Volkswagen GTI vs. Subaru WRX

By

Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage. 


, Automotive Editor - March 27, 2015

Two cars that have become synonymous with compact performance, the Volkswagen GTI and Subaru WRX are in the best fighting shape of their careers. Both have been completely redesigned to deliver more of what made them famous in the first place: quick handling, robust acceleration and unapologetic fun. With the renaissance of these heavyweights, it's an unusually good time to be shopping in this league.

See a side-by-side comparison of the GTI and WRX »

Where the GTI Scores

The GTI established itself year ago as a practical and refined alternative to costly sports cars. The focus this year is on adding more excitement to the mix, which has been achieved with an all-new suspension, a tad more power and optional performance upgrades.

The GTI's turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine develops 210 horsepower and is paired with your choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automated manual transmission. The newly available Performance package provides 10 more horsepower, upgraded brakes and a limited-slip front differential. In top form, the GTI scoots from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, almost a full second quicker than last year.

See more sedan comparisons here »

Where WRX Scores

The WRX continues with its sedan bodystyle and all-wheel drive in a class dominated by front-drive hatchbacks like the GTI. This year's stiffer body structure and revised suspension provide serious grip and stability during high-speed maneuvers. On the non-performance end of things, Subaru has outfitted the interior with higher-quality materials and a more contemporary dash design.

A turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder makes 268 horsepower, enough to take the WRX from zero to 60 mph in just 5.4 second with the standard six-speed manual. With the optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the WRX does the sprint in 5.9 seconds.

The Final Score

The GTI has the edge in everyday drivability -- it's quieter, rides more smoothly and has more sophisticated feel inside. The WRX focuses on objective performance above all else. It's something of a cult car aimed at drivers too concerned with speed to worry things like comfort and practicality.

Our Verdict: Subaru WRX

While the GTI deserves it position as a mainstream favorite, the racy WRX simply dominates this class when it comes to brute performance.

Take a closer look at the Volkswagen GTI »

Take a closer look at the Subaru WRX »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage.