STi swapped Subaru – The Slow Wagon


Product planners. No one, not even health and safety people, have been greater buzzkills to conversation of mythical car invention over the years. Coming in with their clipboards and common sense and budgets, they crush many great ideas with questions like who would buy it? Would it be profitable? Where would it fit in the model range? Can it actually be built?

Some suggestions are obviously never going to leave the bar, but others seem to make perfect sense. Like, why didn’t Subaru persist with the STi wagon when the second generation Impreza was launched in 2001? They did it with the GC series of cars to great success in Japan, and an STi requires minimal structural changes over a regular WRX. People with active lifestyles like to drive quickly too, and when it comes to moving things like bikes and going camping and taking spare sets of wheels to support your mates out at the track, wagons offer useful added practicality. I used to have a GC8 WRX wagon, it was great. Not only that, but wagons are cool. Geez, Mitsubishi even made a wagon version of their Evolution 9 with proper flared guards at the rear.

Any Given Reason was first introduced to Hamish years ago when he came to Burger Meet 2, the breakfast meet that was thoroughly rained out. Back then, his wagon was a standard peanut eye WRX with the stock wheels painted white. A lot has changed since then, as Hamish has throughly updated the spec of his car to that of a 2005 STi. The lighter, taughter, tighter version of the WRX intended to take the fight to Mitsubishi’s Evolution and to be the basis for Subaru’s Group N rally homologation.

 An STi is not a quantum mechanical change from a WRX, but the list of different parts is long and they each contribute a tiny amount to making a car that is substantially quicker and stronger. Hamish built an engine using the JDM 2.0-liter STi bottom end with Version 7 VVT heads (more on this later) and fitted the full STi driveline comprising of the tougher 6 speed gearbox, lighter prop shaft, R180 rear differential with numerically higher final drive ratio, and STi driveshafts front and rear.

The power is transferred through the stronger STi hubs, and retardation is provided by the factory STi Brembo’s fitted with Project Mu pads and fluid. The rear handbrake assembly, front lower control arms and the steering column knuckle are also STi items, whereas the sway bars and adjustable links, anti-lift kit, strut brace and a variety of suspension bushes are all from Whiteline.

STi Subaru’s have always looked muscularly aggressive, and until recently have managed this without looking overtly over-the-top. Lending this air to Hamish’s wagon are the front guards, bumper, splitters, grille, aluminium bonnet, scoop, front lip, side skirts and rear diffuser from the 2003-2005 STi. At one point Hamish even a set of STi sedan flared metal rear quarter panels that he planned to graft on to the wagon, but consultations with some body experts revealed this is be a massive job so the idea has been shelved for the time being. The wagon rides on 17×9 Rota’s wrapped in Advan AD08R’s.

Inside, the wagon has been swapped to meet STi factory specification – the blue suede trimmed seats and door panels, floor mats and Defi cluster can all be found, enhanced by a Perrin short shift kit.

One of the biggest challenges of the build was determining how to approach the folding rear seats. Hamish couldn’t deal with having blue STi front seats and regular black WRX rear seats, and after a great deal of searching he came across a rare set of factory STi folding wagon rear seats. As it turned out, Subaru did briefly make an STi wagon for the Japanese market, although it lacked all of the tricky mechanical components and was essentially a WRX with blue seats and STi badges. Unsurprisingly not many were sold; just enough for Hamish to get his matching seats.

Hamish has tried to keep the underbonnet looking as pedestrian as possible, but its mechanical specification is relatively extreme given that this is still his daily driver. The MRT intercooler pictured here has since been replaced by a larger one from Hyperflow, the cold air intake is from Process West, there is a Cobb 3 port solenoid for precision boost control, the injectors are 1000cc units from ID, a larger GTPS02 turbocharger is fitted, the engine runs on E85 fuel, headers are now equal length items from PSR Racing and it has antilag. Yes, antilag on a daily driver. The setup is good for a responsive 270kw at all four wheels.

In a world where billet-blocked Subaru’s are now reliably making 745kw, 270 isn’t a huge number. But what this car delivers cannot be accurately communicated by a number or a graph. I defy you to drive this car and not smile, and despite the suggestions of the registration plate it is far from it.

The engine is torquey and responsive across the entire range, and with the antilag switched on it punches out of corners and leaps to the next one like a car with twice the power. The noise is nothing like ninety percent of Subaru road cars out there as the equal length headers cancel all hints of Subaru burble and deliver a soundtrack that is pure Group N rally car. A launch control takeoff, with antilag cracking away, is as close to a special stage start as you can get without throwing a helmet on.

And all of this performance is wrapped up in a body style that will accomodate bikes, tools, spare wheels or whatever else you can think to move around the countryside while you have the time of your life. What’s not to like? C’mon Subaru, build us an STi wagon!

Oh. Sometimes you need to be careful about what you wish for.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles





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