Last week was a great time to be Pinoy. It started out with Manny Pacquiao’s dominating win over Timothy Bradley, followed by Marlon Stockinger’s 2nd place finish in the opening round of the Renault World Series in Monza, as well as Enteng Floriendo’s podium in the Ferrari Challenge in Australia. And it didn’t stop there.
Subaru hosted 9 countries in a regional launch of the all-new WRX and STi in the Clark International Raceway and the Manila International Auto Show organizers announced that they had broken the record of crowd attendance with a total of 102,000 visitors over the 4-day event, while Mazda rounded it up with the surprise launch and media test drive of, you guessed it, the sensational new Mazda 3.
But first the STi. The beast gets a longer leash after being taught some manners. Think of it as the mechanical equivalent of sending your pit bull to Cesar Milan and you’ll have a rough idea of the changes. It may carry over the same engine, gearbox and basic plumbing, but its housed in a much tighter, stiffer and more refined chassis that allows you to enjoy the power a lot more with less risk of being bitten.
Subaru could have just done what everyone else does and thrown us 20 more horsepower and be done with it, but they focused more on control. By improving the brakes and how the chassis reacts, it now attacks the corner with a lot more grace; and because weight transfer is far less aggressive, it allows you to balance the car through the corner rather than fight it halfway through.
But the big news here is, aside from the fantastically improved interior, is that steering ratio and response has been tuned into 911 territory. We were given a lap around Clark to experience the improved accuracy, as well as a high speed slalom in the expert hands of Russ Swift, and although it was far too short to give an accurate opinion, you can feel the difference from the initial turn in.
Next up was the WRX. This puppy gets a new engine and gearbox. It may be from the Forester XT, but the car never got the memo. It behaves nothing like the Forester. The CVT for one suffers from an identity crisis. It doesn’t know if it is a DSG or a ZF gearbox, so it instead behaves like something in between. And that, in case you’re wondering, is a good thing.
Shifts come on nice and quick and have none of that droning effect of traditional CVTs. In fact, it is best left in auto mode as it snaps through the presets better than most drivers could, making the most out of the new direct injection turbo.
In fact, I would go out on a limb here and say that the WRX would be the better weapon of choice than the STi because it does its finest work in the first 95% of the rev band. But still, if its absolute power you’re after, then STi it is.
Then there’s the 3. The Mazda 3. Never before has this segment seen so much technology stuffed into what could easily wear a premium European car badge and gotten away with charging twice as much. Yes, it is that good.
We’re not talking about moving the goal posts here; we’re talking uprooting them and planting them somewhere in Germany.
From the iPad Mini sized multi media display that houses all vehicle, entertainment and navigation info via a command wheel and set up that would have the watch companies envious, everything feels premium. But the irony here is, it’s the stuff you don’t see that is really worth looking at.
Mazda call it Skyactiv. It is a patented way that every Mazda is built wherein each component is examined and redesigned to be as efficient as possible through light weight materials and/or technology. Take the electronics and features like air con, radio, lights and sun roof. These are separately powered powered by a capacitor that takes its power from lost energy from braking and coasting, much in the same way a KERS system works on a F1 car.
By powering them through waste energy, you save on alternators, batteries and fuel. It may seem like a lot to go through for such a minimal saving, but when you add up the thousands of seperate components that have been re designed to save a gram here and a pound there, it all adds up to significant savings and lower maintenance, which is why they are the only ones that can offer free casa maintenance for 3 years. Oh yes, good things really do come in threes.
Subaru WRX P1,888,000
Subaru WRX STi P2,478,000
Mazda 3, 1.5 liter 945,000
Mazda 3, 2.0 liter 1,195,000