Chassis deserves even stickier tires, sport seats too wide for some, controversial styling, subpar audio system.
The Subaru Impreza WRX STI has a strong — one might say rather rabid — following. On the order of Celtics and Lakers fans. We have a colleague here who regularly flies the Subaru flag via his WRX T-shirts and baseball caps. And why not? The Subie is a hoot to drive, with plenty of speed and attitude to go 'round.
Still, we've had a long-standing gripe with the STI: When driven hard, it feels rather soft in terms of steering response and body control compared to its archrival, the razor-sharp Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The upside is that the STI is a better daily driver due to its more compliant ride. That's a considerable advantage for those who live in neighborhoods where road maintenance is about as common as Ron Artest making both free throws.
With the 2010 Subaru WRX STI Special Edition, the company attempts to appease us (OK, not just us) with a unique STI that sports the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) "Spec C" suspension calibrations and wheel fitments. That translates into crisper response and handling as the SE responds with more immediacy and less body roll when you're slicing up a curvy road. So now the STI handles like it should, right?
Well...almost. Whereas before, the STI ran out of suspension before it ran out of tire grip, now with the Special Edition it's the other way around. But that's nothing that replacing the tires (after you've suitably worn them out) can't fix. Overall, it's an agreeable setup and we'd like to see Subaru put this suspension on the standard STI, and put the standard STI's suspension on the standard WRX.
Another bonus is that this slightly beefed-up but also slightly decontented STI (halogen headlights versus HIDs, a four-speaker/single-CD player versus 10-speaker/CD changer audio system and manual versus automatic climate control) stickers for $2 grand less than the standard STI. That said, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR still has the edge in terms of sharpness and communication, though its ride is notably stiffer. And if blistering acceleration and all-wheel drive are not mandatory, you could save big money by considering the feisty Mazdaspeed 3.
Under the STI SE's scooped hood lies the STI's familiar 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that cranks out 305 horsepower. Though it makes decent power down low, it doesn't hit its stride until about 3,500 rpm, when the turbo really kicks in. The thrust is accompanied by the meaty, somewhat gruff sound of the Subaru's boxer (horizontally opposed piston layout) engine, which brings some welcome character in a world of buzzy inline-4s.
During instrumented testing, this Subie sprinted to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and ran down the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds. Respectable times, to be sure, but we've gotten sub-5s out of previously tested STIs. We're guessing the culprit was a stickier track surface this time around that didn't allow any wheelspin off the line (which allows the engine to get up into its power band quicker). The quickness will cost you, as the EPA ratings for this hot rod stand at 17 city/23 highway mpg and 19 mpg combined. We averaged 17.7 mpg in mixed driving.
We found that the six-speed's shifter made it easy to grab gears despite a somewhat notchy feel, and the clutch was a little on the heavy side for a few staffers. But braking was hard to fault, with a firm, progressive pedal and an impressive 106-foot stopping distance from 60 mph.
Taking on a curving canyon road brings out what's most special about the Special Edition. Though a few of us felt that the steering was too light, the rack was precise and its response noticeably crisper compared to a standard STI. Reduced body roll also contributes to the SE's eager feel in the turns. As you'd expect, the ride is firmer, though not uncomfortably so (it's still smoother than an Evo's).
At the track, the 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX STI whipped through the slalom at nearly 70 mph (68.8 to be exact) and pulled 0.93g running 'round the skid pad — both respectable performances. Pushed very hard, the tires will slide, albeit in a linear, controlled fashion that's easy to rein in. Though those Dunlop SP Sport 600 high-performance summer tires should be enough for most folks, hard-core enthusiasts may want to consider switching to stickier performance rubber after they wear out the Sport 600s.
With its efficient three-spoke layout, thick rim and well-placed thumb detents, the steering wheel feels great and its tilt-and-telescoping feature allows drivers of all sizes to find an ideal position at the helm. But despite the front seats' aggressive bolsters, most folks will find that they're too wide to provide that reassuringly snug fit when powering through the turns. The seats are generally comfortable on long cruises, as they provide firm back support; still, a few of us felt that under-thigh support could be beefed up a bit.
In back, ample room and support are provided for two passengers; even 6-footers are comfortably accommodated, thanks to the high roof line. As expected, squeezing in a third could cause grumbling on anything other than a very short trip.
As stated before, the Special Edition's firmer suspension calibrations don't exact much in the way of a ride penalty; the suspension remains supple enough to take the bumps and ruts of pockmarked streets in stride.
The SE's instruments are large and clear, and the primary controls are where you'd expect and intuitive to use. There's the familiar and proven three-knob setup for the climate control, and once you've memorized their locations, the steering-wheel-mounted audio controls allow "no-look" operation of your tunes. There is no dedicated iPod input/interface; however, you can play one through the standard auxiliary jack. Sound quality was so-so at best. When cranked up, it lacked the clarity and punch that we'd expect in a $30,000 car.
There's no denying the versatility of this little hatchback. With the split rear seatbacks up, there's 19 cubic feet available for your stuff — that's nearly as much capacity as a Lincoln Town Car's trunk. If you need more, flipping those seatbacks down opens up 44.4 cubic feet. Stowing a couple of golf bags or a large suitcase back there is a breeze. And thanks to the roomy cabin and tall greenhouse, putting Junior's rear-facing child seat in the backseat won't test your flexibility or your back muscles.
Design/Fit and Finish
Now entering its third year, this generation of the WRX STI has drawn some barbs for its styling. But it's a Subaru, and it's supposed to be quirky, right? The Special Edition has a few features that differentiate it from the standard STI, including a cleaner front fascia (no foglights) and multispoke alloy wheels (borrowed from the "Spec C" variant sold in the homeland).
Inside, it's standard STI fare, with the exception of a few controls (manual climate control instead of automatic). Unfortunately, that also means a few substandard materials, such as the fuzzy headliner. Overall build quality on our test car was very good, with tight panel gaps and no squeaks or rattles noted.
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Special Edition is ideal for serious driving enthusiasts who are disappointed by the somewhat soft nature of the standard STI but put off by the unyielding underpinnings of the Lancer Evo. By neatly splitting the difference between these two, the SE offers an agreeable compromise between track-tuned performance and daily-driver livability.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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How do people like the 2010 Subaru Impreza? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2010 Subaru Impreza and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2010 Impreza 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2010 Impreza.
Review I purchased my Subaru Impreza about 5 months ago after trading off my Honda Pilot. I was hesitant because of the large amount of snow we get in North Dakota. However, I could not be happier with the trade. The gas mileage is much better, no problems in the first 8,000 miles, and it is fun to drive. We ended up with 12 inches of snow in 24 hours and I had no issues commuting to and from work. Probably the funnest car I have owned, and it is number 6.
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What options are available on the 2010 Subaru Impreza?
Available Subaru Impreza 2010 Submodel Types: Hatchback, Sedan, Wagon, WRX STI, WRX STi, WRX STI Limited
Available Trims: 2.0i Premium, 2.0i Limited, 2.0i Sport, 2.0i, 2.0i Premium PZEV, 2.0i PZEV, WRX, 2.5i, Outback Sport, 2.0i Sport Premium PZEV, 2.5i Premium, WRX STI, 2.0i Limited PZEV, 2.5 i, 2.0i Sport Limited PZEV, WRX Limited, Outback Sport Special Edition, WRX Premium, WRX STi, 2.0i Sport Premium, 2.0i Sport Limited, 2.5 RS, Outback, WRX STI Limited, WRX TR, 2.5, 2.5 i Special Edition, 2.5GT, TS
Exterior Colors: Ice Silver Metallic, Crystal White Pearl, Crystal Black Silica, Dark Gray Metallic, Lapis Blue Pearl, Satin White Pearl, Island Blue Pearl, Venetian Red Pearl, Magnetite Gray Metallic, Crimson Red Pearl, Lithium Red Pearl, Obsidian Black Pearl, Quartz Blue Pearl, Carbide Gray Metallic, Spark Silver Metallic, Marine Blue Pearl, Steel Silver Metallic/Spark Silver Metallic, Lightning Red, Platinum Silver Metallic, Jasmine Green Metallic, Crystal Gray Metallic, Obsidian Black Pearl/Dark Gray Metallic, Camellia Red Pearl, Plasma Blue Pearl, Deep Cherry Pearl, Newport Blue Pearl, Paprika Red Pearl, Sage Green Metallic/Steel Silver Metallic, WR Blue Pearl, San Remo Red, Sky Blue Metallic, Aspen White, Sedona Red Pearl, Steel Gray Metallic, WR Blue Mica, Java Black Pearl, Regal Blue Pearl, Regal Blue Pearl/Steel Gray Metallic, Sage Green Metallic/Ice Silver Metallic, Topaz Gold Metallic, Urban Gray Metallic, Blue Ridge Pearl, Crystal Grey Metallic, Garnet Red Pearl, Newport Blue Pearl/Steel Silver Metallic, Sage Green Metallic, Savanna Green Metallic/Graystone Metallic, Urban Gray Metallic/Crystal Gray Metallic, Aqua Blue Metallic/Crystal Gray Metallic, Aspen White/Steel Gray Metallic, Deep Sea Blue Pearl, Evergreen Metallic/Urban Gray Metallic, Gray Metallic/Crystal Gray Metallic, Newport Blue Pearl/Urban Gray Metallic, Obsidian Black Pearl/Urban Gray Metallic, Platinum Silver Metallic/Steel Gray Metallic, San Remo Red/Steel Gray Metallic, Savanna Green, Sky Blue Metallic/Ice Silver Metallic, Steel Gray Metallic/Crystal Gray Metallic, Sunlight Gold Opal
Interior Colors: Black cloth, Ivory cloth, Black, Black leather, Ivory, Ivory leather, Off Black cloth, Carbon Black cloth, Off Black, Graphite Gray/Carbon Black leather/sueded microfiber, Black Alcantara/Carbon Black leather/sueded microfiber, Black leather/sueded microfiber, Dark Gray Knit, Desert Beige cloth, Gray, Beige cloth, Blue Ecsaine/Black, Medium Gray Flat Woven, Carbon Black leather, Dark Gray Flat Woven, Gray Knit, Off Black/Blue Ecsaine
Popular Features: AWD/4WD, Rear Bench Seats, Alarm, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, Stability Control, Aux Audio Inputs, USB Inputs, Bluetooth, Heated seats, Back-up camera, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Post-collision safety system, Keyless Entry/Start, Auto Climate Control, Leather Seats, Sunroof/Moonroof, Upgraded Headlights, Power Driver Seat, Upgraded Stereo, Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Navigation, Pre-collision safety system, Remote Start