The 292-hp/280 lb-ft turbocharged 2.0L four in the Golf R is down slightly on output to the 305-hp/290 lb-ft 2.5L boxer turbo in the STI but crucially gets all its juice earlier. Peak horsepower comes on at 5,500 rpm in the Golf, and torque at 1,800 rpm. That is noticeable up against the boxer which reaches peak power at 6,000 rpm and peak torque at 4,000 rpm – twice as late as the VW.

That’s one reason the Golf R feels like the more civilized of the duo. “The Golf R’s 2.0L unit, especially connected to the dual-clutch transmission, is far more refined and feels like a generation newer than the Subaru’s gruff 2.5L Boxer engine.” Says Jeff.

It feels quicker off the line and faster rolling on at speed. If pace is your question, Golf R is your answer. Likewise if you’re looking for something calm and unflustered in your engine bay.

But I’m not here for civility, I’m here for “yee-haw!”

I’m here for “you’ll never catch me alive coppa!” and “Bwahahahaha, why are you crying Jeff? What do you mean, ‘slow down’?”

The Subaru you can hear from a mile away, and it sounds glorious. Sure, the engine is only at its best way up high and it hurtles through the last few thousand revs so quickly that the gear stick is a blur, but that’s the whole point. Besides, it has a gearshift.

I mentioned in my stand-alone review the funny, unnatural feeling I got from the STI steering in long, sweeping bends (like highway off-ramps), and that Subaru’s explanation needed more testing. Having now tested the car again, and with better understanding of the VDC, DCCD etc I now see what I was feeling. It was the torque vectoring kicking in, and where the electric steering of the Golf mutes that effect in the wheel, making it less noticeable, the hydraulic steering shows it up. In tighter, twistier corners it wasn’t anywhere near as unnatural. In fact, it came alive in a way the Golf never did. Is it any faster? Probably not, but it is more analogue. And that’s worth something.

But what of the AWD systems? The Golf R AWD, as good as it is, is still nothing on the Subaru AWD system. The 4Motion system by Haldex is very much front-wheel-drive biased, something that is immediately apparent alongside the STI. (#push)

It’s not that this system isn’t sophisticated – it really, really is, with advanced computer magic that measures throttle percent, wheel angles, and braking to predict where you’ll want the most torque. Not to mention the brake-based torque vectoring system that is active on all four wheels.

Still, the Subaru’s real diffs give better feel and better balance down the drivetrain. There are three in total, one driver-controlled centre diff (DCCD) that sends torque front:rear through a range of 41:59 to 50:50. Max rearward torque (and the default position) is 59 percent, max front torque 50 percent. This makes the Subaru adapt a more oversteer attitude than understeer. The centre diff has three auto modes: auto, auto +, auto –. Auto + makes the system more keen to send torque forward, Auto – more aft. Manual mode has six settings that pretty much lock the diff where you want it within the 50-59 range. Then, both axles get a limited-slip differential to split torque left and right. There is also brake-based vectoring similar to what the Golf R has, but it works in tandem with the “real” diffs.

If you skimmed all that and went “huh?” you’re not alone. All you really need to know is that the Subaru system is more complex and delivers a more lively experience with less understeer, especially on loose roads.

With more tech, more fun, and more “phwoar” the STI wins this category.

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