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Edmonton Wings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tabibito   
Monday, 08 February 2010 09:43

Thursday Feb. 11
Boston Pizza, 1050-11320 Groat Road Northwest
Edmonton, AB T5M 4E7
7:30 pm


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Last Updated on Monday, 08 February 2010 09:45
 
This Week's Meets PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tabibito   
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 11:04

So, looks like only Calgary got something together for this week (at the last minute):

Wednesday Feb 3rd 2010 7:00 P.M.
Juliet's Castle Sports Lounge
440 16th ave NE
Calgary, AB T2E 1K2
(403)276-2844

 
CSCC 2010 WAX Schedule PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tabibito   
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 13:08

The tentative schedule for the 2010 CSCC WAX series has been posted. These are awesome gravel/snow events at Race City Motorsports Park in Calgary, and I highly recommend attending if you really want to put your Subie through its paces.

Dates are (tentatively):

February 14th
February 28th

March 14th
March 28th

April 3rd
April 11th
April 25th

May 16th

Full details and discussion on the CSCC forum:

http://cscc.speedracer.ca/forums/index.php/topic,9443.0/topicseen.html

 
Six Months Living with an STi PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tabibito   
Thursday, 21 January 2010 11:27

It's been just under six months now since I got my new baby - AKA the "New Dirty Wagon" - and it's time for an in-depth review of the car. The GR STi seems to have divided the Subaru community more than any previous generation and I have to admit that when I first saw the new body style for the 2008 STi I really wasn't a fan. I couldn't say that it was ugly, but to me, it just didn't look like a Subaru. Over time, however, it really started to grow on me, and in August I decided to buy my very own. I can confidently say that I'm still very much in love with my car, but I won't say that she's not without her faults.

Let's start with the obvious - the body, interior, and trim.

While the STi hatch isn't a new thing for the Japanese, and the hot hatch concept in general is old news in Europe, 2008 was the first time Subaru owners in North Americas got a taste of it. Since 2004 we had associated the STi with a very large rear wing on an otherwise ordinary (other than flared fenders) looking WRX. With the GR, the differences between the STi and the WRX became a lot more subtle to the casual observer, but in my opinion a lot more marked when you notice them. The differences are a more aggressive looking front bumper (when it stays together - but you can't fault it for not holding up to the abuse I gave it), larger fenders (again), STi badging on the front quarters, grill, and hatch, 18" rims, and a mean looking four tipped exhaust. The GR STi still has a large rear spoiler, but the exact same spoiler came with the WRX 265 (now just the base WRX as of 2010). This is, of course, with the base trim package that I got on mine. If you shelled out the additional $6000 you got a set of 18" BBS rims that scream out "Sorry, but I'm faster than you," especially in the gold.

That's not all you get with the Sport-tech package, and I think it's very important to discuss this upgrade. Previous generations of the STi didn't offer an 'improved' version. If you got an STi, you got an STi, other than small dealer options you might have tacked on. So what else does that $6000 get you? Moonroof, sat-nav, and a stereo with Bluetooth and an LCD screen. For $6000. Let that sink in. Rims, some glass, and a stereo for $6000. I think this point is at the crux of why many Subaru enthusiasts look down on this generation. The STi was originally seen as a race vehicle you could keep as your daily driver, and it still is, but it's obvious with the new generation that Subaru is also trying to appeal to more 'civilized' consumers. Personally, though, for a $6000 upgrade on an STi, I would rather have seen stiffer suspension, or weight reduction options. The Sport-tech, for me, would have been a colossal waste of money. The moonroof drops the ceiling by just enough to make wearing my crash helmet in the car uncomfortable, the sat-nav is pointless since I both have an iPhone and know how to use a map, and the BBSs are nice, but I can get much nicer rims after-market for $6000.

As far as the interior styling is concerned, however, both the base and Sport-tech share the same fantastic interior (other than the upgraded stereo in the Sport-tech). Alcantara seats with a bright red STi embroidered on the front headrests and red stitching, subtle STi engraving on the door frame, red accent lights in the foot wells, glowing STi badge on the center console, and a wonderful black/dark-grey two-tone theme throughout. Sure, it's all superfluous but almost everyone who's sat in my car for the first time is taken by just how great the car looks and feels on the inside. I have heard a couple people complain that the STi logo on the steering wheel looks cheap and plastic. I can see their point to a degree, but frankly if that airbag goes off, I'd rather have plastic flung at my head than a piece of aluminum, and it's a minor complaint when the interior as whole is taken in. It's great car to just sit down in. Also, it still has the same room as all GR Impreza wagons, meaning you can still fit four people, and all their snowboarding gear inside (proof here).

But, enough with the frills, what about the car as a car?

First we'll talk about the best part: the engine. The 2.5L Turbo in this car is a beast. 305HP to the crank, and 290ft-lbs of torque. Boost starts kicking in around 2300 RPM, at which point you are going to get squeezed back hard into your seat if you've got the the throttle down. As with any turbo, there's lag, but the gearing on the 6-speed keeps you right where you need to be, presuming you know how to down-shift. On the highway, get up to speed and stay in 6th all the way to your destination. Pulling out of corners at Auto-X and rally-X is wonderful, and terrifying - when you get it right and you're right on the power and boost at the right point, the car just launches out of the corner. If you're not really looking ahead, you can find yourself at the next element much faster than you thought you'd be.

Thankfully, the brakes are equally hefty. The 4-pot front, 2-pot rear Brembos just melt away the speed. On the track, they are fantastic and allow you to brake later and harder than in the WRX. The ABS cuts in a little early (like almost all ABS), especially on loose surfaces like gravel, but thankfully there's an easy fix to that if you really want - which I'm going to talk about later. These brakes also dust like crazy so if you want a show car, you're going too have baby this car and wash it frequently. You'll probably also spend the $6000 on the Sport-tech.

Unfortunately, she'll also drink gas like water if you're not gentle with the throttle, but frankly if you're in the market for this kind of car that really shouldn't be your concern. That said, Subaru seems to have thought that you would be concerned with it. The North American STi has always had throttle by wire, but the GR is the first time you've been given a degree of control over the response (without voiding your warranty) through the SI-Drive system. What this offers you through a very sharp-looking dial behind the shifter is a choice of three modes: annoying, pointless, and proper... er, I mean "Intelligent," "Sport," and "Sport#".

Intelligent is meant to be a fuel economy mode. In this mode you get such wonderful features as your car telling you it really doesn't want to go that fast, a flashing console light telling you to granny shift to a higher gear (but never to a lower gear, so if you slow down in 4th and listen to the Intelligent mode, you are going to waste a lot of gas trying to get moving again), and from what I can tell no way to get the throttle all the way open. This mode will make you feel like you're driving a Sunfire. The car will be completely gutless, and I swear I can feel a lag between my throttle inputs and the minimal response that it will even give. Another name would have been "Should have bought the 2.5i wagon" mode - although the throttle response in my TS was still better than the STi in Intelligent.

Sport mode is just Sport#, but a little less. Why? Maybe you don't have very good control over your right foot? As I said: pointless. You'll have access to full throttle now, and you're just going to push harder to get the same response and therefore burn just as much fuel.

Then there's the Sport# mode. I never leave this mode - it's become part of my three-part startup ritual (Sport#, VDC completely off, DCCD to manual). In this mode you get super fine control over the engine. Just curling/uncurling your toes slightly allows you to gently modulate your throttle input, and when you're taking a car through race corners, this is something you definitely want. On the street, it again allows you a finer level of control, and for overtaking on the highway, you can use a small flick of your foot to get right up to where you need to be. The car feels great in this mode - Subaru shouldn't have even bothered with the other two (ok, well you wouldn't get the cool looking dial if they hadn't).

Right under the SI-Drive button are the controls for one of the coolest features the STi has always had - the Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD). This is not new to the GR STi, but from what I understand the ratios have changed a little. Since this isn't a comparison with the GC, I'm not going to bother looking up the exact numbers. The DCCD gives you a range of settings between a locked center differential (constant 50/50 front/rear power), to 'open' which will push more power to the rear of the car under acceleration. It also comes with three "Auto" modes: a neutral setting, a bias towards being closed, and a bias towards being open. Over the summer, I didn't test this system out much, tending to leave the DCCD fully open while at Auto-x, and neutral Auto on the street where you're not going to notice much on dry roads. At Rally-X, however, myself and Vicar really got to put this system through its paces, and I've extended what I've learned there on Edmonton's wonderfully inconsistent winter roads.

The manual mode doesn't require much review. You just play with it until you find the right balance for the conditions you're in and leave it. I no longer use Auto very often, but not because it doesn't work, but rather because it works really well. The thing with the manual setting is it's consistent. Once you've got a feel for how and when it's going to pull or slip, you adjust your driving accordingly and there are no surprises. Both Vicar and I, however, were intially confused by how the car was handling itself at Rally-X with the DCCD in Auto. We both had corners where the car just suddenly dove right into the turn as we were trying to exit. We were already on the power, starting to let the car slide onto the exit line after rotating the tail end through the corner, when the car stopped slipping and gripped right in with the full power of the engine gripping the ground.

So on loose gravel, going about 60 km/h and sliding with the throttle to the floor, the DCCD figured out just how to split up the power and get the front wheels biting. Despite it costing me 4 seconds in cone penalties and putting me on the completely wrong line, this was very impressive. Chewing through heavy snow around Edmonton this winter has been equally impressive. The car always seems to figure out just where to put the power down to keep you moving. If I was some sort of computer interfacing with the DCCD and I knew exactly when it was going to do what, this would be an amazing system. Not being a robot, however, I tend to turn it off since I would much rather be a little slower or have a little less grip, while still knowing where the car is going to go. There's no indicator light or any sort of warning that the car is about very suddenly change the way it's behaving. This is why I typically drive with the DCCD in manual, and just make adjustments myself as I move into different conditions.

Which brings us to VDC, or Vehicle Dynamics Control (a proprietary name for traction control). VDC is also available in the WRX, but only comes with two modes: on and off. On the STi there are three modes: on, partially on, and off. Much like the DCCD, VDC will make the car do completely unexpected things with absolutely no warning. However, while the DCCD does this to enhance your inputs (i.e. helps you put the power you're asking for onto the road), VDC is a nanny mode, cutting and adjusting your inputs to what it deems to be safe.

My first real encounter with the VDC was in the 'on' state, accelerating from a stop light. The roads in Edmonton are garbage, and have many potholes. At this particularly bad intersection I hit several bumps while I was accelerating and the car came to an almost dead stop. In the fully on mode, the VDC seems to first try to regain traction when it detects a loss (from a pothole, going in a straight line) by cutting your throttle. It also takes about a second and a half to give any throttle back. In the partially on mode, it will no longer adjust your throttle, but it will still selectively apply braking to the wheels to maintain traction. The end result is if you start to slip out, just stop steering. Any attempts to counter-steer, or move the car the way you want it to at this point will result in the VDC completely negating your input and taking you where it thinks you should (with some lag, so you're going to bounce side-to-side a lot in the process). So, if you come into a lower traction corner a little too fast, and want to try to get the car rotated and claw your way out with the AWD, think again. VDC says you're going straight off the road and into the ditch because sliding is bad. If you're going to drive one of these, reach over to your left and hold down the little VDC button until you get a yellow icon on the cluster - you want this thing completely off.

And there's one final truly annoying nanny feature introduced to the GRs, the "Hill Holder System". To make this little gem even more annoying, there's no simple way to turn it off. Subaru has not provided a switch for this one, and just decided to assume you never learned how to drive with a manual gearbox. I didn't even know this feature existed until I launched off a green light completely unintentionally. Had there been a car in front of me at the time, there might have been an accident. Here's how it happened:

I was stop at a red light with about a 5 degree incline. When the light went green, I was quickly on the throttle and letting off the clutch. My brain had a momentary realization that I was not yet moving despite the fact that I should have been, and not wanting to roll backwards, I added more throttle. It was then that the "Hill Holder" decided it should probably stop holding and released the brakes (which I didn't know it had applied - once again, no warning light that the system has gone active), launching me off the light like a street racer. I now know to be very careful starting the car up a hill, especially if someone is in front of me. I still occasionally forget the system is there and end up taking off for more spiritedly than I had intended.

So now we've got two "safety" features that can kill you. I also mentioned before that the ABS is too intrusive for Rally-X. At this point it probably sounds like I'm not that thrilled with the car. However, that couldn't be farther from the truth. I like to imagine that there was one lone engineer at Subaru left over from the old days. Suffocating under the committees of Helpful Engineers of the Nanny State (lets call them HENS from now on) he decided he was going to slip in one little design tweak to stick it to these mother HENS. You see, the VDC, ABS, and Hill Assist are all on a single fuse. Pull that one 30amp fuse, and almost everything annoying about this car goes away. She becomes a proper race car.

I've been asked why I race a brand new, $40,000 car. My response is why wouldn't you race a brand new $40,000 car - underneath everything, this car was built to go fast, and it was built to go fast everywhere. Like any Subaru we've seen, there's an understeer issue in the factory configuration, and I will be stiffening up the sways to cut down the surprising (but still manageable) amount of body roll. Maxing out the negative camber on the stock camber bolts, however, does a lot to help this, and she'll start turning in a lot sharper. I also have a small quibble with the tires, but only because the STi used to come with RE-070s before Subaru decided to go to the 18" rim. The stock Dunlops that the STi has now will only last you two years if you're racing them before the rubber comes off in chunks - but had we never been spoiled with the RE-070s, then this would be par for the course with just about every factory tire option.

So, lets get back to the power. By far this is the most noticeable thing when you're racing this car, especially if you're used to a WRX or lower. There's a lot more torque, and even more punch once the turbo spools up. I've spent a lot of time analyzing the flaws because the perks are so simple and so perfect. It's the same AWD drive that you already love if you're in a Subaru, with enough power that you imagine the car is devouring the race course. As I mentioned in Tales from the Gravel, in the hands of a very experienced driver, it can be downright frightening how fast this car get around both an Auto-X and a Rally-X course. Use your first couple runs to find the sweet spot on the DCCD for the conditions, and the car is going to dance around the course. With the ABS pulled, the Brembos pack huge stopping power (and on dry surfaces you can even leave the ABS on), generating a lovely feeling like your guts are going to come out of your ribcage when you get on them hard.

Overall, the GR STi is a great car. It's not perfect, and most of its imperfections come from concessions that Subaru has made to try to bring over the Audi drivers. Peel those things away, and you've still got a beastly little Subaru that's still going to turn a lot of heads and put a huge smile on your face.

(Discuss this review here)

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2010 17:49
 
Edmonton Wings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tabibito   
Thursday, 14 January 2010 09:16

Short notice again, but it looks like wings is on in Edmonton for tonight:

Thursday, January 14.
Overtime Bar, 4211 106 Street Northwest
Edmonton, AB  @  7pm

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 January 2010 16:16
 
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