, Ontario was hit with a dumping of twelve inches of snow. Rather than listening to the storm warnings and weather advisories, I decided to hop in the car and go for a drive. And what a drive it was; Subaru’s unstoppable symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and adjustable drive modes made the WRX STi absolutely invincible in the otherwise awful weather. Power is sent to the wheels from the 2.5L turbocharged flat four-cylinder engine; 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. The numbers are very good, almost as good as the power delivery itself. There is a bit of turbo lag as expected, but the car hauls serious ass in second, third, and fourth gears.
Putting the car into Sport-Sharp (Sport#) mode (selectable via the knob located behind the shifter) improves throttle response and transforms the car into what I like to refer to as the perfect hooning machine. The STi at the end of the day is a Subaru, so the two traction and stability control systems are easily defeated by simply pressing and holding the button on the dashboard. I must warn you though – disabling all driver aids and putting the car into Sport-Sharp will seriously impact fuel economy. In regular driving, I was able to average 10.9L/100km. In “hoon-mode”, the car could do no better than 14L/100km. Subaru recommends 94-octane fuel, and I happily complied, but good old-fashioned premium grade will work just fine as well.
Subaru brought in the Tsurugi Edition for a couple of reasons; the main being to create a unique “grand finale” to this beloved generation of the rally-bred WRX lineup. However some drivers complained that the STi sedan was a bit too boy racer-ish in its looks, with its huge park bench wing on the trunklid. Personally, I prefer the hatchback for its added practicality, but I could do with the sedan, with or without the huge spoiler. I digress though; the STi Tsurugi with its deleted rear wing looks great. This edition also has unique wheels (and boy are they sharp!) and an STi-branded front lip to differentiate it from the regular car. The overall package looks exceptionally good. This is a WRX you can show up in a business meeting to without your client assuming that you’ve borrowed your kid brother’s car for the day.
The WRX and WRX STi have never been about the toys either. I drove a base 2013 WRX last winter, and it lacked leather seats, a navigation system, and any other gadgets that you may expect from a car costing north of $30,000. The Tsurugi Edition changes things a little bit; you get toys that the young car guy will appreciate just as much as older, more grown-up car guys. Toys such as HID headlights with front fog lights, heated leather-ish seats, a power sunroof, and a premium audio system with the subwoofer make the Tsurugi particularly appealing.
I will say though that even though this exclusive edition of the Subaru STi still does not take away from the harsh and stiff nature of the regular car. I consider myself to be extremely proficient; I’ve been driving manual transmissions since I got my license, and I had some issues getting used to the clutch on the Tsurugi. The ride is particularly unforgiving, and daily commutes in traffic can become tedious if you’re not up to the challenge. Once I became used to it though, this STi is like nothing else. In fact, I exclaimed to my editor and the rest of my team that this is likely my favourite tester in the past year; it’s seriously excellent.
There were a few very small nitpicks I had over the course of my time with the STi; thankfully none of them were related to the way the car drives. I had some issues connecting my Nexus 5 phone to the Bluetooth system in the car. My colleague couldn’t get his iPhone paired either, so it wasn’t just me. Additionally, for this price point ($41,495 as-tested), I would expect the car to have automatic headlights, something the Tsurugi lacks. Each of these things is completely forgivable though – no car is perfect, but this one is about as close as it gets.
As a team, we have driven numerous SUVs and all-wheel-drive sedans that we considered to be excellent for year-round driving. In my eyes though, the Subaru WRX STi is unparalleled as a year-round car for the Canadian climate. The manual transmission and merciless nature of the car makes it one of the most involved drives out there. We reviewed an STi Tsurugi in the fall and had the chance to put it through its paces on a closed course, and thought it was pretty great. Nothing prepared me for how hard I would fall for it after a week through the winter though; it’s truly nothing short of astonishing. If the upcoming redesigned generation of STI is even slightly better than this one is, I just might have to bite the bullet.
2014 Subaru STi Tsurugi Edition Gallery