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by Daniel DeGasperi

The fourth-generation Subaru WRX STI will shun its entire competitor set by being offered singularly with a six-speed manual transmission, a position the company has defended by saying true enthusiasts don’t want an automatic.

Speaking at the Detroit auto show following the release of the WRX STI, Subaru America president Tom Doll said “this vehicle is made for the real driving enthusiast, and the real driving enthusiast we believe still likes to shift the gears.

“A lot of the hardcore guys still want a manual,” added Subaru America public relations manager Dominick Infante. “When you get down to it, they prefer that, and even though some DSGs and CVTs can be quicker than a manual, people still enjoy shifting gears.”

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Asked whether it would mean Subaru would miss out on WRX STI sales due to the lack of an automatic transmission, Doll replied only with “it’s hard to say”.

Recently in Australia, Audi cited only two to three per cent of S3 Sportback sales being for the manual transmission car, while sports models such as the Renault Sport Clio and Porsche 911 GT3 have shunned offering a manual at all due to a forecast lack of popularity compared with an auto.

Doll also confirmed that his division has asked for a two-door coupe version of the new WRX STI, but that the company would stick to only a sedan for now to ease manufacturing demands. While the US scores a 1000-unit ‘launch edition’ WRX STI with traditional gold alloy wheels and WR Blue paint, it will be reserved for that market only.

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Compared with the WRX on which its based, the STi scores 16 per cent stiffer springs and dampers and a 60 per cent increase in body rigidity, with Doll adding “the handling and suspension systems have been greatly improved, so the car will drive like nothing else”.

Subaru sent internet forums into a frenzy when it first released pictures of the new WRX, which was nothing like the concept car shown at the New York motor show last March, but PR man Infante insists that “when people saw it in person we got a lot better feedback.

“We kind of figured it [controversy] was gonna be that way, because it wasn’t going to look like the concept. We could not do the D-pillar, it’s just too expensive. Everything from the windows down is all-new compared with Impreza.

“There’s more differentiation on this car than we’ve ever had with Impreza.”




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