The 2015 Subaru WRX STI is one of the most impressive bang-for-your-buck track cars of all time. This prototype, though — it’s witchcraft. During our laps on the Suzuka F1 circuit, we pushed the production WRX STI as hard as we could, and the car drifted sideways in every corner, its clever differentials helping to keep us out of the weeds. But in the prototype, we can’t push hard enough to make the car do anything wacky.
Damned if we’re not trying, but the STI prototype is plastered to the track. The steering is sharp and tight, and the steering wheel whips back and forth when we put the right-front tire on Suzuka’s curbing. The cat-back exhaust has a grizzly growl as the turbo-four revs up smoothly and freely, and the turbocharger’s wastegate spits and whistles when we lift off the accelerator.
Where’s the tube chassis? The fire extinguisher? The garish graphics? This WRX STI prototype is a fully fledged racing car, isn’t it? Because it sounds and drives like one, that’s for sure. Our high is back as we pop the six-speed gearbox into neutral and coast back into the pits. We get out, and the STI engineers quickly push the prototype into a garage, closing the door behind them.
There’s a lot we don’t know about this prototype, but we’re sure we won’t see a Subaru WRX STI with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine stateside anytime soon. A turbo is bound to be a part of a future STI package, but it’s more likely that the next-gen, U.S.-market WRX STI will have a larger displacement engine, not a smaller one. And if the next-generation Subaru WRX STI drives as well as this mac ‘n’ cheese prototype, we have a lot to look forward to.