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300-hp Club Shootout: BMW 135i vs Mitsubishi Evolution vs Subaru WRX STi

Consumer Reports News: August 04, 2008 09:29 AM

It started as a casual conversation around the water cooler. Some time ago, a couple of us threw the idea of measuring lap times around our track when we do our usual "track handling" part of our monthly road tests. Track handling includes driving each car in the test group around our handling course to see what it does when taken to its cornering limits. We evaluate its cornering balance and determine whether or not the car is forgiving when entering a corner too quickly if driven by an inexperienced driver. But lap times? It might be fun, but do our readers/subscribers really care? Yet, when it comes to high-performance cars, lap times are indicative of a model’s combined cornering, braking, and power prowess.

We’ve just completed our tests of a few sports cars disguised as hatchbacks and sedans. (The complete road test will run in the October issue, online in September.) So when I completed my few obligatory official test laps with the 291-hp Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, I came away with a big grin barely contained under my helmet and shouted, "Where’s the stopwatch?"

Before I finished filling my comments and scores on the test sheet, I spotted my colleague Jake Fisher with a stopwatch dangling from his neck, accompanied by clipboard-wielding data analyst and action photographer Mike Leung.

Quicker than you could say "Subaru Impreza WRX STi," we picked a tar strip line in the pavement that served as the start/finish line. We added a third car, the BMW 135i, which rounded out the list of our approximately-300-hp performers.

Here are the lap-time results of the 300-hp club track shootout in seconds:

Jake Gabe
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 56.16 56.41
BMW 135i 56.67 56.77
Subaru Impreza WRX STi 57.36 57.38

Clearly, all three cars are very quick, completing the almost 1-mile loop in less than a minute. And, although it seems like only yesterday when I showed Jake how to drive our track nine years ago, I’ll be the first one to admit that he’s the better driver.

Significantly, these results echo our collective impressions of these cars. The enthusiasts among us were very fond of the Evo as a track car and rather disappointed with the STi. We all thought the 135i was spectacular to drive, both on road and track. The STi was very forgiving but not much fun. The 135i displayed more understeer than we expected. The Evo had inch-perfect adjustability and can make almost any driver look like an expert with a hint of oversteer that’s controllable and forgiving.

So it’s nice to see our impressions encapsulated in a single empirical measurement that conveys how capable and quick a car is. This playful exercise reaffirmed the maxim that horsepower alone is not the be all end all. The car with the most (STi with 305 hp) was slowest, and the car with the least (Evo with 291 hp) was fastest around our track. Whether this was a one-time exercise or a prelude of things to come remains to be seen.

Make sure you check our October issue to see the full road tests and performance data on these and other high-performance cars. And let us know in the comments below if you’d like to see more lap times in the future.

Gabe Shenhar

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