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Evo and STi: Different Creatures

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A weeklong drive of Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution GSR impressed jaw-dropping performance, but it also served to help reinforce, quickly, what I liked better about the Subaru WRX STi that I’d driven a few months back: greater livability, drivability, and practicality.

First off, both of these cars are extremely fast. Both can accelerate to 60 mph in about five seconds; and as we’ve pointed out in our road tests of the STi and the Evo, the Evo maintains more of the sharp-edged feel of the last generation of these performance cars while the STi takes a different approach, still allowing tremendous grip but more suspension compliance.

And while it’s entirely possible — based on what I’ve seen from the magazines that have had both vehicles out for some track time — that I might choose the Evolution after a stint of back-to-back track driving, day in and day out on pockmarked roads the STi is the clear choice.

Yes, the new Evo is somewhat improved in its drivability. The new 4B11 engine is less peaky than its predecessor, with a little less turbo lag and a broader powerband. But drivability is still far from stellar compared to the STi’s revamped 2.5-liter turbo flat-four, which although it turns out similar horsepower figures and yields almost equally fast acceleration, just feels more drivable. And of course there’s the soon-to-arrive BMW 135i, a refined alternative that will further shake up the scene.

Just as in the STi, it pays to keep the Evo’s revs up; if you’re on the high side of 3000 rpm, there’s a lot less lag before the turbo swiftly spools up and delivers its heavy-hitting punch. Much below there in, say, third or fourth gear, you can full-throttle it and still count off a second or two before it really delivers. The Evo's engine is decidedly unhappy lugging along at 1500 rpm in second or third gear in traffic where most other modern performance cars are tolerant if not responsive. And it’s one of the toughest cars I’ve driven in recent years to launch in a smooth fashion from a stop going uphill, without either balking or hurtling ahead—a strong argument for the TC-SST semi-automatic transmission that’s offered in the pricier MR.

The Evo’s steering is arguably superior, as it still manages to have that same quick-ratio feel without feeling too twitchy and while also bringing great feedback from the road.

But you’ll feel and hear the road from wherever you are in the Evo. The overall boom and din inside the cabin at 80 mph on rough pavement (and just about any speed) is perhaps greater than I’ve recently experienced in many roadsters—including the soft-top Audi TT I drove the week before. Is your relationship important? Be prepared for questions like ‘Why is this car so loud?,’ and ‘Why does it have to be so bumpy?’ I certainly heard them.

I much prefer the STi’s hatchback style to the Evo’s sedan body style, but the Evo’s racy front-end styling seemed to be a hit with everyone.

Inside it’s a different story. The Evo’s great Recaro front seats are tremendously supportive but the steering wheel doesn’t telescope. Overall, the interior overall felt a bit plain — certainly better than the last generation car — however the base cloth upholstery felt cheap and unduly attracted lint and hair. The headliner buzzed on downshifts or early upshifts and felt to be made of cardboard; and the doors closed with a disconcertingly hollow sound and feel. And as for first impressions, the first time I got into the Evo with my size-13 dress shoes on, the toe area was scraped up by the sharp, ragged edges of a flimsy heater vent outlet. Sneakers only, folks.

Enthusiast magazines are absolutely gushing over the Evo — rightly so. But if you you’re leaning toward the speedy Mitsu, go get yourself and a companion stuck in traffic on the test drive, ya hear?
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Comments (6)
  1. Well...

    It's a tough choice, because the Sti is pretty funky-looking.

    I recently stood in the dealership showroom looking at the new Sti and after 20 minutes, I still couldn't decide if I thought it looked OK, or if I really hated it.

    It's weird.

    But with the new BMW 135i coming out, I think Mitsu and Subie are going to have a hard time charging $35-40K for the Evo or the Sti.

    They've gone upmarket, but I'm not sure the yuppie crowd wants these cars.

  2. I recently bought a gray '08 EVO GSR. I chose the vehicle after test driving the STI and the EVO (which was very hard to get might I add). The EVO felt just wonderful in hilly slopes and curves of northern pittsburgh where I live. The steering is amazing. It is definitely a rougher ride than the STI, but I do not mind the rough ride to be honest, it is not as bad as it is cracked up to be. Since I moved up from a crappy old camry, the STI and the EVO both felt just as rough as the other. But again, I was looking forward to that sporty ride. Another deal breaker was the legroom and the trunk space. The EVO simply had more to offer at the price I was willing to pay. As for the above reader's comment, I do not believe the 135i is something Mitsu and subie would have to worry about. It is a much smaller car which might actually end up being heavier due to its bigger engine, dual turbo and BMW's general attachment to heavy luxury materials. Either way, I am sure they are all great cars for their own market niche, but at the end of the day, I feel the EVO is more hardcore than any of the other two.


  3. Ok. After reading extensive reviews and test driving both the new STI and the new Evo, I purchased the STI. I bought the charcoal gray STI and, to me, the STI just looks more sophisticated, inside and out, than the Evo. The STI's styling is very bold and, at a glance, it looks unlike anything on the road, which is something I appreciate. I seem to get a lot of stares and "thumbs-up" signs while driving the STI. The Evo's styling, on the other hand, looks nice, but it's a bit commonplace and is easily confused with other 4-door sedans at a glance, namely, Mitsu's Lancer. Inside, the materials of the STI had a better fit, finish and overall substance, in my opinion, than the Evo too. Driving-wise, the STI is less of a rough ride thatn the Evo, but is still plenty responsive and has a “planted”/solid feel at high speeds. The STI is a pleasure to drive because the seats are more comfortable for longer distance driving. It also has 3 different driving modes depending on what type of driving you want to do - Intelligent/everyday vs. Sport vs. Sport Sharp, a cutting edge racing type driving mode that'll gobble up a tank of 93 octane like nobody's business! The Sport Sharp mode is like flipping a nitrous switch and boosts the already awesome acceleration over 3500 rpm. The Evo's seats are a bit hard, and are essentially racer-boy Recaros, which are fine if you want to be a poser/wanna-be racer, but not much practicality for every day driving. Due to its hatchback design, there's a ton more cargo space in the STI than the Evo too, especially when you drop the back seats forward (which I don't think you can even do in the Evo). I mean, I couldn't even fit a single set of golf clubs in the back of the new Evo, whereas I could easily fit a single set of clubs in the back of the STI, and probably two additional sets with the seats down. The STI is just a better, all-around small sports car (I'd even say it's a poor man's Porsche 911 Carrera 4 due to its AWD and boxer engine) than the Evo. I mean, I actually have the little woman thinking that our new STI is a great family car, which is a tough sell with the Evo and its obvious racer-boy charm. If you're really on the fence about which one to go with, just employ a little common sense and ask yourself if you will primarily be driving your car on the track or on the street. If on the track, go with the Evo, if on the street, definitely go with STI. You will not be disappointed. As for the new baby BMW, I don't honestly believe it's in the same class as the STI and Evo. I haven't seen a BMW in any rallies lately, and given their maintenance costs over the long term, I think anyone would be foolish to buy one.

  4. the sti looks great in my opinion, and it sounds alot better. Also it is also quicker to 60 in some reviews.

  5. I have driven both, as well as Evo 9 and previous STi over the past 10 years. I am allowed to have them as company cars. I enjoy the EVO at 9/10 10/10 driving, but its down right frustrating (even in the 10) if you don't have the turbo spooled up. Often I have found myself in the wrong gear at the wrong time.
    The Sti is happy to be driven in traffic, and is only marginally "slower" at 9-10 tenths driving.
    I find it better on broken,undulating roads than the evo- whos computer seems to tell you "you can't do that." Evo is a track car IMO
    My current Sti has some further enhancements to and is a nice drive even for a 50 year old, and yes with the windows down the Sti exhaust note still brings a smile to my dial...

  6. The Evo is a track car ,its more agile and higher reving from what I have read .The STI has more than enough perfomance on public roads and mere tenths of a second slower than the Evo on any track .A few modifications and the results are completely diffrent.

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