Acura TLX A-Spec Vs. Subaru WRX STI at Monticello Motor Club: An Utterly Unfair AWD Winter Showdown

Not all all-wheel-drive cars are equal. And it doesn’t help when one one is wearing snow tires.

byWill Sabel Courtney|


Winter sucks. There, I said it. 

Sure, there are some positive aspects to the coldest of seasons. The holidays are always nice. It gives us a chance to drink hot cocoa, and an excuse to stay inside and binge-watch TV or binge-read books. But in terms of activities, the only thing winter is good for is sliding around. Pretty much every winter sport revolves around this in some way: skiing, snowboarding, skating, sledding. We at The Drive, however, are more partial to motorized pursuits. Winter may not be ideal for most forms of driving, but it does throw one major bone to the automotive enthusiast set: By lowering the amount of available grip, snow- and ice-covered roads lower a car's limits to a point where they can be explored at significantly lower speeds. 

So, with the darkest, most depressing part of winter between New Year's and Easter upon us, we asked the good folks at Monticello Motor Club if we could take a couple of all-wheel-drive cars we had lying around the office and toss them around the upstate New York track. And thus, this utterly unfair comparison was born. Cue the Michael Buffer voice

In the white trunks, weighing in at 3,838 pounds, we have the Marysville Menace, the Super-Handling Hardass...the 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec. And, in the blue trunks, weighing in at 3,525 pounds, the Giant of Gunma, the Rip-Roarin' Rally Rapier...the 2018 Subaru WRX STI Limited. Ladies and gentlemen....llllllllllllet's get ready to rummmmbllle!

On the surface, it seems like a reasonable competition. Both are four-door sedans with sporty inclinations from Japanese automakers; both come with all-wheel-drive systems and engines putting out around 300 horsepower. Even their price tags aren't too far apart; the WRX STI Limited came in at a rather-stunning-for-a-Subie $41,775, while the Acura rang up at $45,750—less than 10 percent higher. But there was a key difference between these two—literally, where the rubber meets the road. Whereas the Acura showed up to our office clad in standard-issue Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tires on 19-inch rims, the Subaru came with Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 snow tires wrapped around its 18-inch wheels. 

As Mike Spinelli and your humble author found, however, the tires weren't the only factor setting these two apart on Monticello's snow-covered race track. But if you want to know what made this kinda-sorta comparison test so unfair...well, we're gonna make you watch the video.

Check the Specs:

2018 Subaru WRX STI Limited

Base Price (Price as Tested): $41,775

Powertrain: 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine, 305 horsepower, 290 pound-feet; six-speed manual transmission; all-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy: 17 city, 22 highway

0-60 MPH: 5.3 seconds (Car and Driver testing)

Top Speed: 159 mph (Car and Driver testing)

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec SH-AWD

Base Price (Price as Tested): $47,570

Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 290 horsepower, 267 pound-feet; nine-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy: 20 city, 29 highway

0-60 MPH: 5.7 seconds (Car and Driver testing)

Top Speed: 126 mph

*Also: A big thank you to MMC instructor and hot shoe Chris Duplessis, who was driving during most of those solo shots of the WRX STI sliding around—ncluding during those videos we posted on Facebook and our other social media hubs.

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