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Motoring: WRX265 and RalliArt battle to near draw in car face off

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 16th, 2009

Earlier this month, I celebrated my birthday, and to make this occasion even better, I had not one, but two great cars to play with, the Mitsubishi Lancer RalliArt and the Subaru Impreza WRX265.

Both car's design are inspired by their World Rally Championship racers, and both cars compete with each other in every motoring magazines group tests.

So why should they be any different, and hence here you have my views on the two cars to see which is best.

Let's start with the Mitsubishi. This RalliArt version is slotted in the middle of the Lancer line-up, just under the mighty Evo X. The RalliArt version has a two-litre, turbo-charged, I4 engine that develops 237hp and an astonishing 253 lb/ft of torque at 3000rpm. That power is sent to all four-wheels through an intelligent system that varies power going to each wheel, depending on the condition of the road and what you are asking the car to do. It even allows you to pick between three settings, tarmac, gravel and snow. Trust me, this system works brilliantly.

Perhaps even better than its handling is its six-speed, dual-clutch SST gearbox. This system is similar to one you'll find in the new Porsche 911 (PDK), and you know what, I think the Mitsubishi version works better. Mitsubishi certainly got the paddles for up-shift and down-shift working properly, as you hit the right-hand pedal to shift-up and the left-hand pedal to go down a gear (see Porsche, the solution is this simple). The gearshifts are smooth and fast and they help make this car an absolute joy to drive.

Not that the Subaru Impreza WRX265 isn't fun, its just that Subaru took a simpler approach with their car. No fancy dual-clutch gearbox, just your average five-speed manual transmission. While Subaru does have an active all-wheel drive system, it isn't as advanced as the one found on the Mitsubishi (if you want all the funky stuff, you'll need to step up into the WRX Sti version).

Subaru does give you extra grunt though, because it's 2.5-litre, flat-four cylinder, turbo-charged engine produces 265hp (hence its name WRX265), however it's torque figure of 244 lb/ft at 4000rpm is not as impressive as the RalliArt's figure I mentioned earlier.

So if you line them up, the Mitsubishi would not only be the quicker car thanks to its clever gearbox, but also because it has the better torque figure too.

On top of that, the WRX265 feels softer than the RalliArt, which gives the Subaru a better ride on the highway, but the tauter suspension on the Mitsubishi allows it to handle better through the corners, and with cars like these, I think performance has to take precedence over comfort. While on the subject of handling, the RalliArt also has the better steering feel, as it communicates with the driver more.

So while the WRX265 is a great, fun car to drive, the RalliArt is in my view the more enjoyable car to have. The RalliArt also has the better interior. My test car came with proper Recaro bucket seats which hold you in all the right places, and I think the overall quality of the RalliArt interior is just a notch above the rather boring interior of the WRX265.

However, like I said earlier, if comfort is what you're after, than the Subaru has the edge. The ride is softer, the engine hums along at lower revs at highway speeds, and the WRX265 did better in my week's fuel-economy test. I averaged 13.2-litres/100km with the Subaru, 13.7-litres/100km with the Mitsubishi.

While the interior quality seems higher on the Mitsubishi, I feel that mechanically the Subaru would be the more durable car. At the end of the week, the Mitsubishi started suffering from some unusual brake-wear, which dampened my spirits for the car, while the Subaru remained solid like a rock. I have had many Subaru test-cars over the years, and not once did any of them have any mechanical or electrical issue, so they do know how to build a reliable car.

Do they know how to build a pretty car is another matter. When Subaru first showed the new Impreza at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, I remember being very disappointed with the design. Since then it has grown on me and I do like the five-door hatchback version of the Impreza. The Mitsubishi however was love at first sight.

Still, choosing between these two is very difficult. They are priced very similarly. The Lancer RalliArt starts at $32,998 while the WRX265 starts at $34,895.

From a performance viewpoint, the Mitsubishi wins easily, but owning a car is more than just about outright performance, and from experience the Subaru does make for a very dependable choice.

Honestly, with my money, I cannot choose between these two, they both hold a special place in my heart. So in conclusion, I would say, buy either one, and you'll be one happy owner.
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