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Performance First – Subaru STI ’s Development History

When it comes to the official high-end brand of auto modification, everyone is familiar with only Mercedes-Benz AMG, BRABUS, Audi ABT, BMW Alpina and so on. However, some of the more famous official refit brands of Japanese car brands are generally less well-known in the country than German car brands, but they do not know that these Japanese car official refit brands are really more refined and rich than others. Let us take a look at the STI brand used by Subaru.

★The origin of the name

The full name of STI is SUBARU TECNICA INTERNATIONAL, that is: Subaru International Technology Department, which is a subsidiary specializing in racing sports for Subaru Motors. Familiar car fans know that the STI logo uses pink, a color known as cherry blossom red that symbolizes masculinity in Japanese culture. The company was established on April 2, 1988 in Tokyo, Japan. Before April 2005, the company had always used STi as the name logo, and later all of them have been changed to capital letters (the car logo has not been changed), namely: STI.

In 1972, Subaru used the Leone model to participate in a car rally in southern Australia, when the brand’s first four-wheel drive was launched. Just after participating in the rally for the first time, in 1980, Subaru began to compete in the Safari Rally in East Africa using the Leone four-wheel drive model. Its purpose is to enter the World Rally Championship (WRC).

By 1988, with both a turbocharged engine and a full-time four-wheel drive system, Subaru began to occupy its own place in the market. In order to show its own strength, the STi department that was just established at this time, in January 1989, the STi team led by President Shilong Ichiro used the unreleased first-generation Legacy RS to conducted endurance driving test in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. The STI team set this car at an average speed of about 223km/h, setting a world record of 447 hours and 44 minutes of continuous driving and a total mileage of 100,000 kilometers (recorded as of April 2005).

After Subaru’s success in the Safari Rally in 1990, STi founder Shilong Ichiro began to decide to enter the World Rally Championship (WRC), at which time the STi brand team collaborated with Prodrive Company in the UK. Prodrive is a British company specializing in motorsports. It was founded in 1984, its business involves rally, touring car and Formula One. Among them, the most lasting one is the cooperation with Subaru World Rally Team (SWRT). At first, the Subaru World Rally Team, which participated in the WRC for the first time in 1990, did not perform well before the 1992 season.

In 1993, the Subaru team received a brand-new title sponsorship, which is known as British cigarette State Express 555. The classic yellow and blue color has made many fans still unforgettable. In this year’s New Zealand race, the famous driver Colin McRae drove the Legacy RS car to win the first championship of the Subaru team. Then Subaru started to use Impreza, a new car specially developed for WRC. In the next 1995, 1996 and 1997 races, Colin McRae drove Impreza to win the team championship for three consecutive years. These great achievements made STi truly go to the world.

Colin McRae, the great driver, was born in Scotland in 1968. His father and younger brother were both professional rally drivers. His father had won five British Rally Championships. Colin McRae, the young driver, has won two British Rally Championships. He won three consecutive WRC team championships with the Subaru Rally Team, and later won nine championships in four seasons with Ford Rally Team. In 1996, Queen Elizabeth II also awarded him the Order of the British Empire. Unfortunately, this great driver, was killed in a helicopter accident in 2007. The accident also affected his son and his two friends.

In 1994, during the glory of the Subaru Rally Team, STi launched the STi model code-named GC8 based on the Impreza WRX model. The car uses forged pistons, readjusted ECU, larger exhaust pipes, exclusive wheel rims and rear spoiler. The maximum power is 250 horsepower and the maximum torque is 315 N·m. The vehicle performance already has a clear gap with ordinary WRX models. In November of the same year, the Impreza WRX STi made a small modification, adding a DCCD (active central differential) system, and the maximum power was increased to 275 horsepower.

Since then, the Subaru Impreza WRX STi model has been continuously improved and continuously launched new models on the GC platform. It was not until the Impreza experienced six generations in 1999 that it ended the GC era. During this period, STi launched two particularly famous Impreza models, one is “22B“, and the other is the Impreza STi named S201.

In 1998, to commemorate the Subaru World Rally Team’s three consecutive team championships in the WRC, STi officially launched the two-door version of the 22B STi model with a wide body shape. One of the origins of the name is the code name of the car’s 2.2L turbocharged engine (reformed on the basis of the EJ20 engine), and the other is that “555” hexadecimal and becomes 22B. The 22B STi, which is limited to 400 units in Japan, was sold out instantly. In addition, according to the records, there are 16 units for the British market and 5 units for Australia, as well as 3 prototypes.

22B adopts a two-door sedan design in appearance, and the front and rear wide fender body of the vehicle is also based on the characteristics of a rally car. In terms of power, STi improved the EJ20 2.0L engine to 2.2L displacement, with a maximum power of 280 horsepower at 6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 363 Nm at 3200 rpm. Eibach springs are paired with Bilstein shock absorbers, 17-inch BBS forged golden wheel rims, all-aluminum alloy lightweight engine cover, adjustable angle large rear spoiler, etc. These are unique parts of this car’s special design. The famous 22B has become a legendary vehicle in the Subaru car series. There are still many fans in various countries to replicate this rare and unique type of 22B through various modifications.

In April 2000, Subaru launched the final product of the GC platform model – Impreza WRX STi S201, limited to 300 units in Japan. The redesigned front bumper, side skirts and rear bumper have better aerodynamics. And because it is a special version, the maximum power of the engine broke the Japanese gentleman agreement (280 horsepower) and reached 300 horsepower. In addition, all of the chassis parts also use STi’s exclusive upgraded components. Each one of the 16-inch RAYS forged wheel rims weighs 5.8 kg. The new LSD (Limited Slip Differential) makes the vehicle’s driving performance stronger.

After entering 2000, the Impreza model was completely revised, and the era of code-named GD platform came. The second generation of GD platform car series is also commonly known as the 7th, 8th and 9th generation Impreza. Although GC has achieved a brilliant generation, the new GD platform Impreza is even more classic. With the solid and rich experience in the field before, this generation of models not only has the basic STi version, but also continue to launched S202, S203, S204 Impreza with better performance. In addition, it has added a new model – STi SPEC C. The important feature of STi SPEC C is that the vehicle is closer to racing, the body weight is lighter than other STi, and the power and chassis systems are also upgraded to varying degrees. Although Impreza STi SPEC C is not sold in limited quantities, it is sold in Japan by order.

In one season rally race, the car must go through the extreme weather conditions, all kinds of steep terrain, the vehicle must not only insist on finishing the race, the most important thing is to keep the fastest speed to win. STI is constantly developing more reliable and excellent parts for vehicles under such harsh conditions. Back to the mass-produced car, Subaru Automobile has a good foundation, and then rebuilt by STI, making the overall performance of the vehicle more powerful.

★parts of the STI representative models

In addition to creating a WRC car that is well known to fans all over the world, STI is also responsible for the development of the power part of Subaru racing in the highest-spec Super GT touring car race in Japan (previously known as JGTC in 2005). At first, only the famous Japanese modified brand CUSCO team used the Impreza STi to participate in the touring car competition. It was not until 2009 that Subaru participated in the Super GT touring car competition as a manufacturer team. So far, in addition to Impreza models, STI has also developed power parts for the Super GT racing cars – Legacy and BRZ. Events in different fields have brought different development paths to the STI department, which has highlighted the pure sports performance gene of the brand.

Subaru Impreza has been using the EJ series engine from the GC platform, the most famous of which is the EJ20. In the early years, although the data on the EJ20 engine created by STI was not much different from the ordinary WRX models, in order to improve the potential performance and durability, STI equipped it with forged pistons, specially adjusted computers and other performance upgrade components. In the GD era, STI continued to optimize the EJ20 to further increase engine torque. The first Impreza model that entered the US market (8th generation, the second model on the GD platform) started to use the 2.5L engine code-named EJ25. The difference between the two engines is that EJ20 2.0L is biased towards high-speed squeezing horsepower, and the EJ25 2.5L pays more attention to low-torque performance.

As we all know, in addition to the horizontally opposed engine, Subaru’s other “housekeeping skill” is the full-time four-wheel drive system. The DCCD (Driver Control Center Diffrential) system created by STI even more fully utilizes the chassis control of Subaru’s symmetrical full-time four-wheel drive system. This system has been in use since the first-generation Impreza STI model. Models equipped with the DCCD system have front, middle and rear differentials. The driver can set the power and torque distribution of the four-wheel drive vehicle to achieve the best driving control. Generally speaking, this system is more biased to mechanical operation control, which makes high driving pleasure and great limitation.

It can be said that STI was originally established for Subaru’s outstanding performance in terms of performance. Due to the harsh rally competition, STI built a high-performance Impreza mass production vehicle based on its strong strength and experience. These are just the beginning of this brand. Since then, STI has also launched Forester, Legacy, BRZ and other models. All the STI styles of these models are not only have great performance, but also have outstanding appearance. There is no reason for those who like it to choose other brands.

In 2001, the Forester STi II Type M model was launched with a total of 800 units limited. The power system adopts a 2.0L turbocharged engine code-named EJ20 with a 5-speed manual transmission, a STi exclusive ECU. The maximum power reached 250 horsepower and the maximum torque reached 309 Nm. In addition, STi also improved the vehicle’s air intake and exhaust system, suspension shock absorbers, with RAYS wheel rims size 225/45 R17. The interior part uses the MOMO steering wheel and STI pink stitches on the handbrake and the gear handle. Finally, the appearance of the vehicle also changed the front and rear bumpers, side skirts and rear spoiler, making this STi model of Forester looks powerful.

The matured-developed STI will certainly not neglect Legacy, the first car model to represent Subaru in the WRC. In 2008, STI launched a Legacy code-named S402, which was called the ultimate high-performance Recreation Vehicle. In addition to the conventional car version of the S402, another travel version is even more gratifying. These two models are limited to a total of 402 vehicles. The power system is equipped with a 2.5L turbocharged engine code-named EJ25 with a 6-speed manual transmission. The maximum output power is 285 horsepower and the maximum torque is 392 Nm. The chassis control part includes the famous German Bilstein shock absorber, STI anti-roll tower bar, 18-inch BBS forged aluminum alloy wheel rims and Brembo brakes. Such a S402 car is also the ultimate pursuit of Subaru fans.

In 2015, STI released a further modified BRZ TS model which has been on the market in 2013. As the BRZ itself is a pure driving car, the control part is more handy after being built by STI. The chassis part is also replaced with Bilstein shock absorber, and the whole suspension link is also replaced with STI parts. There are not many exclusive parts in the exterior part, RECARO racing seat is added to the interior. Generally speaking, STI is a BRZ model built for the purpose of control, and it is still sold in Japan in a limited way.

In 2014, Subaru launched a model called Levorg, which was designed to replace the Legacy Station Wagon but was built on the Impreza platform. Levorg has an elegant and sporty style. In July 2016, Subaru released the Levorg STI Sport built by STI. From the name, it can be seen that this car is not as deep-built as those usual STI models. This time, Levorg STI Sport just added some STI sports-style exterior kits and interior decoration. The car is equipped with two turbocharged engines of 1.6L code-named FB16 and 2.0L code-named FA20 to choose from, but it has not been upgraded by STI. Perhaps we can see from this car that in the future, STI will start to diversify and no longer limited to the performance development.

In 2013, Subaru distinguished Impreza, WRX and WRX STI into two models. The renamed WRX STI was developed on a new platform. This generation of model not only has a sharp appearance, in terms of performance, after upgraded by STI, it has becamed the strongest model of the car ever since this car was built. Subaru won the Nurburgring 24-hour endurance championship in 2011 and 2012, and in 2015 and 2016, the new WRX STI racing car code-named VAB created by STI won the team championship (SP3T Group) again.

In 2016, Subaru began to accept bookings of the strongest WRX STI S207 model in the Japanese market (a total of 400 units were sold, of which the NBR performance optional package version is limited to 200 units and the yellow version is limited to 100 units). The car incorporates the latest high-tech technologies from Subaru and STI. The more detailed parts and ECU adjustments make the maximum horsepower reach 328 horsepower and the maximum torque is 431 Nm. The STI and S207 logos are marked on many parts of the body, and the configuration is still as high as ever. 19-inch BBS forged wheel rims, Brembo front six and rear four object piston brake calipers, STI springs with Bilstein shock absorbers, STI chassis reinforcement kits, STI adjust power system and other aspects. In addition, in terms of appearance, there are optional accessories such as side lower and rear lower carbon fiber spoilers, lightweight rim nuts, quick shifting system, etc. The entire STI team created the S207, a high-quality and high-performance car for the purpose of overall balance.

Among the many Subaru fans all over the world, some fans who cannot get the real STI models will try to buy and find parts produced by STI as much as possible to install on their ordinary version of the Subaru car. Since only a small number of Impreza STI models have been introduced in China, many WRX owners have to choose to transplant them. They bought a complete set of powertrain and chassis components from Hong Kong, Japan and other regions to install on their own vehicles. The purpose is to make their vehicles closer to the STI specifications.

STI, a brand born for competition, not only makes Japanese cars get proud achievements in the world, but also makes Subaru became a representative brand of performance vehicles. The exquisite technology and excellent performance of STI make the small-displacement high-performance car led by the Impreza even compare to other brands’ higher-level models. The richness of STI products and its unique charm are also the goals that most Japanese car fans have always pursued. At the same time, everyone also hopes that Subaru can return to the WRC field to reappear its glory.

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