For best of the 1990s Canadians had to watch from distant as two of the world’s best acknowledged assemblage car platforms – the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the Subaru WRX STI – battled it out for all-around supremacy on alluvium stages and snow-covered aerial roads.
As air-conditioned as these two bunched sedans were, they were banned bake-apple in North America until the aboriginal 2000s, aback they aboriginal started to appearance up in dealerships and affix with drivers who had alone anytime accomplished their thrills in video-game form.
Featuring all-wheel-drive, turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and ambush aero that adapted them from econo-box-boring to ticket-me-please-officer, these two cars could authority their own with committed sports cars costing abounding multiples their acquirement price.
With this brace of Japanese rivals at anniversary other’s throat for about their absolute existence, it’s time to put them head-to-head and see which models won the acute generational battles that fabricated up the beyond Mitsubishi-Subaru struggle.
It’s a bit of a boxy absolute comparison, accustomed that the Lancer Evo came out with new versions at about alert the bulk of the STI in its aboriginal days, but we’ve done our best to band them all up. Check out our angle on absolutely aback and accurately why the Lancer or the STI came out on top over the years.
Having already campaigned the Lancer Evolution in the 1993 World Assemblage Championship, Mitsubishi was acquisitive to administer what it had abstruse with the belvedere to the 1994 division in the anatomy of the Lancer Evo II. In abounding means agnate to its predecessor, borrowing a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder agent from the beforehand Galant VR-4 assemblage car, as able-bodied as its all-wheel-drive system, it featured added adeptness (just over 250 horses and 228 lb-ft of torque), a added track, and a best wheelbase to go with a cardinal of aerodynamic flourishes.
Mitsubishi was still acquirements the ropes in WRC aback Subaru showed up with its STI. Based on the Impreza WRX that had debuted in 1992, and congenital from 1994 to 2000, the GC8 STI was an absolutely added focused hypothesis from Subaru that featured all-encompassing automatic modifications including a adult electromechanical cogwheel on assertive models; and a application addition to 275 from the accepted WRX’s 250 (also from a 2.0-liter turbo-four).
Crucial to the cast was the success of Colin McRae’s 555 STI in World Assemblage competition, which would net Subaru its aboriginal disciplinarian and constructor’s championship in 1995 (followed by echo performances in 1996 and 1997). Carefully angry to the STI’s artery version, it would do abundant to addition Subaru’s performance, and would culminate in the 22B widebody STI that was congenital in 1998 to bless the leash of achievements. These cars featured a 2.2-liter adaptation of Subaru’s flat-four, and were underrated at 276 application (as per the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ administering advertised agent achievement at the time in Japan).
Aside from the 22B, Subaru would achieve tweaks to the STI blueprint over the decade but advance the aforementioned accepted automatic specifications, extenuative best of the appropriate editions for the accepted WRX. A notable barring was the STI S201 produced in the GC’s final year, which pumped application up to 296 and installed a altered limited-slip avant-garde differential, scoop-like canards on the smoothed avant-garde bumper, a rear diffuser, and a ambush abeyance package. Alone 300 examples were built.
Subaru’s STI couldn’t arise abutting to analogous the akin of granularity accomplished by Mitsubishi, however, with its acutely amaranthine adventure to advance the Evolution over the advance of the decade. The Evo III accustomed in 1995 and brought with it a beyond addition and a added able avant-garde air dam in a bid to bear bigger downforce on the assemblage stage, as able-bodied as beyond ducting up avant-garde to augment its intercooler. Application rose by 10 ponies acknowledgment to a new turbocharger, and in antagonism the Evo III would win a driver’s championship for Tommi Makinen in 1996, followed by addition in 1997 for the Evo IV.
This car’s alive belvedere put austere tech in the easily of the boilerplate driver, with a limited-slip differentials avant-garde and rear, 276 application from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and a new anti-yaw ascendancy arrangement that electronically controlled the torque breach amid the rear wheels. The Evolution IV offered the aboriginal glimpse of the awful avant-garde technology that would become a basic of Mitsubishi’s assemblage efforts, and it would additionally acquaint the best hardcore adaptation of the RS trim akin to date, which courted cogent weight accumulation by atom area metal and abrasion the car’s glass.
Mitsubishi was far from done tweaking the Evo formula. The Evo V accustomed in 1998 and included flared fender arches to go over its added track, an adjustable wing, beyond auto and bigger Brembo brakes, and addition turbocharger advancement would added advance accomplished the 276 advertised application mark. The ultra-aggressive artery attending for the V would be taken to the acute by 1999’s Evo VI, which brought with it absolute agent revisions, much-improved cooling, and several appropriate models including the 330-horsepower RS Spring and the soon-to-be-famous Tommi Makinen Edition. The Finnish disciplinarian would, by the end of the year, win his fourth afterwards WRC driver’s championship.
The verdict: Mitsubishi far and abroad bedeviled the 1990s with an aggression of ever-quicker Lancer Evolutions. Subaru’s WRC success as a architect is added than counterbalanced out by Tommi Makinen’s absurd appellation run. We’re giving this one to Mitsubishi.
Subaru would accompany the bugeye STI to a sceptical Japanese accessible for the 2001 archetypal year (importing the accepted WRX to the United States for the aboriginal time one year later). By the time the STI accustomed in Canada for 2004, its Impreza underpinnings had transitioned to the ‘blob-eye’ design, which was appreciably beneath polarizing.
More important were the automatic updates accustomed to the STI platform. In Japan the 2.0-liter agent remained in place, still bearing ‘276 horsepower,’ but STI connected to body the S band of cars amorphous the year afore with the STI S201. The next-in-line STI S202 (400 editions sold) wasn’t absolutely as amazing to attending at, but it crested 316 application and featured a college redline as able-bodied as a new six-speed chiral chiral to go with the ball-joint abeyance adopted from the S201. 2003’s STI S203 would advance the aforementioned application but advance on torque (555 editions available), while the S204 would afresh affection the aforementioned drivetrain and titanium bankrupt arrangement (600 built).
North Americans’ aboriginal aftertaste of the WRX STI would affection a 2.5-liter four-cylinder agent that offered 300 horsepower, which was a big footfall up from the 227 horses begin in the accepted 2.0-liter WRX. It would additionally accompany a six-speed chiral against the WRX’s five-speed, and the eventually a driver-controlled centermost cogwheel that could fine-tune the bulk of torque beatific to the avant-garde or the rear axles. This closing affection had been advanced accessible alone in Japan, which additionally boasted Spec-C, V-Limited, and Type RA versions of the artery car. Interestingly, all versions of the home-market STI would affection a 2.0-liter agent instead of the 2.5.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI angled out in favour of the Evo VII in 2001, and aphorism changes accompanying to its WRC access would see its belvedere access in admeasurement and weight. The Evo VII awfully bigger its all-wheel-drive arrangement by way of a computer-controlled centermost differential, a multi-plate clamp architecture that accumulated with a new avant-garde limited-slip, and an bigger rear limited-slip setup. Application remained collapsed in the brochure, but tellingly torque was up to aloof beneath 290 lb-ft.
After a audible abridgement of World Assemblage success (causing Mitsubishi to booty a abounding year off from antagonism afterwards 2002) the Evo VI was replaced by the Evo VIII for 2003. This adaptation of the Lancer Evolution was a bout de force, with its revised ‘Super’ alive yaw ascendancy system, a six-speed chiral of its own, new shock absorbers, and a focus on weight reduction. In the U.K., a alternation of FQ models, produced in affiliation with Ralliart UK and distinctively acquainted to aftermath as abundant as 400 horsepower, would amaze enthusiasts with their adeptness to acclimatized exotics on a alley course.
The VII was additionally the aboriginal adaptation of the Evolution to be awash in the United States (although not Canada), assault Subaru’s STI to the bite by a abounding archetypal year. Although fully-stripped RS and accepted GSR editions were complemented in Japan by the MR trim level’s added aero goodies, in America there would be some axiological changes: the accepted Evo VIII was bare of its alive yaw ascendancy and avant-garde limited-slip cogwheel (with the closing added aback in with 2004’s RS trim), and transmissions were missing a sixth advanced gear. The alive centermost cogwheel arrangement would access in 2004 with the MR trim, which would additionally accommodate a six-speed manual, and the afterward year the avant-garde limited-slip and the computer-controlled animosity were offered beyond the board.
For 2006, Mitsubishi artificial advanced with yet addition Lancer Evolution, the IX. By now assuredly out of WRX, the IX was able to about-face its boring arise what artery warriors were attractive for in a car. With a 286 application appraisement acknowledgment to new capricious valve timing (although in absoluteness blame over 300 horses) the aforementioned accepted trim anatomy would prevail. This meant the MR was still all-important if a sixth cog was adapted in the United States (or if you capital the failing aluminium roof). Mitsubishi aesthetic the attending and aero of the IX and fabricated the car bigger to drive on a circadian basis, and in Japan a wagon adaptation of the Lancer Evolution was added to the agency (along with an alternative five-speed automatic).
The verdict: It’s a draw. Both Subaru and Mitsubishi brought their A-game to North America and provided two altered but almighty takes on how a rally-inspired turbo auto should drive. Mitsubishi’s technology gives it a slight edge, but the actuality the Evo wasn’t accessible in Canada during this aeon accustomed Subaru to accretion a massive ballast that it’s never accustomed up.
Mitsubishi would bound alter the Evolution IX with the Evo X for 2008. The X was a abolitionist re-think as to what the action auto could achieve now that it was freed absolutely from accepting to accommodate to WRX rules.
Styling went from cocked to chunky, and the absolute belvedere acquired weight as it was blimp with animal comforts. While the five-speed gearbox remained, it was abutting by a new six-speed dual-clutch automatic chiral that would allure howls from the scattering of Evo faithful. A new 2.0-liter agent was additionally in the picture, acceptable for 295 application and 300 lb-ft of torque.
While achievement remained good, the Evo X was beneath of a livewire than antecedent versions of the car and it was abundant added expensive, advancing on BMW 3 Alternation territory. Over time, a financially-troubled Mitsubishi’s abnegation to accommodate the X with any allusive updates meant that by the end of its lifespan in 2016, it was perceived as cher and over the hill, tarnishing the bequest of the once-proud icon.
For 2008 a new WRX STI would arise but alone as a hatchback, flipping the sedan-only calligraphy that had guided it in North America. Agent achievement remained about flat, with the JDM archetypal alms 300 horses from 2.0-liter turbo-four; and consign models accepting about the aforementioned balance from a 2.5-liter mill. Transmissions and differentials were upgraded, and anatomy capacity were stiffened and strengthened. In Japan, the S206 picks up the S band attitude with a new focus on alley advance antagonism (see also: the STI R205 and the UK’s Prodrive-tuned variants) afterward Subaru’s accommodation to carelessness WRC.
An closing facelift for the Impreza would see the WRX add a auto archetypal aback in the mix (in wide-body form, of course) and additionally alive on accomplished its driver accessory alike afterwards the closing confused to a new platform. Near-constant tweaks to its abeyance aimed to accompany the portlier STI aback in accompany with the administration dynamics of beforehand models, but it wasn’t until 2015 that a new WRX STI would appear, now absolutely afar from the Impreza’s allotment structure.
Banishing the auto to the dust abundance but still featuring the aforementioned 2.5-liter agent across (with a baby bang to 305 horses) this sedan-only STI about bigger abounding aspects of its all-embracing drive, and it additionally grew easier to alive with on a circadian basis. Larger, with a added advancing design, the STI began to coquette with the aforementioned aerial bulk point that had accursed the Evo (albeit with a abundant added avant-garde set of appearance on offer).
Japan’s S207 accustomed that aforementioned year (with a ample addition to 324 application from its 2.0-liter agent and a set of adaptive shocks at all four corners) followed carefully by the S208 the year after. Other appropriate models would accommodate the Type RA (celebrating its Nurburgring auto acceleration record) and the S209 (the aboriginal S band car to be awash alone alfresco of Japan).
The verdict: Subaru best up area Mitsubishi alone the brawl and became the best-driving – and eventually alone – bold in boondocks for enthusiasts who still dreamed of audition the alluvium beneath their tires.
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