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My Blue Heaven
Subdriven Compares The STi, Evo and R32
by: Travis Kriza

Last edited: 06.03.03
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R32 Overview
Evo Overview
STI Overview
Time to Compare Pt.1
Time to Compare Pt.2
Performance Comparison
The Final Element
Counter Points
Once under way you can get a feel for the power characteristics of the engines even better. The EVO is quite reminiscent of a WRX in that it simply is a bore below 3000rpm. After that, it reminds me of the scene in Willy Wonka where Augustus Gloop got stuck in the pipe and remained there until the pressure built up where he shot out like a rocket. That’s the way it feels. Once that 19.5psi builds up, the car just rockets forward. This is quite uncharacteristic given the car’s company in this test. The R32 simply pulls and pulls in a nice strong linear fashion. In fact, the car feels as if it pulls so much, that it would be faster than it really is. The R32 engine simply makes you want to hot rod it around the corners. This is provoked even more by a stock exhaust that creates such a great noise that you’ll just want more and more. Quite amazing especially that both the STi and EVO sound extremely quiet when next to the R32. The STi combines a nice mixture of the R32 and Evo’s powercurve, giving a measurable amount of torque down low along with a great turbo rush up high, except in a much more linear fashion. Both the STi and R32 feel great coming off the line unlike the Evo which requires you to launch the car hard to enter it’s power band.

While you’re experimenting with the power, you’ll start to notice the quirks (or lack thereof) in the gear boxes of all three cars. The Volkswagen suffered from the poorest clutch engagement feedback due to an overly light clutch and a twitchy response. Our test car served time as an auto show car with thousands of people sitting in it “playing racecar driver” with the clutch and shifter which reportedly left it with a hamstrung clutch takeup. This quick clutch takeup resulted in a difficult time to get underway smoothly, often resulting in a jerky ride. Editors from VWvortex that have driven other R32’s don’t remember this being an issue, so until we get a real U.S. spec version we’ll have to wait and see. Rowing through the gears on the Volkswagen is similar to the STi, as both offer short-ratio 6 speeds requiring a third shift before hitting 60mph. The gearing on both cars feels appropriate and quite in tune with the engines, allowing one to stay in the powerband as long as needed and making it even more fun to string out the engine. The only bad part is you’ll need to shift a lot more frequently to squeeze out any economy for those two cars. The 6-speed on the R32 in general felt great and not overly notchy or loud, leaving the only complaint being the odd clutch action. On the STi, the 6-speed proves to be a huge improvement over the stock gearbox offered in the standard WRX model. The transmission shows no sign of weakness or shudder which became a frequent complaint with WRX owners. While the shifter seems tall, perhaps to facilitate the different stalk needed for the reverse trigger (you pull up on a part of the shifter to allow entrance into reverse), it remains to have a short throw which is simply displaced 1-2” higher than normal. The Evo was the only car in the group to have a 5-speed. The 5-speed allowed enough spacing to facilitate less shifting, but also forced you to push the car further in order to stay within the powerband. While the 5-speed didn’t seem to exhibit any quirks during normal driving, aggressive driving tended to facilitate sporadic grinds between gears, namely 4th to 5th as well as 1st to 2nd. Hopefully that was simply a glitch with our test car.

So once you are under way, and slowly realize that you are exceeding the speed limit, you back off before your eccentric car grabs the attention of the local law enforcement. After all, we are talking about 3 blue cars of which 2 have some big wings and are just a “touch” flashy. Now that the excitement is calming down, you’re starting to notice you aren’t driving a Cadillac. The closest you’ll get to the Cadillac in this test is the R32, offering significantly more sound dampening and not having as rigid of a shell, the ride in the R32 proves to be the quietest and surprisingly the most pliable. The R32 does a good job of removing a significant portion of external noises but allows enough of the exhaust note to come back to keep your boy racer self on tap. The Evo is much more rigid than the R32 and seems to transmit more road imperfections than the R32. However, the Evo isn’t overly stiff. It provides a sporty mix with a stiff chassis that provides a tolerable mixture of outside noise and vibration with driver comfort. The STi seemed to be the noisiest car of all with loud tire noise that was apparent at even slower speeds of 45-55mph. The STi also seemed to let in more outside noise due to its thinner glass. In regards to ride quality, the STi didn’t feel more uncomfortable with road imperfections than the Evo, but it didn’t feel any more comfortable either.

As the sun starts going down, it’s time for some lights so we can see where we’re going. My oh my, look at all these cars, HIDs are in and standard equipment. Unfortunately, while our test R32 did come with stock HIDs, they won’t pass DOT requirements for the U.S. and thus we won’t be seeing them here. It remains to be seen how the stock lights on a production U.S. spec R32 perform, but they most likely will not compare to the bright white lights emanating from the Evo and STi. Both provided significant night light with a manual level adjustment. However, both the STi and Evo only had HID low-beam lights, relying on standard halogen high-beam lights. While this is the case, both cars provided significant amounts of light in their high-beam mode which provide enough light for spirited driving. While all these cars offered upgrade lights for the front, only the STi offered an improved rear lighting scheme. Many may have noticed on the redesigned Subaru’s that the tail lights of the car now feature two circular portions that stand out. Those provide an extra bright brake light that really stands out in comparison to standard integrated brake lights. A small but welcome improvement.

So obviously, if you want comfort and performance, the R32 is the comfort king in this group. The STi and Evo as always are hand in hand and the preference for which is “better”, meaning more comfortable for you, is a personal preference. So how do these cars compare on performance?

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