Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X vs Subaru Impreza WRX STI

In an exclusive test we put the new Evo X head-to-head with the latest Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Both models are fantastic sports cars that offer incredible pace, traction and all-round ability. The Impreza boasts great handling, a characterful engine plus hatchback practicality. It’s more fun, but isn’t the leap we were hoping. On the other hand, the Evo X is a big step forward. It’s more expensive, but it’s a real quality product – and is still amazing to drive. The only fly in the ointment is the five-speed gearbox. Add Mitsubishi’s new SST semi-auto, and the Evo X takes the honours.

It’s one of the hardest-fought battles in performance motoring – but for the Evo and Impreza, this is their toughest test yet! In a world exclusive, we have brought the two new models together in an amazing head-to-head.

Going on sale in the UK in March, the Evo X and Impreza WRX STI are new from the ground up. They now pack even more powerful turbocharged engines and hi-tech four-wheel-drive systems, plus the promise of even greater driving excitement.

But they’ve also shifted their focus, moving away from their boy-racer images with more mature looks in an attempt to appeal to a wider range of buyers. So which is the better bet?

Viewed side-by-side, the Evo X is by far the easier on the eye. Its European-influenced shape is light years ahead of its boxy predecessor – we love the sharp lines and neat detail of the angled headlights, big grille and Alfa-esque tail-lamps. By comparison, the bland hatchback looks of the base Impreza have been beefed up with aggressive touches such as bulging wheelarches, a huge bonnet scoop and unappealing spoilers. Muscular it may be, but it’s ugly, too.

Inside, the Evo forges ahead with a totally redesigned cabin that has high-quality plastics. They can’t match the standards set by European makers, but are much better than those in the Impreza, which seems dated already. Seats in both cars are excellent, with good support.

Under the bonnet, the STI wins the power race with a 295bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four cylinder engine, which now features variable valve timing, a bigger intercooler and a twin-scroll turbocharger.

The Evo’s new lightweight 2.0-litre turbo unit isn’t short of power with 276bhp, but it feels less manic than the Impreza’s powerplant on the road, with a smoother, more refined delivery. Indeed, the Subaru is the stronger performer, with more low-down punch and a wave of power all the way to the 8,000rpm red line.

It also boasts a better gearbox too, as its close ratio six-speed transmission is more precise and fun to use than the Evo X’s clunky five-speeder.

However, had our test car been fitted with Mitsubishi’s brilliant new semi-automatic SST gearbox, the story would have been reversed. As well as their storming straight-line performance, both models are incredible around corners. They have 4WD systems capable of sending torque to the wheels with the most grip. The STI’s steering feels slightly better weighted than the Evo’s, although the Mitsubishi’s overall level of feedback is still superior.

Get the Evo into a rhythm, and it is able to corner more quickly. But at the limit, its Super All-Wheel Control system – which brakes individual wheels automatically to maintain grip – does feel as if it’s taking over some control of the car. That’s in contrast to the Impreza, where the electronics fail to detract from the driving experience.

One thing’s for sure, these two are very closely matched. But there can only be one winner...

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