Car Culture, Featured, News&Reviews

9 Reasons Why The Mitsubishi Evo Is Better Than The Subaru Impreza WRX STI

The competition between the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the Subaru Impreza WRX STI has been going strong since the early 90s, and recently, we’ve been adding fuel to that fire. Here is the second side to the story, and obviously the truth..

Not so long ago, CT staff writer Darren Cassey wrote something that I, and many of you disagreed with. The article was called 9 Reasons Why The Subaru Impreza WRX STI Is Better Than The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, and as an Evo owner myself, I had to give my side of the story. Here are my arguments for why it’s the Evo that’s in fact the better car:

1. It’s sharper to drive

Sure, Subaru has been able to make a name for itself through Colin McRae, but he drove a heavily modified STI with all the best equipment and factory sponsorship. He probably had to replace the entire chassis and suspension to make it a frontrunner. The 2015 STI has a bit of improved steering and suspension over previous generations, but any reviews and first-hand experiences say the Evo still feels sharper and grounded while still being light.

If you buy a stock Evo, you can have the better handling without spending the extra money if you can’t afford it. It is well known that the chassis is more responsive in the Evo, and the S-AWC creates the best possible traction in all scenarios. In fact, you’ll feel more of the road, and it unknowingly makes the beginner driver improve more quickly. It’s confidence inspiring.

2. The noise is better

If you’re looking for a car that always sounds like it’s trying to clear its throat, you’ve found the right one in purchasing a STI. The reason why everyone knows when the STI is coming is because they’re searching for the car that sounds like it is, in a raspy way, rapidly misfiring.

On the other hand, is the smoother, low grumble of the Evo. Even stock these cars give you the satisfaction that you’re driving a
brilliantly quick car. If you’re looking for something that lets the neighbours know your Evo is home before they see you, there are loads of aftermarket exhausts that seal the deal without annoying the entire block; or having them look for the teenagers in a riced-out Civic.

3. It’s more understated

You can’t tell me the STI is more understated. Look at the picture. Tell me that this is not a sleeper. Go ahead, I dare you.

4. Evos have a bonnet scoop too, and it’s better

Yes, the STI has a bonnet scoop. The Evo has a bonnet scoop, too (in fact, it has two more practical vents on the hood than the STI). And it’s more streamlined. As the driver you can even see across the hood to the other side of the car – there isn’t anything there to block your view!

Plus, the Evo has functional fender vents that aid in cooling the brakes and venting air normally trapped in the wheel well, and, of course, add to the rally looks of the car.

5. Evo owners aren’t snobs

This probably depends upon the country, but certainly in the US it feels as though many STI owners around do not understand that the competition between the STI and the Evo is what makes the cars succeed; they tend to be snobby and stick to their own car club. The competitiveness, though, is what has driven the manufacturers to build the best cars possible, and what has pushed them to the top for all of these years. Owners of both brands should be, even considering brand loyalty, praising each other’s work. The Evo culture here is doing exactly that.

And, although it may surprise you, the majority of STI owners I have spoken with at car meets and competitions admit they wish they had an Evo. The Evo is STI-owner approved.

6. Who cares that the Impreza has its own colour scheme?

I will admit I grew up wanting the exact iconic colour scheme of gold rims on Subaru Blue. It is iconic – I’ll give them that. Subaru has done a great job branding using that paint arrangement. However, don’t just throw the Evo out because they don’t have an explicit colour scheme. They’ve branded themselves with their overall looks; they are not hiding behind specific colours.

The body kit on the Evo X SSS package has it all – it’s sporty, sexy, and sleek. The front lip not only is a functional aid in
aerodynamics, it gives the stock Evo the lowered aggressive look. The side skirts add width and make the body flow from front to back, and the spoiler is just big enough without being over-the-top (ahem 2015 STI ahem). The newest STI just looks like an Evo and a Civic SI made a baby.

Let us not forget about those Recaro racing seats that come with the stock Evo. Oy vey those are comfortable and snug for tight, fast cornering – even for a woman’s hips! I’ve done multiple 2500-mile road trips in those seats; I know they’re comfortable. But let’s face it, why are you buying this type of car if you aren’t going to drive hard? You don’t want the no-name plush seats with somewhat functionality, you want the racing seats.

7. No limited edition Evos = a good thing

Yes, Subaru has done well by offering Limited Edition and special occasion STIs. But who has that money to throw down for one of those? And if you can buy one, you’re going to be too afraid to drive it hard for fear of it losing value! What’s a rally car without the rally?Or, buy the Evo. No limited edition. No special authenticated plaque. If you care about a special colour scheme, have it custom done. Then take all of that extra money you didn’t spend on the Limited Edition Subaru and throw it into modding the crap out of your already awesome Evo. Then it truly is a special edition.

8. It still looks awesome in hatchback form

Just in case you haven’t stepped outside your Subaru bubble recently, Mitsubishi also has a hatchback. It might not be as aesthetically pleasing, but when it boils down to it, is Subaru making the hatchback anymore? Nope. Besides, a hatchback is for practicality. It’s said that the STI is a more practical, friendlier daily driver. That may be so, but I have two points here that may make you look twice at the Evo instead.

1) My Evo is a daily driver. It’s comfortable for long treks (see my bit about the seats prior) yet track ready when I need it to be.

2) I can fit a rear-facing car seat and a stroller in my car (yes, in the ‘small’ trunk without removing the sound system). What is more practical than a family car? If you need to haul something bigger than what can fit in the car, buy a truck.

9. The STI has outlived the Evo

We all heard the news that Mitsubishi has discontinued the Evo X. Yes that means the STI is the last one standing, but is it the best one left? Or just left? From the very beginning Mitsubishi and Subaru were battling, producing the Lancer Evolution versus the WRX STI- specific rivalry in 1993. Ever since their induction the STIs have been playing catch-up to the Evo, it’s not a secret.

Subaru producing the STI with no direct competitor is only going to increase the price of your STI while limiting the pressure on Subaru to produce a better car. I mean, c’mon, Mitsubishi didn’t stop producing the Evo because it was losing to Subaru and the STI.

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1992-2000, 2001-2007, 2008-, Featured, History, Top 5

Our 5 Favorite WRX STI Models

Subaru Tecnica International (STI) began as the motorsports division for Subaru in 1988. Amidst growing success in the World Rally Championship (WRC), the first STI model emerged in 1994, and its rally-proven performance has influenced the Subaru lineup ever since. The first Subaru Impreza WRX STI had 10 more horsepower than the standard WRX, stiffer suspension, and better brakes. In the 20 years since then, STI models have remained true to the first car’s winning formula of affordability, durability and high performance. Now that Subaru is poised to launch the new 2015 Subaru WRX STI, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite rally-bred STIs over the years to honor the occasion.

1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STI

Widely known as the ultimate STI halo car, Subaru unleashed the Impreza 22B STI in 1998. It was intended to be a road-going version of the racer that won the 1997 FIA WRC title, Subaru’s third consecutive victory in the series. The year also intersected with the 40th anniversary of the Subaru brand.

The 22B featured a 2.2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine modified from the regular 2.0-liter STI powertrain, with power ramped up to 280 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. Subaru made the track wider with new wheels and tires, added flared fenders and rocker sill extensions to the bodywork, and increased the inclination of the rear-wing’s main plane by 17 degrees to produce more aerodynamic downforce. A twin-plate ceramic-disc clutch and close-ratio gears in the transmission made effective use of the increased power to help the car record a seriously swift 4.3-second sprint from 0-60 mph. Power peaked at a lofty 6000 rpm, and the engine would happily rev to its 7900-rpm redline.

Although the engine was perhaps the most distinctive feature of the 22B STI, Subaru did not overlook the car’s handling dynamics. Upgraded rack-and-pinion steering with a quicker ratio and a specially tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers were also part of the rally-based package. Bob Hall of Wheels magazine in Australia remarked that “nobody was quite ready for [the 22B’s] adhesion and cornering competence. In dynamics alone, the 22B comes very close to matching the classic Porsche 928 for chassis balance. It’s really that good.” High praise, indeed.

While the Impreza 22B STI’s performance set the formula for future generations of the WRX STI, the car’s looks were just as influential. The shape itself grew out of Prodrive’s Impreza RS, but the now-iconic livery of Sonic Blue Mica paint and 17-inch gold BBS wheels came from the original 555-sponsored Impreza rally cars of the mid-1990s. The trademark hood scoop and cherry-red STI badge continue to be visual signatures of the WRX STI even today. Subaru built just 424 units of the Impreza 22B STI, with 400 for Japan and the remainder for the export market.

2000 Subaru Impreza S201 STI

In April 2000, Subaru launched a 300-car run of a model inspired by the Electra One concept car. Called the S201 STI, the car set itself apart from the conventional WRX STI with a recalibrated engine computer, more turbo boost, a higher-capacity air-to-air intercooler and a larger, free-flowing exhaust, all of which pushed output to 300 hp.

The S201 STI also stood out in a crowd thanks to its bold body kit. A new front fascia included a wide lower grille opening and a much deeper bumper. New side skirts and a bi-level rear wing further transformed the exterior, while the car’s cabin featured a titanium shift lever, aluminum pedals and blue interior trim. The STI boffins also fitted the car with a hood scoop, a limited-slip front differential, height-adjustable suspension, red brake calipers, and 17-inch forged-aluminum RAYS wheels.

Though sold only in small numbers, the S201 is quite distinctive and is a seriously memorable version of the WRX STI.

2001 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Following the debut of the second-generation Impreza, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI launched in Japan in late 2000. The so-called “New Age” generation of STI proved to be quite popular worldwide, thanks to its excellent driving dynamics, standout looks, and everyday usability. It would also be the first STI to make it to U.S. shores, although when it arrived here in 2004, it had an engine different from the one with which the car had been introduced in Japan.

The second-gen Subaru Impreza WRX STI continued to use a 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer-four engine, but it featured a significant bump in power. Upgrades to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder included lightweight hollow camshafts, variable valve timing, and electronic throttle control, which together helped increase power and response lower in the rpm range to compensate for turbo lag. To cope with the heat of increased performance, the STI contained an intercooler 30 percent larger than the unit used in the standard WRX, and a larger hood scoop directed air to it.

When all was said and done, the STI engine developed 280 horsepower and 274 lb-ft of torque, an impressive step above the 250 hp and 245 lb-ft by the engine of the standard WRX. In keeping with the car’s rally-bred performance, a close-ratio, six-speed gearbox was available as an option. A computer-controlled center differential varied torque distribution to the front and rear wheels, while Brembo brakes delivered fade-free stopping power.

When the U.S. model of this car arrived, it featured a 2.5-liter boxer engine that made a burly 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. This gave it the power to prevail over the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, which brought only 271 hp to the table with its 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four engine. Added power aside, the STI was also the better, more tractable day-to-day road car. As we said in a comparison test between the STI and a Mitsubishi Evo, “[The STI] is arguably more complete than any race-bred road car in history, and its owner needs to make very few sacrifices to enjoy it.”

2005 Subaru Impreza Prodrive RB320

As the builders of Subaru’s competition cars for the FIA World Rally Championship, the engineers at Britain-based Prodrive knew their way around a fast Subie. These Prodrive-built Impreza racers eventually racked up three championships in the WRC with Colin McRae, Richard Burns, and Petter Solberg behind the wheel.

Prodrive has also been behind numerous hot Subaru production models over the years, and in 2005, it brought to market the RB320, a specially prepared Subaru Impreza WRX STI. The high-performance RB320 had a Prodrive-engineered package for the boxer four-cylinder that produced 320 hp, plus an upgraded chassis setup for a lower ride height with Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers. All of this made for a truly special STI, not to mention an aggressive appearance thanks to its mesh grille and 18-inch black wheels.

Only 320 units of this high-performance car were built, and all were sold in Britain. The RB designation honored Richard Burns, who died of brain cancer in 2005 just four years after winning the WRC championship with Subaru and Prodrive.

2011 Subaru Cosworth Impreza CS400

Prodrive isn’t the only British racing company with links to Subaru, as Cosworth – the noted British builder of purebred racing engines – helped create the Cosworth Impreza CS400.

Cosworth had cast the aluminum blocks for Subaru’s rally engines, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to prepare a total engine package. The turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer-four under the hood of the regular WRX STI was thoroughly upgraded with new crankshaft bearings, steel connecting rods, stout pistons with a lower compression ratio, new head gaskets and fortified head studs. These modifications helped the engine withstand increase boost from the new turbocharger, and the further addition of free-flowing intake and exhaust helped produce 395 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, a bump of 90 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque over a U.S.-specification STI engine.

Cosworth also applied its magic touch to the WRX STI’s chassis. Eibach coil springs lowered the ride height by a half-inch, Bilstein dampers controlled the suspension action, and hard suspension bushings delivered sharper handling response. Heavy-duty, six-piston AP brake calipers produced stronger, crisper action from the front brake discs, and the 18-inch wheels were wrapped in super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tires.

The Cosworth Impreza CS400 was never sold in North America, but Autocar got to sample the car in Britain. After the CS400 reached 100 km/hr (62 mph) in a scant 3.7 seconds and reached the end of a quarter-mile right on the back bumper of an Audi RS6, the magazine proclaimed this car to be “the fastest, most powerful and most expensive Subaru Impreza that’s ever been offered for sale in the UK.” Cosworth limited production to 75 cars — but had it not, the $83,000 asking price would likely have limited sales anyway.

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Featured, History, News&Reviews

Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Subaru Impreza WRX STI

So you want a peanut eye or hawk eye WRX STI? Our buyer’s guide will give you an idea of what to look out for.

STI: three little letters that herald the off-beat rumbling of a turbocharged boxer engine and rally-bred performance. Well, unless STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection where you’re from. In that case, get ready for important bits of your anatomy to turn World Rally Blue and then drop off.

However, if the persistent burning you feel is that of a desire for hoodscoops, big spoilers, and gravel-flinging all-wheel-drive, then good news. While the first of Subaru’s homologation hot-rod were unobtainable for the first decade of production, the STI now has more than a decade’s history in the US.

If you’ve been thinking about buying one, you probably should. Go on, scratch that itch. No, not that itch. The metaphorical one. Here’s our guide to the affordable STI market.

What to look for

Initially available only as a sedan, the GD-chassis STI arrived in the US as a 2004 model to much fanfare. At the time, its combination of a 300hp 2.5L flat-four engine, massive rear wing, a driver-controlled central differential, Brembo brakes, and all-weather grip promptly set everyone’s pants on fire (again, metaphorically).

Finally, US rally fans eager to become a McRae or a Solberg or a Burns could bring their dream car home and park it in the driveway. Where somebody would promptly steal it.

The 2004 STI is appealing, and not just to owners. The originals came without immobilizers fitted, and with easily pried open frameless windows, is a favorite target for thieves. Further, be aware that the 2004 has a slightly different bolt pattern (5×100) than later STIs, which it shares with the WRX. If you happen to be looking at a car with the original BBS alloys, some nefarious WRX owner will probably try to steal those too. Get an aftermarket immobilizer and some wheel locks.

Steering rack bushings in the ’04 can develop some slop, and there is a tendency for the wheel bearings to go out if the car sees regular track use. The synchros for fifth and sixth gear are problematic.

Having said all that, the ’04 is the rawest and lightest of the bunch, with a definitive rear-bias to the default torque split (35/65). Subaru USA keeps a pristine example in their collection. Maybe try stealing that one? Wait, I didn’t say that.

The later 2005 model looks much the same as the ’04 (Subaru enthusiasts call these years “peanut-eye”), but comes with the 5×114.3 bolt pattern that would extend over the next decade, that all-important immobilizer, and a revised interior. It’s a little heavier than the ’04, but otherwise identical.

For 2006, Subaru switched up grille to something resembling an upside-down Alfa-Romeo, and moved the torque split further forward to 41/59 front to rear. The 2006s also have unique aluminum front control arms, offering bragging rights more than an actual performance enhancement. Specific issues only really apply to the easily-replaced liquid-filled motor mounts. Some Subaru fans consider the ’06 to be the best year for both the STI and the WRX.

Last of the GD-chassis cars, updates for 2007 included taller ratios for gears 2, 3, and 4. It’s also the only year with a proper seat pass-through, and had changes to the wastegate actuator and ECU. The latter may have caused some hesitation issues under acceleration; a later reflash seems to have cured the issue.

As part of a last hurrah before the changeover to the GR-chassis hatchback, Subaru also released a more “grown-up” version of the STI called the Limited. As the name suggests, these are fairly rare, with around 800 sold in the US. Each one ditched the big wing for a discreet lip spoiler, got a leather interior in place of the cartoonish blue, and was fitted with more sound-deadening material. Consider it the Touring edition of STIs.

What to avoid:

Generally speaking, the first STI is a tough machine, built for the gravel rally stage and capable of withstanding abuse. However, there are any amount of horror stories about what happens when one has had enough.

A bad first impression isn’t the end of the world. Subaru paint was apparently applied by the good people at Crayola, and is highly susceptible to chipping, fading, and scratches. The body panels pick up a dent from just looking at them too long, so spots and ripples aren’t necessarily accident damage, just Subaru cellulite. Something to watch for is the paint on the Brembo brakes; if discolored by heat, it’s likely the car’s been on the track.

The STI is also a very noisy car to drive. All Subarus more than three years old develop rattles–it can sound like there’s a mariachi band fighting a rattlesnake in the dashboard. Add in a loud transmission and little sound deadening material and you might go a little deaf.

However, there are things to listen for on any test drive. First, almost all STIs can suffer from the rear struts clunking over bumps. This issue can be resolved with disassembly and lubrication, but it’s a pain. Of greater worry is any actual grinding coming from the transmission. A little clutch judder is normal, and the gearbox can be notchy, especially when cold.

You should, of course, have any car you’re considering for purchase inspected by a reputable mechanic. In particular, you may want to have a compression and leakdown test done as the STI is very susceptible to knocking (either from bad fuel or a poor tune).

A note on modifications:

If you can find and purchase a clean, relatively unmodified STI, then do so. The combination of a huge and varied aftermarket and mod-enthusiastic owners has resulted in many cars which have been questionably tuned. Always remember than almost any modification from factory, regardless of cost, devalues a car.

Having said that, commonly found upgrade parts from reputable tuners like Cobb and Perrin are probably fine, as are a host of aftermarket wheels. If the STI you’re considering has a blow-off valve fitted, it should set off your Fast & Furious Danger to Manifold alarm, as the owner has made their car run badly just to make the pssscht noise. If you’re looking at a car that has been lowered until it scrapes, run away before the owner spills any Monster Energy Drink on you.

If the car appears factory but you have your suspicions, there are clues to look for. For instance, the heatshield covering the factory turbocharger is a bit of a bear to put back on, so if it’s missing, the car may have had at least an aftermarket downpipe.

Community:

Not that long ago, all Subaru owners tended to wave to each other, just like motorcyclists. They still do in some parts of the country, and you might certainly get the nod from a fellow STI owner.

Forum websites like NASIOC have a great depth of knowledge to be sifted through carefully. With such a large community, there’s as much wrong information out there as right. Local forums are also a great way to get out and enjoy your STI with others, as Subaru owners seem to be a gregarious lot, always up for a cruise or rallycross session.

Meet up online, test the waters, get an STI. But in a good way.

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1992-2000, 2001-2007, 2008-, Automobiles, Featured, History, Poll

POLL: Subaru Impreza WRX STI Generations? Which Car is Your Favorite?

The Subaru Impreza is a compact automobile that has been manufactured since 1992 by Subaru, introduced as a replacement for the Leone, with the predecessor’s EA series engines replaced by the new EJ series.

Now in its fifth generation, Subaru has offered four-door sedan and five-door body variants since 1992; the firm also offered a coupe from 1995 until 2000, and a wagon from the Impreza’s introduction until 2007, when a five-door hatchback replaced it. Mainstream versions have received naturally aspirated “boxer” flat-four engines ranging from 1.5- to 2.5-liters, with the performance-oriented Impreza WRX and WRX STI models uprated with the addition of turbochargers. Since the third generation series, some markets have adopted the abbreviated Subaru WRX name for these high-performance variants. The first three generations of Impreza in North America were also available with an off-road appearance package called the Outback Sport. For the fourth generation, this appearance package was renamed the XV (Crosstrek in North America), and, unlike the Outback Sport (which was exclusive to the North American market), is sold internationally.

Subaru has offered both front- and all-wheel drive layouts for the Impreza. Since the late-1990s, some markets have restricted sales to the all-wheel drive model—therefore granting the Impreza a unique selling proposition in the global compact class characterized by front-wheel drive. However, Japanese models remain available in either configuration.

Which Car is Your Favorite? Here are this round’s options:

 

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