June to October 2010 was the best four-month stretch of my life, all things considered. It was the time during which I owned my 2005 Subaru STi relatively free of problems. The first time I ever drove an STi was when mine showed up on a car carrier truck at work. They unloaded it from the truck and I immediately took it down the street to get a feel for it.
It was nothing like my previous WRX, which had marked the beginnings of my STi saga. This was a new kind of fast. It was the fastest, most powerful acceleration I had ever felt connected to. Sure, I’ve had a GT-R at wide open throttle (WOT) but GT-R’s don’t feel analog or direct until your reach one’s limits – and I’ve never been there. Where my WRX would give you a nice elongated push as it would accelerate through a gear, the STi would just fire through them. I had to adjust to the rate at which I needed to make my shifts to second and third gear because they came up so fast. In the turns, the STi was also a new sort of animal. Where my WRX would regularly let you know when you reached the limits of adhesion, the STi just never got there. I’d take the same turn faster and faster and it showed no signs of giving in. In a contest of balls between me and my new STi, I lost. This was, mind you, before I put summer track tires on the car.
During the initial drive and afterward, my coworkers and I started noticing small issues with the car. The lack of a windshield washer fluid tank would later indicate there had once been a Methanol injection system in the car. The existence of miscellaneous brackets would later turn out to be indication that the car once had a front-mount intercooler. All told, it turned out the car was in pretty good mechanical condition at the time, but the concern was with what had once been done to it.
To find all this out I took the car to Steve, a fellow STi owner that I had met by chance at the supermarket, 10 months prior. After a good looking-over from 9pm to 2am, Steve declared all systems nominal and said, “Time to try it out.” I climbed in the passenger seat, and Steve took the wheel. He started us with what I now know to be a ‘mild‘ rip-run down an unpopulated back road. At the time the car was doing things I didn’t think street cars were capable of. With the mild rip done, and the clutch and oil nicely warmed, Steve brought us to a stop on a dead-straight stretch of smooth, deserted back road. “Are you doing what I think you’re doing?”, I said. “Yep,” said Steve.
Using a pumping motion on the gas pedal, which simulates the function of a launch-control system, Steve blipped the engine up to 5,500rpm and held it there. VROOM-VROOM-VROOM-VROOM-VROOM-VROOM-VROOM… In my memory, the intense sound and vibration of the engine blips went on for what seemed like forever. I’m sure in reality it was no more than 2 seconds. Steve launches the car.
As I gripped the “oh-shit bar” (the handle on the roof by the top of the side window), the car lunged forward with a power I had never experienced. This was nothing like what happens when you floor a GT-R. This was so many times more intense. The sound. The vibration. The adrenaline. It was an order of magnitude more intense and visceral than the disconnected acceleration of a GT-R or a Z. First gear was gone before I could wrap my head around what was happening. SLAM. A punch in the kidneys from the passenger seat as Steve engaged second gear with a fury my WRX couldn’t even dream of. He was saying something about differential-clunking over the sound of the engine, but I was paying no attention. I had tunnel vision and watery eyes from the intensity of the ongoing experience and couldn’t care less about diff-clunk. SLAM. Third gear engaged with the same bone-breaking punch as the gear before it. Now we’re staying in gears long enough that my ears are opening up to other sounds. Still no diff-clunking for me, though. I now hear a fearsome air rushing sound which I have come to absolutely love. It is the sound of the turbo sucking air into the engine. My new car continues to rocket us through third gear and into fourth. From the passenger seat I have lost sight of the speedo needle. We have accelerated to speeds I dare not type, at a rate few readers can imagine. I’m sold!
Since then I have beaten down a Porsche Carerra S, among other contenders. I have learned to move my feet across the pedals in ways the layman would not understand. I have even managed to dance my STi over a stretch of tarmac with a speed and control that I would not have thought I could master in 4 years, never mind 4 months. Granted, it was a stretch I’d done many times before.
What I’ve learned is that an STi, in proper working order, is king of the road. I’m no professional driver, but I would dare any non-professional driver, in any esteemed supercar, to beat me and my STi on a stretch of closed backroad. When it’s working, that is…