By Joe Bruzek on October 23, 2008
Subaru’s “punish the pavement” slogan for its high-performance STi gets new meaning when you see the way one Chicago suburb is preventing street racing and promoting safe driving. In the spring of 2008, the village of Itasca, Ill., swore into duty a 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STi that’s up to the task of punishing the pavement … and speeders.
The STi is on a one-year loan from Subaru of America to the Itasca Police Department, which uses the high-performance hatchback for street-racing prevention as well as law enforcement and vehicle-safety demonstrations. Officers take the STi to car shows and cruise nights, where they get a chance to talk with younger car nuts one-on-one. It’s only occasionally used to chase down speeders.
As a result of driving the STi — a boy-racer favorite — Itasca has the ability to reach a demographic that traditionally wants nothing to do with the police. Itasca police officer William Webster says young drivers come up to the car at shows and events knowing every detail about it, which allows for a conversation the police normally couldn’t have with that demographic.
“After D.A.R.E. and driver’s education, we lose touch with drivers that age,” said Itasca chief of police Scott Heher. “This car allows us to further the interaction on a positive note.”
Itasca’s STi has made numerous appearances at local cruise nights, car shows and parades, where officers say it continually draws a crowd.
The STi’s graphics commemorate one of the events in which it participated: The 2008 Illinois Special Olympics. An annual marathon called the Law Enforcement Torch Run raises donations for the Special Olympics, and Itasca’s STi led the pack of law-enforcement runners and police/emergency vehicles to the Special Olympics stadium in Bloomington-Normal, Ill.
But don’t let the thoughtful graphics and the fact that it’s an STi fool you, like it has some: The turbocharged, 305-hp Impreza is a fully operational squad car, and officers have issued citations and warnings from the hot hatch. Other police departments should watch out as well, as Itasca’s STi has taken top awards in police-only car shows. These awards include a first-place time in the slalom course, which isn’t surprising considering it probably isn’t too hard to dust off Ford Crown Victorias and Dodge Chargers in an STi.
The STi wears its roof-mounted LED light bar and LED-equipped hood scoop rather seamlessly, but as far as we know there are no plans for an actual Police Interceptor STi. The badge on the STi’s hatch was borrowed from a police interceptor Crown Victoria. Check out the photo gallery below.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe