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  • 2017 Subaru BRZ Limited

    Sports car gains in power and performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Subaru BRZ

    2017 Subaru BRZ

    In many ways, the two-seat BRZ is very much a Subaru; in others, a bit different. The platform, developed jointly with Toyota (the Toyota version is the 86), is the only rear-wheel drive car in Subaru’s model line-up. That said, Subaru’s inherently-balanced boxer four-cylinder engine, updated for more horsepower and torque in 2017, is the car’s heart and soul. When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the engine develops 205-horsepower and 156 pound-feet of peak torque, for better low-end acceleration.

    The BRZ is very much a Subaru with its focus on safety and versatility. It is comfortable enough for the daily commute, with important safety features such as LED headlamps and a rearview camera. Standard satellite radio and Bluetooth interface make the minutes sitting in rush-hour traffic go by faster. Fuel economy is also quite good. Although the EPA estimates average gas mileage at 24, we got over 28 on our test drive of about 150 miles. That included time in rush-hours at the height of Phoenix, Arizona’s Spring Training baseball season.

    Best of all, the BRZ is affordable, with pricing for the base Premium model starting at $25,495. The upscale Limited tested starts at $27,645. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Subaru Smartlink that adds smartphone integration with Pandora, Aha, Stitcher and iHeart Radio and Bluetooth streaming audio. A LCD information screen next to the tachometer enables the driver to access performance information including lateral Gs, accelerator pedal position, steering angle, oil and water temperature and battery voltage. Final MSRP is $28,465. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium

    Four-door wagon raises the bar for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Subaru Wagon

    2017 Subaru Wagon

    If you’re an endurance athlete looking for an affordable vehicle with good fuel economy that can haul your gear, clear snow and travel the trails, you owe it to yourself to consider Subaru’s newest Impreza four-door wagon. Priced from $18,395, the all-wheel drive Impreza builds on the outgoing model’s off-road capabilities, adding a more powerful engine, more spacious and quiet interior.

    Our test car is the mid-grade Premium equipped with a naturally-aspirated two-liter engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. Standard features include heated front seats, exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer, 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, Bluetooth interface, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Aha, Pandora, Starlink connected services and roof rails.

    An EyeSight active safety package adds adaptive cruise control, autonomous pre-collision braking, lane departure alert, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert. Other options include a power moonroof and steering responsive fog lamps that swivel in the direction of steering input. Final MSRP is $24,910. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5 Limited

    Sport-utility wagon is the perfect training partner

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Subaru Outback

    2017 Subaru Outback

    Riding my bicycle through an unexpected monsoonal rainstorm this morning, I was thinking about the Subaru Outback test car parked in our driveway, specifically the relationship between the brand and endurance athletes going back over four decades. Long before other brands saw outdoor lifestyles as a marketing asset, Subaru embraced the idea, sponsoring the US Ski team.

    A unique carburetor design that compensated for oxygen loss at altitude made Subaru’s early four-cylinder engines the only small engines that ran well in mountainous areas. Along with that came standard all-wheel drive throughout the lineup. To this day, the only Subaru that comes without AWD is the track-oriented BRZ.

    But there’s a deeper reason why Subaru’s vehicles resonate with athletes. They are perfect training partners: up for any adventure and never complaining about the weather, always willing to pitch in when there’s work to be done and not afraid of getting dirty. They are durable, versatile workhorses that always come through in a pinch.

    Subaru isn’t afraid to call the Outback a wagon because that’s what it is: a very functional gear hauler with the ability to go through almost anything, including mud, deep snow, water, sleet and ice.

    The 2017 model adds some important upgrades: a new upscale Touring grade above the Limited, torque vectoring for better cornering, enhanced hill start-assist and hill descent control functions for better wet weather performance, a roomier cargo area, more active safety technology and infotainment features.

    Base price for the Limited model tested is $32,390 excluding the $875 destination charge. An optional convenience package adds navigation, Sirius XM travel and weather updates, steering responsive fog lamps, high intensity discharge headlamps, high beam assist and Subaru EyeSight: active safety technology including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, pre-collision throttle control and pre-collision braking. Final MSRP is $35,260. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Subaru Series HyperBlue

    Sports car’s beauty is more than skin deep

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Subaru BRZ

    2016 Subaru BRZ

    The BRZ two-plus-two is a bit of an anomaly for Subaru: the only rear-wheel drive car in its line-up, and one of two models focused specifically on racing. Unlike its closest sibling, the WRX/WRX STi, the BRZ is a track car in the traditional sense of the word. With its perfectly balanced boxer engine, low center of gravity and close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, the Subaru BRZ begs to take corners at speed: the more the better.

    Subaru developed the BRZ in conjunction with Scion, which calls its version the FR-S. While Toyota engineers took the reigns through much of the project, it’s important to point out that the engine, the heart of the car, is pure Subaru. Toyota wasn’t being charitable handing this very critical part of the chassis over to Subaru. The fact is, they couldn’t have done it better themselves. Subaru’s four-cylinder engine with identical bore and stroke dimensions is perfect as a high-revving block in a car designed to deliver short bursts of speed.

    Direct injection and a high compression ratio give the engine exceptional throttle response. When mated to the six-speed manual gearbox, the BRZ goes off the line like a rabbit. The car’s lightweight chassis, low center of gravity and excellent front-to-rear weight balance give it the nimble performance driving enthusiasts crave.

    For 2016, Subaru has produced a special edition called HyperBlue, with a unique exterior, leather and Alcantara seat surfaces, special wheels and badging. It’s a fearsome looking package inside and out. The fact that it goes as well as it shows and is affordable makes this BRZ the total package.

    Base price is $27,690, including all the aforementioned features on the limited-edition car. Final MSRP with destination is $28,485. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Subaru Crosstrek XV 2.0i Limited

    All-wheel drive crossover fills all the squares

    By Nina Russin

    Subaru XV Crosstrek

    Subaru XV Crosstrek

    Subaru was born from the needs of buyers with active lifestyles. Standard all-wheel drive, high ground clearance, advanced active safety features, versatile cargo areas and engines that run well at altitude made Subaru the obvious choice for endurance athletes as early as the 1970s when the company also sponsored the US Ski team.

    Although the brand has always offered buyers a lot of value, some models lacked refinement in the areas of ride comfort and NVH as compared to the competition. Never being a company to rest on its laurels, Subaru is addressing the problem by improving existing models.

    Case in point: the 2015 XV Crosstrek, with insulating windshield glass on the Limited model that significantly improves interior quiet. Having driven earlier versions of the car, I was surprised by how quiet the 2015 test car is on the highway.

    While the Limited is the most upscale version of Subaru’s midsize all-wheel drive crossover,

    Subaru XV Crosstrek

    Subaru XV Crosstrek

    it’s still quite affordable. Base price on the test car is $24,795, with standard features including leather upholstery, satellite radio, a rearview camera, Bluetooth interface, HD radio, smartphone connectivity, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and roof rails.

    An option package adds keyless start, power moonroof, real-time weather and traffic updates and the EyeSight driver assist system that automatically applies the brakes if the driver fails to recognized a stopped car or pedestrian in the car’s path.

    Power comes from a 148-horsepower Boxer engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard across the model lineup. The Crosstrek’s 8.7-inches of ground clearance makes driving in the snow or clearing obstacles on unimproved dirt roads a piece of cake. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

    All-new midsize sedan reaches new heights

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Subaru Legacy

    2015 Subaru Legacy

    Quantum leaps in the automotive industry are as rare as hens’ teeth. While we have come to expect new models to deliver linear improvement over the cars they replace, they are rarely the whole new world so often advertised.

    Subaru, however, has delivered on its promise with the 2015 Legacy midsize sedan: a car so much better than the model it replaces it is almost unrecognizable.

    While the Legacy is one of the most enduring nameplates in the Subaru lineup, most Americans continue to associate the brand more with its crossovers and all-wheel drive wagons. While the outgoing sedan was a solid product with good fuel economy and standard all-wheel drive, it failed to achieve the popularity of well-known competitors such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

    The 2015 Legacy has the chops to lead the pack in what is arguably the most competitive segment in the industry. It is powerful, quiet, stylish and solidly built. The 3.6R model tested has the performance and amenities to appeal to buyers who want a premium product but not necessarily a luxury nameplate.

    Base price for the V-6 sedan is $29,596 excluding the $795 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a moonroof with keyless access, push-button start and navigation ($2195), bringing the final MSRP to $32,585. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

    Hybrid crossover meets the needs of active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

    2014 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

    This year Subaru introduces its first gasoline-electric hybrid built on the all-wheel drive Crosstrek platform. The idea is to offer the brand’s core audience of outdoor enthusiasts enhanced fuel economy without sacrificing any of the utility the brand is known for.

    Power comes from a two-liter boxer gasoline engine and electric motor, paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. A nickel metal hydride battery powers the electric motor, and is recharged on the go thanks to regenerative braking. Engineers packaged the battery to be minimally intrusive on the cargo area, so the hybrid only loses about a cubic foot as compared to the gasoline model.

    The new hybrid maintains the same 8.5-inches of ground clearance as the gasoline-powered Crosstrek, and is all-wheel drive. The car comes with low rolling resistance tires to extend gas mileage, but buyers can swap those out for more aggressive treads if they need to.

    In addition to making the Crosstrek more fuel efficient, the electric motor adds power on the low end. Peak torque is 163 foot-pounds as opposed to 145 on the gasoline model, and comes on much earlier: 2000 rpm versus 4600.

    The gasoline engine for the hybrid has a slightly higher compression ratio but runs fine on regular unleaded fuel to contain cost of ownership. An automatic stop/start feature cuts the ignition when the car stops at a traffic light and restarts it when the driver releases the brake. An active grille shutter system makes the Crosstrek hybrid more slippery in the wind tunnel to improve fuel efficiency on the highway.

    The model comes fully loaded with comfort and convenience features including a rearview camera, Bluetooth interface, satellite radio, roof rails, fog lamps, a power moonroof, keyless start and heated front seats. Base price is $29,295 excluding the $825 delivery charge. Final MSRP is $30,120. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

    Five passenger crossover gains more fuel-efficient powertrain

    By Nina Russin

    Subaru Outback

    Subaru Outback

    It would not be an exaggeration to say that Subaru invented the active lifestyle vehicle. The brand’s commitment to athletes dates back to its sponsorship of the US Ski Team in the 1970s. Although Subaru commands a relatively small portion of the global automotive market, it remains the Big Kahuna within the athletic community.

    Of all the vehicles in its current lineup, the Outback wagon expresses this focus the best. From its 8.7-inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive to the standard roof rails and rubber cargo mat, the Outback is clearly designed for outdoor enthusiasts who like to venture off the grid.

    The newest model introduced in 2013 features a more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with slightly improved gas mileage as compared to the 2012 car. Engineers improved the car’s torsional stiffness to make it more responsive and quieter.

    Infotainment features now include navigation with real-time traffic updates and Bluetooth streaming audio.

    Buyers can opt for an EyeSight safety system that includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking. The system is capable of stopping the vehicle if the driver fails to recognize pedestrians or cars in its path at speeds below 20 miles-per-hour.

    Base price for the upscale Limited grade is $29,395. Standard convenience features include leather upholstery, keyless entry, Harman Kardon audio with satellite radio, Bluetooth audio and iPod interface, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and fold-flat second-row seats.

    The test car comes with two options packages: a power moonroof with rearview camera and voice-activated navigation. Final MSRP, including the $825 destination charge, is $33,030. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium

    Crossover gains more powerful engine and enhanced interior

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Subaru Forester

    Subaru is evidence of how successful a niche manufacturer can be if it listens to its audience. The automaker has affiliations with athletes dating back to its sponsorship of the US Ski Team in the 1970s: a network now vastly expanded four decades later.

    Because of that, product planners understand what buyers with active lifestyles need and value in a vehicle. Standard all-wheel drive, easy-to-clean interiors, large, versatile cargo bays and a high level of standard safety are part of the brand’s DNA.

    Although the Forester began as an all-wheel drive wagon in the late 1990s, it has evolved into a larger crossover. The newest model has a slightly longer wheelbase than the outgoing car, but is significantly longer, wider and taller, translating to a roomier interior.

    A new two-liter turbocharged and intercooled engine is available on the XT model, mated to a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard on all trim levels. There are four grades: base, premium, limited and touring.

    Base price for the Premium 2.0XT test car with the automatic transmission is $27,995, excluding the $825 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include air conditioning, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth interface, rearview camera, a 10-way power driver’s seat and fold-flat second row seats. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Subaru Forester

    Five-passenger crossover for outdoor enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Subaru Forester

    Buyers with active lifestyles are loyal to Subaru because Subaru is loyal to them. The company whose relationship with athletes began with its sponsorship of the US ski team in the 1970s continues to sweat the details in the fourth all-new version of its Forester crossover.

    Although the newest Forester is larger and less wagon-like than its predecessors, it continues to offer excellent gas mileage and a car-like ride. Two new continuously-variable automatic transmissions developed in-house by Subaru engineers give the Forester’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine and two-liter turbo block smoother, stronger acceleration.

    The turbo version is now a stand-alone model as opposed to a modified version of the naturally-aspirated car, with distinct exterior styling, 18-inch wheels, SI-Drive, dual exhaust pipes and larger brakes. The turbocharger, which is similar to the unit in the BRZ engine, propels the Forester from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 6.2 seconds. Unlike the outgoing turbo model, the 2014 car will run on regular unleaded gasoline, although the manufacturer still recommends premium.

    Base price for the 2.5i with a six-speed manual transmission is $21,995, excluding the $825 delivery charge. The volume-leading 2.5i Premium starts at $24,995 for the automatic transmission version, while the base 2.0 XT turbo starts at $27,995. The upscale 2.0 XT Touring model has a base sticker price of $32,995. Read the rest of this entry »