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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not really a "versus" so much as my thoughts after having owned both.

I bought a 2016 WRX Premium with the idea that I wanted something I could take both on ski trips and autocross. First time every buying new, but given how well these cars hold value pulled the trigger. Didn't get the STI because I wasn't planning on tracking so it didn't seem worth it, plus the FA20DIT seemed better for daily/road trip car. Earlier this year, traded in the Rex for an F80 M3.

-- WRX --

The bad:

- Interior quality is way better than the older gen, but still has a way to go. The whole Starlink and head unit is just crap. Stereo is mediocre.
- The inferiority of the shifter vs. the STI is noticeable. I got the short throw, that made it overall a fun box to row.
- Understeer: Not really a fair criticism, if you're buying this car you know what you're in for but still very noticeable on a track
- Brakes: Hated the feel, put on new pads, SS brake lines, which helped a bit but still very disappointing. Actual performance was pretty solid
- Torque: It has no torque till you get on the turbo a bit which is fine on backroads but a PITA in traffic.

The good:

- Driver touch points: The wheel, shifter, handbrake are all excellent in both feel and ergonomics. I honestly think the Subaru wheel shape/size is as good as it gets till you get into really high end cars like Porsches
- Gas mileage: Never thought I'd see 35mpg in a Subaru
- Turbo: I know turbo lag isn't supposed to be good but honestly the car had a certain 'playfulness' to it above 2500 rpm even when not wringing it out in the higher rpms
- Design: I loved the look of this car. Still stare when they go by.
- Agility/Chassis: For a sedan of this size/weight it was surprisingly agile, esp. on autoX. You had to account for the understeer, but the way the car handled was fantastic IMO
- All weather performance: This is why you buy a WRX, I drove it in the mountains in winter, on a track in the rain, every kind of road condition imaginable and it was composed and predictable even close to the limit.
- Clutch: I just thought it felt great, and a few other BMW CCA instructors that drove it said the same.

Overall I loved this car, managed to put almost 30k on it in 18 months. Added front sway bars, stage 1 tune, and aforementioned brakes. The main reasons I got rid of it:

1. I started commuting more, the lack of torque off turbo was annoying in traffic, as was the noise/stereo
2. I started tracking, and realized I really wanted to try something RWD
3. To get the car where I wanted would have meant suspension, brakes, stereo, exhaust. Going stage 2 means I'm out of warranty if there's some kind of engine issue.

I looked at the Focus RS, STI, and Golf R as those cars would have been incremental improvements in all the categories I was looking at, but ultimately opted for the M3 for a couple reasons

1. White with carbon trim and LED headlights looks amazing
2. RWD
3. Interior, ride, stereo are just in another league other than maybe the Golf R
4. With just pads and fluid it's track ready. Most of the other cars do reasonably well but do end up needing mods to manage temperature issues/heat soak.

-- M3 --

The bad:

- Consumables: Everything is basically 2-3x what I'm used to paying for the WRX. Luckily regular maintenance is covered for almost 3 years so I really only need to manage my track expenses
- Sound: When you think 425hp you imagine a glorious exhaust note. This is not the case with the stock exhaust (It's better on comp pack cars, but still). I put on the M performance exhaust which sounds and looks amazing (white car with Carbon fiber tips!)
- No more Subaru wave! With a WRX it's likely the person's an enthusiast, with the M there's a lot more non enthusiasts so no one seems to wave.

The good:

- RWD: If there's snow on the ground, I miss my WRX. All other times, I'm finding I like RWD more
- Engine: This car is all about the engine. 425hp, and 406 lb-ft (with most torque available at 1850rpm!) means that I have had to completely relearn throttle control
- Toys: I don't have the fancy HUD or cameras but adjustable throttle, steering, suspension, exhaust valves makes it really fun to change the car's personality for different scenarios
- Interior: With the exhaust and aggressive tires it's not particularly quiet, but still has more of a 'cocoon' feel, and the Harman/Kardon is great

Having driven a bunch of cars I'm really starting to appreciate how great of a job Subaru did with the WRX engine/chassis. I honestly wish they had a semi-luxury brand (like Acura) because I think their chassis/engine with a bit nicer interior would blow everything else away under $50k. I drove a 328Xi loaner and frankly it was a disappointing POS. Other than a marginally better iDrive and interior, it had worse steering, worse braking, worse everything frankly.

tl;dr I should have probably bought an STI instead of the WRX in the first place but loving the M. WRX is a spectacular all rounder and driver's car for it's price point (and a few above frankly).
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Pics of both:

2017-02-01 14.00.58.jpg

10.jpg
 

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That seems like a fair assessment. If you can afford the M3 and its maintenance, and don't need AWD, it's hard to beat.

I've had a Z4 and an X3, both great cars in their way and definitely more refined, but not without issues and certainly not without costs.

I agree the WRX is about as fun and versatile and reliable a car as you can get for the price.
 

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Nice writeup, thanks for sharing! I'd love an opportunity to drive a new M3. Do you find the car to be "tossable"? BMW gets credit over the years (by the magazines, at least) for making a semi-heavier car (M3 is a little over 3500lbs?) feel light and nimble. Is the suspension biased towards performance or luxury, in your opinion?

Is the powerband fun? Oddly, what I'm missing about my old WRX (which was somewhat modified) is the freight train surge of the turbocharger above 3000rpms. It had "adequate" power below that, but if you knew how to keep it in its powerband, it was no big deal in traffic or whatever.

I'm starting to lust after the sound and feel of a V8, though it will probably be an American car of some sort, down the road. (current possibilities include the 6th Gen Camaro, or some kind of LS swap into the BRZ, lol. )
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Nice writeup, thanks for sharing! I'd love an opportunity to drive a new M3. Do you find the car to be "tossable"? BMW gets credit over the years (by the magazines, at least) for making a semi-heavier car (M3 is a little over 3500lbs?) feel light and nimble. Is the suspension biased towards performance or luxury, in your opinion?

Is the powerband fun? Oddly, what I'm missing about my old WRX (which was somewhat modified) is the freight train surge of the turbocharger above 3000rpms. It had "adequate" power below that, but if you knew how to keep it in its powerband, it was no big deal in traffic or whatever.

I'm starting to lust after the sound and feel of a V8, though it will probably be an American car of some sort, down the road. (current possibilities include the 6th Gen Camaro, or some kind of LS swap into the BRZ, lol. )
Great questions, I had the exact same concerns before buying the car. I had driven a friends 535 and it just felt huge. Measurements of M3 vs. WRX:

Length - M3: 183.9, WRX: 180.9
Width - M3: 73.9, WRX: 70.7
Wheelbase - M3: 110.7, WRX: 104.3
Weight - M3: 3516, WRX: 3269
Track Width - M3: 62.2 front, 63.1 rear; WRX: 60.2 front, 60.6 rear

The external dimensions are a bit bigger and the car is about 250lb heavier, but because of the significant difference in wheelbase/track it drives totally differently. Feels lower and wider, but you can still place it very accurately. The very short front overhang, 51.6 / 48.4 weight distribution make the car have a very immediate/balanced turn in feel. As a result I don't feel the weight penalty, it seems generally handle it better than the WRX. Also I was pleasantly surprised to realize BMW actually made it lighter than the previous model, which doesn't happen very often these days. That being said the first time you sit in the car it'll feel much bigger than the WRX, after a day or so it feels like its 'real' size, at least that was my experience.

Regarding the powerband, it seems to be a preference thing. People on the F80 forum that came from v8 or v10 M3/M5 were used to a totally different class of throttle response and engines that rev to 8500rpm so not all were happy. I personally like boost, torque, and the wider powerband it can give you. I love its powerband. It makes peak torque (406 lb/ft!) at 1850 - 5000rpm plus. Power band is wide, peak HP between 5000 and 7500 rpm. On my narrower winter tires I've broken the back wheel free at 70mph in 3rd. Since the boost comes on very quickly and the powerband is wide (and there's some kind of partial anti-lag) you don't find yourself mid corner with a sudden surge.

Fun Fact: The car will recommend what gear I should be in to maximize gas mileage, and at ~30mph it recommends I use 6th.

Regarding suspension, I have the adaptive dampers so can choose between 3 settings. Comfort is still sporty but doesn't handle as well at higher speeds, Sport is what I use on backroads/hard driving, and Sport+ is really only good on smooth roads and comes alive at higher speeds. Car is definitely set up as a performance car, but can be a civilized DD at lower speeds in comfort. The biggest thing I noticed about this car is the stiffness. The rear subframe is bolted directly on an it has a crazy high torsional rigidity, enough that it definitely changes what I feel through my seat and how I predict the suspension will respond.
 

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something else forever
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Had a 1998 M3 Sedan (5-speed) before swapping over to my 2014 WRX Sedan (5-speed) a few years ago.

I loved my BMW so much and love my current race car. With that said though, if money was no object and I did not need all the extra space and AWD then I would get another M3 in a heartbeat. You cant go wrong with either car though.

Great review and write up! :D
 

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Nice writeup, thanks for sharing! I'd love an opportunity to drive a new M3. Do you find the car to be "tossable"? BMW gets credit over the years (by the magazines, at least) for making a semi-heavier car (M3 is a little over 3500lbs?) feel light and nimble. Is the suspension biased towards performance or luxury, in your opinion?

Is the powerband fun? Oddly, what I'm missing about my old WRX (which was somewhat modified) is the freight train surge of the turbocharger above 3000rpms. It had "adequate" power below that, but if you knew how to keep it in its powerband, it was no big deal in traffic or whatever.

I'm starting to lust after the sound and feel of a V8, though it will probably be an American car of some sort, down the road. (current possibilities include the 6th Gen Camaro, or some kind of LS swap into the BRZ, lol. )
Come on over to the dark side. You'll never find yourself saying, Oh, I could have had a V8. The MotorTrend folks were correct in their assessment that the Alpha platform needed another 100HP. Thankfully the BowTie folks went whole hog and upped it by 200HP.
 

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Come on over to the dark side.
Yeah, I have a kid starting college in the fall, or it's likely that something would already have happened on the V8 front, lol. After reading the reviews, and hearing trusted friends lavish praise upon the new car, I couldn't help myself, and stopped by the local Chevy dealer for a look. The salesperson that happened by was a nitwit, got me the keys to have a look inside the car, and informed me that they had basically just changed the sheet metal from the 5th Gen. She said several other blatantly wrong things about the car, and cars in general, and I found myself with an urge to leave the premises. I've managed to not return..if I got a test drive...well, something rash might happen.
 

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Ray,

Speaking as the junkie that I am, one drive is all that it takes.
 

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That's what I'm afraid of. :wiggles:
 
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