I purchased my STi used two years ago, and have loved every minute! I live in NE Wisconsin and enjoy twisty roads in the summer on performance tires, and switch to snow tires in the winter. What an amazing car that does so many things well. The mechanical build quality is superb, steering feedback is great and tracks like the cars on rails, and suspension is taught. WARNING: The suspension is firm, most would call harsh. It's a rally car, buy a Buick if your not hardcore about suspension firmness. The drivetrain is a gem. The 2.5 L turbo and 6 speed manual are perfect matches. Fuel economy is great for a performance car, I average 21 mpg with a lot of highway commuting.
The car is fabulous. It is the best bad weather car I have ever driven. It is very stable in the rain and snow. It does require snow tires for snow use, as the OE summer tires have no snow tread. The performance of the car is great. It responds to inputs similar to a racecar. The tires, suspension, and steering have little compliance, which makes it so responsive. The engine has plenty of low end torque and good top end power. I was surprised at just how much better the engine and handling is compared to the standard WRX. The engine alone is probably worth the price difference, and the handling makes it even better yet. Its handling is close to neutral, and the steering responds to throttle.
Three months ago, on my way to BMW dealer to trade in my mint '93 Supra Twin Turbo for an M3, I had a kid in some big winged creature badged STi. Yes, it was faster than my stock Supra, and I had the embarrassing pleasure to see the rear badge. I took an early exit ramp to the Subaru dealer, drove the STi, wiped the drool off of my face at the signing table, and bought it. 3 months later, I still drool after I drive it to and back from work. Let's see (comparing M3); 4 doors to 2. All wheel drive to rear wheel drive. (I live where it snows), handles almost as good and wait, $30,000 less? Bottom line: I bought a faster, more fun, more practical car and i didn't have to trade in the Supra.
Bought the 2005 STI in May of this year. Since then I have noticed only VERY small limitations to the performance of the this car. If you plan on buying an STI, here is what to expect. YES, turbo lag only until you hit the 3000 RPM area; then its a beast. Understeer on tight corners, and vision out the rear view mirror because of the wild foot tall wing, love it! I have to admit coming from all types of American and German vehicles, this car has what it takes to be a real threat to the more exotic cars available and in some cases half the price and to boot economical at the pump! Another little tidbit...you're going to need to invest in floor mats and the better sounding stereo system!
The car drives like it is on rails, and has almost limitless power. The torque is amazing compared to my old 99 Honda Civic Si. The STi is an amazing machine. I am still in awe. People look at me like I'm a rock star.