Mitsubishi Evolution X vs. Subaru Impreza WRX STI (2010)
Sports cars used to be simple: they come with two seats, two doors and are colored red. Now, they come in all shapes and sizes. And then, blame the Japanese as sports cars need not have pedigree to be recognized. Just look at the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Though their origins are traced back to being tarted up econoboxes, they’ve certainly come a long way.
Now, in their latest iteration, they share almost nothing in common with their less powerful, less sporty brethren. Everything from the drivetrain, suspension bits and bodywork are all purpose-built and massaged to turn these into the newest breed of sports car. What’s more, through the generations they are always pitted head-to-head; and they’ve never been separated by more than a hair’s length. Can the same be said with these all-new models?
Whether it’s the Subaru Impreza WRX STI or the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, introverts need not apply. Both of these cars are not for the faint of heart as there are numerous appendages, wings and body work extenders for all to see. It’s the automotive equivalent of body piercing—it’s a showcase of your love for anything and everything that’s fast. In that regard, both of these cars aren’t necessarily beautiful, but they do succeed in grabbing your attention.
On one hand, the WRX STI cannot be mistaken for the run-of-the-mill Impreza or even its slightly hot cousin, the WRX. Things look as if Subaru designers had the STI in mind from day one and turned down the ‘aggressive dial’ as the model got more pedestrian. As a result, the STI looks like the Incredible Hulk. Viewed head-on, Subaru wants you to immediately notice the massive growth in wheel track. However, instead of just tacking on wider fender flares and calling it a day, the STI curves things a bit and blends it well into the car’s design. At the front, it molds into a new bumper that houses brake cooling ducts among other things. It’s a great match to the gigantic hood scoop. At the back, it makes room for the quad exhaust pipes that run almost the entire length of the rear valence. The best way to appreciate the extended track is to look at the STI from the side, where it gains a ‘coca-cola shaped’ body. Completing the Impreza to STI transformation is a new rear wing and the removal of all chrome bits.
While Subaru looked as if they designed the STI in mind from the very beginning and simply toned it down for the regular Impreza, Mitsubishi’s approach with the Lancer Evolution X looks to be the complete opposite. It’s as if they poured every good line and crease into the Lancer EX, and the Evo gets only subtle improvements. Don’t get it wrong, this is perhaps a call to Europeanize the Evo, but differentiating this over the regular Lancer EX becomes a bit tougher. For instance, the track’s been widened, but the Evo deliberately hid it very well. It’s integrated nicely into the Evo’s wedgy goodness almost going unnoticed. The only way you’ll notice is as if you view it from the side, where additional body creases mark where the additional inches were added. There’s a large helping of vents and scoops too, but again, they’ve been toned down—resulting in a bulge and a small scoop on the Evo’s aluminum hood. It’s the same story at the back where the Evo shares the EX’s cartoonish rear wing. In fact, what used to be the Evo’s differentiating factor—the gapping grille—is now standard fare on all 2010 Lancer EX models. You’ll need to look all the way at the dual exhaust pipes to really tell that a turbocharged engine resides in the engine bay.
Exterior Winner: TIE
Score: Subaru Impreza STI (1) / Mitsubishi Evolution X (1)
Stepping inside, there’s no denying that both the Subaru and the Mitsubishi have economy car origins. In fact, aside from the grippy Alcantara leather and revised sporty touches here and there, neither of these cars have the supple interior you’d expect from a car with a purchase price north of P 2-million. That said, you’re not exactly buying one of these for their interior finish, nonetheless at least they’re decently screwed together with consistent panel gaps and better fit and finish than you’d come to expect in a compact car.
If you’re familiar with the more pedestrian versions of the STI or Evo, then you’ll feel immediately at home. On one hand is the squared-off, chiseled interior of the Mitsubishi and on the other, the curvy, sweeping dash of the Subaru. Both are nicely modern in their approach with the right amounts of sporty cues here and there, but you’ll feel quickly connected with the Subaru thanks to its friendlier, organic shape. Still, the Mitsubishi’s a welcome sight too, but you have to warm up to it first. Additionally, these cars use some degree of metallic accents and aluminum to liven things up, but the STI uses much more, contributing to a more welcoming feel. That said, both of these cars are inseparable and are winners, as long as you don’t expect BMW or Mercedes-Benz levels of materials.
Interior Winner: TIE
Score: Subaru Impreza STI (2) / Mitsubishi Evolution X (2)
Being true driver’s cars, it’s a must that the STI and Evo are easy to use and understand from the get-go. However, once again, because of its humble compact car origins, the basic framework’s a given. And it’s up to the engineers to tweak things to make the driver feel more special; more connected with these 300 horsepower four-door sports cars. And this is where the Subaru Impreza WRX STI scores its first win.
For starters, the STI offers much more adjustment for the driver compared to the Evo. The Subaru’s steering column has both tilt and reach adjustment, whereas the Mitsubishi settles for a mere tilt adjustment. And then, the front sport bucket seats on the Subaru has a 6-way adjustment (including height), while you’re stuck with a 4-way adjustment (the height doesn’t move) on the Evo’s Recaro seats. To make matters worse for the Mitsubishi, the Recaros feel ill-fitted to the car; they’re too low for comfort. On more than once occasion, you’ll find yourself craning your neck just to see above the tall dashboard.
And the problem with the Mitsubishi Evolution X doesn’t end with the lack of driver adjustment. The gauges, which look extremely good in photos with their vertically-resting needles and central multi-information display, are hard to read, especially with the steering wheel blocking it half the time. And then you have the poor visibility which is partly hampered by the poor seat adjustment. But then, peek out at the back and you have the gigantic rear wing—parking into a tight spot in the Evo is a bigger chore compared to the STI.
In comparison, the Subaru doesn’t suffer from any of the problems that plague the Mitsubishi. The large instrument cluster with the central tachometer is an easy read, while the overall visibility is excellent despite the STI’s smallish side mirrors. And as an added bonus, the Subaru’s secondary controls such as the ventilation and radio all fall properly in hand whereas they could be a reach in the Evo.
Ergonomics Winner: Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Score: Subaru Impreza STI (3) / Mitsubishi Evolution X (2)
Space and Luggage
If you’re opting for the STI or the Evo, interior space and luggage capacity is probably the farthest thing in your mind. Either of these two cars will probably serve as something of a plaything. Nonetheless, it’s still good to have a level of flexibility, especially if your other car or SUV is being serviced. That said, these two cars end up neck-to-neck when it comes to interior space and luggage capacity—they’re both great and compromised at the same time.
In terms of ferrying five grown adults, both the Subaru and the Mitsubishi offer more than enough space to keep everyone happy. For those upfront, the STI’s curvy dash gets the nod for being unobtrusive to the knees, while the Evo’s squared-off dash can result in banged knees for chunkier folk. However, once the subject moves to the rear occupants, the Subaru’s larger center tunnel robs much more legroom compared to the flatter (but not complete flat) Mitsubishi. And that’s a shame since the STI does have much more comfortable seats.
When it comes to going the grocery run, neither of these cars are great choices. On one hand, the Subaru offers a deep loading bay, but because of the fabric cargo cover, it’s quite shallow. It will be difficult even to put one full-sized luggage without hitting the said cover. Though it can be removed and left at home, it’s frustrating having to think these things so much in advanced. In the case of the Mitsubishi, it’s quite the opposite: you get a narrow but deep cargo area. The sedan configuration of the Evo should have made for a larger trunk, but because the battery has been relocated at the back along with the Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, it robs a lot of usable space.
Space and Luggage Winner: TIE
Score: Subaru Impreza STI (4) / Mitsubishi Evolution X (3)
Performance and Fuel Economy
If your idea of a great performance car is something you can ‘point-and-squirt’, then you’ll obviously have to get the Lancer Evolution X. Mitsubishi had great forward thinking when they decided to introduce a dual-clutch automatic on their Evo instead of developing a six-speed manual (Lancer Evos always had a five-speed manuals before). As a result, it’s very easy to squeeze out every bit of performance out of the Evo X. You can find yourself headed to the supermarket or shopping mall, and you can tap the accelerator just a bit harder and you’ll find yourself shoved right into the driver’s seat. Still, extracting 295 horsepower and 408 Nm of torque from a lowly 2.0-liter engine does have one major drawback: turbo lag. More often than not, you’ll find the Evo’s acceleration to be either on or off depending on how heavy your foot is. Still, give enough mashing, and the Evo X will soar.
The 300 km/h speedometer is a good indicator of the Evo’s potential, so it’s just as good that the chassis is willing to play along. Despite an all-wheel drive car’s propensity to understeer, Mitsubishi counters this by outfitting a lot of gizmos managed by its Super All Wheel Control or S-AWC. Without going into the details, it allows the Evo to send any amount of power to any given wheel at any given time. Along with its quicker steering (just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock) and super firm Eibach springs/Bilstein shocks combination, and you have a very responsive and fun-to-drive car.
However, Mitsubishi’s overemphasis on providing a no-holds barred driving experience does make the Evo suffer from a popsicle-stiff ride jarring at each and every pothole you’ll come across. It feels as if the car doesn’t ride on any shock absorber; it simply transmits everything into the cabin. If you suffer from any sort of back pain, then be ready to have a weekly visit to your physical therapist. Moreover, the quick locking steering makes the Evo harder to maneuver in traffic or parking.
While you can simply mash the throttle on the Evo, you’ll have to work much more to extract performance from the STI. The traditional 6-speed manual transmission will turn off those who refuse or can’t work a stick shift, but if you’re still willing to work with a three-pedal layout, the STI’s gearbox engages with precise engagement. The shift action is longer than you’d expect, but the space between each slot is fairly small as not to completely remove the sporty feel. The clutch, though weighty, isn’t comfortable for everyday driving. Subaru even helps the driver by providing a programmable shift indicator. At default, it indicates the optimal rev range for better mileage (in Sport, it indicates the rev to keep the turbo continuously spooled).
Unlike the Evo’s on/off acceleration, the Subaru uses both a combination of displacement and turbocharging to make the car much more drivable. At low speeds, the EJ-series’s 2.5-liters of displacement provides ample grunt. However, as the speeds climb up, the forced induction takes over and the Subaru zooms to warp speed with a hint of burble from its exhaust.
Though stiffer than the regular Impreza, the STI exhibits a much more hospitable ride than the Evo, especially when it comes to regular road conditions. Though it hops through small ruts (like the ones caused by overnight rain on asphalt roads), it’s surprisingly bearable. However, the move to tame the STI does have one flaw: it feels numb compared to the Evo.
Performance and Fuel Economy Winner: TIE
Score: Subaru Impreza STI (5) / Mitsubishi Evolution X (4)
Value for Money
At P 2.448-million, the Subaru Impreza STI certainly isn’t cheap. However, compared to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo’s P 3.695-million, it’s starting to look like a bargain. You might say that it’s slightly unfair to compare the two because the Evo MR does have more toys such as the fancier and namedropping springs and shocks, alloy wheels, bucket seats and speaker system. Plus it does have a Bluetooth hands-free system and Mitsubishi’s FASTKEY—the company’s keyless, push-button engine start/stop system. But, are these features worth the additional P 1.247-million? Perhaps not.
Undercutting the Evo, the Subaru still has all the basic features you need to drive hard and fast such as the Brembo brakes and fancy all-wheel drive system. And even after removing all of the fancy stuff in the Mitsubishi, including its lauded dual-clutch automatic, the STI still comes out cheaper by P 500,000! Besides, if you really want to dress up your STI, the very same items such as the Recaro seats and BBS alloy wheels are available as added options. And for sure, these won’t cost an additional million pesos!
Value for Money Winner: Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Score: Subaru Impreza STI (6) / Mitsubishi Evolution X (4)
Both the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and the Mitsubishi Evolution X carry on the tradition brought about by their forbearers. Despite offering some degree of everyday comfort and luxury features, both of these cars still offer excellent ‘bang-for-the-buck’ performance, especially given their extremely high levels of capability and specifications. However, at the end of the day, the Subaru narrowly wins this contest.
But it didn’t win by virtue of its performance—that would have made these two cars inseparable. The Subaru won because it chose to move slightly away from being a mere tuner car. The Impreza STI isn’t a one-trick pony any more. Not only does the Impreza STI offer excellent performance, but it does so with comfort and practicality that makes it exceptionally great to drive everyday. Though the Mitsubishi Evo’s still the one to have as a weekend track day car, the STI is more versatile. Plus, with the huge price different between the STI and the Evo, you still have enough money to spend on a good set of aftermarket springs and shocks in case you really want to tune your Impreza STI for the weekends at the track.
Winner: Subaru Impreza WRX STI
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang