This STI sounds awesome at idle when you're standing behind the car, as I learned while warming it up on a cold morning. And from inside the Subaru, the glorious sound continues through much of the flat four's rev range. I think it's more fun to listen to the sounds of the engine in the STI than that of its Mitsubishi Lancer Evo MR archrival, particularly since Subaru offers a stick shift in its most powerful rally star. That fact alone would probably lead me to buy an STI over an Evo MR with its high-tech, quicker, but less involving TC-SST dual-clutch automatic. Most likely, though, I'd pick a base Evo and enjoy its slicker shifting gearbox, better steering, cooler looks (in my opinion), and lower monthly payments.
I almost slipped on my ice-glazed driveway when I got home late last night, but the sticky Pirelli Sottozero winter tires on the STI had given me little hint as to the marginal conditions of the roadways; they just kept begging me to push this amazingly grippy car harder and harder. Don't mind if I do.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The Subaru WRX STI's charm lies with its engine and drivetrain. And that's about where it stops. I have immense respect for the gnarly, beefy turbocharged four-cylinder and the sophisticated all-wheel drive, but all that power and traction raise the bar to a level that the chassis, suspension, and steering can't match. The steering is vague, artificially assisted, and somewhat imprecise, which is completely inexcusable in a performance car of this caliber. Given the roads that the STI will likely spend most of its time on, the engineers also seem to have taken the rally-inspired theme a bit too far. Rather than the firm, planted, ready-to-respond feel of a tarmac racer, the STI seems engineered for the rare high-speed sprint down a dirt road. Even the transmission is in need of work to tighten up the precision of the throws. If I were shopping in this segment, I'd be much more inclined to purchase the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with razor-sharp reflexes and a more street-oriented chassis setup.
There's one place where the Subaru STI does look markedly better than the Mitsubishi Evo, and that's price. A comparable Evo with a five-speed manual is only about $400 more than this Subaru, but since you're more likely to find the Mitsubishi with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the price difference is more likely to be $4000. At $36,520, this nicely equipped STI is a good value.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor