First DriveUltimate Impreza STi mixes sharper responses with pleasing usability. Just don’t expect to see too many on UK roads
First DriveIf the WRX STI is already very much your cup of tea then there’s unlikely to be any way of convincing you that the 320R's power boost is a bad idea.
What is it?
An extra-special, limited edition of a car that’s already pretty special in the first place. Meet the Nurburgring Challenge Package version of the Japanese-market-only Subaru Impreza WRX STi S206.
Using the ‘stock’ STi four-door as its basis, Subaru’s in-house performance division has pushed the boat out as far as it dares here. Re-profiled internals, a new turbocharger, a new exhaust and new ECU settings conjure 316bhp of power, and torque of up to 318lb ft, from the 2.0-litre flat four that Subaru fits to the standard STi in Japan.
The STi’s chassis has been stiffened, its wheel angles reappraised, and fitted with inverted Bilstein monotube dampers, BBS lightweight alloy wheels, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres and monoblock Brembo brakes.
On top of that, Subaru has equipped one third of the cars in the S206’s 300-off production run with its ‘NBR Challenge Package’, which consists of even more special 19in alloys, a carbonfibre roof, an adjustable carbonfibre spoiler and special badging. This is the choicest of the most choice, then.
What’s it like?
Despite the hardcore-sounding suspension makeover, the S206 NBR rides quite comfortably, and has enough compliance and finesse to deal with broken surfaces without bump-steer. Even at low speeds you notice vastly improved steering feel, too.
STi’s engine revisions don’t bring about new extremes of performance when you really stretch the car. Having said that, a standard STi is a rapid enough device in its own right. The S206’s engine makes for much better, cleaner throttle response from low revs, however; it makes that frenzied speed all the easier and quicker to access.
The Impreza’s limit handling is more greatly transformed, however. Even with the centre differential locked, the all-wheel-drive S206 NBR carves a smooth, precise line though a fast bend entirely without understeer. Its response to inputs, either through the accelerator or the steering wheel, is more immediate, and grip levels are very serious indeed. And the S206 NBR has fantastic roll-resistance, too: never do you feel guilty of bullying the outside tyres in this car as you might in a lesser STi.
Should I buy one?
If you can. Subaru sold all 300 S206s without breaking a sweat at the end of 2011, so even if Subaru UK did want to import the car, it would already be too late.
Subaru’s STi performance department is unequivocal about this fast Impreza, however: it is the zenith of the evolution of the current version, as they see it. And we agree wholeheartedly.
Unofficial ‘grey’ imports are likely to be in extremely short supply in the UK, and will probably change hands for prices that dwarf the £50k that Subaru asked for an Impreza Cosworth in 2010. But on this evidence, for the Subaru diehard at least, we suspect no premium would be too great.
Subaru WRX STi NBR Challenge Pack
Price: circa £50,000 (plus taxes, import charges); Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-60mph: 4.5sec; Economy: tbc; Co2: tbc; Kerbweight: 1470kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls horizontally opposed, 1994cc, turbocharged; Power: 316bhp at 6400rpm; Torque: 318lb ft at 3200-4400rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual