What is it?
Subaru may have pulled out of the World Rally Championship, but it still wants an STi for privateers to run in Group N, the category for more standard vehicles. Enter the Impreza WRX STi Spec C.
At first glance it may seem much the same as any other new-age STi, but don't be fooled. The Spec C is a lightweight, toughened-up homologation special that's full of trick stuff and is eye-wateringly fast once you get it in the groove.
For those who believe the regular STi lacks some edge in its latest incarnation, this Spec C could be just the car you¹ve been waiting for.
What's it like?
The Spec C has the same power and torque outputs as Japan's potent 2.0-litre WRX STi 304bhp and 311lb ft but it gets a new, high-response twin-scroll turbocharger and a reprogrammed ECU to boost mid-range thrust.
And that's just for starters. An extensive round of weight saving has cut out 30kg, and the chassis gets stiffer springs, dampers and bushes (up by 15 to 30 per cent). There's a more rigid front crossmember and a thicker rear anti-roll bar too. The result is an STi that truly moves things on, albeit at the expense of some day-to-day usability.
Three things in particular stand out. First, the savage mid-range response from that Japan-only 2.0-litre turbo engine. Off the line it's no quicker than a domestic STi, but gun it in second, third or fourth from about 4000rpm on and the pick-up is instant, relentless and frankly gob smacking all the way to the 8000rpm red line.
Second, on sticky 18-inch Bridgestones the Spec C packs titanic grip.
And third, the steering is enticingly quick and kart direct. On winding A roads the Spec C is a sensation, with instant turn-in, no body roll and plenty of feedback. You'd need a closed circuit and some brave pills to find the limits. However, the ride is on the firm side of harsh, particularly at low speeds, and the brake and clutch pedal actions are heavy. The Recaro sports seats are great, though.
Should I buy one?
Bottom line: this is the best-sorted new-shape STi to date and at £23,692 - virtually the same price as a normal STi in Japan - it looks a bargain.