While the STI is capable of giving Munich’s best sweaty brows and malodorous armpits, Shaffer’s exclamation of surprise stems from the vast differences between the STI and another car he had just driven. Prior to jumping in the STI, he drove the same path in the Subie’s well-established archrival: the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X Special Edition.”Compared to the Evo, the STI just feels sooo much heavier,” Shaffer notes. “It understeers more than you’d want. But it makes up for slower cornering speeds with an all-out turbo blitz in the straights. The Evo, though, is phenomenal on a road like this — very tightly twisted, even rutted at some points. I know I’m not that great of a driver, but it made me feel like Superman out there.”Unlike the bulk of the MT staff, Shaffer is new to the long-running Evo vs. STI battle and the Superman phenomenon. This is the first time the newbie has tasted both potent varieties in one real-world sitting (no Gran Turismo 4 or 5 here), so his slate was figuratively clean.
Mitsubishi has traditionally used “Special Edition” lightly. The last time Americans got a three-diamond SE vehicle was in 2006. That car combined performance items from the higher MR trim into a cheaper model. Mitsubishi used the latest SE as a sort of gateway into 2011’s lower end “base” MR. Given this, only 340 SE examples were delivered in the second half of last year, and only now did we opt for a delivery of a tester.Standard SE equipment includes Mitsu’s lauded twin-clutch TC-SST gearbox, GSR styling cues (i.e. front clip with black side vents), small MR trunk lid spoiler, bi-xenon headlights, and heated black cloth Recaro buckets.There are also the two-piece Brembo brakes (four-piston front, two-piston rear) from the MR and Bilstein shocks with Eibach springs. Cast-aluminum 18-by-8.5-inch Enkei wheels are included, while navigation can be had as an option. With a handful of amenities axed (like leather and navigation), the SE tipped our scales 93 pounds lighter (3563 pounds total) than our dearly departed long-term 2008 Evo X MR.A hearty 4B11 T/C series 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder continues its stay behind the Evo’s louvered shark schnoz. The snail-fed mill provides 291 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels via the brand’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system.
Subaru’s STI five-door hatchback is largely unchanged, but gets a few minor suspension bits designed to further amp up grip. For 2011, STIs get front pillow ball joints, higher rate springs (Subaru wouldn’t disclose the exact settings), and pair of 21-mm front, 19-mm rear anti-roll bars as standard fare. It’s the same story for the included All-Weather Package (heated front seats and mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer). An aluminum dual overhead cam high-boost 2.5-liter Boxer still spins all four 18-inch forged BBS wheels with 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of pull.While Shaffer says the Evo feels sprightlier, in reality it weighs 257 pounds more than the STI, which tipped the scales at 3306 pounds (it’s the lightest STI we’ve ever tested). So what’s the trick? A tauter rally-derived suspension.
Thanks to the Bilstein/Eibach setup, the Evo handles its heft better while tracing Sofia Vergara-esque corners. Forget about BMWs. This Evo can prey on Porsches.Around our figure eight, the Evo demolished the STI with a 25.0 second run at a 0.76 g average. The STI accomplished an identical mission at 25.6 seconds and an average of 0.73 g — a very respectable number, but well in the dust of the nimbler Evo. Yet the STI matches the Evo’s average lateral acceleration of 0.93 g and posts a barely better stopping distance from 60 mph (110 ft vs. 112 ft).
- Launching from a standstill, the Evo owns the STI. At 60 mph, Mitsu’s little monster is half a second ahead of the STI (4.5 seconds vs. 5.0 seconds), and by the time 100 mph comes around, the Evo has stretched its lead to almost 2 seconds (12.3 seconds vs. 13.9 seconds). This lightest double-clutch Evo is also the quickest we’ve driven.The difference in sprints has to do with the application of power. While the Subaru weighs less, is more powerful, and, as a result, touts a superior power-to-weight ratio, the Evo, with its twin-clutch automatic blipping off millisecond shifts, always pulls ahead. The STI’s now crisp six-speed manual rower holds this hatchback back in terms of all-out acceleration. A manual gearbox also makes it difficult to tap the STI’s power band, whereas the Evo in full Super Sport auto mode intuitively matches ideal power with speed.Associate road test editor Carlos Lago knows firsthand what it takes to get these two accelerating at their potential.”In the STI you have to perform this delicate footwork ritual, carefully rolling in the throttle and slipping the clutch,” Lago notes.”Three times out of five, though, you get it wrong and the drivetrain shudders and hops and lurches and the whole thing is quite cringe-inducing. If and when you get this complex footwork right, you still get the same worrying drivetrain clunking, and your reward is, at best, a 5.0-sec to 60 mph run. It’s a lot of work for little payoff.”In the Evo, the entire process is much simpler.”Not only is the Evo faster, it’s easier to launch. Launching the Evo goes like this: Activate Super Sport mode, hold the brake, hold the gas. When the tach hits 5000 rpm, lift off the brake. At this point you’re beating the STI. It’s almost like cheating. But then the Evo can go faster still. If you switch it to manual mode and pop your own upshifts, you’ll cut a tenth off the acceleration time.”
- “Steering feel more direct, more precise in the Evo,” Shaffer notes. Lago agrees: “(The Evo’s) steering feels like a proper sports car, whereas the STI’s wheel feels like it came off a base Impreza.”Charge into a corner fast and the Evo’s S-AWC system directs power in ways that result in sticky grip, surprisingly blistering speeds, and bent necks. The whole tackling-a-corner process is a phenomenal one. Lined up correctly, the Evo cuts through serpentine paths with a racecar-like skill set, changing direction with the slightest of steering wheel input and brake-induced weight transfer. The feeling is of complete control and utter fun.Just as the track data shows, the STI always feels one step behind the Evo on real roads. It takes longer for the chassis to respond to its helm, and as a result, to shift its weight before, in, and after a corner. Sure, the STI plows less than in past iterations (2010 STI Special Edition not included), and yes, it’s one helluva drive with its advanced dynamic systems in place (like Subaru Intelligent Drive, aka SI-Drive, and multi-mode vehicle dynamics control). You just won’t be grinning as wide as you would in an Evo.”The Mitsu feels like no matter how fast you’re going you can jab the wheel in either direction and the car will politely, quickly oblige,” Shaffer says. “In the STI, with an identical amount of speed and jab, the car says ‘Nah, I’m gonna keep going this way’ in its most screechy of understeering voices. The Evo wants you to go fast, easily. Whereas in the STI, it’s a bit harder to do.”In the Evo you’re better equipped for attacks on empty mountain passes with highly bolstered Recaro seats. They’re a hassle in terms of ingress and egress and become uncomfortable on trips longer than 20 miles, yet provide abundant support in the corners.
- “When getting in and out of the car, you’ll wish the seats would release their grip,” Shaffer notes. “But then you hit a corner and they hug just tight enough to let you focus on doing more important things like turning the steering wheel. There is no wasting any brain power on keeping your weight balanced as the car is thrown around.”The Recaros are the only bright spot in an otherwise simple and clean cabin. For such simplicity, the interior comes off as cold and mechanical. The materials feel hard and unwelcoming.Circumnavigating high seat bolsters isn’t an issue in the Subie. Soft materials spoil appendages while the curvaceous avian-inspired dash pleases the eyes. The 2011 navigation system proves easy to use and colorful, too. (“There are plenty of gadgets inside,” Shaffer commented.)Having such a precise, racing-derived suspension setup kills any inkling of a civilized ride, meaning buying an Evo as a daily driver — or a road tripper — is a ridiculous proposition. (After an hour into a trip to Las Vegas, for example, your butt and back will feel as though they were sponsored by Cialis.) Subaru forgoes a bit of cornering responsiveness for a ride that doesn’t jounce at every pavement imperfection. It is likely Subaru’s way to please a wider audience of American buyers who may use the STI as a commuter.Then there is the issue of cargo room. Both can give joyrides to a quartet of buddies — just don’t have them bring much of anything along. Throw a few duffle bags into the Evo’s paltry 6 cubic-foot trunk and you’ll be craving the STI’s 19 cubic-foot cargo hold.
- Numbers and daily livability remarks aside, with enough time behind the wheel, the Mitsubishi Evo will make your ears ring, your backside ache, and your head hurt. Its tinny turbo mill doesn’t feel as powerful or as manly as its burbling chief rival, and the cheap-feeling interior is in need of major reconstructive surgery. Its aggressive looks are controversial to say the least, and its minuscule stowage space laughable.As for the STI, it is a comfortable sports car with enough room, performance, and everyday amenities to keep everyone inside happy. However, given our test results and our love of sparsely driven back roads, we still would find it hard to gravitate towards its keys. More than ever, now is a good time for Subaru to reconsider bringing its new, JDM-issue 2.0-liter WRX STI Spec C to America.If your No. 1 priority is keeping a driver happy and entertained in a rocket ship costing around $37,000, then the Evo X is your golden ticket. And not to worry, we will further test our claims once the long-awaited 2012 Volkswagen Golf R20 comes along.”I would do irresponsible things driving the Evo in public,” Lago concludes, while Shaffer ends the day with an unusual wish:”I may not have the most comfortable car for the ride home, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll get lucky and there will be an earthquake and all the roads will suddenly turn AWESOME.”
- 1st Place: Mitsubishi Evo SE:- With a racecar-quick gearbox, punchy turbo mill, and precise cornering skills, the Evo SE makes anyone feel like Superman
- .2nd Place: Subaru WRX STI:- Though more civilized and powerful than its rival, the updated STI falls short in terms of driver entertainment.