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Baby brother: the STI’s sleeper sibling

In a world where the reality of fake news and the illusion of truth intertwine, where inauthenticity is celebrated, the sleeper car is becoming an increasingly rare specimen.

Baby brother: the STI’s sleeper sibling

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a sleeper car, think of it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing: An unassuming car whose humble exterior belies its athletic abilities.

To get a better understanding of this contemporary automotive conundrum, look at the opening sequence  of the 2017 heist film Baby Driver:

See how the 2006 Subaru WRX is transformed into an unlikely hero? Fittingly fast yet suitably sensible for its purpose, there are few cars more suited to the task of express egress under duress such as the GD series Impreza WRX. But it is an unlikely hero, because the WRX has always existed in a less-valued realm than the iconic STI flagship: lagging behind with less power, less pace and inevitably, less passion.

Baby (Ansel Elgort), Bats (Jamie Foxx), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Buddy (Jon Hamm) just before a deal goes south

Baby (Ansel Elgort), Bats (Jamie Foxx), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Buddy (Jon Hamm) just before a deal goes south. Photo: Sony Pictures

As part of the second-gen Impreza’s facelift for the 2006 model year, the headline introduction into the range was the 2.5-litre EJ255 engine. This boosted four-cylinder boxer unit delivered 172kW of power and 319Nm of torque (contrasted to 206kW and 392Nm for the STI). Now featuring Subaru’s Active Valve Control System as also fitted to the STI, the engine was brought in to provide better low- to mid-range torque to all four wheels. The five-speed manual transmission was notchy but accurate.

The front section, sporting the company’s new corporate face, was penned by ex-Alfa Romeo designer Andreas Zapatinas and featured wider-stretching headlights, earning this generation of Impreza the name “Hawkeye”. Other improvements included bigger brakes, an uprated steering rack for better feel, and an increase in wheel size to 17 inches.

At this stage you might still be wondering what makes the Baby Driver WRX so special. It’s simple: As a sleeper, it’s the ability to surprise – no, make that shock – and delight when least expected.

One of the six red WRX cars used in the movie was converted to rear-wheel-drive for drifting scenes in the film. It had 254 000km on the odo and was fitted with a turbo from a 2004 STI and an uprated differential. Offered for sale on eBay a couple of months after the film’s release, the highest of the 71 bids received was $69 100 (about R898 000 at the time). Clearly there are collector’s items – and then there’s this.

Another one of the sacred six went up for sale in April 2018 – this one fitted with an aftermarket clutch, front and rear differentials, and a hydraulic handbrake.

Lead actor Ansel Elgort was so enamoured with his Baby Driver steed that he continued badgering Sony Pictures after filming had wrapped. They eventually conceded and gave one of the cars to him as a birthday present six months later.

Debora (Lily James) fools around with Baby’s tape recorder. Photo: Sony Pictures

We’re guessing you won’t be as lucky, and you’ll have to fork out to get one of these in your garage. Prices for 2006 high-milers start at about R100 000 – that’s if can get your sweaty hands on one in the first place. It would be much easier to find a VA-series WRX – and in factory spec too.

Get to learn more about the Subaru WRX and Subaru WRX STI and book a test drive today.

Baby waits for his co-workers to finish a job. Picture: YouTube