Most fascinating sports car of 2014: Subaru WRX STI

Years ago in the US, Nissan called its Maxima sedan “the four-door sports car.” It was a catchy claim, but amusingly optimistic. Everyone knows that true sports cars have two doors and two seats and rear-wheel drive. And yet, when a car like the 2015 Subaru WRX STI comes along, we can’t help but wonder: Can a sports car have four doors?

Truth is, Subaru’s winged beast owes its place on this list to a stupefying in-car video released in June, in which driver Mark Higgins pilots a mostly stock STI around Britain’s Isle of Man – a torturous 37-mile loop – in a scant 19 minutes, 26 seconds, at speeds in excess of 160mph. He manages to obliterate the standing record in the process – a record held by himself, set behind the wheel of the previous-generation STI.

The new STI’s turbocharged 2.5-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine is unchanged from last year, but the car around it is new – dramatically stiffer and better balanced (better looking, too, if we’re being honest). The flat four produces a noisy 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque, delivered to all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission – no automatic is available. The suspension, too, is thoroughly revised and properly punishing, as a thoroughbred sports car should be.

The STI has few real rivals – cars that can charge as hard and corner as tenaciously and carry a child seat, a mother-in-law and a week’s worth of luggage. Sports car or sporting sedan – quibble among yourselves. The WRX STI is still the sharpest multi-tool in the shed.

Second Opinion

(Jaguar Cars)

(Jaguar Cars)

There’s a reason why the black side skirts on the top-spec F-type R Coupe seem a bit de trop. The fundamental shape of the basic Jaguar F-type Coupe – Coventry’s first proper sports car in decades – is so alluring that any adornment reads like lipstick on the Venus de Milo. Whether in V6 or V8 guise, the coupe also moves like a welterweight, shifts like a metronome and bleats bloody murder at the merest throttle tap. Tomorrow’s Jaguar scholars will be pardoned for forgetting the letter in the alphabet immediately preceding “F”.

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