I’m not talking about the fancy hotels and scenic vistas carmakers lay on to try and impress us, but the places and the roads that ordinary residents take for granted, the parts that simply exist – not for tourism but regular convenience.
The reason I’m thinking about this is that I’m currently in Sweden on the European launch of the ’15 Model Year’ Subaru WRX STI, and the events team has done itself proud.
PistonHeads’ Dan Trent and I spent yesterday afternoon hacking our way along some simply amazing not-quite-single-lane country roads, taking in villages and forests – and even ferries – that were at once quite ordinary but enormously evocative.
For much of the time it was like being on a civilised version of a rally stage. Real ‘Subaru country’ as the PR puts it – but true none-the-less. In the same way that the squally winds and misting rainfall perfectly represented ‘Subaru weather’ as well. It was the almost perfect combination of location, motivation and precipitation. Well-won serendipity sublime.
I digress; this is a Launch Pad, right, so you were hoping to hear a little about the car. Well, there’s a full review coming – of course – but the new WRX STI is a heavily revised version of the old WRX STI, which was officially discontinued in the UK in 2012. Changes in the exchange rate have now made it a viable proposition for the UK market once again, with prices slashed to £28,995; the question is whether it’s too little too late for this old warrior.
Using a remapped version of the same 300hp 2.5-litre turbo engine as before, it’s fast – and feels it – but almost monstrously inefficient compared to the likes of the latest VW Golf R and Audi S3.
However, Subaru has made a considerable number of changes under the skin in an effort to vastly improve response and feel. The “symmetrical” four-wheel drive system is untouched, but almost every other chassis component is stronger or stiffer, the steering ratio is faster, the body shell reinforced, and the interior upgraded.
Performance is assured, and Subaru’s ambitions are modest – just 1,000 examples are expected to come to Europe every year, so it will have a measure of exclusivity on its side. Converting those who aren’t already established STI fans won’t be easy. But on that basis, maybe it won’t have to…