Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jeff Wilson

Sometimes, when I’m bored, or lonely, or upset, I wade into the internet. Specifically, I wade into the areas of the internet where opinions are protected with other opinions, which are wielded with a sort of poetic brutality. The sorts of places where profanity is punctuation and the iambic pentameter of a scathing counter argument is as well-measured and nuanced as any of the works of the Bard himself.

If I’m unsatisfied with the spectacle before me, sometimes I’ll lob in a question to stir up the lions and get the gladiators on their heels – an innocent enough question on face value but one that inevitably sets off a multi-page Thunderdome of mashed keys and bruised egos.

Of all those potential stirs, few are more potent than this: “Hey guys, what’s better? A Subaru WRX STI or a Volkswagen Golf R?”

So I suppose it’s karma that I am now about to kick off this argument with my own opinions laid bare, ready to be eviscerated by the crowds I used to incite. At least it would be karma, if the previous three paragraphs weren’t just made up for dramatic effect.

True or not, we all know that this is one of the truly divisive questions, one we intend to settle out on the roads.

Curb Appeal

First, the ever-important aesthetic debate. One of these cars looks like a Manga-inspired menace to society, the other looks like an accountant’s dream. Jeff Wilson isn’t particularly taken with either. “Neither of these cars are what I’d describe as sexy. The Golf R looks like exactly what it is: a very expensive economy car, whereas the more aggressive STI at least announces to the world that it’s a performance car, largely due to the garish and childish wing.”

Never a fan of subtlety I find it hard to get behind the styling of the Golf R. Apart from the monster 19-inch wheels the R looks like all the other Golfs. The Subaru is a dog’s breakfast of bonkers-looking lights, engine scoops and intakes, and spoilers and skirts and splitters. It looks like someone vomited the aero catalogue over an unsuspecting compact car. I love it.

In our recent road test of the 2016 Subaru WRX STI (this exact one, in fact) I called it an “attainable poster car”. Between the two, the Subaru has the most mainstream appeal, the more renown.

The R is reserved for those in the know, who acknowledge its pedigree with a quiet nod befitting its understated but purposeful presence. I’m a show pony, so I prefer the swagger of the Subaru.

Previously on 2015 Subaru WRX CVT vs 2015 Volkswagen GTI DSG

Engine and Drivetrain

Volkswagen supplied us with their DSG-equipped R for this test. The six-speed dual-clutch auto is as technologically advanced, slick and well executed as a transmission can get – but it’s no manual. A manual wasn’t available – they feel the DSG is that good. VW are rightly proud of this DSG. It’s a marvel of how good gearboxes can be. It is better than a manual in every possible way, but it’s not as fun.

“Even though I’d prefer the Golf R with a proper stick shift to make it a more engaging experience, the DSG is a remarkable achievement,” says Jeff. “I’ve recently driven a high-powered performance car costing at least twice as much as this Volkswagen and its transmission was nowhere near as slick in its operation.” At least I think that’s what he said. I couldn’t hear him over the sound of how awesome the three pedals are in the STI.

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