By Jonathon Ramsey/ Courtesy of Incisal Edge dental lifestyle magazine

Everyone who uses tools – dentists, naturally, very much included — has that one: that Lord of the Rings tool, the one that rules them all. It has been used hard and often, and looks it.

All vehicle photographs courtesy of Subaru.

All vehicle photographs courtesy of Subaru.

Maybe it’s an unorthodox choice for its task, but it’s always the one beckoned from the drawer when there’s a job to do, because it’s the very definition of functional. When put to its purpose, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.

For the serious driving enthusiast and the everyday around-towner alike, the Subaru WRX STI is that tool, only much prettier. Underneath the vents, convexities and immense grab-handle on the trunk, the WRX STI ($39,920) starts with an Impreza, another of Subaru’s thoroughly comfortable sedans. It’s very much its own car, though; only the windows, roof and trunk have been retained from the source material.

What you get under the hood is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with
305 horsepower, but the spreadsheet figures are merely a side curiosity — there are less-expensive, more-powerful options that go faster in a straight line.

All vehicle photographs courtesy of Subaru.

All vehicle photographs courtesy of Subaru.

You reach for the WRX STI when you need to do one particular thing: go anywhere, in any weather, around every corner and on just about any surface, faster and safer than most anyone else.

For that reason, it might be the ideal everyday sled for practical dentists with just a hint of Lightning McQueen in their personality. The WRX STI is an omnium-gatherum of automotive gobbledygook designed for simultaneous speed and reliability: three-mode SI-Drive throttle control, Brembo brakes, active torque-vectoring all-wheel drive and more. And you do know how to drive a stick, yes? This car comes solely with a six-speed manual transmission.

We eagerly hopped in, our route for the day taking us roughly 250 miles round-trip from Venice Beach to the astonishing Bacara Resort & Spa near Santa Barbara. First, though, we had some exercises to complete in the canyon roads that spur off Highway 1, each one a World Rally Championship stage missing only the crowds and the checkered flag. Given that the WRX STI owes its very existence to Subaru’s fire-breathing WRC car, this felt like a homecoming.

Run up through the gears on the way to the first corner, then put the Brembos to work while downshifting to set up for the turn. (This would be way less fun in an automatic.) The WRX STI’s steering still uses hydraulic assistance — almost unheard-of on modern cars because of fuel-economy standards, but it delivers excellent feedback for stellar control. And yes, its efficiency — 17 miles per gallon in the city, 23 highway — is therefore compromised. But hey, gas has been cheap lately.

The Subaru pivots on entry, kisses the apex and then lays into an Olympic gymnast exit from the turn as varying amounts of torque are sent to all four wheels so you can hold the line you want.

All vehicle photographs courtesy of Subaru.

All vehicle photographs courtesy of Subaru.

Most other sedans would still be trying to get their grip before allowing you to mash the gas pedal again; the WRX STI is already rocketing away.

Driving it, thereby marshaling the combination of forces it can sustain, is like being given the remote control to a cheetah. Its mechanical esoterica make its tire-contact patches exquisitely effective, and as each canyon ascent turned into more ornate filigree, our rewards only increased.
Santa Barbara beckoned, though, so we climbed down from the clouds and finished the journey at sea level. Although the WRX STI is built more for corners than luxurious comfort, it’s excellent for straightline work as well.

Dying to read the rest of the story?

Automotive writer Jonathon Ramsey’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the Robb Report, Elite Traveler and Variety.