I traded up from a VW GTi VR6, and I am just stunned at how powerful a machine the STi is. The VR6 was no slouch, but the STi is a sports car, not a "sporty car". The acceleration is brutal (in a good way), and can keep up with a BMW M3 and most Porsches. While people get caught up in the acceleration numbers (Car and Driver drove a stock STi from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds), it's the handling that sold me. Tight, responsive, you always feel in control of the car. It's true the ride is a bit noisy and stiff, with minimal comforts (the GTi felt more luxurious), but one test drive sold me. I thought the expression "it puts a smile on my face" was a cliche until I drove an STi.
I live in the mountains of Southern California and I couldn't imagine that there is a car better suited for me. I've had this car for a year now and have had absolutely no problems with it. The car has insane power. Very comfortable and smooth on the freeway. The biggest bonus for me though, is that you can drive this car in snow! I've driven up to Big Bear with literally 3.5 ft. of snow on the ground without a single slip, no chains needed! This is the ultimate car to have if you live in the mountains.
I have owned two STi's in the past 3 years. They are great cars. Both of mine are highly modified and can handle immense amounts of stress. The car is a great daily driver, comfortable, good mpg, amazing handling, and much more. This is a great car if you want to go play in the mud and then go beat up on some Corvettes. The next car with as great bang for the buck as the STi is the $70,000 Corvette Z06.
I chose this over the EVO MR, because of the interior and the cruise control. I do have to admit that the EVO MR looked better from the outside; then again, I can’t see the outside when I am driving. STi is definitely built for the fun/excitement factor, not for comfort. It took a few days for me get use to that much hp and turbo and control, but now, it puts a smile on my face every time I step into the car. This or the EVO probably are the best performance machines (ignoring the comfort) for a sub $40k purchase. Definitely a car to consider before having kids. Other cars I considered were G35, 330i, TL, IS350, GTO, Cobra, 350Z.
This is simply an amazing car. The base line performance of it is enough to take to the track alone. Adding a few light mods such as a turbo-back exhaust and a BOV increase the performance surprisingly well. It's a car for someone who wants a rocket, and can handle it. Not for consumer influenced drivers who want a comfortable quiet ride. It pulls hard, and it sacrifices sound protection to lighten the car with a thin roof. Sound system is good in my opinion, yet it's hard to hear over the exhaust, I take pride in that. VERY fun to drive, handles well, accelerates hard, stops in no time. It generally makes me happy.