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First, I will apologize for bringing up a topic that's been beaten to near-death. Until recently, I was convinced that the RX-8 was the car for me. I had seriously considered RX-8 and WRX STi. However, because I believed that the STi was going to be priced around $35k, I felt that the RX-8 represented a much better overall value. However, it seems that the relative difference in price of the RX-8 (about $29-$31) and the STi ($31 w/OEM stereo being about the only option) is quite minimal. Given this, I am once again uncertain as to which car I should actually get. While I tend to favor performance over looks, the RX-8's styling is definitely more appealing to me than the STi. I'm sure other people are in the midst of the same decision and would love some thoughts on either of these cars as a daily driver (ie no spare tire in RX-8 vs possibly kidney bruising ride in STi, etc)
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It appears that you understand the entire situation. If it helps any, I'll add this:
Just so you know I'm not biased by brand, my first car was a Subaru - DL 1300 ('73 model). Later I had a 79 GL, a new 81 GL-10, and now have a 'beater' 89 XT-6 AWD w/an auto (that car is by itself a long story). I've also owned 4 1st Gen RX-7s (2 81s, 2 84 GSL-SEs) and a 90 convertible, a 91 Protege that I drove well over 140K and was still a wonderful car when I gave it away for a charity reason, and currently have a 90 Miata w/119K.
As I said you understand the hardware and performance and comfort issues at hand. I'll add this much:
I had thought about the WRX. I don't like the looks. The interior seems very driver oriented and roomy enough for 4 given it's size class. My concerns: reliability of the transmission the major one, long-term life of the turbo and the engine. The overall reliability of the modern Subaru brand in general seems decent, but not up to Mazda's level which itself is not up to a Toyota or Lexus overall quality. yet. To make the decision easier, the local Sub dealer, even though I drove up in a Sub which he apparently discounted, didn't seem interested enough to persuade me to drive a WRX to woo me away from the RX-8 - and this was several months ago.
The 1st, 2nd Gen RX-7s were always VERY reliable units; and I expect the same from the RX-8. I expect the engine to be almost bullet-proof and the transmission should be no issue. Remember, they continued to sell the RX-7 in Japan through last August, so Mazda hasn't forgotten how to keep their drivetrains beefy enough to handle the intended drivers of this new car. I don't like 100% of the design of the RX-8 but I'm not complaining and I think it may be one of the best looking cars on the market.
Ultimately the decision remains yours and yours only. If you like groups there's a lot to be said for rotary clubs and after market vendors. But I think Subaru has always had it's cult following as well and still does.
I think the main thing to keep in mind is that the WRX is straight line fun and AWD fun. The RX is very nearly as straight line fun, not meant for off road, but race track friendly - and passenger / ride / kidney friendly.
Or get both. Or buy the RX and make friends with an STi owner!
You might want to factor in the insurance premiums, too. I'll lay odds that the STi is going to cost a bunch more than the RX-8 to insure.
1985 RX-7 GSL-SE
2004 RX-8 Winning Blue Sport Ordered 1/8/03; Delivered 7/25/03 ; Returned 10/21/03
2005 RX-8 Velocity Red Sport delivered 12/05 returned at lease end 12/07
While the subaru sti may be more performance oriented there are many factors to be considered . sti has out dated boring sedan shape ,cost of maintanence will bemuch higher as that of insurance cost .the subaru is going to be totally upgraded in 2005 to new shape and better specs . The rx8 is the car forthe new millenium lots of journalist are already saying that the car is a classic ,get the rx8 and then possibly change to the new 2005 wrx sti or consider the mazdaspeed rx8 that should be available out by then . Good luck on your decisions both these cars are great but the sti will bust your ***** and wallet a lot quicker.