EXTERIOR

The 2011 STi oozes speed. My test vehicle was the new four-door wide-body sedan with an intimidating-looking rear spoiler intended to amplify the car's aerodynamics. The spoiler definitely took a little getting used to since it was such a prevalent feature in my rear sightline.

Delivered to our house in a shocking racing red, my kids exclaimed, "Whoa, I didn't know we get to test racecars!" Nobody dared try to take us in our "racecar" at a stoplight. I tried to give a "wanna-race-me" scowl to the drivers of the cars next to me. Maybe it was the two kids in high-back booster seats in the back or my intimidating 5-foot-3-inch frame, but for some odd reason, I just couldn't seem to engage any competitors. Wimps. All of them. I bet they wouldn't take on the challenge of hosting five screaming little girls at a slumber party, either.

The WRX STi has a 305-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with a six-speed manual transmission. That's definitely more power than I'd ever use or even know what to do with, but I'm not complaining. There is a downside to the STi's powerful engine: It gets an EPA-estimated 17/23 mpg city/highway and requires premium gas.

The great news about a car this grounded is that the low step-in height makes it easy for little ones to get in and out of the STi independently. I had a little more trouble getting in and out of the slightly bolstered driver's seat during my test drive since I was recovering from a back strain. I also had a tendency to knock my left knee on the underside of the steering-wheel column, which by the way both tilts and telescopes, every time I got in or out. Those with the seat pulled a little farther back won't have a problem with it.

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