2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI vs 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

When Subaru redid the WRX STI in 2008 as a wagon, it was a colossal disappointment that threatened to kill off one of the greatest rivalries among sports cars. I can't even imagine how many WRX fans were as disappointed as I was. Don't get me wrong, wagons are the smart choice when choosing a practical vehicle for hauling people and stuff around. But for a performance car, it makes no sense especially when you consider that wagons never really caught on in America. Subaru seemed to be trying to appeal to a non-existent crowd while neglecting its loyal fan base. But now that the WRX STI sedan has returned for 2011, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rivalry is back in full-swing.

The WRX STI sedan returns with all the exterior goodies that rally car fans love. The giant wing is back along with accentuated fender flares and lots of vents all around. Subaru may actually be overcompensating a bit for past wrongs and may be going overboard with the styling. The front end has been reworked with a larger grille and more air intakes. Along with the sculpted fender flares, the STI has more visual connection with the rally car it is or can be. The ride height has been lowered slightly and new lightweight 18-inch wheels replace the old ones. Even lighter 18-inch BBS wheels are an available option.

Mitsubishi has gone in the exact opposite direction as Subaru. The Evolution has become more sophisticated over the years and so has its styling. When Mitsubishi's corporate face first premiered on the Evo, it was bold and brash but now that the look has had time to sink in, it looks restrained but still aggressive. When you look at the rest of the car, the Evo looks almost pedestrian compared to the new WRX STI. The huge hood scoop disappeared back in 2008 and there's less definition in the fenders. There's not much going on out back either and if you opt for the MR version as shown in the photo gallery, you don't even get a wing (you get a lip spoiler instead).

When you look at both interiors, it's another advantage for Subaru. The WRX STI's interior is far from perfect, but Mitsubishi just hasn't put the same level of quality and detailing in the Evo. The dashboard design is unimaginative and everything just looks dark and drab. The WRX STI on the other hand, uses a nice combination of colors and materials. Both get Bluetooth, iPod and USB connectivity while there's satellite radio in the Subaru and a new voice command multimedia system in the Evo known as FUSE (similar to Ford's SYNC).

When it comes to performance though, the Evo will still outrun the WRX STI any day, anytime. Across the board, the Evo wins in every performance category despite the fact that both are equally powered and the Evo weighs more. The STI hasn't changed much underneath despite the new body style. The STI sedan brings back those rally car looks but not the rally car performance it used to have. It's not a complete blowout though. In fact, they're still close competitors but not as close as they once were. The Evo can do 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds while the STI takes just over 5 seconds. The time difference increases when you get closer to 100 mph. Even the regular WRX can still outrun the STI which really makes you think hard as to why you really need the STI in the first place.

The STI gets fitted with a six-speed transmission compared to the Evo's five-speed but it works against the STI's favor increasing acceleration times. It seems to have no advantageous effect on fuel economy either as both get the same miles per gallon in the city or on the highway. Around the track, the Evo also handles better putting up 0.96 g's on the skidpad while the STI manages 0.91 g.

The Lancer Evolution is Mitsubishi's masterpiece. It's their one vehicle in their lineup that attracts admirers and can shame sports cars twice its price. For the past three years, the Evo has dominated its rivalry with the WRX STI on the track and nothing changes despite the return of the WRX STI sedan. While we're happy the STI sedan is back, we wish Subaru would go back and give it the raw performance it once had.

Actually, we wish both Mitsubishi and Subaru would go back and bring the same levels of performance that the Evo and STI once had when they first debuted in America. Both have grown up into more mature sports cars adding luxuries and weight. But that's not what they were suppose to be about. They were supposed to help us fantasize about being rally car drivers no matter who we are or where we are. Now, they're both better but actually worse.

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