• Mar 6th 2008 at 1:26PM
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By comparison, the power in the WRX comes on almost instantly. As soon as you tickle the right pedal and ease out the clutch, the WRX leaps off the line. Driving around in any gear, as long as you're not lugging the engine, the WRX just feels much stronger and more responsive. There's 226 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm in the WRX, while the STi engine reaches its maximum of 290 lb-ft at a much higher 4,000rpm. Of course, at some point the STi will run away and hide from the WRX, just not in regular driving. That's the price you pay for the lower 8.2:1 compression ratio and higher 14.7 psi (vs 11.9 psi in the WRX) maximum boost pressure.

Both cars have a similar engine note that's more or less unique in the automotive landscape. The mechanical sound of a Subaru boxer engine is unlike anything else except perhaps a Porsche engine with a comparable layout. Neither of these cars is quiet at any time when they are on the move. At highway speeds, there is plenty of wind and mechanical noise and neither model could be described as refined.

Driving around in both cars, another readily apparent difference is the suspension compliance. Neither car could be described as soft, but the STi definitely veers toward harshness. Michigan roads will test any car's ability to keep its rubber on the pavement, a skill that is necessary in order to provide cornering grip. The WRX ride is firm but doesn't beat you up, while the STi seems much better suited to the pavement you might find in places that don't experience 50 degree temperature cycles from one day to the next. One huge advantage of either Impreza is the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, which, unlike a Dodge Caliber SRT-4, never has any issues with torque steer under hard acceleration.

When the weather turns nasty, like it did when we had each of these cars, the rally heritage of the all-wheel-drive system shows its true colors. Turning into a snowy corner and goosing the throttle swivels the back end of the car around nicely past the desired direction before the drive torque balance shifts toward the front axle to pull you through the corner. It all works smoothly and seamlessly and is great fun.

So is the STi worth $10,000 than a regular WRX? As always, it depends. If you can't live with the hatchback styling and want to choose the sedan, you are limited to the WRX. If you can live with the looks of the hatch, the decision gets a little more complicated. If you reside somewhere with smooth pavement (that is not Michigan) or you regularly spend weekends at the track and don't mind the high strung nature of the high-boost turbo engine, the STi will fill the bill. On the other hand, if you're in the market for a daily driver, the WRX is actually a lot more fun to drive at speeds won't cost you your driving privileges. It leaps off the line and the torque band feels broad and useful instead of peaky like the STi. Both cars have good grip and their advanced all-wheel-drive systems allow them to be utilized under all kinds of weather conditions. From the driver's seat, each car is rowdy and raucous, but the WRX gets my vote as a daily rally machine.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid,
Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is a swing and a miss for Subaru. The new forester looks nice but they only offer a 4 speed in it too. Let's hope they don't ruin the Legacy/Outback.

      I saw one of these at our dealership, I don't agree the inside is as cheap as a Chrysler. I do agree that the price is at least $4000 too high.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have to disagree with the WRX having a "firm" ride. It has MUCH more body roll than previous wrx's, and simply doesn't feel sharp at all. I assume the STI's a different story, but I haven't had the pleasure.
      I agree that Subaru transmissions are sub-par. Yes, 5-speed is just not good enough anymore. Long, rubbery throw on the lever really doesn't help either. They need to get with the program here.
      That said, I still bought one. I like the looks of the hatch, although I admit both the ms3 and a3 are better-looking. AWD and reliability were the biggest selling points for me, and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to "fix" the long, vauge shifter and unacceptable body roll.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Screw the hunchback wannabe-wagon 5-door. Have it, if some people will buy it, but Mazda3 and Audi A3 are both much better looking, and Mini Clubman has more panache.

      The Impreza sedan is boring as hell.

      IF YOU WANT A SUBIE SEDAN, PLEASE BUY A LEGACY GT!!! It is a better car on EVERY front than the WRX, and not as overpriced as the STI, and nearly as fast. Maybe then maybe Subaru won't cancel the thing, which they seem to be on-track to do.

      What Subaru REALLY NEEDS TO DO:

      Build a WRX and STI COUPE!!!! Resurrect a 2.5RS-style coupe with AWD and turbo power. Mitsubishi makes concepts of that, but have yet to deliver, Subaru could deliver, but they haven't either. They could make something sleek and cool like a new, smaller SVX-like coupe, also, but again, no.

      But a 250-305hp AWD 6-speed sport coupe with a turbo boxer would almost obliterate the rest of the sport compact crowd, and maybe even get a few people who want something like a Miata in a coupe format, which doesn't really exist, or a lighter-weight higher-traction alternative to the new heavy muscle-car crew of Mustang/Challenger/Camaro, or even the 370z/G37, or even the new mustang-sized Genesis Coupe.

      None have turbo boxer power, none have AWD. Subaru could do this, but refuses to. >:-(
        • 7 Years Ago
        2-door sales of all vehicles are down. Why? Because they are impractical. It's difficult to put anything in the back seat or the trunk.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Unfortunately, stylish entry-level sports cars are a thing of the past. The "hot hatch" or "hot sedan" is in right now, and apparently thats what sells. Subaru won't risk cannibalizing the successful WRX with something else, it just wouldn't be wise.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I didn't say it had to be two doors. A three-door fastback coupe could be very nice.

        I have had two of those type of car, and they were both very practical, and actually swallowed more cargo than my Legacy GT sedan currently does. They both wore a different blue oval, and were nice enough cars, but neither had the performance and capability of my pleiades-badged car.

        If I could pair my Legacy's drivetrain and AWD capability, and 300 turbocharged horsepower, with my old 93 Probe GT's looks and hatchback practicality (which coincidentally, both actual cars are near enough the same colors, darker red and black interior) That would be one heck of a coupe.

        Subaru could do that easily by resurrecting an SVX-like car on their current chassis architecture that underpins their entire lineup right now.

        And sales of two door cars are down from when??? They are just now coming back!

        They were all but obliterated in the late 90's, and now makers are starting to come out with them again.

        Challenger is out, Camaro is still coming, perhaps even a Holden/Pontiac coupe.
        Ford doesn't have much, the three door ugly focus has become the two door ugly focus, and the mustang soldiers on, without a mercury compliment, unfortunately.
        G35 came out in the early 2000s, and has been re-fit to the G37, the 350Z is about to be upgraded, as well, after a hiatus following the 300zx. If that wasn't enough, they also have their Altima Coupe, now, too.
        Honda has the civic and Accord coupes, nothing to write home about.
        Toyota has the solara, which is even more bland. The tC does ok for an econo-coupe front-driver.
        Hyundai has the Tiburon, and is bringing the bigger Genesis coupe.
        Mitsubishi has the eclipse, which is bland, and could be so much better, if they simply built the RallyART prototype, or the Concept RA that they more recently showed.
        Audi has the TT, and just brought out the A5/S5.
        BMW has had the three series, and is bringing out the 1 series, as well as a coupe version of the Z4, and the 6-series, all but the three are new.
        Mercedes made a big error on the C-class coupe, and due to the error, it didn't sell, so they are keeping that one in europe, continuing with the same error.(old tech, cheap interior and chassis) But they do have larger, more luxurious coupes.
        Porsche has brought out the Cayman, which is the unsung underdog champ of the lineup.
        VW is bringing out the Scirocco, but reportedly not to the US due to the state of the US dollar, but also the EOS, which is kind of a convertible coupe. I think the Scirocco would probably do better. VW also has the Beetle.
        Volvo has their 3-door hatch C30. BMW has their Mini lineup.
        Pontiac is sorely lacking for coupes, aside from the G6 coupe. Solstice/Sky coupes are rumored. They may get a G5 coupe update with the re-fresh of the Chevy Cobalt SS. They need a bigger, badder coupe.
        Cadillac is doing a CTS coupe, and there is always Corvette.

        That is probably not all of them. So what exactly is DOWN about two-door car sales in the last 6-8 years that MOST of these cars have either arrived, or been significantly re-designed in that time?

        Perhaps each individual nameplate's sales are deflating due to the resurgence of the competition, but overall two door sales can't be falling off too much, otherwise, why would they be coming back?

        And I thought everyone was clamoring for more fuel efficient cars, rather than bigger, heavier cars and SUVs, and stuff... what is better than a lighter-weight sporty coupe?

        Subaru is one of the FEW companies that have NOTHING WHATSOEVER in the coupe market.

        Strangely, Mazda, the Zoom-Zoom "soul-of-a-sports-car" company is also without a true coupe for a while now, being split between the convertible miata, and the 4-door-kinda RX8. The MX6/Probe GT/MX3 has been gone for a long time, and the RX7 even longer.

        Subaru could platform-share a coupe from the Legacy line, or the Impreza line, or even both. They simply haven't and evidently won't.

        It isn't about caniballizing sales. The Impreza hasn't been selling THAT well, and the sedan bodystyle is worthless, boring, and redundant in light of the Legacy 2.5i and GT availability as better sedans for the same price. The Legacy's interior is far better than Impreza's, and the exterior styling is no contest whatsoever, for basically the same non-turbo driveline, and a more powerfully-tuned turbo engine than the WRX has. Again, for basically the same price.

        Yet the Impreza line is being advertized, and pushed. The Legacy is languishing, and has already lost it's wagon bodystyle, and some of it's options since 2005.

        It would have been better if the "special" bodystyle availability of the sedan, had instead been a three-door, attractive c
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think both cars looks great. Especially in those colors.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have looked at but not driven either car and find them very disappointing for different reasons. I'm the type of guy these cars are made for demographically so I think I'm probably fairly representative of the challenges the 2 face.

      Where I live they have a silver 5 door for sale with some options and an auto. For a nice but by no means luxurious sport hatch the sticker is 29 THOUSAND DOLLARS! To put this in perspective, the loaded 2.5 gt legacy with heated seats and a stick is virtually the same price. By my estimation, the car is $3500-4000 overpriced. Geesh. It doesn't even have a 6th gear. A

      I never drove an STI but the damned thing should have direct injection and better tuning. There is no need for it to be that peaky. And 23 mpg on the highway seems pretty attrocious. They need to up the content, cut the price and modernize the drivetrains in their cars. Great awd isn't enough south of buffalo.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "I've never driven it... but it shouldn't be that peaky..." How would you know how it drives if you've never driven it?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Autoblog Quote "Once the needles on the boost gauge and tach start to get active, so does the engine and the STi leaps forward." WTF? What boost gauge? Non-existant in 2008 STI. I should know. Don't know about the WRX but I'd be pissed to know that the WRX has a boost gauge and mine didn't.

      • 7 Years Ago
      'One huge advantage of either Impreza is the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system'

      The base Impreza is not 'rear biased'
      It is actually front biased ever so slightly front biased because of the extra gear mesh & bearing drag, about 51/49.

        • 7 Years Ago
        • 7 Years Ago
        • 7 Years Ago
        That's only true of the automatics, the manual is 50/50
      • 7 Years Ago
      I own a 2002 hatch and it is extremely useful. Been waiting for an STI in a hatch but i sorta wish they wouldn't have changed the styling so much.

      This article is useful for wrx owners because you normally just here the sti is faster so its better argument. This is a nice contrast. Is the standard wrx fast? Sure it is, in fact after four years of ownership it still makes me smile every day that I drive it. But more might be nice too.
        • 7 Years Ago
        What really gets me excited is a diesel varient of the WRX and or STI. One problem with subaru's both turbo and non turbo (i've owned both types of impreza) is the gas mileage. Be nice to see around 30-40 on the highway but still be able to scoot when needs be. I'm waiting to here more.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It is still ugly and awkward--the passage of time does not change its bad design aesthetics. The gratuitious slab of fake chrome connecting the tail lights of the WRX is particularly garish and a big tell-tale sign that they were targeting the older Toyota crowd with the regular WRX. I hear the interior quality is acceptable, but it is better than the Lancer which I hear is really bad.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Before I bought my spec. B I cross-shopped the A3 with the V6 and the twin-clutch. $45k was too much for that, I thought. But with the STi ending up right around $40, I'll be looking at it vs. the A3 again and deciding which offers the better balance of daily driving/ fun/ and low visits to the service department. I think Subaru has the last one nailed.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I can't understand the whole hype around hatchbacks - I want the sedans back!
        • 7 Years Ago
        Amen, this looks like a modern day interpretation of the AMC Pacer. Yuck.
      • 7 Years Ago
      One thing he forgets to mention with respect to the torque delivery is the fact that a six speed tranny is meant to keep your RPM's higher more often so you will be in the torque. One thing that sux about the gearing is the two shifts to 60.
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