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  • 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Premium

    Five-passenger crossover for outdoor enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Subaru Crosstrek

    It’s no accident that so many athletes are Subaru loyalists. Nor is it simply the all-wheel drive, which is standard equipment on most Subaru models. Subaru has the longest contiguous relationship with endurance athletes of any major car manufacturer, dating back to the company’s sponsorship of the US Ski Team in the mid-1970s.

    Although Subaru’s total sales volume is a fraction of larger auto manufacturers, it’s hard to travel more than a city block in places such as Boulder and Flagstaff without bumping into one. The new XV Crosstrek is a slight departure from best sellers such as the Impreza and Forester. Styling is more aggressive, and the vehicle is slightly larger for enhanced passenger and cargo space.

    But the Crosstrek’s core mission is very much like that of its Subaru brethren: to take people for whom time on the trails is a way of life, where they want to go in any kind of weather. In addition to all-wheel drive, engineers focused on fuel economy and standard safety as key attributes. The test car with a four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission averages 33 miles-per-gallon on the highway.

    The Premium model is the base grade with a $22,995 sticker, excluding the $795 delivery charge. Standard convenience features include Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, remote keyless entry, roof rails, cargo tie downs and a removable rubber cargo matt, and tilt and telescoping steering wheel. A moonroof and navigation option package adds $2000, bringing the final MSRP to $25,790. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5 Limited

    Updated midsized sedan features new safety technology

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Subaru Legacy

    Readers who equate the name, Subaru, with all-wheel drive wagons might be surprised to learn that the Legacy sedan is one of the brand’s most enduring nameplates. First introduced in 1989, the original Legacy was available as either sedan or wagon, both all-wheel drive. The wagon became the basis for the Outback, first introduced in 1995 as a trim version.

    Meanwhile, the Legacy sedan maintained a core audience which appreciated its all-weather capability, high level of standard safety features and value pricing. At the 2012 New York Auto Show, Subaru unveiled the newest Legacy sedan, giving its fans more of all the features they have come to love. Available with either four or six-cylinder engines, the newest Legacy is more powerful and fuel efficient. The four-cylinder all-wheel drive model averages 27 miles-per-gallon, according to the EPA.

    A new EyeSight driver assist system includes audible perimeter alarm, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking. The system is also capable of pedestrian detection, and will apply the brakes if the system detects an obstacle in front, and the driver takes no evasive action. While none of these technologies are new or unique to Subaru, finding them in a $30,000 sedan is rare.

    Base price for the 2013 Legacy Limited with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is $25,895, excluding the $770 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a power moonroof, navigation, rear-view camera, upgraded audio with USB and iPod compatibility, Bluetooth streaming audio and the EyeSight driver assist system. Final MSRP is $30,605. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium

    Five-passenger wagon appeals to athletes on a budget

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Subaru Impreza

    Of all the products in Subaru’s model lineup, the Impreza wears the most hats, ranging from the fuel-efficient wagon which won our Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year award last year in the best value category, to the WRX STi, which dominates the World Rally Cup circuit. Subaru’s talent, and the secret to the company’s success, is its ability to develop loyal followings in niche markets.

    Subaru owners are almost religious in their love for their automobiles, because they seem to meet their needs in uncanny fashion. For example, the newest Impreza wagon features standard all-wheel drive and 36 mile-per-gallon fuel economy. Since all-wheel drive decreases gas mileage, it’s amazing that engineers boosted EPA figures by thirty percent compared to the outgoing model.

    Increasing the gas mileage for the fourth generation Impreza didn’t involve any particularly innovative technology. It was more a matter of being thrifty and paying attention to details. A new two-liter engine replaces the 2.5-liter block in the outgoing models. The new engine is lighter, with variable valve timing which improves its efficiency.

    Other weight-saving measures include replacing the hydraulic steering pump with an electric one, reducing the size of the fuel tank and using more high-strength steel in the chassis. Depending on the model, the new car weighs up to 165 pounds less than the one it replaces. Low rolling resistance tires and a continuously variable automatic transmission also boost gas mileage.

    Designers made the interior more spacious by pushing the wheels to the corners, lengthening the wheelbase. They added text messaging, Bluetooth streaming audio and XM real-time weather and traffic updates to the list of available options, giving owners the ability to stay connected on the road. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

    Premium midsize sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Subaru Legacy

    Despite being one of the most enduring models in Subaru’s line-up, the new Legacy sedan seems somewhat un-Subaru-like. On the surface, the midsize sedan has no affinity with Subaru’s sport-utility wagons, the Forester and Outback, nor does it share the extreme sport image of the Impreza WRX: a favorite among World Rally Cup fans.

    The Legacy is not suitable for off-road trails due to its scant ground clearance, nor is it particularly practical for hauling large cargo. It doesn’t have a gnarly wing like the WRX STI, or a giant hood scoop.

    Twenty years after the first models rolled off the assembly line, the Legacy remains true to its original mission. It is Subaru’s offering in the most competitive passenger car segment, going head-to-head against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

    The Legacy is an important draw into the showroom. It keeps Subaru in the automotive mainstream, allowing the automaker to produce the specialized vehicles geared towards active lifestyles.

    And while the Legacy might not be the ideal car for hauling a bicycle, the sedan has more in common with its active-lifestyle siblings than meets the eye.

    It begins with the horizontally-opposed 3.6-liter engine, which replaces the three-liter six-cylinder on pre-2010 models. The horizontally-opposed engine is not only inherently balanced: it is also ideal for all-wheel drive applications. Engineers were able to give the larger-displacement engine identical dimensions to the block it replaced by shortening the connecting rods.

    Subaru’s commitment to safety extends to the Legacy as well, with standard dynamic stability control, antilock braking, front, side and side curtain airbags, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring. The Legacy shares Subaru’s ring shaped reinforcement structure with other models. A new engine cradle enhances safety in frontal collisions.

    And like its siblings, the Legacy is a driver’s car. The all-wheel drive system sends more power to the rear axle under normal conditions to mimic competitive sport sedans. A quick ratio steering system gives the sedan nimble handling on challenging roads.

    Formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel allow the driver to manually select gears, for more aggressive performance. And standard 17-inch wheels with low-profile tires give the Legacy a large footprint for maximum traction. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Subaru Legacy

    Sport sedan takes a ‘go anywhere’ attitude

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Subaru Legacy

    2010 Subaru Legacy

    Subaru was one of the few automakers to turn a profit last year. While the company has never been a volume leader, Subaru has maintained a loyal following by staying true to its mission and listening to its customers. Subaru was one of the first car companies to pursue buyers with active lifestyles: sponsoring the US Ski team in the 1970s.

    The Legacy is Subaru’s flagship sedan: geared towards upscale buyers. Having said that, Subaru approaches the luxury audience with its own, unique strategy. The base Legacy comes with a cloth interior: easier to clean after a day on the trails. All-wheel drive is standard, giving the Legacy moderate off-road capability.

    The six-speed manual transmission, standard on the base model, comes with a reverse lockout ring. While not all of its owners will drive the Legacy for sport, the lockout ring gives the gearbox extra durability. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited

    Sport-utility function in a fuel-efficient package

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Subaru Forester 2.5XT

    2009 Subaru Forester 2.5XT

    I’m hammering up the 17 freeway between Phoenix and Sedona in the ’09 Subaru Forester, after idling in wall-to-wall traffic just north of town. Through all of my weaving and cursing, the fuel gauge has stayed fixed at 23.6 miles-per-gallon. Either this is a very Zen car, or the fuel meter is broken.

    Why not top off the gas and find out? After doing the math, I confirm that the gauge is working. The Forester is my new Bodhisattva.

    For those unfamiliar with Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are the Mahayana version of angels on the right shoulder. The fact that the Forester has both saved me from myself and achieved better-than-average fuel economy means that it is a tolerant and spiritual car. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Subaru Announces Outback Pricing

    2010 model comes with two available engines and a continuously variable automatic transmission

    2010 Outback

    2010 Outback

    Subaru’s fourth-generation Outback appeals to buyers with active lifestyles, with a new roof rail and integrated crossbar design, enhanced ground clearance, and a new continuously variable automatic transmission. Pricing for the 2010 Outback begins at $22,995, for the base model: power comes from a 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission.

    All-wheel drive is standard for all four grades, giving the Outback all-weather, all-terrain capability. The base 2.5i model features Subaru’s hill holder system that keeps the car from slipping backwards on steep grades, a new ‘eco’ gauge, ambient temperature reading, and remote keyless entry. The standard AM/FM stereo with single-disc CD player is MP3 compatible. Automatic headlamps, variable intermittent wipers, and a 60/40 split folding rear seat are also standard.

    The 2.5i Premium model adds a 10-way power driver’s seat, sixteen-inch wheels, halogen fog lamps, a cargo cover and leather wrapped steering wheel. Pricing begins at $24,295 with the six-speed manual; $25,295 for the automatic.

    The 2.5i Limited comes standard with the automatic transmission, dual zone climate controls, seventeen-inch wheels, upgraded audio system and an all-weather package that includes heated seats, windshield wiper de-icers and heated outside mirrors. Pricing for the Limited begins at $27,995. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Subaru Outback

    Fourth-generation sport-utility wagon revealed in New York

    2010 Subaru Outback

    2010 Subaru Outback

    The first Subaru Outback introduced drivers to the idea of a fully-functional, compact sport-utility vehicle. Fifteen years later, Subaru reveals the fourth-generation model, with more interior space, two new transmissions and enhanced off-road performance.

    Subaru pulled the wraps off the 2010 Outback at the New York International Auto Show. The new model comes with a choice of 170-horsepower four-cylinder or 256-horsepower V6 engine. A new six-speed manual transmission and continuously variable automatic enhance the Outback’s fuel economy.

    Buyers with active lifestyles will appreciate a swing-out roof rail and cross bar design that makes it easier to load cargo up top. Engineers increased the Outback’s ground clearance to 8.7 inches, to improve off-road performance.

    The new model is shorter than the car it replaces, but has more interior space, thanks to a longer wheelbase and wider track. Rear-seat passengers get four inches of additional legroom, and more shoulder and hip room thanks to a two-inch wider track. A double wishbone rear suspension improves handling and is less intrusive to the cargo bay.

    Standard safety features include all-wheel drive and vehicle dynamic control. An electronic version of Subaru’s hill-holder feature keeps the car in place longer when the car accelerates on steep grades.

  • Carbo Load for a Cause

    Subaru partners with Dining Out For Life to fund AIDS service providers

    paella2Endurance athletes may disagree about training programs, but few will turn away a good meal. On April 30, more than 3500 restaurants throughout the country will donate a portion of their daily proceeds to AIDS service providers. Subaru and Dining Out For Life International cosponsor the annual fundraiser, which raised $3.9 million last year.

    Subaru leads the auto industry in its commitment to philanthropic ventures. Its recent “Share the Love” campaign raised $4.6 million for five charities: Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club of America, Meals On Wheels Association of America, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

    Dining Out For Life International was created in 1991 by an Action/AIDS volunteer in Philadelphia. The organization hosts events in fifty-five North American cities to raise money for AIDS service providers.

    To find a restaurant in your area and make reservations online, visit the organization’s web site.

  • 2009 Subaru Legacy Spec B

    Rally cup technology adds spice to Subaru’s all-wheel drive heritage.
    By Nina Russin

    2009 Subaru Legacy Spec B

    2009 Subaru Legacy Spec B

    The Legacy started out as Subaru’s luxury sedan. While the six-cylinder Limited model continues to fill that square, the automaker has added a high-performance Spec B grade to appeal to driving enthusiasts.

    A turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers more spirited performance than the naturally aspirated six cylinder. The Spec B is the only Legacy available with a six-speed manual transmission, giving the driver better control of the engine.

    A software program called SI Drive modifies throttle response to match the driver’s style and the terrain. The intelligent setting has the softest throttle response for driving in wet weather or to conserve fuel, while the sport sharp mode maximizes torque. The sport setting fills the middle space, combining quick throttle response with better fuel economy.

    Wolf in sheep’s clothing

    Part of the Legacy Spec B’s appeal is that it doesn’t look like a tuner car. With the exception of its functional hood scoop and larger wheels, the exterior is the same as the more sedate 3.0R grade.

    The five-passenger sedan also offers more interior space than the rally-inspired WRX. The Legacy Spec B can take the boss and his cohorts out to lunch on Friday, and go club racing at the track over the weekend.

    Turbocharged engines offer environmentally-conscious drivers a lot to love, because they burn fuel more efficiently and reduce emissions. An exhaust-driven blower forces air into the engine, enhancing its power, and reducing the amount of unspent fuel that comes out of the exhaust.

    Turbocharging significantly improves high-altitude performance as well, by increasing the flow of oxygen through the engine. Engines are like athletes: the better they breathe, the faster they can go. Turbines gives small engines the power of much bigger ones, improving the car’s power-to-weight ratio.

    The six-speed manual transmission includes a reverse lock-out ring for racing. Gears have ample range for stop-and-go driving. The clutch has enough pedal feel for the track, while being light enough for the daily commuter.

    Visibility all the way around the car is excellent. I was impressed by how easily I was able to see cars in the rear corner of the driver’s side: an area often obscured by the car’s rear pillars.

    A Bilstein sport suspension keeps the chassis flat in the corners. Eighteen-inch wheels with low profile tires provide large contact patches with the ground. The Spec B comes with four-wheel disc brakes and four-channel antilock braking.

    Exceptional winter performance

    People who live in the snow belt will find the sporty Legacy an especially appealing package, since all-wheel drive is standard. The car’s boxer engine is inherently balanced, helping the driver to maintain control of the car on wet and snow-covered roads.

    Summer performance tires come standard on the Spec B. Since the tires are designed specifically for warm weather driving, buyers who plan on driving in the snow should expect to fork out some extra cash for winter tires and a set of inexpensive wheels to mount them on.

    Standard vehicle dynamics control and traction control prevent excessive wheel spin, and monitor the car for excessive yaw. If the driver starts to lose control, the computer automatically cuts engine power and uses the brakes to get the car tracking straight again.

    Spacious interior

    The Legacy can comfortable hold four adults. The outboard second-row seats have a surprising amount of legroom. A tunnel through the floor and the center console bin severely limit room in the middle seating position.

    Alcantara seat inserts hold passengers in place when the driver drops the hammer. Both front seats also have aggressive side bolsters. A cold weather package adds front seat heaters, heated outside mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.

    The steering wheel is relatively small, making it easier for women to use. A tilt and telescoping function allows smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.

    Redundant audio and cruise control settings on the steering wheel keep the driver focused on the road. The driver can use paddles to switch the SI drive system between modes, as well as a rotary knob on the center console.

    The center stack is well configured for both front passengers. A DVD-based navigation system is standard on the Legacy Spec B, as is an upscale Harmon Kardon audio system. A Sirius satellite radio kit adds $456 to the base price.

    For whatever reason, the radio didn’t work particularly well in the test car. I’ve learned to expect the signal to cut out when the car passes under bridges or goes through a tunnel, but this one cut out more than most, often when there was no obvious obstruction.

    Dual temperature controls allow both front passengers to find a comfortable temperature. There are plenty of cupholders and small cubbies for both rows of passengers. The glovebox has an extra shelf to hold the owner’s manual and registration documents, freeing up space for maps and other paperwork in the main part of the bin.

    The Legacy’s trunk is too small to hold a bicycle, but large enough for golf bags, luggage and groceries. A storage area under the cargo floor has small compartments for stashing valuables out of sight. Optional cargo nets add smaller spaces to either side of the trunk for grocery bags and other small parcels.

    Fuel economy for the Spec B averages about twenty miles-per-gallon for city and highway driveway. The turbocharged engine requires premium fuel.
    Subaru builds the Legacy at its assembly plant in Lafayette, Indiana.

    Likes: A high-performance, all-wheel drive car with enough interior space for four passengers. The Spec B is a great choice for driving enthusiasts who need all-wheel drive for winter driving.

    Dislikes: Satellite radio on the test car cut out a lot.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Subaru
    Model: Legacy Spec B
    Year: 2009
    Base price: $34,595
    As tested: $35,780
    Horsepower: 243 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 241 lbs.-ft. @ 3600 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Comments: Base price does not include a $665 delivery charge.