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Motoring: Evo X versus STi an intriguing match up

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | November 29th, 2010

Back in the 1960s, the Big Three American automakers were involved in a friendly competition called the Muscle-Car wars. The wars played contenders such as the Chevrolet Camaro against the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger.

While these three are still fighting with one another, there is another friendly car war on the scene, this time between Japanese car companies.

You can call it the Japanese super-sedan war, and it has been going on for over a decade between the Mitsubishi Evolution (Evo) and the Subaru STi.

Both cars are based on some rather humble grocery-getters. The Evolution is based on the Mitsubishi Lancer, while the STi is based on the Subaru Impreza.

While both cars share some basic structure with their humbler siblings, they have each been reworked. Both feature turbocharged motors with intelligent allwheel drive systems. Both have track-bred brakes and comfy but firm seats to keep you in place when the going gets twisty.

But there are some changes between these two also. For instance, while Subaru just offers a six-speed manual gearbox in the STi (on this continent at least), the Mitsubishi Evo can come with either a five-speed manual or a sixspeed dual-clutch paddle-shift gearbox. This gives the Evo some edge, because not only is their dual-clutch gearbox (called Sportronic Shift Transmission) an absolute joy to use, it is much more convenient on a day-to-day basis because you can put it in "D" and use it as any other automatic.

While the six-speed manual in the STi is an excellent gearbox, its heavy clutch will always make you curse in a traffic jam. So for everyday drive-ability the Evo wins.

There are also other areas where the Evo is better than the STi. Take the interior quality as an example. While both cars are well screwed together, the plastics used in the Evo look like they are of much nicer quality, and its instrumentation display is also more pleasing to the eye. I also think the Recaro seats in the Evo look and feel much more special than the seats found in the STi.

In the contest between their entertainment systems, it is an easy win for the Evo. Its stereo and navigation system are easy to get used to, while the system found in the STi was confusing and irritating. My advice for anyone buying an STi would be to not opt for the Alpine navigation system and use that money on a portable device from an electronics retailer.

So far it looks like a clean sweep for the Evo, but the battle is not over yet, because the STi has one hell of a motor. It sports a turbocharged, 2.5-litre, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that produces 305 hp and 290 lb/ft of torque. In comparison, the Evo sports a turbo-charged, 2.0-litre Inline four-cylinder engine that produces 291 hp and 300 lb/ft of torque.

But given the STi's extra horsepower and its lower curb weight (STi = 3384 lbs, Evo = 3594 lbs) means it is just slightly quicker. In the STi, it takes 4.9 seconds to go from 0-100 km/h, while in the Evo it takes 5.2 seconds. Thanks to the SST gearbox, most drivers will be able to get more consistent results from the Evo. By the way, both cars will nudge 250 km/h flat out, but don't try that on public roads.

What you can enjoy on public roads are these cars' abilities to go around corners. With their intelligent all-wheel drive systems, both cars can make mincemeat out of any corner. Their grip levels are incredible and would allow you to keep up with much more exotic machinery on any twisty road. The STi rides a little better but also has more body-roll when compared to the tighter Evo. While both cars are excellent, I preferred the steering feel of the Evo to the STi.

But in one area the STi has a clear win is in the department of engine and exhaust noises. The STi wakes up with an angry growl and keeps on sounding mean. The Evo is very quiet by comparison and therefore less enjoyable when driven hard.

If you are concerned about fueleconomy figures (and if you are, you should not be looking at cars like these), the STi comes on top. I averaged 12.6 litres/100km in the STi, while the Evo managed just 14.4 litres/100km on the same type of urban run, which included both city and highway driving. Since both cars require premium gasoline, it's not cheap to run either of them.

But one is quite a bit cheaper to buy than the other. The 2011 STi sedan starts at $37,995, while a fully loaded model is yours for $41,595. The 2011 Evo starts at $41,998 and goes up to $51,798. This explains why the Evo has a nicer quality interior with better seats and a much better entertainment system, plus that phenomenal SST gearbox.

But there is another area where the STi offers a bonus over the Evo, and that is with body choices. While Mitsubishi offers a sedan and hatchback variant with the lesser Ralliart version, the Evo is only available as a sedan for now. Subaru offers you both the hatchback and the sedan (which is new for 2011) body style for the STi, so you can decide how many doors you want.

Which one of these would I pick? I had to think very hard about this one and kept going back and forth. My end conclusion is this: if you live out in the country where traffic is not normally an issue, buy the STi; if you live in any major city and have to commute in heavy traffic, buy the Evo — you'll thank me for this.
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