You think the blood is baddest between Ford and Chevy folks? Wait until you catch a forum fracas between the Subaru squad and the Mitsubishi militia. Ever since the two Japanese automakers first locked turbos back in the early 1990s, it’s been an endless game of tribal Top Trumps between Subaru’s WRX STI and Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution. Of course, now that they aren’t duking it out in the World Rally Championship, the winner between the two is more open to interpretation—but what does our valuation data say?
While the first JDM Evo landed in 1992 and the first WRX STI in 1994, American enthusiasts had to wait about a decade for each to officially land on our shores. For the purposes of this value showdown, we’re comparing the 2004-2006 WRX STI, a range covering two distinct sub-generations known colloquially as “Blob-eye” (2004-2005) and “Hawk-eye” (2006-2007). The Mitsu Lancer Evo beat the STI to the punch with its USDM arrival for the 2003 model year, so we’re tracking the first two generations of Yankee Evos between 2003 and 2006, a span covering the Evo VIII (2003-2005) and the Evo IX (2006).
Both the Evo and the STI have benefited immensely from the ongoing value surge in the Japanese collector car market. Since the STI’s induction into our Price Guide in 2016, Condition #2 (Excellent) 2004-2007 STIs have grown 88 percent from $21,9220 to $41,320 as of this writing. As is the case with most collector cars, the pandemic market madness was a boon for the first USDM STI, enjoying a 22 percent boost since the January 2020. Even during the market’s ongoing cool-down lap, values for excellent condition examples are up 12 percent in the last year.
The Evo’s trajectory tells a similar story. Values of Evo VIIIs in equitable Condition #2 are up 82 percent since 2016, from $18,783 to today’s $34,317. Zoom in, and Evo VIIIs are up 40 percent since Jan. 2020. The subsequent Evo IX breaks away with a Condition #2 value increase from $23,925 to $57,800 at the time of this writing—a whopping 141 percent boost since 2016. The Evo IX gained the most from the superheated market, enjoying a 97 percent slingshot since Jan. 2020.
There are a few threads to tug on here. First, it looks like the STI appreciated better early on than equivalent Evos, rising 54 percent between September 2016 and January 2020. In the same timeframe, the Evo VIII jumped 30 percent, while the Evo IX finished last at 27 percent—a nonetheless strong number. But, pay close attention to the Evo IX. It is easily the most valuable of the three by today’s market, outstripping both the STI and the VIII with an average value of $43,475 against the Evo VIII’s $29,791 and the STI’s $34,650 average.
We have a few theories explaining the STI’s staying power and the Evo IX’s meteoric rise. First, the final Lancer Evo dipped out for the 2015 model year, while the STI stuck around until 2021, when Subaru announced the current-gen (VB) WRX will not spawn a hotter STI variant for the foreseeable future. Subaru had longer to cultivate and grow its fanbase, while Mitsubishi’s enthusiast catalog ended the minute the final Evo was sold.
Age demographics among quotes sought for the Subaru are also noticeably broader than those for the Mitsus. According to our data, Millennials make up 45 percent of quotes for the STI, with 21 percent from Gen-X, 24 percent from Gen-Z, and nine percent from Boomers. Compare this to the Evo VIII, where 60 percent of quotes come from millennials and only 13 percent from Gen-X and 16 percent from Gen-Z. Curiously, the Evo VIII attracts the same interest from Boomers, with nine percent.
Again, the Evo IX is a stand-out. Millennials make up the majority of the quotes at 74 percent, with the remaining split evenly between Gen-X and Gen-Z. Boomers show negligible interest in the Evo IX, making this the "youngest" of the three cars in question.
So what’s the deal with the Evo IX? Snoop around Evo forums, and you’ll find the IX is considered a stronger, quicker, and more capable, ah, evolution of the VIII. The IX strengthened certain areas of the powertrain and added variable valve timing, and is the one to get if you’re keeping mods light.
Divisive opinions on the subsequent Evo X further complicates things. Many considered the Evo IX to be the last of the real Evos, and the 9’s (relatively) stratospheric values reflect this. At the moment, the Evo X is not tracked in our Price Guide, but compare Bring a Trailer’s $69,300 September 2022 sale of a 2015 Evo X Final Edition with a scant 17 miles on the odo against the $94,500 paid in December for an 809-mile 2006 Evo IX MR.
For the most part, Evos are considered the sharper, more focused drive against the STI, and it attracts a requisitely hardcore type of enthusiast who is very much obsessed with Mitsu minutiae. If you combine the Evo VIII and IX U.S-market production figures, it falls just under 200 units short of the 21,235 STIs sold between 2003 and 2006, boosting to 25,813 units when you incorporate the Hawk-eye STI’s final model year in 2007. However, only 8201 Evo IXs were sold in 2006, making it the rarest generation in the States.
Regardless of rarity or value trajectory, the pair best known in their respective Mitsubishi Rally Red or Subaru World Rally Blue paint schemes represent spicy, approachable alternatives within the Japanese enthusiast car market.
I owned an ’04 WRX STI and my buddy had an ’04 Evo VIII back when both cars were new, so I know these cars quite well. Both were fun little cars and I miss mine. And now I can join the ranks of so many other previous car owners who say “if I knew it’d be worth this kind of money, I would have held on to it.”
Attrition was very high on both these cars. Most were thrashed. Once they became “used cars” it seems every high school kid got one and then bolted on a giant aftermarket turbo. And then one of two things inevitably happened: they either blew the engine and couldn’t afford to fix it, or wrapped it around a tree and insurance totaled it. Either way the outcome was a one-way trip to the salvage yard for many of these. It’s a bit of a shame.
Insurance companies caught on to this theme and premiums increased exponentially. One of the main reasons I ended up selling mine was because the insurance premiums were insane for such a cheap car (at the time). I wonder if they have lost their “fast-and-the-furious street racer” stigmas among the insurance companies now that they are “collectibles.”
I have owned a 2004 WRX Wagon and a 2005 Legacy GT Wagon. I worked heavily with turbo Subaru’s and loved them. They were the better cars to live with on a daily basis. If you were more track focused the EVO was just the better car and I would agree the EVO 9 is the last of the “real EVO’s” with it’s tout 4G63 Turbo 4. You can’t go wrong with either car.