Should I have splurged on an STI?” It’s a question all Subaru WRX owners ask themselves at some point. We’re no exception. We’ve enjoyed our Four Seasons 2015 Subaru WRX Premium, but from the very beginning have wondered whether we should have sought those three extra letters. It came to a head when a 2016 Subaru WRX STI arrived at our office for two weeks, wearing the same shade of blue pearl paint as our car.

The WRX and WRX STI look more alike than ever, which is to say both look less like a Subaru Impreza. Even the base WRX now wears distinct fenders, front and rear fascias, and even door skins. The WRX STI kicks things up a notch with a huge wing and trademark gold rims. Red on the shift knob and faux suede on the seats make it clearer that the STI is no workaday Subaru. These touches also make it harder to fly under the radar. “Having a wing like this automatically reduces the pool of girls who would go home with you after a date by about 25 percent,” notes daily news editor (and bachelor) Jake Holmes.

If a girl did agree to go home with Holmes in the STI, she’d likely ask to get out after a block or two, blaming the firm suspension that can barely mask cracks in the road, potholes, or speed bumps. The WRX’s suspension soaks up all these imperfections and still demonstrates plenty of poise when attacking highway on-ramps and country back roads.

Those expecting a dramatic difference in seat-of-the-pants acceleration going from the 268-hp WRX to the 305-hp STI will be disappointed. If anything, the WRX actually feels quicker in stop-and-go traffic, thanks to its broader torque band (258 lb-ft available from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm versus 290 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm in the STI).

In other respects, the STI enjoys a clearer edge. It sounds a whole lot better, with a throatier exhaust and more prominent turbo whoosh. “But the biggest difference is immediacy,” says daily news editor Joey Capparella. “The STI has quicker steering, a touchier throttle, grabbier brakes, and a shorter shift throw.”

On the track, that immediacy gives the STI a clear advantage. More aggressive torque vectoring helps it claw through corners more quickly, and more communicative steering lets you approach the limits of adhesion with greater confidence. “It’s a WRX with all the slop and bushings and hesitation removed,” says Holmes. Even here, however, we’re talking about the difference between good and great. We’ve taken our Four Seasons WRX to the track; it’s no slouch.

The choice between a Subaru WRX and Subaru WRX STI has become more complicated by the fact that both of them are much better than before. That’s why we named them both All Stars for 2015. Making a decision between them boils down to how you’ll be using your Subaru. If you plan to spend lots of time at the racetrack, figure out how to scratch together the extra $8,100 for an STI. Its superior suspension and sensitive controls simply make it a more rewarding car to drive at ten-tenths. But if you’re looking for something to liven up your daily commute to work, you should feel no shame in choosing the WRX, which strikes a more sensible balance between ride and handling and feels just as quick. We would suggest, though, that you spend some of your savings on a set of gold rims.

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