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Old 06-03-2013, 04:13 PM   #1
roninsoldier83
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My wife's 2013 WRX vs my Golf R comparison

So, the wife bought a new 2013 Subaru WRX about almost week ago… and I’ve had my 2013 VW Golf R for a little over a month now…. Comparisons were bound to happen! The only problem is: where to start?!?

I suppose price is as good of a place as any! The MSRP on my Golf R was $35,385 and it’s a 4-door with no other options. I was able to snag it for right around in-voice (around $33,6XX IIRC). Which, considering there’s only a handful of them left in our snowy state, that’s not bad. Her 2013 Subaru WRX is a base model with the SPT package (performance exhaust, short shifter ect) and a couple more minor options (auto-dimming compass mirror, ect). The MSRP on it was around $27,8XX. We picked it up for $500 under MSRP, around the $25,2XX mark. So, there’s about an $8000 difference in price on the 2 vehicles, although it should be noted that dollar per dollar, the WRX’s have a bit more mark-up in them; read: they have a bit more room to negotiate on them. The fact that the WRX isn’t limited production really helps as well, although here in Colorado (aka The Home of Subaru), Subaru’s are like gold and new WRX’s are more scarce than most people in warmer climates would believe. Overall, a very good deal was had on both of them.

With the difference in price, it should also be noted that the Golf R had a LOT more standard options. If you wanted most of the standard options on the Golf R to be on the Subaru, like leather, heated seats/mirrors, Xenon headlights, ect, you would have to step it up to the WRX Limited package, which runs right around $30k, putting them within around $5k of each other. Although the WRX would still not come with a decent stereo, satellite radio and several other minor things the Golf R comes with… but it should be noted that a WRX Limited comes with a moon-roof standard. Either way, a more apples-to-apples comparison should probably be between the WRX Limited and Golf R. Just my $.02

With that out of the way, I suppose I should start with the motors…. Both have similar power (265hp vs underrated 256hp- APR claims 273hp for the R), but feel VERY different! It should be noted that I’ve owned a 2004 WRX and a 2006 STI in the past, both of which were highly modified & self-tuned. To say I’m familiar with the Subaru EJ-series motor is a vast understatement. They’re both turbo 4-cylinders, but that’s about the extent of what they have in common. Here’s a quick rundown:

-Boxer/flat-4 in the WRX vs inline-4 in the R. Very different exhaust notes; mostly due to the Subaru’s unequal length exhaust manifold.
-Port injection in the WRX vs direct injection in the R.
-2.5L displacement in the WRX vs smaller 2.0L in the R.
-The WRX has an over-square bore/stroke (99.5 x 79.0 mm) motor vs the R’s under-square (82.5 x 92.8 mm) bore/stroke. This changes the way engines feel in a BIG way! To those that aren’t familiar, over-square motors are generally high revving motors that build peak power/torque higher in the RPM band, whereas under-square motors generally build peak torque at a lower RPM. A “square” motor would be one where the bore and stroke were the same (ex. 80.0 x 80.0 mm).

With those differences in mind, I’ll say that both motors have their merits. Off-boost, specifically in 1st gear, the WRX really WANTS to pull… the combination of the WRX’s extra 25% extra displacement and it’s over-square bore/stroke really make the thing want to rev! Even though both have similar boost threshold points (around ~2500rpm), in 1st gear, the WRX’s “turbo-lag” seems less noticeable, due mostly to it’s larger engine. In the mid-range department, the WRX also feels a bit stronger, as there’s a sudden swell of torque that kicks in hard! I would say in a 0-60mph race, the WRX’s gearing (better suited to both 0-60mph & ¼ mile) and strong mid-range performance should give it the win. Beyond that though, things start to change…

The WRX, like most Subaru turbo motors, seems to fall off pretty hard up top… more noticeable once you hit 3rd gear. The R has a very different personality. Boost/torque seem to build linearly in the R… it pulls progressively harder and harder towards redline… at freeway speeds, the R feels like climbs with more ease than the WRX does. The R feels more like a V6 IMO. Once the turbo starts boosting that is. Below 5000rpm, I would give the win to the WRX… above 5000rpm, I would reverse that decision.

Keep a couple things in mind: my R has about 1100 miles on it, so it’s pretty much fully broken in by this point, whereas we’ve only logged around ~200 miles on the WRX so far, so it might pick-up a few extra ponies as time goes on. Also, we live at 5200 ft elevation… that can have a couple different effects as well. Sure, they’re both turbocharged, so they both have a BIG advantage over NA cars at this elevation, but how the ECU reacts to conditions is another factor. After about ~500 miles or so, the R seemed to really adapt to it’s environment and picked up a very noticeable amount of power. My old STI was rated at running 14.5psi stock at sea level; up here in our thin air, it would only hit about 13.5psi peak. By comparison, my old BMW 335xi was only rated to run ~7psi peak at sea level; up here the Bimmer’s ECU upped the boost to around 10psi peak in order to make up for the lack of torque/air up here. I haven’t logged either car, so I can’t say how their ECU’s react to our thin air, but those are things to keep in mind. One car may compensate for altitude better than the other. I can’t confirm this as of yet, but it’s something to be aware of.

Then there’s things like throttle response/modulation…. R > WRX. True story. 60% pedal position in the R actually gives around 60% power… in the WRX, it feels like an on/off switch. The boost control solenoid in the WRX feels like an old-school MBC; very jerky when compared to the R’s smoother boost response. The WRX also bucks between shifts… smooth is not a word I would ever use to describe the WRX’s motor. It feels raw & feels like it wants to be driven at WOT, but it doesn’t seem to want to modulate itself between extreme low power and WOT. It gets confused and jerky when you try. Most people might not notice this (the wife certainly doesn’t haha), but I certainly do.

AWD systems…. Yes, the WRX has Subaru’s full-time symmetrical AWD vs the R’s Haldex FWD-based AWD. I’m sure there’s some environments where this will give the Subie an advantage. However, the R’s AWD seems pretty proactive (more-so than previous R’s, so I’ve read) and I’m yet to experience any acceleration based wheel-spin or hesitation whatsoever. I only drove the R through 1 real snow storm and it performed very well and had plenty of traction. I haven’t driven this WRX through a snow storm as of yet (being June and all haha), but will report my findings in the future. The WRX’s AWD grips very well under WOT in 1st gear… so does the R’s AWD… So, while I would probably give the WRX’s AWD the win in theory, I certainly haven’t found a fault in the R’s AWD, especially when I’ve got the R to send what felt like 100% torque to the rear wheels around a couple hard 180 degree pivots; it’s good fun to say the least.

Shifter and transmission…. Again, R > WRX for everything except length of shifter throws and that’s only because the WRX has a SPT/STI short shifter in it. The WRX’s shifter is very high-effort and notchy. The spacing on the WRX’s 5-speed also doesn’t seem right; 3rd gear feels like it’s almost where 5th should be. In only ~200 miles I’ve missed several gears in the WRX while trying to play with it… granted, this is something a person can get used to in time, but it’s certainly not nearly as smooth as the R’s shifter. The R also has an extra gear and the gearing is much shorter. Rowing the R is a pleasure and very easy to do. Outside of the lower part of 1st gear, the R’s short gearing also make it VERY easy to keep the R in it’s sweet spot. The WRX’s taller geared 5-speed means you sometimes find yourself in a less-than-ideal place while down-shifting in traffic. For drag racing, I would take the WRX’s taller geared 5-speed and short throws… for anything else (road racing, canyon runs and even traffic), give me the R’s short geared 6-speed.

The clutch on the R is perfect. Easy to modulate and lighter than the WRX’s clutch, without being too light (i.e. GTI). The WRX’s clutch is very springy by comparison. It makes it a bit too easy to bog the car from a stop. It feels solid, but for daily driving, the R is easier on the left leg and easier to modulate.

Steering… steering feel on the R is excellent. The WRX feels numb by comparison. Much harder to tell what the front tires are doing in the WRX. The WRX’s steering is also lighter, whereas the R’s steering is variable and VW seems to have gotten it just right: lighter effort at low speeds, with higher effort as speeds in increase. This translates a great deal at higher speeds. On the freeway, the R feels like a German car: VERY stable and planted, whereas the WRX is a bit more floaty.

Suspension… The R’s suspension is more firm. Although, ride quality is very similar, so I can only assume that the R is wearing thicker sway bars?!? Both do great for performance oriented vehicles, as they both soak up expansion joints and potholes without much of a complaint. The WRX might be just a touch smoother in this department, but you’re really splitting hairs. However, the WRX also feels like it has a considerably more body roll when you start pitching it through corners. Whereas the R is razor-sharp, with very controlled body motions and lots of steering feedback. I have no doubts that a stock R should be able to run away from a stock WRX on a windy mountain road. Despite the R’s inability to fully turn off ESC (without VAG COM mod), the ESC is actually very un-obtrusive, and has allowed me to get the tail out on several occasions: the R rotates very well to say the least.

Brakes…. The WRX’s brakes feels like brakes that would come on a cheap econo-box… because, well, they’re cheap brakes that come on a cheap econo-box. Feedback on them sucks. They’re harder to modulate and the initial bite leaves something to be desired. I haven’t tracked either car, but I really wouldn’t want to do anything besides maybe on auto-X with the WRX, as I have a feeling the brakes would be horrible for hot laps.

The R’s brakes by comparison are wonderful! Easy to modulate, lots of pedal feedback and plenty of initial bite… most auto reviews have said the R’s brakes hold up well to tracking and the WRX’s brakes are not the weapon of choice for that environment. Having only driven the cars on the street, I can’t give any track feedback, but I can say with all certainty that the R’s brakes trump the WRX’s brakes in a big way.

Seats…. The R’s bolstering is great and the seats are very soft and comfortable…. The WRX’s seats feel like they’re made from old cardboard with a bit of newspaper thrown in for good measure. The bolstering is pathetic for this type of vehicle (WRX). This has been a long time complaint of mine with performance oriented Subaru’s: the USDM seats have always left a LOT to be desired. Apparently Subaru believes that most American’s are overly bloated around the mid-section as they refuse to offer proper bolstering… The R’s seats are easier to adjust (power seats help), do a better job holding you in place and are more comfortable. Not to mention, they look beautiful. With that said, I still prefer the plaid-cloth seats in my old GTI over the R’s leather, but the R’s seats are still very good. Much better than anything I’ve ever seen in a USDM Subaru.

Interior…. Not even a comparison. Everything and I do mean EVERYTHING feels and looks better in the R. Everything is more supple: seats, dash, buttons, trim, doors, you name it, it feels and looks better in the R. No comparison. The WRX feels cold and cheap inside. The R’s stereo is much more refined and I didn’t even get the upgraded Dynaudio stereo… the base stereo on the R is better than anything I’ve ever heard of (factory-wise) on a Subaru. The flat-bottomed steering wheel on the R is perfect! It makes getting in and out of the R MUCH easier than it is on the Subaru and feels better in my hands. I can’t say enough about the fit and finish in the R: the Subaru isn’t in the same league. The gauges are clearer/nicer, the head unit is beyond easy to use and looks great…. Really, there are a lot of differences in these cars, and this is likely the most one-sided. The R looks and feels like an Audi inside… the WRX looks and feels like a cheap $17k econo-box inside.

Options…. While the WRX comes with Bluetooth and climate control, they don’t work as well as the dual zone climate control and Bluetooth in the R. The R is better at getting to a specific temp and staying there, whereas the WRX feels more like old school Hot/Cold knobs and isn’t dual zone. Bluetooth is also more intuitive in the R…. however I have one major complaint about options on the R: why can’t I get an auto-dimming mirror?!? Come on VW… it’s 2013, and it’s a silly feature that is worth it’s weight in gold at night when being tail-gated by someone with their high-beams on. Overall though, of the options they do share, the R’s all seem to be more intuitive and better placed.

Interior space…. On paper, the WRX has more front seat leg-room… that’s hog-wash. I’m sure the WRX has more “volume” per se, but the R feels like it has more front leg depth, or at least the dash board is higher in the R. Like all Subaru’s, I feel like my knees are in the dash-board or touching the steering wheel on the WRX, whereas I don’t have that problem in the R. I will say that my right knee touches the center console in the R sometimes while resting it, which I’m not a big fan of, but overall, I’m more comfortable in the R. The WRX seems to have a bit more room in the rear for the kiddos, but I haven’t tested that theory. The wife bought the sedan, so trunk room in the WRX isn’t exactly apples to apples… the R’s hatch would be better for large boxes & items, but for hauling groceries, I would take the WRX’s sedan trunk.

Noise… both good and bad…. The R’s cabin is quieter when it comes to road/tire noise, except for the intake/exhaust noise (mostly from the soundaktor)… inside the cabin, the soundaktor makes the Golf R sound more aggressive than the WRX…. Outside the cabin, since the WRX has the SPT exhaust on it, well, let’s just say the exhaust note sounds VERY aggressive for a factory equipped vehicle! Inside the WRX, the SPT exhaust is surprisingly quiet for it’s actual volume, but just enough of a note to sound throaty without droning.. no real drone at all on the WRX IMO. It just sounds good at pretty much all RPM’s. Although, this is a subjective test and I’ve always been partial to Subaru’s unequal manifold length boxer-4 sound! You get more road noise on the WRX, but it’s not really all that noticeable as long as you have the music on at least a low volume.

Exterior looks…. This is a tough one…. I actually like the looks of both of them, but for very different reasons! The boy-racer in my still likes the WRX’s bulging fender flares and baby-eating hood scoop… but the grown-up in me (I’ll be 30 this year, I have 2 children and am a civil servant) much prefers the subtle, subdued styling of the R for driving around town. It’s a sleeper to say the least, and I must admit, I’ve always liked the “walk softly and carry a big stick” approach. No one seems to pay much attention to my R (except VW-philes) and most people don’t seem to know what it is…. The WRX on the other hand.... in less than a week of ownership, the wife has been challenged by 4 people while driving in an attempt to race her on the street… 2 while I was in the car, only 1 while I was driving. Ridiculous. The last one was by a man who appeared to be in his late 40’s driving a SRT-8 Challenger…. While we were merely commuting , doing maybe 5mph over the speed limit… Come on, give me a break. I get it, the car looks aggressive and has the SPT exhaust, but it also has 2 cars seats in the back and is being driven by adults… this is exactly what I don’t miss about my old STI. The WRX looks the part, but the attention it gets can be irritating to say the least.

One more thing that should be brought up just to be fair: ESC on the R. No, it can’t be defeated in stock form. However, it is well known that if you have VAG COM or know someone who does, it can be defeated in just a few seconds for free: http://www.goapr.com/support/esp-defeat.html

^^^With that said, while playing sporty car driver, it really never interferes (assuming I toggle TC/ASR off)…. If you’re trying to induce power-slides or do donuts, I can see ESC being a nuisance, but even for aggressive driving, I haven’t had a problem with it. It might be a bit inhibiting on a very tight autoX (anyone care to comment?), but on an open road course, I honestly don’t believe it would be very intrusive… a good (read: smooth) driver should have no problems extracting a LOT of performance out of this machine, assuming you throw a decent set of summer tires on it, as I’m sure the stock all-season rubber will cause ESC to kick in more than it should on proper summer shoes. With this said, props to Subaru for allowing the WRX to turn off all electronic nannies without the need for diagnostic toys like VAG COM. Even if it can be done for free, an owner shouldn’t have to go through the trouble in order to turn ESC off.

Maintenance & reliability… ah yes, the category where the Japanese car should win hands down… and it should, assuming the WRX doesn’t crack a ringland or 2 in the process… granted, Subaru apparently corrected this issue in 2009, but I’ve seen enough logs to know that those cars run too lean from the factory down low (<4000rpm) under WOT, which makes me a bit wary…. And then there’s the 5-speed tranny, which, I’ve heard they have made improvements over the years, but most Subie guys know that the 5-speed won’t take big power or abuse without searing off gear teeth…. Granted, we plan on keeping both cars stock, so it shouldn’t be an issue, but it is something to consider for those who plan on modding. The sad thing is, from an engine safety perspective, I would actually feel more comfortable tuning the fuel maps from the factory… if only Subaru wouldn’t void a warranty for tuning the ECU, when I only want to make the thing run a bit richer/safer. 

The R comes with free maintenance for the first 36k.. so, for the first 3 years, the R will win hands down, as you have to pay with the WRX… but after that, let’s be real here, the Subie should be a bit cheaper for basic maintenance and should likely have less issues (cam follower? What’s that?!? Haha). Both have timing belts, so there’s no advantage there, other than VW recommending it be changed sooner. Traditionally though, Subaru’s are much more reliable than VW’s, however, the WRX is Subaru’s lowest rated model for reliability, so while I expect the VW to be in the shop more often than the R, I don’t expect the difference to be that drastic. Only time will tell.

Normal operating costs…. The R is cheaper, but only slightly. The R’s fuel economy is slight better (19/27mph vs 19/25mpg for the WRX). Insurance is slightly cheaper for the R at $536 / 6-months vs $551 for the WRX, both having full coverage with same deductibles. If you go with OEM tires, they’re actually cheaper for the R, even though the R wears 18’s vs WRX’s 17’s ($141 for R’s Pirelli’s vs $224 for WRX’s wider Dunlops, both prices per TireRack). One thing to note: the WRX comes with performance summer tires; if you live where it snows, while you can get away with the R’s all-seasons, you really need to invest in new tires for the WRX, as snow + summer tires = recipe for bad things.

Now, I’ve seen the review from the guys at Everyday Driver:
http://vimeo.com/55400033

^^^Honestly, I think those guys missed the point… maybe they just took each of those cars for a quick spin down the road and didn’t have to live with them. We own both… and while the WRX has a TON of merits to it (or else we wouldn’t have bought one), I would prefer the R for daily driving. Similar acceleration: a nod to the WRX for the 0-60mph with the R climbing back up at freeway speeds. Better steering/handling/braking/shifting in the R with increased creature comforts and similar levels of road harshness/comfort (even though the R’s seats win hands down in the comfort department). The WRX’s floaty steering requires more correction on the freeway and it’s shifter & clutch require more effort in traffic and the R even gets slightly better fuel economy… the R is the better daily driver. Hands down. According to Car and Driver’s annual Lightning Lap, the R is even the faster track car around VIR by about 2.5 seconds (3:14.0 vs 3:16.5), which is a decent margin:
http://www.caranddriver.com/features...o-2013-page-10

I suppose the only real question to ask is: is it ~$8000 better? Now, that is a tough call… When compared to the STI, the R is cheaper, only runs 0.2 seconds slower around VIR (at that point, you’re splitting hairs and it’s not bad for a car rated ~50hp lower) and is nicer and easier to live with in every way possible… over the STI, at that price point, I would take the R in a heartbeat. Unless you plan on modding, at which point, the aftermarket for Subaru’s is enormous and comparatively cheap…. However, this isn’t about the STI, it’s about the WRX. Well, I made my choice and the wife approved…. And she made her choice with my approval… it really just depends on what’s important to you and how much of a budget you’re on. If you option a WRX out to meet R levels, and the price is closer to ~$4-5K, I would shell out the extra cash for the R… but otherwise, for the money, I don’t think you can beat the WRX. At least not in mountainous snow country (i.e. Colorado). YMMV.

Either way, I don’t hardly think you can go wrong with either vehicle, as both have their merits and are great cars for the money! Some people might not feel that way about the R, but considering it’s basically a rebadged Audi S3 for considerably less cash, I would debate that point… feel free to chime in with any questions, although I think I’ve covered just about everything I can think of. Here’s a few pics for good measure though:






Hope you’ve enjoyed my long-winded thoughts on both of these vehicles!

Cheers,

Brandon
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Old 06-03-2013, 04:20 PM   #2
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really appreciate your well written comparison...

Thanks man!

keep us posted on relaibility issues that may or may not arise over the next coming years
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Old 06-03-2013, 04:32 PM   #3
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Great review. It seems to summarize what most have found in a single document

Should almost be a sticky!
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Old 06-03-2013, 04:38 PM   #4
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Wow, very nice write up
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Old 06-03-2013, 05:45 PM   #5
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Great input,thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-03-2013, 06:05 PM   #6
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Yeah this is a great write up. The way you anally compared these cars I wish you had a STI to compare to the R
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Old 06-03-2013, 06:36 PM   #7
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Very nice. Appreciate the detail
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Old 06-03-2013, 06:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
the MSRP on it was around $27,8XX. We picked it up for $500 under MSRP, around the $25,2XX mark
so u get it for 2k under msrp at 252XX mark? thats a good deal, especially the exhaust option is $1k and the autodim mirror is couple of hundreds.... if i could get that deal, i wouldve went with a wrx with no doubt.
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Old 06-03-2013, 06:58 PM   #9
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Very well written and thank you

I've never driven a stock subie. The 450hp STI that I drove made my R seem like the smoothest quietest car ever made. I loved the rawness of the STI, however, it only suits a small piece of my personality whereas the R checks virtually all the boxes.
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:12 PM   #10
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That was very well written! Thanks for sharing your impressions. Everyone compares the R to the STI, but to see a comparison to the WRX is great!
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:34 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by PetrolHead View Post
That was very well written! Thanks for sharing your impressions. Everyone compares the R to the STI, but to see a comparison to the WRX is great!
Yeah for sure. The STI vs R is a fair comparison, I think that's why
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:53 PM   #12
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Yeah for sure. The STI vs R is a fair comparison, I think that's why
Only in price, really. From a performance standpoint, the two seem (on paper) to be equally matched). I'm actually glad to hear someone say that's not the case in real life. Seems like the R has gotten dogged quite a bit for it's poor cost to performance ratio, and I've always questioned whether it was warranted or not.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:14 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by PetrolHead View Post
Only in price, really. From a performance standpoint, the two seem (on paper) to be equally matched). I'm actually glad to hear someone say that's not the case in real life. Seems like the R has gotten dogged quite a bit for it's poor cost to performance ratio, and I've always questioned whether it was warranted or not.
STI is far superior to a WRX though. Front and rear Brembo brakes, BBS wheels, different transmission, bigger turbo and intercooler. STI has 305hp stock compared to 265 for the WRX.

Don't get me wrong I would choose a R over both of these cars. The R gets compared to the STI and EVO due to the price, and it is underpowered compared to those cars.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:18 PM   #14
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STI is far superior to a WRX though. Front and rear Brembo brakes, BBS wheels, different transmission, bigger turbo and intercooler. STI has 305hp stock compared to 265 for the WRX.

Don't get me wrong I would choose a R over both of these cars. The R gets compared to the STI and EVO due to the price, and it is underpowered compared to those cars.
That's my point! Seems like the STI outguns the R in most ways. So when you ignore price, what is the R more matched to? Probably the WRX. I don't know why there aren't more Golf R vs WRX comparos...seems more evenly matched, ignoring cost.
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