I'd also say that a WRX is what you're looking for if you're going to spend 17K on another car.
I also don't understand the logic that an auto transmission is somehow better for a family than a stick shift...
If you know how to to use the clutch, what does the baby care what kind of transmission you're running?
I'll say that I drive a WRX for 6 years, put about $2000 into engine mods and another $1500 into the suspension excluding wheels and tires. I test drove a non-turbo RX-8 after that and it felt like I was driving an SUV... it was dog slow, which was to be expected but I thought it handled like crap by comparison too. I have pretty high expectations though.
With the exception of the WRX and the EVO you'd be hard pressed to find more "bang for your buck" anywhere on the road, both in terms of handling capabilities and acceleration.
If the RX-8 makes you happy then f*ck what everyone else thinks about it... They hold their value pretty well which in my experience is the the only thing that really matters when choosing a "good" car. It could be a complete pile of scrap but if it holds it's value you'll get your money back when you sell it. The next most important thing is if it makes you happy, and it sounds like the RX-8 does... so who cars what other people think. It's a nice looking car so aside from the whiny forum b*tches most people are going to swoon over it.
If you want to know where to get the most out of your $$ in terms of modificationsIn terms of power
make it breathe better... put on a cat back exhaust, and if necessary swap out the intake. I know on the WRX intake mods are a big no-no because it screws up the air fuel map, even dropping in a K&N yields worse performance than the factory paper filter so you're best bet is to do your research on the intake. Catback exhausts can cost between $500-$1000 and then it goes up to ridiculous prices after that...
bigger is not always better when you have a normally aspirated (read: non-turbo) car. There's an optimal diameter that will create what's called a "scathing" effect and actually create aerodynamic momentum in the exhaust. Pick up a few magazines/web publications and look for a "cat-back shootout" for your car to see which one eeks out the most power. Don't bother with just a muffler section unless you want to be just another ricer squid. A cat back will have a much nicer deeper rumble too.
Also consider upgrading the exhaust hangers from the factory rubber to a tighter eurothane when you add the exhaust (usually only $20) to keep it from wobbling back and forth, it's worth it.
don't buy any exhaust that isn't mandrel bent, the fewer and less severe bends in the pipe the better. Stuff like ceramic coating on the outside and jet coating on the inside is always a plus. While lots of companies boast stainless steel it's actually one of the weakest metals you can put on an exhaust system I would not recommend stainless if you drive in a snowy area. Titanium is awesome in terms of being light weight and strong but you'll pay a small fortune for it. Mild steal will be the strongest and most durable but it will probably wind up being a few pound heavier than factory. Stainless will be fine if it's not a winter car though.
Installing a cat back is really easy, usually it's just 2 bolts where it connects to the cat, and then rubber ovals with 2 holes in them to hang the exhaust from a few points after that. You might need a wire brush to clean off the mounting surface on the cat so you don't have any leaks and you're golden.
If you want to get serious you can get headers too but they're not that necessary.Step 2:
retune the computer. Now that the car can breath better making changes to the computer system will adjust your car to make even better use of the other parts you've got. This step will be hugely benificial for a turbo vehicle but for an NA vehicle it will help a bit but not much more than a few HP.
Look for computer units that have pre-defined maps that you can use. Most units just give you access to tweaking the settings yourself and either you know what you're doing or you take it to a Pro with a dyno who will charge about $500 to tune it for you. Computer units run between $400 and $1000 depending on what you get. When I had the WRX I went with Cobb Tuning because they had pre-defined maps for Stock+ Catback and Stock +Full exhaust replacement and Stock +Bigger turbo and injectors etc.
That way you can just download a tried and true map to the unit and not bother with paying some guy to tune it for you.Step 3:
Beyond that you're looking at serious mods getting into internal engine stuff and turbos/blowers that cost thousands and are really risky business.
There are a few cheap things you can do though like upgrading sparkplugs and wires or adding a grounding kit to deliver cleaner ground signals to all the sensors (after a computer tune this actually does more than you'd think). You can add a radiator shrowd which will provide better air flow from the grill to the engine for cooling. Upgrading your radiator fans. upgrading the radiator tubing, etc. etc.
You could also upgrade your engine and transmission mounts which would cause the engine to move less under acceleration and put more power to the ground. the mounts are usually cheap and if you're not afraid to unbolt and jack up your own engine you can install them yourself, otherwise it shouldn't be too expensive to have someone else install them for you.In terms of Handling
Step 1: Springs
Springs are usually cheap ~$200 they'll probably cost you about $200-$300 to have them installed (or if you're not afraid to rent a spring compressor and spend a day to do it yourself). these will lower the car a bit and stiffen it up a lowered car not only looks better by reducing wheel gap but but the center of gravity is lower which will give the car less reason to lean in the turns. Combined with a stiffer spring rate your cornering capability will be night and day improved.
A few things to look out for. Don't go too low. usually about 1" below stock is MORE than enough. Too low and you'll trash your shocks inside 1000 miles and then you'll be spending another $500 +install costs to replace those as well while your car bounces up and down for hundreds of feet after you hit a single bump.
Again do your research and find out who's had good success with which springs Eibach is usually a safe bet... most if not all of their springs are designed to work with the factory shocks while providing great handling.
If you want to get crazy you can replace the factory setup with adjustable coilovers... these will cost you about $1000 to $2000 to do all 4 corners and some units are even electronically controlled from inside the car. Really only necessary if you want to get crazy with your rideStep 2: Wheels and tires.
If you're happy with the factory wheels and tires then stay with them. Usually going +1 on the diameter and +1 to +2 on the width will yeild the best results...biger isn't always better and whatever you get make sure you check the weight and the offset as an incorrect offset will wear out your wheel bearings (costing you thousands to replace) and a weight too much higher than stock will actually hurt your handling performance.
The combination of a smaller side wall (but not too small) and wider track (but not too wide) will give your tires better contact with the road. larger wheels will also allow you to fit bigger brakes. Smaller sidewalls will make the tires absorb less of the shock and help to stiffen up the car a smidge more.
Ventilation is also important here for braking performance
Tires are a whole other challenge on to themselves, most of the time the factory will give you shitty all-season tires, going with a tire designed for aggressive road performance will make a WORLD of difference. They'll be noisy too.Step 3:
I usually like to stiffen up the chassis a bit once I've done wheels purchasing some strut tower braces for the front and rear is not only cheap (I've bought name brand braces for less than $100 a piece) but stupid easy to install on most cars. There are also other small things unique to certain cars you can do. locking the sub frame to the rear of the unibody on the WRX required going to home depot for 2 bolts and it made a ridiculous difference in tightening up the rear end.
people who get crazy with this will strip down the car and stitch weld all of the seams... something tells me you're not ready for that Step 4: Sway bars, endlinks, etc.
Sway bars are a long rod shaped like this |__________| that connects the suspension from your left wheel to that of your right. Their goal is to keep the compression of the two wheels relatively within the same range. Without a sway bar taking a hard corner the outside wheels will compress and the inside wheels will extend. a sway bar will balance it out by pushing some of the compressive force from the outside onto the inside as well as some the extensive force from the inside onto the outside. your car already has sway bars but they're likely very weak. The amount stiffness they apply is related to the length of the arms on either side as well as the diameter of the bar.
You'll want to replace front and rear. A good set will be adjustable which means you'll have multiple holes on the ends of the arms where you can choose a stiffer setup going closer to the inside or a looser setup going closer to the outside. bigger sway bars will dramatically reduce the amount your car rolls in the corners. After fitting my WRX it felt like the car didn't even roll at all. This is one of the last things you should do because it comes with some responsibility. bigger sway bars can add enough stiffness that a a sharp corner will put your car into a drift instead of rolling, where stock suspension has a whole lot of body roll to warn you before the care brakes loose. Obviously with bigger and better tires and other suspension components you'll get a whole lot more lateral grip. but it's something to keep in mind
You'll want to change the endlinks at the same time as the factory ones will probably brake under the added stiffness. Some cars will recommend replacing the sway bar mounts as well.
Sway bars and end links are usually easy to install, and for these you'll want to use ramps instead of jacking the car up because sitting flat on the wheels will make the sway bars the easiest to work with. For most cars this is again a simple install that is little more than a few bolts and some grease. Sway bars will usually run you about $500-$600 front and rear and endlinks will usually run $100-$200 to do all 4 corners. Often times you can find them cheaper in a kit with all the parts and mounts to do the whole car at once. If you're going to do this in steps though, replace the endlinks first THEN the sway bars.... Step 5:
at this point there are lots of crazy things you can do like replacing all of the suspension linkages and tierods, installing adjustable strut tower tops etc. Most of these things are relatively cheap parts ($50-$100 a piece) but require a whole lot of work to install.
Hope liked car modding 101...
IMO if you got a Cat Back and some springs you'd probably spend about $1000-$1500 and would improve the handling as well as engine power, as well as look (lower + sweet exhaust tips) and sound.
<-best bang for your buck
QUOTE(xboxhackern00b @ Aug 16 2007, 02:23 PM)
i just saw on 06-07 WRX Wagon STi on a subaru lot a couple days ago
are you sure that wasn't the limited edition forrester? AFAIK they never made an STi wagon, but they are releaseing a limited edition Forrester XT with an STi front end.