Category Archives: Subaru

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.

2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5 GT (740)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Pre-Production 2009 Subaru 2.5 GT 224 hp Turbocharged. What a sweetheart over the Crest with great acceleration and a road huggling low profile ride. And its looks are very today which is a reflection of many in and out of its class. The air scoop is real, by the way.

Available (as is the WRX) in 4 and 5 door (hatchback) models and both are equipped with a variation of the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. All wheel drive has been the signature of the Subaru brand and considered the best AWD car sold in America by R.L. Polk & Company.

They are great handling but the system pushes the price up higher than most of its competition group. You get what you pay for, of course, and it is popular as are all the SUV’s. People simply want the security and safety of the feature. If you drive in California or really anywhere in the southern part of the US, you have to consider if it is really needed. If you spend time in the snow, then you’ll appreciate the capability and can justify spending more. Frankly a pair of chains is a cheaper alternative unless you live in snow country.

General Info:

Parts –

Assembly – Japan

Class:  – Compact

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

Handling & Performance:

The symmetrical all wheel drive train layout and the engine is slightly lower help to lower the car’s overall center of gravity, which in turn contributes to the great handling characteristics mentioned above. Of course the Turbo doesn’t hurt any either when it comes to mountain driving conditions and the demand for power. You’re going to love how it drives, I guarantee it. The GT employs an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch for power distribution based on acceleration, deceleration and available traction. When there is slippage the active torque split system automatically transfers more power to the wheels with the best grip.

Styling:

The best yet for Subaru with a totally redesign in 2008. I like the look a lot better than any past designs. In 2002 the 2 door was discontinued and now it is only available as a 4-door sedan or wagon. The WRX was introduced in that year.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

About $27,000 which is supported by the quality and performance of this consistent performer.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Impreza $17-35,000, Pontiac Vibe $16-21,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $14-26,000, Acura TSX $29-32,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $16-23,000, Pontiac G5 $17-20,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-23,000, Volkswagen GTI $23-24,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $18-26,000, Mazda 3 $15-21,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Hyundai Elantra $14-17,000, Toyota Matrix $16-22,000, Toyota Corolla $15-20,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Ford Focus $16-18,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-18,000, Kia Spectra 5 $16,695, Nissan Sentra $17-21,000, BMW 1-Series $29-40,000.

Good News:

Great ride and all wheel drive performance is among the best.

Bad News:

A bit pricey for a compact class even though it is a good performer.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 224 hp horizontally opposed 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, 4-speed auto trans, symmetrical all wheel drive, stability control, traction control, 4-wheel ABS brake system, front and side curtain airbags, sunroof, air conditioning, power windows and locks, seating for 5 and CD player.

Gas Stats:

$2.15/ Gal avg. Feb, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

19 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $26,995.

2009 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited (739)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Subaru Outback AWD 2.5i Limited (Wagon). It really is in between an SUV (as classed) and the traditional Station Wagon of years past. In today’s terminology it is a Crossover.

Subaru doesn’t have as popular a badge but it is every bit as capable a car for much less money than others in class. It is my top pick.

General Info:

Parts –  US/Canadian 55%, Japan 35%

Assembly – Lafayette, IN, USA

Class:  – SUV AWD

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

Observation:

Over the past 17 years reviewing cars for the Country Journal, LA Times and several others here in America I have spent increasingly more time with cars from other countries. I didn’t think that much about it, but the events of today remind me the laws of economics have been at work all along. We out-source lots of jobs because it is more profitable to do so, so why would we expect the auto industry should be any different. After all, car companies have become increasingly woven together and the lines between them are blurred. Mercedes / Chrysler; Ford / Jaguar; GM / Opel and on and on, and then half of all auto workers in the US work for foreign car makers building their cars here in America.

A free and open economy has made this country great and it has always been the consumer who wins from the competition. But because America has dominated the auto industry for most of the last century guys in particular have grown up with it and have had a love affair with the car. For most of us it has been the most important romance of our youth. But after college we became more worldly and cosmopolitan and gave up our high school sweethearts for those foreign jobs. I wonder if it was worth it. I wonder if the girl next door wasn’t better after all and we were simply seduced by those fancy sophisticated German and Japanese brands.

Was it a mistake to embrace them? Will we ever know?  What do you think?

Handling & Performance:

AWD sure footed driving has been the signature of Subaru and it adds confidence on or off road. No slipping or lost traction that you get from front or rear drive wheels alone.

Styling:

My last test of the Outback was in 2001 and it was the L.L. Bean special edition. This ’09 model is not much different than that car which is a good thing. When you have a good design you are foolish to change it. The VW Beetle is a great example of that principle.

Fit and Finish:

Subaru has always delivered a high level of attention to detail so typical and expected of Japanese products. I see no difference, however, from those assembled in Japan and those, like this Outback, assembled in the US.

Cost:

I’m impressed that the price is virtually the same for 2009 as it was in 2001.

Conveniences and comfort:

Once again some conveniences can be misleading which is the case with the tire pressure monitor. And irrespective of the brand, I find them equally erroneous at times. My experience is that in cold weather the sensors are inaccurate until the tires warm up.

Consumer Recommendation:

I think it is the best buy for the money in this class.

Recognized Competition:

Subaru Outback $20-32,000, Volkswagen Passat Wagon $29,690, Hyundai Tucson $18-26,000, Chevrolet Equinox $24-31,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Saab 9-3 Sport Combi $32-45,000, Volvo V50 $30-36,000, Toyota Venza $26-29,000, Honda CR-V $21-29,000, Ford Escape $20-28,000, Nissan Rogue $20-23,000, Audi A4 Avant $34,500, BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon $35-37,000.

Good News:

Simply the best in company, good fuel economy, well equipped and also priced well.

Bad News:

None.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter horizontally opposed 170 hp engine, 4-speed auto trans, symmetrical all wheel drive, dynamic control, limited slip rear differential, 4-wheel ABS brake system, front and side curtain airbags, anti-theft alarm and immobilizer, tire pressure monitoring system, roof rails, intermittent wipers front and rear with front de-icer, air conditioning, heated front seats, heated mirrors, Harmon Kardon stereo with 9 speakers and 6-in dash CD player, trip computer, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power windows, locks and mirrors, leather trimmed upholstery, power front seats, rear 60/40 split fold down seats.

Gas Stats:

$1.93/ Gal avg. Jan, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

20 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $30,495

2005 Subaru Forester 2.5 XT AWD (515)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5 XT AWD SUV. And although I have always perceived this model as a low-end player in class, for them, this is a movement up to better competition. The major reason is that AWD is standard and Turbo propels this car at speeds beyond others. There is a lot of competition and that makes this an uphill climb for the Subaru.

As an SUV it is more car-like in overall performance and feel, but it is as robust an AWD vehicle as any of the competition listed. I know some have criticized prior versions for not having enough passing power and not tall enough for an SUV. Time has passed and the Forester has grown a bit and the turbo will flat impress any of its critics.

I like the size and so must a lot of consumers because they have driven the market and forced manufacturers to downsize generally. It is just responsible attention to dealing with Gas Guzzlers. GM still puts out the giant sized Suburban and Tahoe SUV’s that aren’t really needed by many. But there are enough who don’t care a twit about wasting oil and obviously have the “disposable income” to snub their noses at others bent on conservation. We all know that there are many who would buy bigger if there weren’t concerns for fuel economy. Either they are sensitive to conservation and efficiency or they simply don’t have the money to fill up those “Hogs”.

I really don’t think we’ll get their attention until prices at the pump go to $4.00 plus a gallon. Well, there is no doubt prices promise to continue to climb. At this writing the cost per barrel has gone over $50 for the first time. Ever!

General Info:

Parts 

Assembly – Japan

Class:  – Special purpose SUV

Cars:  – Baja, Forester, Impreza & Wagon, Legacy & Wagon and Outback.

Handling & Performance:

The ride is comfortable and the power is awesome with the turbo. And no one does all wheel drive better than Subaru. Traction and control are great and all those wheels launch you from 0-60 miles per hour in just 6 seconds.

Styling:

I’ve never cared for the exterior design but Subaru has a kind-a cult following like Land Rover does. Esthetically they simply aren’t eye pleasing to me.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Not bad. Certainly competitive but there is a lot in its class to chose from, so it should have a downward pressure on prices.

Conveniences:

I think it is the perfect size and still has a roomy cargo area. I’d opt for the 4-speed auto trans over the 5-speed manual, especially since the Turbo delivers 210 horsepower.

Consumer Recommendation:

You’re always on your own in the final analysis, but more so on this one because I’ve tested them all and like them all in Class. I would be hard pressed to whittle them down to only one. Personal preference for style and design appeal will be the final ingredient to making your choice. I like Jeep because it’s been around the longest, Hyundai Santa Fe because it’s the new kid on the block and it impressed me when I tested it. Vibe has the best fuel economy and pricing is very good too.

The Competition: with fuel economy

2005 : Subaru Forester $21-28,000, 24 mpg, Ford Escape $19-27,000, 26 mpg Mazda Tribute $20-24,000, 22 mpg, Pontiac Vibe $17-20,000, 31 mpg, 2004 : Chevrolet Tracker $20-23,000, 22 mpg, Hyundai Santa Fe $18-25,000, 26 mpg, Jeep Liberty $18-25,000,22 mpg, Suzuki Vitara $17-18,000, 22 mpg, Saturn Vue $17-24,000, 28 mpg, Honda CR-V $19-23,000, 25 mpg, Mitsubishi Outlander $18-22,000, 26 mpg, Nissan Xterra $18-28,000, 20 mpg.

Good News:

Car-like ride, roomy, 210 horsepower turbo performance

Bad News:

Average fuel economy, small rear door opening

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 4 cylinder Intercooled turbo, fuel injected engine, active valve control system, 5-speed manual trans, All wheel Drive, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, dual front and side airbags, engine immobilizer, heated power mirrors, fog lights, roof rails with cross bars, front and rear wiper De-Icers, climate control, stereo with in dash 6-CD changer, outside temperature gauge, 8-way driver power seat, heated front seats, auto off headlights, power windows and locks, 60/40 rear set with fold down, remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $25,595.

2005 Subaru Legacy AWD Sedan (513)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2005 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited Sedan. The new year is in high gear and all cars will be jockeying for position in an incredibly competitive OEM marketplace.

The horseless carriage has matured in the past 100 years and most men have this irrational love of the automobile. Or is it? Consider that it could be because the car has done as much in the past 100 years as did the horse before it, to give men mobility and embellished his manhood. Men and women look at cars differently. In this they are more like men and men more like women. Women look at the car practically and men look at it emotionally.

And I fear we men fall in love too easily. But that is easy to understand because the cars of this generation have improved to be even less troublesome and thus friendlier. In short, they are easier to love. Gone, for better or worse, are the days of having to set the timing or adjust the carburetor or deal with sticky valves all of which were mechanical. Today’s engines are computer controlled and don’t really let you tinker and tune even if you wanted to.

General Info:

Parts 

Assembly – Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Class:  – Compact

Cars:  – Baja, Forester, Impreza & Wagon, Legacy & Wagon and Outback.

Handling & Performance:

This Legacy is unbelievably swift due to the Multi-point fuel injection TURBO. Some feel the delay in power is annoying, but that is a necessary characteristic of turbochargers and how they work. And because the criticism is accurate there could be a market for a Supercharger if it were an option to the Turbo. However, with the increasing fuel prices the Turbo is more fuel-efficient and I suspect it would win out in the end.

Styling:

Subaru Legacy is a competitive leap for them. It gives them a competitive product in the larger sedan market.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

Fair, but if you don’t have to have a 5-speed auto trans with “Sportshift”, also referred to as “Tiptronic” you can save $1,200, bringing the MSRP down to $29,070.

Conveniences:

Although this Legacy is considered a Compact, it is roomy – front and rear – and has a huge trunk.

Consumer Recommendation:

For Subaru, the Legacy is the most mainstream in design to compete with the list below. It has a competitive edge in that it sports AWD that is the trademark of Subaru. They simply do it better because they have done it longer.

The Competition:

Subaru Legacy $21-29,000, Chevrolet Impala $22-28,000, Chevrolet Malibu $19-24,000, Pontiac Grand Prix $23-27,000, Nissan Altima $17-27,000, Chrysler 300 $23-34,000. 2004 models: Dodge Intrepid $21-25,000, BMW 3 Series $28-44,000, Acura TSX $26-28,000, Volvo S40 $24-29,000, Audi A-4 $26-44,000, Toyota Camry $18-25,000, Saab 9-3 $26-43,000, Honda Accord $16-29,000, Lexus IS 300 $29-31,000, Infiniti G35 $28-33,000, Mazda 6 $19-23,000, Volkswagen Jetta $17-24,000, Mitsubishi Galant $18-26,000.

Good News:

AWD safety and convenience, fast with turbo, clean lines, roomy for a Compact and huge trunk area.

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy,

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine, active valve control, 5-speed auto trans, All wheel Drive, turbo, fuel injection, Variable torque distribution VTD, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, dual front, side and curtain Airbags, Child anchorage latch system, 17 inch alloy wheels, fog lights, 4-wheel independent suspension, dual zone climate control, all weather package (including heated front seats, mirrors, windshield wiper de-Icer), stereo with In-Dash 6-CD changer and speakers), tilt steering column, trip computer, leather wrapped steering wheel, Leather wrapped steering wheel and trimmed upholstery, power door locks and mirrors, power 8-way drivers seat, power 4- way passenger seat, power windows and keyless entry system with immobilizer.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $30,270.

2005 Subaru WRX AWD Sport Wagon (506)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2005 Subaru WRX Impreza Sport Wagon. Have you noticed new year models seem to emerge on the scene earlier all the time?

Well, my first impression was that it was a “P-Popper” little car that really suits the very youthful driver. But after driving this car I changed my tune. I found myself singing its praises. This is a very capable performance car of serious proportions. Ok, so I began looking at it differently after my friend Merkel took it for a spin. I respect his opinion a lot for a lot of reasons, including his background as a Chrysler design engineer and recent teaching assignments at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena all the way to his natural love and passion for cars.

I got over my prejudice and began to look at the spectacular performance. The ride didn’t impress my 86-year-old mother-in-law who complained incessantly about the rough ride and wondered why I had to shift all the time. “Ok, mom it IS a little rough”, and the rough surface on the 710 freeway didn’t make matters any better. I proceeded to tell her “that’s the kind of car it is. It has a sport-tuned suspension coupled with all wheel drive for enhanced performance. That’s why it rides rougher than most family sedans.” Well I can’t expect her to understand that when she compares it to cars like the VW Phaeton, Audi A8 and other luxury touring sedans.

General Info:

Parts 

Assembly – Vancouver, Washington

Class:  – Small Wagon

Cars:  – Baja, Forester, Impreza and Impreza Wagon, Legacy, Legacy Wagon and Outback.

Handling & Performance:

I should have known when I sat down and looked at the gearshift that this was going to be a different ride. And when the Turbo kicked in it became completely clear this was a Contender. Reminder of the difference between a Super Charger and a Turbo Charger. Super chargers are belt driven off the engine. Turbo chargers run off the exhaust. Performance wise, the Turbo Charger kicks in with increased RPM where the Super Charger is instant with little or no delay in the Boost you get.

Sport tuned suspension means Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders tinkered with it. Those were the days when men were men and had saddle sores to prove it. Well these are better days. They are kinder and gentler days. Remember somewhere in between then and now, when Dyna-Glide and other such super soft suspensions were all the rage. And we didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that the car would oscillate for a mile after going over a dip. Those were the days when your parents owned that Buick. Remember?

As to the AWD – All Wheel Drive – it is spectacular. How can a car lover not love the way these AWD vehicles take the curves? And the WRX is so low to the ground it is even more impressive. You performance lovers will be in heaven on the road with lots of twists and turns in the road.

Styling:

Not my cup of tea, but I know the younger generation appears very impressed. Not so much with the Wagon model, and they are impressed with the TSI version including a very odd and uncomfortable Titanium Shift Knob.

Fit and Finish:

No complaints.

Cost:

Not bad for the performance car that it is, but a little pricey for a small car.

Consumer Recommendation:

If it’s performance you are looking for, look no further. If you demand a smooth ride, keep looking. There’s a lot to choose from and they are all nice. Perhaps the PT Cruiser would be better. It has similar seating and even less storage space but it is a smoother ride and mom would appreciate that.

The Competition:

Subaru WRX Impreza Wagon $18-24,000, Pontiac Vibe $17-20,000, Toyota Matrix $15-19,000, Suzuki Aerio SX $15-17,000, Ford Focus Wagon $17-18,000, Volkswagen Jetta Wagon $18-22,000, Mazda 3 $14-17,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback $17-19,000, Chrysler PT Cruiser $18-28,000, Audi A4 Avant $29-35,000, Volvo V50 $26-29,000, Saab 9-2X $23-27,000.

Good News:

Great performance, reasonable seating room and adequate cargo area all packaged in a small wagon, decent fuel economy, all wheel drive stability and fast turbo. A driver’s car.

Bad News:

Rough ride, pricey as a small commuter.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 4 cylinder 227 hp turbocharged engine, 5-speed manual trans, all wheel drive, 4-wheel ABS power disc brakes with brake force distribution, dual front and side air bags, daytime running lights, limited slip rear differential, fog lights, rear gate spoiler, roof rails, sport tuned suspension, climate control, stereo with in dash 6 CD changer, cruise control, tilt steering column with leather wrapped wheel, auto headlights, power door locks and mirrors, windows, split fold down rear seat, remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,295.

2003 Subaru Baja AWD (442)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2003 Subaru Baja AWD mini crew cab truck. What a cute little car and the looks you get from young people indicates what market Subaru is after.

Overall I found the Baja a fun car to drive that will not appeal to people over, say 35. Younger sport minded people will want to opt for the tubular bed extender for a surfboard, for example. Older people will say, why not buy a station wagon that provides the cargo space plus the security? Station wagons aren’t cool for young folks today. But remember the “Woodies” so popular in the last generation? Today that generation is re-visiting such cars like the PT Cruiser. I think young people would go for a “Woodie” too, but the “Off Road” craze gives more appeal to the “Truck” thing.

A pickup truck used primarily for transportation will be inconvenient. Recently on a trip to Mexico in a Frontier Pickup we had to move our gear into the cab for a lunch stop and all stops where the vehicle will be out of your control or view.

General Info:

Parts – N/A

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Pick up Truck

Cars: – Baja, Forester, Impreza, Legacy.

Handling & Performance:

It slips around town with ease. I did notice a little clutch chatter when cold. Acceleration is a little sluggish and better with the manual trans. The All Wheel Drive is all the time and I consider that a plus because you get that improved traction and better fuel economy that alternative 4-wheel drive capable vehicles. Although the Baja has all wheel drive it is not meant for heavy duty off road use.

Styling:

The design includes a pass through from the rear seat to the cargo truck bed and a tubular extender with the tailgate down provides added hauling capability. It truly is a mini crew cab pickup truck. Kids love this sedan/truck but others won’t be as impressed.

Fit and Finish:

This little truck is quite and well put together and well insulated from outside noise.

Conveniences:

There is a lot of gadgetry commonly available on most cars these days. This is packed with the “Lifestyle” considerations for the young out of doors active guy or gal.

Cost:

Base price is $23,995 and if you want the bed extender, speaker upgrade add $495, they also have a 6-disk in-dash CD changer for $520 and Baja Lights on the roof rack is $395. Total with floor mats and delivery the total comes to $25,985.

Consumer Recommendation:

I found myself recommending Subaru to my Niece when asked what cars would fit her budget and need for good performance. She wants an SUV like too many others but I cautioned her on the certainty that gas prices are not going to get much better in the near term and certainly with normal inflation and uncertain supply she should brace herself for spending more for transportation unless she goes with a better fuel economy car. If you are in the market for a youthful car/truck with good gas performance in an all wheel drive, all the time, vehicle, Subaru is an outstanding choice. If you simply need a small truck, this isn’t it.

The Competition:

Chevrolet S10 $24,260, Dodge Dakota $24,075, Ford Ranger $19,975, GMC Sonoma $24,560, Mazda Truck $21,160, Nissan Frontier $24,419, Toyota Tacoma $18,630.

Good News:

Good fuel economy, fun to drive, all wheel drive, surprisingly quiet and comfortable ride.

Bad News:

Optional Roof lights are functional only with the parking brake set, only average acceleration.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 4-cylinder 165 hp engine, all wheel drive, limited slip differential, abs 4-wheel disc brakes, dual air bags, air conditioning, stereo with CD player, cruise control, keyless entry, leather wrapped wheel and shift knob, leather trimmed upholstery, power windows and door locks and mirrors, 6-way power drivers seat, fold down rear seats, 16 inch alloy wheels, cargo light and tie downs and liner, fog lights, heavy duty raised suspension, power moon roof and tilt up, roof rails, swing down license plate, bed extender and pass through, 5 year 60,000 mile warranty.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,495.

2002 Subaru WRX (392)

Overview:

This week I tested the all wheel drive (AWD) Subaru WRX Impreza Wagon. I don’t like to start off on a negative note but rattles bug me as they probably do you. Well there was an annoying rattle under the dash. Remember the good old days when rattles were almost expected or at least not so big a deal in early cars.

Considering the horse and buggies they replaced not so many years before, a rattle here and there was no big deal. But after a hundred years of trial and error cars simply don’t usually have rattles any longer. When a car does have a rattle, squeak or groan, they are very noticeable.

The Vue from here looks smaller than it feels when you get in. It’s amazing that this “P’ Popper is a rather comfortable 5-seater. I’m in a Saturn AWD SUV as I write this and for the same money. The Saturn is not noted here as competition because it is classed as an SUV, but in my mind it is a real option. Both are AWD vehicles and the Saturn is one of the new generation SUV’s that are getting more car-like, and that’s the real draw of cars like this WRX.

General Info:

Parts –  no data.

Assembly –   Japan

Class:  –  Small Wagon

Subaru Cars: – Forester, Impreza, and Legacy.

Handling & Performance:

It is slow off the line but really fast when the turbo kicks in. But when you get in the power curve of 3000-3500 rpm it is impressive indeed.

Styling:

It is sporty for a utility wagon.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Conveniences:

Decent for the dough.

Cost:

When it comes to transportation, you get the most for your money when you buy in this category and price range car, in my opinion. It will take you there in relative comfort and return you home no worse for wear. Subaru has a good name, but owning one means you will live without the prestige of nameplates like Toyota, Lexus and the like. Obviously this car is priced at the upper range of its competition. Granted you get AWD but you also don’t have the option not to have All Wheel Drive.

Consumer Recommendation:

This car is best suited for the mature youthful buyer. It is especially good for those who are interested in a reliable, safe, all-wheel drive car for a young family. You will want to take a look at the Mazda Protégé 5 as well in this class and price range. The parenthetical notation below is the ranking by average price.

Manufacturer Recommendations:

The AWD feature may be good in snow and mud conditions but in mild climate weather conditions the cost can’t be justified.

The Competition:

1) Saturn SW $14,000, (2) Suzuki Esteem Wagon $14-17,000, (3) Ford Focus Wagon $17-18,000, (4) Impreza Wagon $17-23,000, (5) Audi A4 Avant $28-34,000.

Others to look at in this price range.

Mazda Protégé 5 at $18,500.

        

Saturn Vue at $22,575.

Good News:

Good gas efficiency, fast, fun to drive, sporty.

Bad News:

Small, annoying rattle under the dash.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine, turbo, 5-speed manual trans, all wheel drive, limited slip rear differential, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, front and side air bags, power assist steering, air conditioning, child safety locks, sound system with cassette and 6 CD changer, keyless entry, power windows and door locks, heated dual power mirrors, heated front seats, cruise control, fog lights, auto headlights.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,020.

2001 Subaru Forester S (338)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at “Yet Another” SUV. The Subaru Forester S added to all the others makes one wonder why the proliferation of this class of car/truck/van. Oh, maybe that’s it, the SUV is all those things wrapped up in one vehicle.

Dah! Well that all sounds good but with gas prices escalating faster than justifiable, this class car is a risk. They simply burn too much gas. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that the Forester gets nearly twice the mileage for the dough.

It is also an All-wheel-drive vehicle that gives you 4X4 traction full time. So this becomes a real option for the cost conscious traveler.

Handling & Performance:

Not unlike other SUV’s but the 4X4 capability is transparent to the driver. Gas performance is no surprise since this version is lighter and less horsepower from a 4 cylinder Engine. On the other hand Jeep Wrangler is a 4-cylinder and it is the worst of the bunch in fuel consumption.

Styling:

It looks like other SUV’s – only smaller.

Fit and Finish:

Ok – nothing to write home about, but decent.

Conveniences:

Really impressed with all the standard features.

Cost:

Relative to the competition it seems a bit high, but this is an all wheel drive vehicle and the make has a good reputation for reliability. That has value and I also need to reiterate the fact that you get a ton of features as well.

Recommendation:

If you’re in the market for an SUV and you’re as ticked off with poor mileage from most SUV’s as I am, this size Sport Utility is a definite option and the best of all the competition is this Forester. In terms of maintenance, I have written in the past about a friend who has put hundreds of thousands of miles on his Subaru with almost no trouble. I’m not impressed easily but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I know first hand how well his Outback has served him over many years. At the end of the road, let’s compare notes again. Good luck in your search.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Tracker $15,435-21,430, Honda CR-V $18,750-22,800, Jeep Cherokee $17,910-23,385, Kia Sportage $14,645-19,345, Suzuki Grand Vitara $18,399-22,999, Toyota RAV4 $16,215-17,615.

Good News:

Impressive amount of standard features, best gas performer by up to 30% over the competition listed, AWD (All Wheel Drive).

Bad News:

Smaller than most SUV’s, small engine.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 4-cylinder horizontally opposed engine, 4-speed auto trans, all wheel drive, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, dual front air bags, heavy duty raised independent suspension, front and rear stabilizers, power assist steering, air conditioning, child safety locks, sound system with cassette and 6 CD changer, keyless entry, power windows and door locks, heated dual power mirrors, heated front seats, cruise control, fog lights with stone guards, roof rack, auto headlights, and more.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 26 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $22,895

2001 Subaru Outback L.L. Bean Edition (335)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Subaru Outback wagon AWD Luxury version of what used to be a pretty austere little car. Today it has grown into a good-sized commuter / small family, all purpose vehicle.

Outback’s aren’t just wagons anymore. The Limited Sedan sports a viscous limited-slip differential, protective lower body cladding, fog lights, raised heavy-duty 4-wheel independent suspension, and 7.3 inches of ground clearance.

It gives that cockpit feel where the driver is in control, like a pilot, and the co-pilot is just along for the ride and doesn’t appear to have access to many of the controls.

I was asked to compare the Altima with all its competition for a first time buyer and I found this Outback to be the top of the heap if All-wheel-drive capability would be needed, as the Subaru stands alone in the competition.

Handling & Performance:

Powered by a 3.0-liter H6 horizontally opposed 6-cylinder engine that produces 212-horsepower at 6000 rpm and 210 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. It also features a Variable Torque Distribution all-wheel-drive (VTD), Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) and all-wheel, all-speed traction control (TCS) for excellent stability and traction. It is powerful and brakes superbly. The ride is solid and has that substantial feel. Good cornering albeit not a road racer. It’s meant to be a small luxury car rather than a high performance car.

Styling:

Nice looking and unmistakenly a Subaru. It mixes that look of an SUV and a station wagon.

Fit and Finish:

Good attention to detail in fitting quality components.

Conveniences:

The L.L.Bean Edition’s interior features automatic climate control with ambient temperature gauge, an air filtration system along with lots more.

Cost:

You’ll pay dearly for all the improvements, but you get what you pay for, meaning a lot of high end design and most of the money is where it should be – in the engine and running gear.

Recommendation:

If you’re into a quality, smaller sized, all-purpose vehicle for a budding family on a budget, this will provide many years of trouble free transportation. It is well done but luxury is a relative term. This is a luxury car that does it all, albeit on a smaller scale.

The Competition:

Ford Escape $18,035-21,210, Honda CRV $18,750-22,800, Mazda Tribute $17,210-23,230, Toyota RAV4 $16,215-17,615.

Good News:

Outstanding gas mileage for the performance, quality all purpose car in one, economical to maintain,

Bad News:

Expensive up front cost for a small car, design flaw in that the visor hits the rearview mirror… I know, picky, picky, picky.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter H-6 (horizontally opposed) 212 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, all wheel drive, 4-wheel anti lock disc brakes, front and side air bags, heavy duty raised independent suspension, dual power moon roofs with sunshades, leather, 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats, stereo with cassette and CD player and 8 speakers with in-glass antennae, keyless entry with security system, wood and leather tilt steering wheel, air conditioning and filtration system, power windows, door locks and mirrors, cruise control.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $29,990