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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm officially past the break-in period for my WRX now so I can offer some comparisons for anyone who cares.

Let me start by saying that I am a car nut in general. Since my earliest days with a bucket of Hotwheels cars, I have appreciated cars of all different classes and with all sorts of talents. I'll drool over a late 40s Olds Rocket 88 just as much as an FD RX-7 or a 1LE Camaro. I have spent just as much money and effort building a turbo Miata as I have on my engine swap for my beloved Dodge Dart...so please believe me when I say that I'm not going into this comparison with a bias.

The Mustang that I can compare this to is my 2011 GT, base model ("300A") with the Brembo brake package and 6spd. This is the first year for the 5.0L Coyote engine. Even though the Mustang was a new/refresh for that year, I was able to take advantage of several discounts and rebates which puts the Mustang within a few percent of the price of the WRX, despite a small amount of inflation in the years since. I special ordered my Mustang to have only the go fast goodies and nothing else and not once have I regretted that decision.

The Mustang has 32k on the odometer (under 5,000/year), has been a fair weather only car for me and it will continue to be that. The WRX is sadly going to bear the brunt of New England's winters and salty roads...but I think I picked the right car for the job.

So most of these comparison points are 100% subjective. You guys are more than welcome to disagree!


Exterior styling
These cars represent extremely different ends of the enthusiast car spectrum and I think they both hit their marks perfectly. The Mustang borrows cues from the glory days of the muscle car era with the long hood and short trunk, sloping roof line, etc. The Subaru pushes the buttons of a modest little sedan on steroids.

The '10-'14 Mustang is an evolution of the super retro S197 design that arrived for the '05 model year. The refresh attempted to slim down the profile with some clever visual tricks and bulk out the fenders without the wheel arch blisters that had since gone out of style. In my personal opinion, the '10 refresh was a sweet spot for this class of car. From some angles the car looks odd, particularly the rear 3/4 view. The stock ride height is about 2" too high (mostly fixed on my car with a 1" drop), there are some unfinished areas that show a lack of attention to detail and the dark plastic rocker panels are tacky. As a composition, muscular, sleek but still fairly restrained and tasteful.

The '15+ Subaru's looks are the definition of charming IMO. The blunt nose, fender flares, tasteful body creases, mercifully subtle deck spoiler, gaping scoop are symbolic of rally car inspired fun. While I like the looks of every generation of the WRX, this is the first one that looks mature while still not taking itself too seriously. The design nails it. The bad stuff: I dislike the chrome fender badge and the fake vent behind the front wheels, the stock '17s make the car look a bit too tall, the strangely short rear deck makes the car look a bit stubby and inelegant. None of these things are out of character with the intents of this car so it's all forgivable, IMO.

My opinion: Draw

Interior
Keep in mind that these are both base model cars...and more than anything else that has evolved in the '10+ years, interiors have changed a lot in new cars. Its only fair to judge the Mustang accordingly...but the Subaru still wins fairly easily.

You go into a Mustang with the understanding that these are affordable cars with outsized performance. This is most evident in the interior, especially in a base car like mine. In a 300A package car, you're surrounded in grey (or tan) plastics of varying textures. The console and door panels are hard plastics borrowed from the Rubbermaid corp. The wheel was lifted straight from a Powerwheels kiddy car. It's not all bad. Textures aside, aesthetics are fine. The dash has a toned-down take on the traditional Mustang dual-cowl look with a textured inset panel that's all tasteful enough. Higher trim levels have some nicer finishes. The dash is soft-touch material with some nice sculpting detail. The gauges are wonderful and classic. Ergonomics are great. The base seats aren't much to look at but they strike an excellent balance between lateral support and comfort. They're much more tidy and snug than the seats in the Challenger/Camaro. I was tempted to swap them out for OEM Recaros but they're just too good. The shifter is positioned perfectly (for me anyway), pedals are well spaced for heel-toe. The car makes a good impression from the driver's seat.

The Subaru is absolutely terrific here. It's instantly identifiable as not being any kind of a luxury car but what you do get is just about perfection, IMO. The base seats are every bit as functional/comfortable as those in the Ford but they're much nicer to look at. The materials are mixed but they seem to have paid attention to the surfaces that you touch. The steering wheel is possibly the best of any car I've ever driven. Visibility, typical of Subaru, is excellent. The windshield feels huge which plays into the driving experience. The base stereo is frankly awful with slow responses and weak sound, seemingly designed to encourage people to upgrade. This is low on my personal priority list but plenty of people will probably care. While the Mustang doesn't have Bluetooth, etc, the sound is way better.


Winner: Subaru

Driver inputs
Steering- This Mustang has an early electric system that is universally regarded as numb...but the weight is good and the response to inputs is reliable and assertive. The Subaru's electric system is way better in terms of feel, comparable in responsiveness.
Brakes- Hard to pick a winner here. The Mustang has optional (but not remarkable by 2017 standards) 4 piston Brembos up front. Both offer tons of brake feel and reserves of stopping power. I've never experienced fade in either one but I believe that this is where the Mustang would eventually win as base WRX brakes supposedly prone to get soft with extended hooning sessions
Shifter/clutch- the clutch in the Subaru feels much more switch-like and therefore is much more of a chore to operate in traffic and relatively tricky to drive smoothly. Add in this kind of RPM lag from the motor and some of the fun is lost. The shifter itself is fine...nice solid clunk into position, good weighting. The Mustang's shifter is comparable in feel but it has shorter shifts and a much more easily modulated clutch.

Winner: Mustang

Handling/dynamics
This looks like an automatic win for the Subaru, but it's not quite that cut and dry.
The WRX is notably lighter (~250lbs) despite the AWD...which is impressive. It's also vastly better balanced and that shows everywhere. As someone who has been wringing out the front-heavy Mustang through twisty back roads for years, the Subaru actually gave me goose bumps the first time I pushed it through my favorite twisty back road! It's poised and planted and utterly confidence inspiring. BUT....it wants to plow. While the Mustang feels generally less inclined to change direction thanks to more mass, more nose weight and a longer wheelbase, it still rewards with that sense that it's more neutral and even with the potential to bring the tail around if you wanted. It's absolutely not as capable but it's as rewarding and fun. One major caveat here. Stock S197 Mustangs have weird spring rates that result in a noticeable amount of squat under acceleration and spooky feeling from the SRA over rough pavement. Mine has been largely cured by a simple swap of Eibach Pro springs and Bilstein shocks...but a stock one does some ugly stuff.

Winner: Subaru

Acceleration/Engine performance
Here's where the Subaru's clock gets cleaned. The FA20 Turbo is a neat, powerful, compact motor. The turbo is sized perfectly for midrange punch and it's more than enough to make the car into a backroads terror with the AWD clawing like hell on corner-exits. It's pretty thrilling but it's merely adequate on the open roads and objectively not that fast. The fun part of the tach seems to be 3,500 to 5,500 and that's the whole show! It encourages short shifting and that just makes me cringe. The power seems to take a big dip somewhere above 5K before it comes back a bit and it's deeply unsatisfying. Despite 10.5:1 compression it's got absolutely nothing without boost so forget about using second gear at lower speeds. The engine noise is love it or hate it..it doesn't seem to have the same "thubbing" sound of traditional Subaru boxers...nor does it ever sound good.

Meanwhile the Coyote 5.0L is like a lightning bolt through the chest by comparison. Power from 2k on...it pulls and pulls no matter where you are in the rev range. Smooth and relatively efficient in higher gears snarling and wild in lower gears. The flexibility and depth to this motor is in a totally different league from the Subaru. The Coyote just seems to have long legs and huge lungs by comparison. You're also rewarded with a V8 sound track that never hits a sour note; at 7k, it's just glorious. I can't emphasize enough how much better of a motor sits under the hood of the Mustang than the Subaru.

Acceleration...let's not even bother here. Off the line, the Subaru will win by a mile but it requires what probably amounts to abuse of your clutch. In bad weather, no doubt, the Subaru will get to 60mph about a week sooner. Otherwise, the Mustang is easily, effortlessly undoubtedly quicker. Any speed range, any time, anywhere.

Winner: Mustang

Practicality
No comparison here...the WRX IMO is the definition of practical/fun. Useful back seat, good cargo space, excellent all weather performance, 30mpg (with some effort), easy to park, easy to live with in every way. The Mustang is no loser in the practicality department but it's essentially a 3500+lb two-seater and that's fairly pathetic. MPG can be passable (rated the same on the highway, I believe) but so far, the Subaru has easily been 5mpg better.

Winner: Subaru WRX

Over all
In my mind, these cars are solidly a draw. They're each the absolute best of their breed. When I bought the Mustang, I also drove he Challenger R/T and the Camaro SS and the Mustang GT won by a mile. Before buying the WRX, I drove a Focus ST and also considered a GTI and there was absolutely no comparison. If I could only have one car in my life, I'd have to go with the Subaru. If I had to pick one car for a summer night drive to make me forget my troubles for a while, it would be the V8 horse all the way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I didn't even let my self take an STi for a test drive. My target for my daily driver was sub $30k.
As much as I'd love to have the hottest possible Subaru, I now have three cars that I love...and a mortgage. :D

I am convinced that the WRX is still the best way to spend $30k on a new car.
 

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Congrats. The WRX is the obvious choice over the STI considering you already have a good fair-weather car in your arsenal.
 

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I traded up from my 2015 WRX limited after 11 months for a base 2016 STi . I found that the transmission , steering and brakes themselves were well worth the cost difference . Not to mention the STi's power band is much better behaved in traffic . The STi is horrible on road trips though . Eating up miles on the interstate is not it's forte .
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Cliff notes: wrx is slow
If that's what you got out of that, I let everyone down.
I have been amazed to find that I enjoy the WRX AS MUCH as the Mustang GT.

Would it help if I clarified that the handling of the WRX is better than the Mustang as the Mustang's handling is better than the WRX? Neither are a slouch in either category...but there's a clear winner in each case.

I have had two Miatas, 270,000 miles between the pair and many autocross events. One Miata just had suspension mods, one with full coil over setup, Flyin' Miata turbo (~230rwhp on stock internals) and the WRX would keep up with either one on any road. The WRX is knocking my socks off, even with 100% stock suspension.
 

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If that's what you got out of that, I let everyone down.
I have been amazed to find that I enjoy the WRX AS MUCH as the Mustang GT.

Would it help if I clarified that the handling of the WRX is better than the Mustang as the Mustang's handling is better than the WRX? Neither are a slouch in either category...but there's a clear winner in each case.

I have had two Miatas, 270,000 miles between the pair and many autocross events. One Miata just had suspension mods, one with full coil over setup, Flyin' Miata turbo (~230rwhp on stock internals) and the WRX would keep up with either one on any road. The WRX is knocking my socks off, even with 100% stock suspension.
No you're writeup was actual pretty Damn informative and well done. I'm the resident bitter 17 wrx owner who is very disappointed in the performance of the car.

Much like you I find the speed just adequate. ... Nothing thrilling in the acceleration. Now if I had another bad ass v8 in my garage to get my speed fix then maybe I could appreciate the srxs other qualities.
 

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No you're writeup was actual pretty Damn informative and well done. I'm the resident bitter 17 wrx owner who is very disappointed in the performance of the car.

Much like you I find the speed just adequate. ... Nothing thrilling in the acceleration. Now if I had another bad ass v8 in my garage to get my speed fix then maybe I could appreciate the srxs other qualities.
A very fair assessment.

Nice writeup, MRGTX.
 

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cool insights, thanks for going through all the effort. this was every bit as good as the average doug demuro column if not better.

if it wasnt for simply not fitting in a mustang it would likely be my next car. i must ask though, how much does the insurance vary between the 2? when i got my quotes the mustang was 30% more to insure for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
cool insights, thanks for going through all the effort. this was every bit as good as the average doug demuro column if not better.

if it wasnt for simply not fitting in a mustang it would likely be my next car. i must ask though, how much does the insurance vary between the 2? when i got my quotes the mustang was 30% more to insure for me.
Thanks!

Somehow, possibly by the grace of our benevolent gods on Mt. Olympus (or where ever the deities of your choice hang out) my driving record is spotless, I live in a low crime/country bumpkin town...and I'm 39 years old. The combination of these factors seems to result in lower insurance rates. I'll have to look at the breakdown but I think the rates were very similar between the two for me.

Good write up . . .

Pics of the two cars surprised me a bit . . . for some reason the Mustang always looked larger than the WRX to my eye.
I see what you mean. That iPhone picture is playing some weird tricks. You were right that the Mustang is a bigger car, particularly in length. I haven't bothered to look at the data or measure myself but I believe the Subaru is several inches taller at the roof which may be part of the optical illusion.
 

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I'm officially past the break-in period for my WRX now so I can offer some comparisons for anyone who cares.

Let me start by saying that I am a car nut in general. Since my earliest days with a bucket of Hotwheels cars, I have appreciated cars of all different classes and with all sorts of talents. I'll drool over a late 40s Olds Rocket 88 just as much as an FD RX-7 or a 1LE Camaro. I have spent just as much money and effort building a turbo Miata as I have on my engine swap for my beloved Dodge Dart...so please believe me when I say that I'm not going into this comparison with a bias.

The Mustang that I can compare this to is my 2011 GT, base model ("300A") with the Brembo brake package and 6spd. This is the first year for the 5.0L Coyote engine. Even though the Mustang was a new/refresh for that year, I was able to take advantage of several discounts and rebates which puts the Mustang within a few percent of the price of the WRX, despite a small amount of inflation in the years since. I special ordered my Mustang to have only the go fast goodies and nothing else and not once have I regretted that decision.

The Mustang has 32k on the odometer (under 5,000/year), has been a fair weather only car for me and it will continue to be that. The WRX is sadly going to bear the brunt of New England's winters and salty roads...but I think I picked the right car for the job.

So most of these comparison points are 100% subjective. You guys are more than welcome to disagree!


Exterior styling
These cars represent extremely different ends of the enthusiast car spectrum and I think they both hit their marks perfectly. The Mustang borrows cues from the glory days of the muscle car era with the long hood and short trunk, sloping roof line, etc. The Subaru pushes the buttons of a modest little sedan on steroids.

The '10-'14 Mustang is an evolution of the super retro S197 design that arrived for the '05 model year. The refresh attempted to slim down the profile with some clever visual tricks and bulk out the fenders without the wheel arch blisters that had since gone out of style. In my personal opinion, the '10 refresh was a sweet spot for this class of car. From some angles the car looks odd, particularly the rear 3/4 view. The stock ride height is about 2" too high (mostly fixed on my car with a 1" drop), there are some unfinished areas that show a lack of attention to detail and the dark plastic rocker panels are tacky. As a composition, muscular, sleek but still fairly restrained and tasteful.

The '15+ Subaru's looks are the definition of charming IMO. The blunt nose, fender flares, tasteful body creases, mercifully subtle deck spoiler, gaping scoop are symbolic of rally car inspired fun. While I like the looks of every generation of the WRX, this is the first one that looks mature while still not taking itself too seriously. The design nails it. The bad stuff: I dislike the chrome fender badge and the fake vent behind the front wheels, the stock '17s make the car look a bit too tall, the strangely short rear deck makes the car look a bit stubby and inelegant. None of these things are out of character with the intents of this car so it's all forgivable, IMO.

My opinion: Draw

Interior
Keep in mind that these are both base model cars...and more than anything else that has evolved in the '10+ years, interiors have changed a lot in new cars. Its only fair to judge the Mustang accordingly...but the Subaru still wins fairly easily.

You go into a Mustang with the understanding that these are affordable cars with outsized performance. This is most evident in the interior, especially in a base car like mine. In a 300A package car, you're surrounded in grey (or tan) plastics of varying textures. The console and door panels are hard plastics borrowed from the Rubbermaid corp. The wheel was lifted straight from a Powerwheels kiddy car. It's not all bad. Textures aside, aesthetics are fine. The dash has a toned-down take on the traditional Mustang dual-cowl look with a textured inset panel that's all tasteful enough. Higher trim levels have some nicer finishes. The dash is soft-touch material with some nice sculpting detail. The gauges are wonderful and classic. Ergonomics are great. The base seats aren't much to look at but they strike an excellent balance between lateral support and comfort. They're much more tidy and snug than the seats in the Challenger/Camaro. I was tempted to swap them out for OEM Recaros but they're just too good. The shifter is positioned perfectly (for me anyway), pedals are well spaced for heel-toe. The car makes a good impression from the driver's seat.

The Subaru is absolutely terrific here. It's instantly identifiable as not being any kind of a luxury car but what you do get is just about perfection, IMO. The base seats are every bit as functional/comfortable as those in the Ford but they're much nicer to look at. The materials are mixed but they seem to have paid attention to the surfaces that you touch. The steering wheel is possibly the best of any car I've ever driven. Visibility, typical of Subaru, is excellent. The windshield feels huge which plays into the driving experience. The base stereo is frankly awful with slow responses and weak sound, seemingly designed to encourage people to upgrade. This is low on my personal priority list but plenty of people will probably care. While the Mustang doesn't have Bluetooth, etc, the sound is way better.


Winner: Subaru

Driver inputs
Steering
- This Mustang has an early electric system that is universally regarded as numb...but the weight is good and the response to inputs is reliable and assertive. The Subaru's electric system is way better in terms of feel, comparable in responsiveness.
Brakes- Hard to pick a winner here. The Mustang has optional (but not remarkable by 2017 standards) 4 piston Brembos up front. Both offer tons of brake feel and reserves of stopping power. I've never experienced fade in either one but I believe that this is where the Mustang would eventually win as base WRX brakes supposedly prone to get soft with extended hooning sessions
Shifter/clutch- the clutch in the Subaru feels much more switch-like and therefore is much more of a chore to operate in traffic and relatively tricky to drive smoothly. Add in this kind of RPM lag from the motor and some of the fun is lost. The shifter itself is fine...nice solid clunk into position, good weighting. The Mustang's shifter is comparable in feel but it has shorter shifts and a much more easily modulated clutch.

Winner: Mustang

Handling/dynamics
This looks like an automatic win for the Subaru, but it's not quite that cut and dry.
The WRX is notably lighter (~250lbs) despite the AWD...which is impressive. It's also vastly better balanced and that shows everywhere. As someone who has been wringing out the front-heavy Mustang through twisty back roads for years, the Subaru actually gave me goose bumps the first time I pushed it through my favorite twisty back road! It's poised and planted and utterly confidence inspiring. BUT....it wants to plow. While the Mustang feels generally less inclined to change direction thanks to more mass, more nose weight and a longer wheelbase, it still rewards with that sense that it's more neutral and even with the potential to bring the tail around if you wanted. It's absolutely not as capable but it's as rewarding and fun. One major caveat here. Stock S197 Mustangs have weird spring rates that result in a noticeable amount of squat under acceleration and spooky feeling from the SRA over rough pavement. Mine has been largely cured by a simple swap of Eibach Pro springs and Bilstein shocks...but a stock one does some ugly stuff.

Winner: Subaru

Acceleration/Engine performance
Here's where the Subaru's clock gets cleaned. The FA20 Turbo is a neat, powerful, compact motor. The turbo is sized perfectly for midrange punch and it's more than enough to make the car into a backroads terror with the AWD clawing like hell on corner-exits. It's pretty thrilling but it's merely adequate on the open roads and objectively not that fast. The fun part of the tach seems to be 3,500 to 5,500 and that's the whole show! It encourages short shifting and that just makes me cringe. The power seems to take a big dip somewhere above 5K before it comes back a bit and it's deeply unsatisfying. Despite 10.5:1 compression it's got absolutely nothing without boost so forget about using second gear at lower speeds. The engine noise is love it or hate it..it doesn't seem to have the same "thubbing" sound of traditional Subaru boxers...nor does it ever sound good.

Meanwhile the Coyote 5.0L is like a lightning bolt through the chest by comparison. Power from 2k on...it pulls and pulls no matter where you are in the rev range. Smooth and relatively efficient in higher gears snarling and wild in lower gears. The flexibility and depth to this motor is in a totally different league from the Subaru. The Coyote just seems to have long legs and huge lungs by comparison. You're also rewarded with a V8 sound track that never hits a sour note; at 7k, it's just glorious. I can't emphasize enough how much better of a motor sits under the hood of the Mustang than the Subaru.

Acceleration...let's not even bother here. Off the line, the Subaru will win by a mile but it requires what probably amounts to abuse of your clutch. In bad weather, no doubt, the Subaru will get to 60mph about a week sooner. Otherwise, the Mustang is easily, effortlessly undoubtedly quicker. Any speed range, any time, anywhere.

Winner: Mustang

Practicality
No comparison here...the WRX IMO is the definition of practical/fun. Useful back seat, good cargo space, excellent all weather performance, 30mpg (with some effort), easy to park, easy to live with in every way. The Mustang is no loser in the practicality department but it's essentially a 3500+lb two-seater and that's fairly pathetic. MPG can be passable (rated the same on the highway, I believe) but so far, the Subaru has easily been 5mpg better.

Winner: Subaru WRX

Over all
In my mind, these cars are solidly a draw. They're each the absolute best of their breed. When I bought the Mustang, I also drove he Challenger R/T and the Camaro SS and the Mustang GT won by a mile. Before buying the WRX, I drove a Focus ST and also considered a GTI and there was absolutely no comparison. If I could only have one car in my life, I'd have to go with the Subaru. If I had to pick one car for a summer night drive to make me forget my troubles for a while, it would be the V8 horse all the way.
The mustang will understeer and until they get rid of the steel girder they call a rear axle there's really no comparison IMO
 
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