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Subaru WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: Which Is Better?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2019 Subaru WRX review, and the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution review.

The high-performance compact car segment will forever be popular among young enthusiasts for its offering of fast, fun, customizable vehicles at a great value. Perhaps the two most notable vehicles offered in this segment over the past 20 years are the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. While the STI is still on sale today, sales of the Evo ended after the 2015 model year. Still, compact performance car buyers are likely to consider either of these vehicles, so below we’ll compare them in a number of categories. Since an apples-to-apples new comparison is impossible given the discontinuation of the Evo, we’ll compare used examples of the 2008 to 2014 STI and the 2008 to 2015 Lancer Evolution

Subaru WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Overview

The price floor on a used Lancer Evolution listed on Autotrader is about $14,000. For this sum, buyers are looking at a 2003 model — the Evo VIII if you’re in the know — with over 100,000 miles.

The price range for an example from the 2008 to 2015 model years — the Evo X — is as follows. At a minimum, buyers are looking at spending around $17,000 for a 2008 or a 2009 model with around 100,000 miles on the clock. At the high-end of the market, buyers should expect to pay around $33,000 for a 2015 model with between 20,000 and 40,000 miles. See the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution models for sale near you

Looking at the Subaru WRX STI, the cheapest examples on Autotrader are 2004 models from the STI’s first year on sale in the US. Like the Evo, these early STIs still fetch a hefty sum, with 100,000 mile examples listing for around $13,000, give or take a few thousand dollars depending on condition and modifications. See the Subaru Impreza WRX models for sale near you

Looking at the model years we’ll be comparing here, the price floor for a 2008 STI appears to be around $14,000 for an example with around 100,000 miles. At the top of the market, buyers should expect to pay around $25,000 for a 2014 STI with 30,000-40,000 miles on the clock.

Worth mentioning is the price of a brand-new 2019 Subaru WRX STI, which starts at just under $37,000 and exceeds $42,000 in fully-loaded Limited trim.

Subaru WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Configurations

Throughout its run in the U.S., the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was only offered in the 4-door sedan body style. The majority of Subaru STIs were also offered in the 4-door sedan body style as well, although for 2008, 2009, and 2010, the STI was offered only as a hatchback. The sedan body style was added back into the lineup for 2011 and from 2011 to 2014, buyers could opt for either of the two body styles. When the STI was redesigned for 2015, it went back to being offered only as a sedan.

Subaru WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution powertrains

Powertrains

The Evo X came with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine putting out 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Two different transmissions were offered: a traditional 5-speed manual and a unique dual-clutch 6-speed automatic referred to as the TC-SST. The Evo’s dual-clutch automatic came with paddle shifters and three drive modes: Normal, Sport and S-Sport, which offered launch control. Torque-vectoring all-wheel drive was standard across the board.

The 2008 to 2014 STI was offered with a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine putting out 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual was the only available transmission. The STI had a dial mounted on the console that would allow you to manipulate the "Si-Drive" AWD system, shuffling it between Sport, Sport Sharp and Intelligent. Just aft of the dial is a rocker switch that allows you to adjust how the vehicle’s center differential distributes power between the front and rear wheels.

Subaru WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution performance

Performance

Acceleration between these two is pretty similar, with the 2008-2015 Evo and the 2008-2014 STI both taking between 4.9 to 4.7 seconds to get from 0-to-60 miles per hour, depending on trim level. Quarter mile times are extremely similar as well.

Reviews from back in 2008 criticize the STI’s steering for being too light and say that the vehicle as a whole experiences too much understeer in the corners. The same reviews report experiencing oversteer in the Lancer Evolution, praising it for its dialed-in steering and road-clinging abilities.

With the 5-speed manual, the Lancer Evolution X earned 17 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in combined driving. Opting for the dual-clutch automatic meant a one mpg reduction to the Evo’s highway fuel economy.

With the 6-speed manual — its only transmission option — the STI earned fuel economy identical to that of the manual Lancer Evolution, earning 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

Subaru WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution livability

Livability

Neither of these vehicles is particularly luxurious or comfortable. With their stiff rally car-derived suspensions, both the STI and the Evo offer bone-jarring rides, while their turbocharged 4-cylinder engines are anything but quiet. Additionally, neither offers a very nice interior. Both are high on plastic and low on soft touch materials. Overall, the Evo is said to be even a step below the STI in this regard.

While neither is particularly comfortable, the 2008-2014 Subaru WRX STI offers one thing the Evo doesn’t: a hatchback body style. As a result, the STI hatchback offers practicality no Evo can offer.

Subaru WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution safety

Safety

Back in 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named both the 2010 Subaru Impreza and the Mitsubishi Lancer Top Safety Picks. While these two likely wouldn’t fare as well if tested against today’s standards, they were both among the safer vehicles on the market when they were sold new. As the STI and the Evo are performance versions of the Impreza and the Lancer, it’s safe to say that both are reasonably safe.

Features & Tech

The base Evo was known as the GSR, while the MR trim added luxury features like leather seats with suede inserts, keyless entry and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The MR Premium built up on the offers of the standard MR with an upgraded audio system and navigation. MR models were also notable for their offering of a rear lip spoiler in place of the Evo’s traditional massive rear wing.

The STI offered a few luxury features too. Limited models were available with a sunroof, leather seats and a navigation system. Additionally, the STI offered a unique orange Special Edition model for the 2013 model year.

Conclusions

Performance cars tend to be an emotional purchase, and with so much left up to personal preference, its difficult to name one of these vehicles as an objectively better buy than the other. For many people, the STI from this era holds a major advantage over the Evo simply for the fact that it was offered in a practical hatchback body style, while the Evo was only available as a sedan. Additionally, the STI came with a 6-speed manual, while the Evo only offered five gears to anyone wanting to row their own. Still, if its raw performance you’re after, reviewers tend to favor the Lancer Evolution for its improved acceleration and driving dynamics. When it comes down to it though, you can’t go wrong with either of these affordable rally cars. Just save some room in your budget for a set of off-road tires. Find a Subaru WRX for sale or Find a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution for sale

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