It's easy to write off systems like Subaru's SI-Drive as gimmicks that are more about marketing than real-world utility, but the STI benefits from the SI-Drive system. Driving around in the Intelligent setting makes the car a little smoother and slightly more economical. Bumping up to S# setting gives the car much better throttle response that makes rev-matched downshifts extremely easy and is perfectly situated for track use or very spirited driving.
It's not so easy to write off the $10,500 price jump from a 5-door WRX to a 5-door WRX STI. The STI gets 40 more horsepower, an extra gear ratio, and the Driver Controlled Center Differential, but the other differences aren't so noticeable. While I appreciate the customizability of the center diff on the STI, it doesn't jump out at me as something I'd miss on a daily basis if I drove a WRX instead. This may make it sound like the STI isn't special, but the truth is the WRX is an amazing value and the STI will only be $10,000 better for a very small group of people.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
People often say that the Subaru WRX STI is a street-legal rally car, and while that's an exaggeration, the STI really is a serious performance car. I love the rumbling engine note of the boxer four and the way the transmission whines in first and second gear. I love that the gearbox throws are super short, making it feel like you just nudge the shifter between gears. The WRX STI is very fast, has lots of grip, and makes everyone feel like a driving hero -- even if you're just heading home from the airport.
At the same time, I couldn't help thinking about the much cheaper Subaru WRX I drove a few weeks ago. The 265-hp WRX feels just as quick as the 305-hp WRX STI on public roads, and has similarly butch body cladding and sporty chassis upgrades. In my view, the WRX STI also is a bit harder to drive quickly because it has a more aggressive clutch and more turbo lag than the WRX. Given the price differential of the two cars, I would be inclined to buy the "regular" Subaru WRX and pocket the nearly-$10K difference.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
STI or Evo? It's an age-old debate, and one I found myself pondering the other week when both cars made an appearance at our office. There's a lot I love about the Evo -- notably its chassis tuning and knife-sharp reflexes -- but the STI's nicer cabin, to say nothing of the practicality afforded by the optional hatchback body style, also calls to me. I'm no closer to picking favorites, unless Mitsubishi decides to suddenly treat the Evo to an interior makeover and add a Sportback variant to the Evo portfolio.
I'll happily confess that Subaru's less-expensive WRX would suit me just fine, but there's one thing I just love about the STI that's not found on its little sibling: what Subaru literature bills as the DCCD. Simply put, it lets you dial in exactly how you want power split between the front and rear axles. In normal conditions, the AWD system sends about 60 percent to the rear axle, but you can further increase or decrease that ratio to increase traction or liven turn-in, respectively. The + and -- settings automatically adjust the center differential based on conditions, but for those who want a little more control -- or truly think they know what they're doing -- can further adjust the center differential's lock-up through a manual mode. Is it a party trick? Perhaps, but if you're thinking of occasionally competing with your STI, be it on a road course or a special stage, it's a feature you may quickly come to appreciate.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
In 1988, on stage at the Republican National Convention, GOP Presidential Nominee George H.W. Bush told the gathered crowd that he wanted "a kinder, and gentler nation." The "kinder, gentler" trope has been used ad nauseam in the years since, and I'm going to use it again to talk about the Subaru WRX STI.
Compare the STI to its online owners' forum rival, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The Lancer is probably still my choice for a day at the track because of its pinpoint precision, but its short gearing and stiff on-road ride make it a boorish daily driver. The STI delivers at least 90 percent of the Evo's prodigious power and grip but with a slightly softer ride, a more pleasant gearbox, and a bigger cargo area. In the world of homologated rally cars, the STI is the kinder, gentler choice.
That isn't to say the STI is soft or slow, however. The engine's power is prodigious, and the harder you push it, the more powerful it gets. After I completed a journey following the in-dash navigation's directions, the GPS displayed a list of statistics about my trip, including elapsed time, average speed...and top speed. Thanks to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine's 305 horsepower, that particular number was smirk-inducingly high.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
The main thought in my mind as I drove the Subaru WRX STI is that I could actually see myself driving one every day, as a daily-use car, which is something that I cannot say about the laser-focused Mitsubishi Evo. My secondary thought was that the STI looks really cool, something that cannot be said about many Subarus these days. Still, you have to be a person who's really in love with the whole concept of a "rally car for the street" to spend nearly $40K on an STI, when for the same money you could have a BMW 1-series or 3-series.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor