Top Rally Racing Cars You Can Drive Every Day

Rally car

Source/By Hyundai Motorsport/Wikimedia Commons

We’re all all about some American muscle cars. But rally cars are one overseas product that can definitely get our blood pumping. We’re drawn to the World Rally Championship (WRC), which started as a mainly European thing but has since risen to prominence almost everywhere except the U.S. For whatever reason, it’s never really been an American thing to do, so the only way most of us can experience the thrill of a rally car is by driving one of the few rally-derived models available in U.S. dealerships.

What is a rally car?

First, for the uninitiated, a rally is run not on a circular track like other races but over private or closed public roads, from Point A to Point B. Fastest overall time wins. Rally cars need to be fast, versatile, and able to handle whatever the road throws at them–gravel, snow, mountain terrain, tarmac, or dirt. Check out this WRC video for a look at what these insane cars and their drivers can do. Then read on for three rally cars we’d like to have in the garage.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution photo
Popularly known as the “Evo,” this Mitsubishi rally car is a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive compact sedan. It’s unfortunately also on its last legs with an uncertain future. Mitsubishi has officially announced that there will be no Evo after 2015, though a lot of diehard fans refuse to believe that the company would just kill off its most iconic nameplate. Whatever happens, the current Evo will go down in history as one of the most capable four-door cars ever built, and not only because of its deep roots in rally-racing history. The boosted 291-horsepower engine under the hood is just the beginning; this Mitsu also comes with a telepathic all-wheel-drive system that shifts all that power side-to-side during hard cornering, effectively eliminating understeer. Additionally, its dual-clutch automated manual transmission is one of the best, ripping off instantaneous upshifts and flawless rev-matched downshifts that no human could ever match. Bottom line? Mitsubishi nailed everything with this car, and you’ll feel like a WRC champion every time you drive it. It’ll be a shame if they let the transcendent Evo go out with a whimper.

Subaru WRX STI

Subaru WRX STI photo
The top-of-the-line WRX is known as the STI, and it’s the closest you can get to Subaru’s WRC rally cars. It’s also all-new for 2015. As ever, the six-speed manual gearbox–no automated manual here–is a work of art, with short, precise throws and perfectly placed pedals for heel-toe downshifts. The steering feels heavier than before, in a good way, and it’s razor-sharp, with none of the on-center slop you expect in an all-wheel-drive car.

Another thing Subaru has improved is the STI’s body control: the previous generation heeled over in corners like a sailboat, but the new model stays nice and flat, as a performance car should. Though we’d probably mod the engine, because it basically hasn’t changed in 10 years. Sure, 305 horsepower from a turbocharged 2.5-liter four is nothing to sneeze at, but we expect progress after all that time.

Ford Fiesta ST

2015 Ford Fiesta ST photo
The subcompact Fiesta is Ford’s rally car. It comes only with front-wheel drive, so you might not make the rally-car connection right away. But there’s a rich history of Fiesta rally cars dating back at least to the 1979 Monte Carlo Rally, when a couple extensively modified Fiestas braved the icy conditions and achieved respectable results. Since then, numerous Ford rally cars have worn the Fiesta badge, most recently the Fiesta R5 with its all-wheel-drive layout and turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder motor. Swap out the AWD system for front-wheel drive, add a few creature comforts and voila. You’ve got the showroom-ready Ford Fiesta ST.

Rated at 197 horsepower, the flyweight Fiesta ST has plenty of punch. It’s also an ace in tight corners thanks to a brake-based electronic limited slip differential. You can even get a pair of Recaro sport seats that are more or less full-on racing seats in disguise. Throw in the MyFord Touch infotainment system and you’ve got a fully equipped daily driver that just so happens to be a terror on the racetrack, too. For the price (the 2015 model starts at just over $22,000) the Fiesta ST might be the ultimate road-going rally car, absent AWD system notwithstanding.

What’s Your Practical Rally Car?

Tell me about your daily-driver rally ride in the comments, won’t you? As long as it’s got a sporting chassis and some kind of racing heritage, it’s fair game in my book.

Editor’s note: Rally racing or not, treat your ride right with parts and accessories from Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

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