Category Archives: Subaru

2011 Subaru WRX Sedan (861)

Overview: 
This week we’re looking at the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX 4 Door Sedan which was a fun car to drive. It still remains, in my mind, a kids car which is likely a strength in demand. It is priced at about $25,000, however, and that may be a little rich for young budgets. Do young people buy their own cars these days? Nothing is more obnoxious to me to see a teen driving a new BMW… and probably will attend the University of Spoiled Children. The WRX is manufactured in the US at a plant in Lafayette, Indiana that employs about 3,500 auto workers. It is the only plant outside of Japan for Subaru, and produces the Impreza, Legacy and Tribeca. Currently because of the earthquake in Japan parts shortages have forced limited production at the plant. But the workers will not be laid off as the facility also builds the Camry for Toyota.  General Info: parts come from Japan. It is assembled Lafayette, Indiana. Class is compact AWD. Cars from Subaru – Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca. .

Opinion: 

You will get a kick out of this… remember when I suggested recently that you should not use a cell phone while driving? Well, execution is not always easy, and although I have a portable hands free device I left the office while having a conversation on my cell, got in the car, started it and drove off. I didn’t get 5 blocks when a CHP motorcycle cop coming in the opposite direction on a city street spotted me and turned around to cite me. I handed him my License and registration etc and didn’t argue or plead for mercy but rather fessed up and said I know better. I cheerfully accepted the $159 first time citation and re-avowed to only use a Cell Phone while driving with my Bluetooth device. The officer pointed out April was Cell Phone awareness month so their QUOTA’s are higher than usual. Be more careful than me.My Bluetooth device is portable because I’m in and out of a different car every week, but you can get one built in and they link up to your cell as soon as you get in the car so you don’t have to remember or get distracted as I did.Those of you who have received a citation for cell phone use in the car while driving likely already know the second citation is about $400. You can bet your ass I won’t give them a second chance to increase the tax I pay. Handling & Performance:This WRX is turbocharged  for impressive acceleration and all wheel drive coupled with a wide track stance and low center of gravity make it a superb handling car. The deep exhaust sound adds to the draw to youthful drivers.  Styling:The design is youthful, racy looking replete with air scoops, rear spoiler and aluminum sport touches on pedals and foot rest. The seats are nicely highlighted with special sport trim & stitching. Generally, the curves and edges are just a little too busy for my taste. The wheels are sporty but for me it also detracts from the quiet look I prefer. But the kids are going to love owning one. The low to the ground stance will require the boys to pull up their pants from around their knees to get in (a belt might help). Don’t you just puke when you see how today’s youth clothe themselves? Hey, we weren’t much better in trying to make a statement that we too had worth – you know duck tails, t-shirts with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. Yea, we were cool too. Fit and Finish:Good.  Cost: A little pricey, but Subaru quality, AWD and turbo performance make it a good value. Conveniences and comfort:I appreciate innovative touches like the brake delay feature so when on a hill it allows you remove your foot from the brake and not roll back, without having to use the hand brake. Nice touch. Consumer Recommendation:Let the kids work and buy their own car. It builds character. Recognized Competition:Subaru Impreza WRX $26,000, Audi A3 $30,000, BMW 1 Series $29,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $25,000, Chevrolet Cruze $22,000, Honda Civic $20,000, Hyundai Elantra Touring $19,000, Mazda Speed3 $24,000, MINI Clubman $25,000, MINI Cooper $23,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution $34,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback $28,000, Volkswage Golf $24,000, Volkswagen GTI $25,000. Good News:Fast, fun, great features with AWD handling and pretty good fuel numbers and most important it is made in America. Bad News:A little pricey. Standard Equipment:2.5 liter 265 horsepower turbocharged horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, continuous AWD, Vehicle dynamic stability and traction controls , front and side airbags, power windows and locks, seating for 5, 4-wheel independent sport tuned suspension MacPherson struts, coil springs stabilizer bar, double wishbone with stabilizer bar, power 4-wheel disc brakes with brake force distribution, power moon roof, leather, audio with CD player, 6-speakers, XM Satellite radio, Bluetooth hands free calling, iPod control capability, USB port.  Gas Stats:$4.19/ Gal avg. April 8, 2011www.fueleconomy.govfor more information. 19 City and 25 Highway MPG Pricing:MSRP $25,495.
Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Subaru Forester 2.5 XT Touring (841)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5 XT Touring. It receives a new 2.5-liter engine for 2.5X trim levels delivering 170 horsepower with 21/27 city/hwy mpg. The Forester 2.5X Touring is added to the lineup to be positioned above the Limited with standard equipment that includes HID headlights, display audio system with backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, silver finish roof rails, electro-luminescent gauges and side mirrors with integrated turn indicators.
It is generally pointed out by most reviewers that Forester is a great smaller SUV competitor, and I agree. It has distinguished itself over the years with AWD standard and that is typically a quality seen only on more expensive brands.
General Info: 0% of Parts are from the US and Canadian; 100% come from Japan including the Engine & Transmission. It is assembled in Gunma, Japan. Class is SUV AWD. Cars from Subaru include Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca.

Opinion:

Cell Phones – come on guys – you can’t multi-task as much as you think you can at 70-80 mph. The problem is even worse at lower speeds because it is obviously a distraction no matter how ‘good’ or ‘better’ you think you are than the rest of us on the road. This is illegal activity while driving is where I encourage law enforcement to issue citations to those drivers that endanger us all with such rude behavior. OK – a woman who puts on make up while driving tops cell phone use even though women tend to be great multi-tasker’s by nature. Ever watch a woman with a baby on her hip or elsewhere doing almost anything in addition? Amazing.
Back to the freeway, speed alone ‘doesn’t kill’ or every race driver would be dead. But when you couple driving with the distraction of holding a cell phone to your ear you should be fined.
Other observers can’t help but notice how those drivers trying to multi-task tend to speed up, slow down, weave and drift from lane to lane.
If you must drive and talk on the phone hands free is also a must.
Handling & Performance:
Lively power from Turbocharger. All Wheel Drive on all Subaru models give it that road hugging feel and of course it adds a great deal of confidence in all road conditions. A really nice solid ride albeit stiffer suspension than you may like.

Styling:

Jeep, Honda and Dodge stand out of the field in styling variation. All others in the group could be siblings. All are stylishly contemporary. Me, I like the difference of the three mentioned that are all more squarely prominent and distinct.
Fit and Finish:
Typically good as is generally true of all in class.

Cost: 

Price is very close in this grouping of SUV’s.
Conveniences and comfort:
Most first impressions are that back up camera’s are a good thing. To me they are more of a novelty and the safest way to back up is still to turn your body and look at where you are going for the best and safest driving habit due to peripheral visibility you simply do not get from a back up camera.
Consumer Recommendation:You have your work cut out for you in the search in this class SUV. There are a lot to choose from that are all pretty nice. I suggest you start with your favorite brands and then consider in order of importance the new kid on the block – the Korean models. Include all American made models and avoid the Hybrid’s as they are way too expensive for what they deliver. Sorry all you Green people, but I just report from my experience from owning an automotive repair shop to manufacturing and running the worlds largest automotive products distributor to reviewing all makes of cars over the past 20 years on and off the race track has helped too.
Recognized Competition (MSRP):Subaru Forester $28,000, Chevrolet Equinox $24,000, Dodge Nitro $29,000, Ford Escape $26,000, Ford Escape Hybrid $34,000, Honda CR-V $28,000, Honda Element $24,000, Hyundai Tucson $26,000, Jeep Liberty $25,000, Jeep Patriot $24,000, Kia Sorento $27,000, Kia Sportage $25,000, Mazda 5 $24,000, Mazda Tribute $27,000, Mercury Mariner $27,000, Mercury Mariner Hybrid $32,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $28,000, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport $23,000, Nissan Rogue $24,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $25,000, Toyota RAV4 $26,000.
Good News:

Well equipped AWD performer.

Bad News:

Stiff suspension that should be relaxed since few will ever get off road and only fair fuel economy numbers will detract as prices are heading for $5 / gal.
Standard Equipment:
2.5 liter 170 horsepower 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, symmetrical all wheel drive, dynamic control, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, front and side curtain airbags, anti-theft alarm and immobilizer system, tire pressure monitor, dual zone climate control, power windows, locks and mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, audio with HD/CD, leather seats & steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, 10 way driver power seats, all weather package with heated front seats, power moon roof, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, tilt / telescopic steering wheel.
Gas Stats:
$4.05/ Gal avg. April 1, 2011
www.fueleconomy.govfor more information.
19 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,995.

2010 Subaru Outback Limited 3.6R AWD Crossover (798)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Subaru Outback. The very popular Crossover is so because the consumer demands better fuel economy which is hard to do in a Suburban size SUV. This Subaru Crossover is one of the best in class. You get the off road capability and the Station Wagon comfort on the highway. OK, so you won’t pull that boat and pack the 4 kids and all the skis etc., but what you will get is 10-15 mpg better on gas.

Subaru has been quietly aggressive in the marketing of its product over the years. It’s a good product but they don’t blow their own horn loudly enough. And when it comes to marketing I think the Outback and Tribeca are too similar. One could go but the consumer is too interested in badge ID. Outback has a wide range in price and features and performance. You can opt for the smaller 4-cylinder 170 hp engine with Outback or move up in price and features with the 256 hp 6-cylinder. The competition demands an upgrade capability as well for the same reason – ups-man-ship.

So that is where car companies maximize profit – “Up selling”. The truck market (SUV’s are trucks) is very profitable and the seller works the consumer and plays into the need for bigger, better, faster but down deep we know we’re being worked. We have huge egos that car makers count on to keep moving the consumer up to extract the last dime. They know we want to define ourselves and be different. That human flaw costs us, don’t you think?

My suggestion is – buy a Hummer H1 or a Jeep Wrangler and a wet T-Shirt and be all you can be. For the guys save $20 bucks – wet T-Shirt will give the wrong impression.

General Info:

Parts – .

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Compact

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca.

Opinion:

Update on Angeles Crest Highway. The Highway Patrol advises the Crest could be open as early as March. Cal Trans is yet to respond to my inquiry. If you have more information please email me joe@atthewheel.com.

Handling & Performance:

All wheel drive is cool, snappy acceleration is also but they need to do something about the touchy gas pedal. It can be annoying. As you’d expect AWD will cost you a little in fuel economy but not enough to offset the handling and safety benefits. The Engine size will mean more to mpg. The 4-cylinder will get 19-29 mpg and the 6-cylinder will only deliver 18-25 mpg.

Styling:

Subaru design has improved nicely over recent years.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Range of price covers most folks. $23,000 for a ‘new’ reliable, all wheel drive vehicle that doubles for a very nice family sedan is pretty good.

Conveniences and comfort:

Very comfy ride.

Consumer Recommendation:

Subaru owners are devoted and Subaru needs to be included in your hunt for the right car at this time in your life. Subaru will become increasingly popular because of the crossover mix of a good family wagon with the SUV look. Mazda and Dodge would also be on the top of my list to consider.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Outback $23-31,000, Audi A4 Avant $35,350, BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon $35-37,000, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon $38-51,000, Dodge Journey $20-29,000, Honda Accord Crosstour $30-36,000, Mazda CX-7 $22-33,000, Saab 9-3 SportCombi $32-45,000, Toyota Venza $26-30,000, Volkswagen Passat Wagon $29,690, Volvo V50 $29-33,000, Volvo V70 $34-38,000, Volvo XC70 $38-43,000.

Good News:

In good company coupled with aggressive pricing.

Bad News:

None.

Standard Equipment:

3.6 liter 256 hp 6-cylinder engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, 17” Alloy Wheels, Steering wheel paddle shifters, driver one touch up/down, 10-way power drivers seat and 4-way power passenger seat, dual zone auto climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel, all weather package, All Wheel Drive, air conditioning, power windows & locks, leather seats, 5 passenger seating, Harman-Kardon audio system with CD player, ABS brakes, traction control, stability control.

Gas Stats:

$2.91/ Gal avg. February 9 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $30,995.

2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5i (795)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Sedan. Subaru is not the new kid on the block as is the case with Kia and Hyundai. Subaru has been around for a long time, but it isn’t as recognizable a brand and not as prestigious a badge as some of the others. It does, however, deserve your consideration. It is a company product that I have always found to be a sleeper and one that is well built. You don’t hear them blowing their horn as loudly as most others.

All models I have tested over the past 18 years have always been consistently good, albeit not the most flashy. But in the years I spent owning an Automotive Repair facility Subaru was always under the repair radar. It was rather the Luxury badges that needed the most attention. BMW, Jaguar, Audi and Fiat led the list with nit picking repairs. These come to mind easily because they were constantly in the shop. But with BMW and Jag and Audi the cost of maintenance was high. Japanese models were not a frequent visitor to the shop.

General Info:

Parts – .

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Compact

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca.

Opinion:

Ever feel like you’re part of a “Herd of Caribou” when you head down the freeway all in lock step moving essentially at the same speed? Beware – predators. Lions? Sharks are waiting for you to drop your guard. Trying to get to a job that actually produces some goods and services is a noble thing. Tax collectors are ignoble and if you chose to work for the CHP that handle would fit you fine.

Getting pulled out of the pack for a ticket means they were the unlucky ones. The speed laws are antiquated and remain low for tax reasons. Modern cars are far safer today yet the posted limits are substantially the same as when mechanical brakes were used. Younger drivers may not get that one.

Many other states operate just fine thank you with much more liberal speed laws. Some states’ posted maximums in rural areas go to 80 mph. In California you could shoot off a cannon and not hit a soul on our freeways at off peak hours and that is prime time for the CHP sharks. So, be careful, especially now when the states need money to pay for those predators and other wasteful stuff. Check out the speed limits in the US at http://www.motorists.org/speedlimits/home/state-speed-limit-chart/

Handling & Performance:

Not a lot of power and it will struggle when you need fast acceleration. It is however adequate under normal operating conditions. If you demand more responsive power you will want to move up from the 170 hp 2.5 liter to the 265 hp 3.6R Premium or Limited or the Turbo that generates 256 hp from the 2.5 GT Premium or Limited. Otherwise the car handles nicely. If you like paddle shifters that feature is available.

Styling:

Familiar look in today’s design world. There is a formula approach for most cars today and little creativity. That has its place but it can be boring to many. It is however a nice looking inexpensive family sedan that works as a comfortable commuter.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Very competitive in class in my mind because all Subaru’s include the handling and safety of all wheel drive included standard on ALL models.

Conveniences and comfort:

All the expected standard features are included.

Consumer Recommendation:

You owe it to yourself to include the Subaru brand in your review process. The list is long and if you think the auto industry is in trouble this is a reason why. When I was a kid there was only the big 3. There are more models in this class than there was in all the industry back then. Bail out was a stupid thing. As in nature only the strong will survive and should survive.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Legacy $20-30,000, Acura TSX $29-38,000, Audi A4 $31-34,000, BMW 3 Series $34-51,000, Buick LaCrosse $27-33,000, Cadillac CTS $37-61,000, Chevrolet Malibu $22-27,000, Chrysler Sebring $20-35,000, Dodge Avenger $20-22,000, Ford Fusion $20-28,000, Honda Accord $21-31,000, Hyundai Azera $25-30,000, Hyundai Sonata $19-27,000, Infiniti G Sedan $33-36,000, Kia Optima $17-22,000, Lexus ES 350 $35,175, Lexus IS $32-38,000, Lincoln KKZ $34-36,000, Mazda 6 $18-28,000, Mercedes-Benz C-Class $34-57,000, Mercury Milan $22-28,000, Mitsubishi Galant $22-24,000, Nissan Altima $20-30,000, Saab 9-3 $30-51,000, Saturn Aura $23-27,000, Suzuki Kizashi $19-27,000, Toyota Camry $19-29,000, Volkswagen CC $27-40,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-23,000, Volkswagen Passat Wagon $29,690, Volvo S40 $29-34,000.

Good News:

Subaru consistent quality, all wheel drive standard, good fuel economy.

Bad News:

None.

Standard Equipment:

•2.5-liter SOHC horizontally opposed (Boxer) 4-cylinder engine with i-Active Valve Lift System 170 hp, 170 lb.-ft. torque, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, 6-speed manual transmission, Electronic parking brake with Hill Holder® system, Power-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), anti-lock brakes (ABS), Dual-stage deployment driver and passenger front air bags, Front seat side impact air bags, Side curtain air bags, Rear seat LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren), Remote keyless entry and security system with engine immobilizer, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability and traction control, 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, Air conditioning with electronic control panel, AM/FM/single CD stereo system with MP3/WMA playback, auxiliary audio input jack, radio data system (RDS) and 4 speakers, Cloth upholstery, Cruise control, Integrated ignition key with remote keyless entry system, Power door locks, Power side mirrors, Power windows with driver’s auto-down, Trip computer.

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. January 9 ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

19 City and 31 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $24,995.

2010 Subaru Impreza AWD (790)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Premium AWD (all wheel drive) 4-door sedan.

Nice styling for a compact commuter. I would like to see better fuel economy but the trade off is the AWD common to all Subaru siblings. It is perhaps the most significant differentiating feature out of all the competition. I give that a lot of weight in spite of the fact that nearly all those listed in class will do much better in gas consumption numbers both highway and city.

General Info:

Parts – Japan 100%

Assembly – Ota Gunma, Japan

Class:  – Compact

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca.

Handling & Performance:

The heritage of Rally Racing AWD road-a-bility (Subaru terms it ‘corner carving’) is what gives the Subaru product lineup a sure footed ride. Cornering is only a part of the handling characteristics that are wonderful in this Impreza. It is clearly one of the most capable commuters because of full time AWD and it is that which sets it apart from most of those seeking your consumer dollars.

Styling:

Impreza has clean sedan body styling and although some might consider it common place it is attractive and will look good for years to come. Projector beam headlights and fog lights are molded in and give that finished and thoughtful touch.

Fit and Finish:

Good – which means – similar to all others in this price range. I think you’d find it hard to pick one over the other on the basis of how well it is put together.

Cost:

Impreza is in the hunt for purchase price and when you add in all wheel drive the price gets all the better.

Conveniences and comfort:

Navigation and audio controls are not intuitive enough for my liking. Sure, I could pull out the manual / operators guide but based on all the other cars I test I’m confident I shouldn’t have to. I simply expect much more in ease of operation so you can jump right in and operate the electronics as if you had been driving the car for a long time. To the designers I would say – stick to the KISS principle – keep it simply stupid!

Consumer Recommendation:

Wow there are a bunch of competitors in class – This is all good stuff for commuting and more. From a stable and reliability standpoint my top picks include Subaru, Honda, Nissan and Toyota, based on many years owning an automotive repair business.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Impreza $17-35,000, Acura TCX $29-38,000, Audi A3 $27-31,000, BMW 1 Series $29-40,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $15-25,000, Chevrolet HHR $19-26,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Ford Focus $16-18,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Honda Civic Hybrid $24-27,000, Honda Fit $15-19,000, Hyundai Elantra $14-18,000, Kia Forte $14-17,000, Kia Spectra $14-16,000, Mazda 3 $15-22,000, MINI Clubman $20-31,000, MINI Cooper $19-34,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $15-27,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback $19-28,000, Nissan Sentra $15-20,000, Pontiac G5 $17-20,000, Pontiac Vibe $16-21,000, Scion tC $17-18,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $16-19,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-18,000, Toyota Corolla $15-20,000 Toyota Matrix $17-22,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-23,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $18-27,000 and Volkswagen GTI $23-24,000.

Good News:

Nice commuter styling, great AWD handling.

Bad News:

Disappointing fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 170 horsepower H (horizontally opposed) 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel ABS power disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, front, side and side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, security system with engine immobilizer, air conditioning, steering wheel mounted audio controls, audio with CD player, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, 16” alloy wheels, 60/40 split fold down rear seat.

Options: Satellite radio, touch screen Navigation system, Bluetooth hands free calling and power moon roof – $3,000; 4-speed automatic transmission – $1,000.

Gas Stats:

$2.79/ Gal avg. December 14 ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

20 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $18,495 with options $22,495.

2010 Subaru Outback (785)

strong>Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i crossover sport utility vehicle. It’s a ‘sleeper’ and it will impress you just as it did me and Motor Trend awarded it Sport Utility Vehicle of the Year. Good call MT.

I had the pleasure of making the trek up to the SEMA / AAPEX event in Las Vegas with this Outback. It is 250 miles from the Los Angeles area and it passed the test in part because of the comfort that also impressed a usually picky couple of guys sharing the ride. We went to see some new ‘stuff’ from our industry’s aftermarket producers. Nothing earth shattering but interesting.

This Outback is in good company of competitors but in my opinion it is the toughest when you consider the price point while giving up nothing in quality. In fact I’m not sure the others listed here won’t need to rise to the Outback standard. It has a lot to offer and I predict you’ll be impressed as I was.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – United States

Class:  – SUV / Crossover

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca.

Handling & Performance:

You’re not going to tear up the highway with raw horsepower but it is no slouch either. It is smoothly fast on the highway. In part that is because of the smartly designed Boxer engine – I could but won’t bore you with the technical reasons. If you want to know the details email me.

Styling:

Many competitors with more prestigious badges will offer little more than badge for the extra dough. Subaru delivers great styling with little pomp and ceremony which requires less advertising bucks because it simply delivers quality AWD to convince buyers this is the better car for the money. You can bet the word will get around.

This 2010 model is larger with a wider track and while prior models didn’t ring my bell  this Outback has moved up in class and will appeal to many more consumers. Some boring numbers may be of interest for specific details.

Some will complain it sits too high, but that is a part of the design for a Crossover. It is still easy enough to get in and out while providing SUV type ground clearance (8.7 inches).  Overall the new platform increases the passenger leg room by nearly 4 inches to 37.8 and has a 2.8 inch longer wheelbase (107.9 inches). Total passenger volume is increased by 8 cubic feet (now 105.4 cu. Ft) and with the standard 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded it is up by 6 cubic feet to 71.3 cu. ft.

Kudos to the design team at Subaru.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

The best of the bunch and a lot for your money which was factored in the Motor Trend award noted above. This is the year to buy the Outback because it is sure to go up in price to equal the value.

Conveniences and comfort:

Outstanding comfort. A great ride with all the interior features you expect in higher priced competitors.

Consumer Recommendation:

This Outback is really tough competition and priced extremely well. Subaru admits they are being very aggressive to get your business. It is well worth your time to include this in your selection process.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Outback $23-31,000, Audi A4 Avant $35,000, BMW 3 Series Sport Wagon $35-37,000, Volkswagen Passat Wagon $27,000, Saab 9-3 Sport Combi $32-45,000, Volvo V50 $30-36,000, Volvo XC70 $37-40,000, Volvo V70 $33,000, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon $40-54,000, Mazda CX-7 $22-33,000, Dodge Journey $20-28,000.

Good News:

AWD handling, very comfortable, best pricing in class and great fuel economy for an AWD vehicle.

Bad News:

Some will complain it sits too high.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 170 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel ABS power assist disc brakes, air conditioning, cruise control, front –side and side curtain airbags, power windows and locks, power mirrors, tire pressure monitoring, dynamic control, tilt & telescopic steering wheel / audio & cruise control (std all models), 60/40 split folding rear seat, remote keyless entry, auto on/off lights, stereo with CD player, 16” allow wheels, electric parking brake / hill holder function.

Premium model adds:

10-way drivers seat, 17” allow wheels, cargo cover, fog lights, leather wrapped steering wheel & privacy rear glass.

Limited model adds:

4-way power passenger seat, all-weather package including heated front seats, de-icer wiper & heated mirrors, CVT (continuously variable transmission, dual zone auto climate control, leather seating, 440 watt Harman/Kardon audio system with 6-CD player & Bluetooth.

Gas Stats:

2.85/ Gal avg. November 7, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

22 City and 29 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $22,995 – 24,295 – 27,995.

2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Premium 4-door. (774)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Premium 4-door sedan. Significantly less money than the very popular WRX it shares nearly everything. The WRX Premium we looked at recently is a serious performance car with tuned suspension and turbo charged power of 265 horsepower. It comes only with a 5 speed manual transmission while the other WRX models have a 4-speed auto trans with the 265 hp power plant.

This Impreza 2.5i Premium has a 170 hp engine and while a 5-speed manual is standard a 4-speed automatic is optional. And of course this model gets better fuel economy at 20 / 27 mpg vs 18 / 25 mpg numbers for the WRX turbo. Another important difference is the purchase cost of a whopping $10,000 more for the WRX Premium.

General Info:

Parts –  Japan 100%

Assembly – Ota Gunma, Japan.

Class:  – Compact

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback and Tribeca.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent. An enjoyable ride.

Styling:

Common place in today’s world.

Fit and Finish:

Good

Cost:

Very competitive when you factor in the All Wheel Drive standard on all Subaru’s. But it will cost you in reduced fuel economy relative to other non-AWD vehicles.

Conveniences and comfort:

Usual to competition and in class.

Consumer Recommendation:

There are a lot of great cars listed here and I suspect your general leanings will be as important to you being satisfied. My top 5 picks are VW Jetta, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Matrix, Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra similarly priced but I wouldn’t leave the Kia line out of the mix for even greater price advantage. Be aware that most of the close competition get much better fuel economy. That will surely be important down the highway of time.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Impreza $17-35,000, Audi A3 $27-37,000, BMW 1-series $29,40,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $ n/a, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $15-27,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-23,000, Volkswagen GTI $23-24,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $18-27,000Pontiac G5 $17-20,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, MINI Clubman $20-31,000, MINI Cooper $19-34,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-18,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $19-19,000, Kia Spectra $14-16,000, Nissan Sentra $15-21,000, Hyundai Elantra $14-17,000, 2010 Models – Pontiac Vibe $16-21,000, Mazda3 $15-22,000, Toyota Corolla $15-20,000, Toyota Matrix $17-22,000, Kia Forte $14-17,000, Scion tC $17-18,000, Acura TSX $29-38,000, Ford Focus $16-18,000, Chevrolet HHR $19-26,000.

Good News:

Lots of competitors to chose from, all wheel drive safety and at the top of the list in value for price.

Bad News:

Common place styling, only expected fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 170 hp horizontally opposed engine, 4- wheel fully independent all wheel drive, 5-speed manual transmission, dynamic control, front- side – and side curtain air bags, 4-wheel ABS brakes with brake force distribution, tire pressure monitoring, security system with engine immobilizer, safety pedal system, Audio with CD player, Satellite radio ‘capable’, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering column, power windows & locks and mirrors, 60/40 Split fold down rear seat, remote keyless entry. Option for the 2.5i Premium package: add power moonroof, alloy wheels, fog lights, stereo with 6-CD changer, 10 speakers, leather steering wheel with audio controls.

Gas Stats:

$2.85/ Gal avg. August 22, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

20 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $17,995 and with 2.5i options $19,495.

2009 Subaru Impreza WRX Premium (773)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX with a moon roof. The moon roof isn’t important except it strikes me as a bit old fashioned – moon roofs were the in thing that everyone had to have and now seem to be passé – like Angora dice hanging from the rear view mirror or Naugahyde Vinyl tarps. Remember when you’d see them on pick up truck beds or over the rear seat that were often embellished with “Tuck and Roll”. Fads are funny things eh? Well, today if they threw it in I would consider it. Otherwise it isn’t worth the added cost for me. I can’t remember opening one for a long time. Of course I haven’t been a passenger for a long time. Perhaps moon roofs are more for the others in the car and in any case the driver seldom needs to look in that direction while driving. Not a good idea… and I don’t smoke any longer so … well you know what I mean.

General Info:

Parts –  Japan 100%

Assembly – Ota Gunma, Japan.

Class:  – Compact

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Impreza WRX, Legacy, Outback and Tribeca.

Opinion:

This last week I had to be out of town and no press vehicles were available so I did a rent-a-car thingeeee. Well I have a suggestion for the Quality Control folks at auto manufacturers. Go to see your car after it has been out on rental for a while. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it but if it is broke change the design to stand up to the abuse. I’m not suggesting that drivers of these rental cars break things on purpose but when they go to use a feature and the knob falls off in their hand it is a better test than a robot doing the same thing thousands of times. People must do it differently.

My case in point is the Pontiac G6 I rented had broken A/C vents. The plastic just couldn’t stand up to the use.

Handling & Performance:

Personally I would like to see more insulation for the exhaust noise from the cabin. Performance is always better with less back pressure on the engine but insulation would solve the problem of having to hear it from inside the car. Now the “Boom Box” crowd would like it – but for my money it resembles the same annoying noise as having to listen to other people’s music at a bazillion decibels.

Gearing could also be better. Transmission really could use a 6th gear.

It is a smooth cruiser, however, and not what I expected from this “kids car” more apparent when compared to prior year models. But it isn’t only for kids any longer with the new larger redesign which includes easier entry and exit. I like it much better than earlier versions.

And of course the turbo charger makes this a rocket and combined with the all wheel drive and low center of gravity it is a hoot to hit the curves of the Crest or other less traveled road courses.

Styling:

Approaching a sedan look and feel but with all the performance characteristics we all like.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Ok in class and quite good when you consider performance and quality.

Conveniences and comfort:

Well you know by now I am a big supported of Nav systems but I don’t like this one. If I can’t set it for my next destination doing 100 mph it isn’t intuitive enough. No – I don’t text while driving but then I don’t do it in a theatre or restaurant either. People who think they can multi-task like that are kidding themselves. So I was exaggerating by requiring the Nav system to be set up while doing 100 mph… 50 or even less would be ok, but I don’t like stopping to set a revised destination. I promise I’ll have the passenger input the information.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you enjoy the sporty driving experience this all wheel drive (as are all Subaru’s) is the real deal if you don’t mind looking like an old “teeny bopper”. It will definitely provide you with an exciting “E” ride. Is there anyone that doesn’t know what an “E” ride is?

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Impreza WRX $25-35,000, Audi A3 $27-37,000, BMW 1-series $29,40,000, Chevrolet $28-36,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $ n/a, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Mazda Speed3 $23,195, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution $33-38,000, Volkswagen GTI $23-24,000.

Good News:

Fun to drive, fast turbo, larger redesign, easier to get in and out, comfortable cruiser.

Bad News:

Exhaust noise in the cabin is excessive, fast turbo is sure to get you into trouble with the speed police.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 265 hp intercooled turbocharged engine, 5-speed manual transmission, power moon roof, symmetrical all wheel drive, dynamic control, front- side – and side curtain air bags, 4-wheel ABS brakes with brake force distribution, tire pressure monitoring, security system with engine immobilizer, safety pedal system, climate control, stereo, tilt / telescopic leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, power windows & locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, heated front seats.

Gas Stats:

$2.65/ Gal avg. August 15, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,495.

2009 Subaru Forester SUV (748)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Subaru Forester – the little brother of the upscale Tribeca. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy luxury as much as the other guy but for a $10,000 price difference the Forester is pretty tempting. And fuel economy is 25% better.

The Crest Test is a great place to evaluate the total handling characteristics of any car or truck. And this SUV passed the test with flying colors. It is pretty awesome primarily because of the signature All-Wheel-Drive feature of Subaru. And I found it to have plenty of power because of the 5-speed manual transmission. Overall – this is a nice midsize SUV.

General Info:

Parts – Japan 100%.

Assembly – Japan

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca

Opinion:

You know what, for a kinder and gentler country we have less compassion with our citizens and more sense of need to tax them where ever we can. And the CHP – California Highway Patrol is the modern day tax collector. Let’s face it they only add to the aggravation we must endure with the mess of congestion on our highways. It’s like a double teaming of the CHP and Cal Trans to make our lives miserable.

As if stress of everyday life were not enough you get nailed for $300 fines and that is “Criminal”. So who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? The difference becomes very blurred, doesn’t it?

My suggestion is for “We the people” to push for permanently mounted radar speed indicators everywhere you find a black and white today. Flash the speed we’re traveling up on a screen and guess what, people slow down. Generally we speed because we have memory lapses or are simply distracted by the rigors of the day and our foot gets heavy. A gentle reminder is all we need to “do the right thing”.

Secondly we should make it mandatory that all cars be equipped with Cruise / Speed control. It reduces stress when you set the speed at what the flow of traffic is and you’ll get to your destination more relaxed and in the same amount of time. Try it, you’ll like it.

And as for the tax revenue lost we’ll make it up by not needing all those CHP guys and gals and that’s a lot more money than permanent “Robo-Cops”.

Handling & Performance:

AWD is great for handling and in this Forester the fuel performance is improved by 25%. Fuel cost is sure to go back up in the near future so this SUV option from Subaru is a very compelling argument to drive a more basic, yet attractive SUV. The more basic means you’ll have to put up with much more road, engine and drive line noises.

Styling:

Subaru is distinct in appearance but it is the AWD that really defines the car.

Fit and Finish:

Much improved over the years across the brand and the Forester is quite good for the money – especially when you consider AWD is standard on all their products.

Cost:

Not as pricey as its sibling Tribeca by a big chunk of dough. If more basic is ok with you it is at the top of the list in class for me.

Conveniences and comfort:

Competitive complement of creature comforts. Good size transformer cargo area and just the right size for most uses. Son Mike with 4 kids would be a stretch to go to the beach or mountains or out to see dad in the desert. The roof rails for extra gear is fine for a longer trip, but for the short ones it is inconvenient.

Consumer Recommendation:

If a luxury ride is not important you can save a bundle in this class and Subaru is a serious player. But there is no question this is a very capable field of SUVs. Like a menu with too much good stuff to eat or come to think about it the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit edition where it’s tough to decide which is best.

Here’s the kicker – New cars are not selling so used car prices are through the roof right now. For the 90% of you who ARE employed, this is a great time to buy a new car, because new car dealers are “Deal’n”.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Forester $20-28,000, Pontiac Torrent $25-31,000, Jeep Patriot $18-24,000, Jeep Liberty $23-28,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $20-26,000, Chevrolet Equinox $24-31,000, Hyundai Tucson $18-26,000, Kia Rondo $17-22,000, Kia Sportage $17-23,000, Nissan Rogue $20-23,000, Acura RDX $34-37,000, Honda CR-V $21-29,000, Honda Element $20-26,000, Ford Escape $20-28,000, Ford Escape Hybrid $30-34,000, Mercury Mariner $23-28,000,  Suzuki Grand Vitara $18-26,000, Saturn Vue $23-31,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Mazda Tribute $20-28,000, Toyota RAV4 $22-28,000, Volkswagen Tiguan $23-31,000.

 

Good News:

Sweet mountain driving experience, nice styling, very competitive pricing in class, All- wheel drive advantage and decent fuel economy to boot.

Bad News:

Road and engine noise is more noticeable than it needs to be – after all how much more does good insulation cost. Stuff the damn thing with rags… something.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder 170 hp engine, security system with engine immobilizer, 5-speed manual trans, symmetrical All-wheel drive, 4-wheel independent suspension, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, dual front & side seat and side curtain air bags with roll over sensor, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle dynamic control, air conditioning with filtration system, AM/ FM with single CD changer, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers with rear wiper washer and de-icer, power windows & locks, dual power mirrors, rear 60/40 split fold down seat and 12 V outlets in Dash, console and Cargo area.

Gas Stats:

$2.23/ Gal avg. Feb 28, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

20 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $22,695.

2009 Subaru Tribeca Limited SUV (Tribeca) (747)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Subaru Tribeca Limited Symmetrical All-wheel-drive SUV. AWD is the Subaru signature feature on all their products. This Tribeca is the largest size product yet for the brand, which was introduced into the US market in 2006 sporting an upside down Alpha Romeo grill inspired by an X Alpha guy. After the rejection of the grill he was also history.

Subaru has grown in popularity since its arrival in 1968, and today marks the best ever for all models across the brand in my opinion. I haven’t been a fan since the beginning but it’s hard not to warm up to the brand if only because they have stood the test of time. They’re still standing when so many others are falling by the wayside.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian 45%. Japan 45%.

Assembly – Lafayette, IN, USA

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – Forester, Impreza, Legacy, Outback & Tribeca

Opinion:

As I consider the growth of Subaru in America I have to assume they have simply been prudent in running their business. GM and Subaru were partners for a while and it is hard to know how positive the influence was on each of them. But last year Subaru cut the ties when it was apparent GM was in trouble. Toyota may indeed be the savior of Subaru by increasing their small ownership (less than 10%) stake in the company and take control of the parent company Fuji Heavy Industries. Toyota is well run and it convinces me the basic structure and management of Subaru is good.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, American counterparts are suffering and have spent lots of money on Hydrogen technology which has been a silent issue for several years now. It’s the taxpayer who will pay the price for that R&D gone bad. They surely thought they were doing the right thing with the Hi Wire product but I’m guessing it won’t make it to market in this economy.

A parallel is the relationship of many parents who find their children come home after squandering their inheritance, and ask to be “bailed out”. Don’t you just hate when they do that. I know most parents are pained by the misfortunes of their kids but when they have wantonly squandered and mismanaged their finances that’s when tough love should kick in and you tell them to get a job flipping burgers if they have to.

Unfortunately our bleeding heart leaders don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing. Of course for the half of Americans who don’t believe in Capitalism you’ll just have to wait to see why socialism doesn’t work. In the meantime take a look at current headlines – “Putin Warns US About Socialism”. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin said, “The US should take a lesson from the pages of Russian history and not exercise “excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence”. Hello Washington! Are you listening? George bush was wrong about the Axis of Evil… they reside in Congress. Some would say that Axis is Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. Let’s face it, congress has an approval rating far less than George Bush at his worst. I say throw the bums out. How about you?

Handling & Performance:

AWD is great for handling but fuel performance will suffer and potential maintenance problems down the road are unknown for certain. However I have to say that owning an automotive repair facility for many years we didn’t see problems from Subaru’s AWD system… Audi and BMW yes, but not Subaru.

Styling:

Distinctively and Consistently Subaru. But it has matured and become much more eye pleasing over the years.

Fit and Finish:

Much improved over the years.

Cost:

Pricey because of all the well engineered and implemented features. Safety and handling do not come cheap.

Conveniences and comfort:

Competitive complement of creature comforts.

Consumer Recommendation:

Wow! Look at the competition and if you don’t already know this is the most profitable class vehicle for all companies. It’s a truck in a tux. If you must have an SUV because it fits your life style best you have lots to look at. I’ve tested every one of these and unless badge is ultra important to you take a look at the price points that fit your budget. Fuel economy numbers are all very much the same.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Tribeca $30-34,000, Chrysler Pacifica $25-36,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $28-31,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $29-39,000, Chevrolet Traverse $29-41,000, Kia Borrego $26-40,000, Lincoln MKX $38-40,000, Dodge Nitro $22-29,000, Dodge Durango $28-40,000, Nissan Murano $28-37,000, Buick Enclave $35-39,000, GMC Acadia $32-40,000, GMC Envoy $31-39,000, Acura MDX $41-49,000, Honda Pilot $28-40,000, Cadillac SRS $40-47,000, Saab 9-7X $43-49,000, Ford Edge $27-37,000, Suzuki XL7 $26-30,000, BMW X3 $39,700, Land Rover LR2 $35,375, Infiniti FX $42-58,000, Saturn Outlook $31-36,000, Mazda CX-9 $30-35,000, Toyota Highlander Hybrid $35-41,000, Dodge Journey $21-29,000, Nissan Pathfinder $26-35,000, Volkswagen Routan $25-38,000,

Good News:

Nice handling, styling. Competitive pricing in class. All wheel drive.

Bad News:

Only average fuel economy.

Standard Equipment:

3.6 liter horizontally opposed 6-cylinder 256 hp engine, 5-speed auto trans, symmetrical All-wheel drive, 4-wheel power disc brakes with brake force distribution, dual front & side curtain air bags, child LATCH system, daytime running lights, rollover sensor, tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle dynamic control, roof rails, fog lights, power moonroof, air filtration system, stereo with 6-disc CD changer & MP3, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, climate control, heated mirrors, wiper de-icer, leather trimmed seats, steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, power windows with driver seat memory, rear 40/20/40 split fold down seats & security system with immobilizer.

Gas Stats:

$2.23/ Gal avg. Feb 23, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 21 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $34,995.