First impressions of the Saigo WRX STI with Ben Hunt
The Subaru team sat down with our brand ambassador NZ Rally Champion Ben Hunt to get his first impressions of the limited-edition SAIGO WRX STI. Check out what he had to say about this special performance model.
Subaru: What were your thoughts when you first caught sight of the Subaru SAIGO WRX STI?
Ben: That I want one!
Any new WRX STI looks incredible but this SAIGO version takes it to another whole level, especially with the trademark STI rear wing.
I loved the look of the gold alloy 19” wheels, with the silver Brembo brakes and the black badging on the body also really stood out. The SAIGO WRX STI is a sharp looking car!
Subaru: And when you first sat in the driver’s seat what were your first impressions? What struck you about the interior?
Ben: Being a rally driver, the Suede D-shaped steering wheel jumped out at me. Racing wheels are suede, so its pretty cool to hop into a road-going STI and find it has a race-spec steering wheel.
When I pulled the seat belt on, it wasn’t the same old black as most cars, it was a striking silver colour with silver stitching.
I also loved the matte carbon around the dash panel.
Subaru: We are sure this is the answer everyone is dying to know… once you got behind the wheel, what was the SAIGO WRX STI like to drive?
Ben: When I first fired it up, I heard that iconic Subaru burble. I enjoyed just listening to that idling away before I drove off.
Over the years, the handling gets better and better in every generation of the WRX STI and this last of its generation SAIGO WRX STI feels unreal on the road. I reckon you couldn’t beat it as a road-going performance car.
After I first drove it, I rang my wife Emma and asked her if we could sell our 2015 Subaru STI and buy one of the 20 SAIGO STIs. Sadly, I haven't gotten the green light as yet!
Subaru: When you were out and about, what reactions did you get from family, friends, the rally community and of course the general public?
Ben: The boys at Speedhub Motorsport, who work on my Subaru rally car thought it was awesome. I was trying to get them to go for a ride in the SAIGO STI but they didn’t want to, as they knew they would want to buy one too!
I took it into Newmarket this week to pick up some rally parts and there were definitely a lot of people turning their heads to take a second look at it. It’s certainly an eye-catching car and absolutely stands out in Subaru blue [WR Blue Pearl].
Subaru: Obviously, this is a production model and your championship winning WRX STI has been re-built into a rally car, but is there any comparison to the SAIGO WRX STI?
Ben: Stepping in it, the Recaro seats are similar to my rally car seats.
For the New Zealand Rally Championship, we run 90% Subaru factory STI parts but we have customised the car to include a computer, carbon panels, and a specialised gearbox that allows my WRX to do what it does on gravel.
What I love about this STI is that anyone can go into a Subaru showroom and drive away with one of these SAIGO models. From the outside it looks no different to my rally car.
Subaru: What would you say to the 20 Kiwis who will end up owing a SAIGO WRX STI?
Ben: If I’m not one of those 20 people, then I’ll be very jealous! I’m going to keep working on Emma.
I’d also say to them that you’ve got two options. Either enjoy such a wonderful car and drive it every day. Or park it in the garage and keep its kilometres down, in the hope that is might be worth as much as a 22B in 15 years’ time.
Subaru: Do you have any last words?
Ben: The EJ engine has been going for 30-odd years and there’s no better way to give it a send-off and celebrate it than what Subaru has done with this SAIGO WRX STI. I like that there’s badging with EJ25 Final Edition on the engine bay to mark this moment. It says everything about the brand and how good these engines have been over all the years.
This is the best model Subaru STI that's ever been made in my opinion.
Subaru brand ambassador Ben Hunt is the 2019 New Zealand National Rally Champion and is out to defend his title this year in the 2021 NZRC in his production-based Subaru WRX STI. Ben has plenty of experience behind the wheel of Subarus, knowing the benefits of All-Wheel Drive on all terrain. Check out his tips for driving on gravel here and find out more about the SAIGO WRX STI here.