The Truth About Cars » Subaru http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Subaru http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Acura May Follow Subaru With AWD-Only Product Plan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/acura-may-follow-subaru-awd-product-plan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/acura-may-follow-subaru-awd-product-plan/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930906 Looking for a way to revitalize itself, Acura is considering taking a cue from Subaru by going all in on all-wheel drive. Automotive News reports the plan is one of several backed by the brand’s Acura Business Planning Office — formed earlier this year to rethink and revitalize the brand in the United States — […]

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Looking for a way to revitalize itself, Acura is considering taking a cue from Subaru by going all in on all-wheel drive.

Automotive News reports the plan is one of several backed by the brand’s Acura Business Planning Office — formed earlier this year to rethink and revitalize the brand in the United States — though nothing is set in stone thus far.

Acura boss Koichi Fukuo believes that AWD is the way to go, citing the brand’s need to offer “something different” compared to the competition. That said, premium brands like BMW and Audi already offer AWD, with 58 percent of BMWs and 90 percent of Audis so equipped.

As for taking influence from Subaru’s success with the platform, Fukuo wants to do for what he calls “Acurists” — the loyal customer base he aims to cultivate through the AWD plan — what the Pleiadian automaker has done for its “Subarists”:

Looking at Subaru, I felt that we have to have a strong, clear direction as a brand. What’s important is to have the technology, styling and performance to evolve all together. Otherwise, I don’t think we can increase the number of loyal customers, so-called Acurists.

At present, the TLX and the upcoming hybrid RLX will have the brand’s next-gen Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, the latter receiving the Sport Hybrid variant that will also move the second-gen NSX when the sports car leaves Ohio in 2015. The rest of the lineup will follow over the years as each model comes up for renewal and/or refreshing. Power for all will come more powerful engines, none of which will be V8s or V10s due to weight issues interfering with the performance of a given vehicle.

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The Impreza Is Subaru’s Top Seller, Sort Of http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/impreza-subarus-top-seller-sort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/impreza-subarus-top-seller-sort/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:39:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930370 Subaru USA didn’t sell as many Imprezas in 2013 as they did in 2012. By Subaru’s reporting methods, Impreza sales have fallen this year, as well, sliding 0.3% through the first three-quarters of 2014. But Subaru narrowly defines the term, “Impreza.” That’s a good thing, as too many automakers don’t provide us with longed-for breakdowns […]

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ImprezaSubaru USA didn’t sell as many Imprezas in 2013 as they did in 2012. By Subaru’s reporting methods, Impreza sales have fallen this year, as well, sliding 0.3% through the first three-quarters of 2014.

But Subaru narrowly defines the term, “Impreza.” That’s a good thing, as too many automakers don’t provide us with longed-for breakdowns in their monthly sales releases. (Examples: F-Series, Silverado, Ram, the four-bodystyle E-Class.) However, this means a cursory glance will suggest that the Impreza range is increasingly less relevant in Subaru showrooms.

In fact, that’s not the case at all.

31.6% of the new Subarus sold in the United States this year have been proper Imprezas, not just Impreza-related cars or Impreza-based cars, but true Imprezas: Imprezas with more power and more wings and Imprezas with black-rimmed wheelarches and taller ride heights, yes, but Imprezas nonetheless.

That’s up from 31.3% during the first nine months of 2013.

subaru-xv-crosstrek-hybridThe Impreza that Subaru calls an Impreza, with a naturally aspirated 2.0L four-cylinder powerplant, as a sedan and hatchback, is Subaru’s fourth-best-selling model, on its own.

Subaru’s third-best-selling model is the increasingly popular XV Crosstrek, a genuine Impreza hatchback with a tougher exterior and added ride height (XV Crosstrek ground clearance: 8.7 inches. Ford Explorer AWD ground clearance: 7.6 inches.).

The WRX and STi, Subaru’s sixth-best-selling model line, is not nearly as liberated from the Impreza’s foundation as the WRX Concept from 2013’s New York International Auto Show indicated it would be, either.

For the record, I’m not calling out Subaru’s strategy, as this is brilliant marketing. I wouldn’t suggest the XV can’t crawl a rock or two, because it can. I won’t say the WRX isn’t a rocketship, because it is. Subaru’s decision to differentiate the models has clearly been a fruitful one. This is simply a presentation of numbers so we can more clearly see one core element which drives Subaru’s growth.

Individually, XV Crosstrek sales are up 43% to 54,303 units in 2014, Impreza volume is down 0.3% to 46,445 units, and WRX/STi sales are up 33% to 17,884, more than double the number of WRXs and STis sold by Subaru in all of 2010.

2015-Subaru-WRX-STI-drivingAs a unit, they’re up 21% to 118,632 units in 2014 as the top-selling representative of an automaker which has climbed 20% in 2014. Among America’s ten-best-selling auto brands, only Jeep is growing faster. While a quick look at the figures suggest the Impreza is a drain on the ticket, a secondary scan offers up convincing proof that the Impreza is an essential part of Subaru USA’s lineup, especially when Subaru turns the Impreza into a more expensive XV.

Of course, now we can play the same game with the Legacy’s figures. Sales of Subaru’s midsize sedan are small in number (rising 4% to 34,718 in 2014), but the Legacy is the donor vehicle (or vice versa) which helps to create the Outback, Subaru’s second-best-selling model. Outback volume is up 8% to 97,266 units in 2014. Together, they form 35.2% of Subaru’s U.S. sales output. Subaru has also sold 117,940 Foresters in 2014 along with 6245 BRZs and and 684 Tribecas.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-legacy-3-6r-limited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-legacy-3-6r-limited/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=920122 In the very recent past, six-cylinder midsize sedans were often the cars consumers acquired because the basic four-cylinder powerplants were insufficient devices. As fuel efficiency became more of a concern, as economic concerns prompted families to consider less costly purchases, and as larger four-cylinder engines became more refined and powerful, the six-cylinder option gradually became […]

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2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R LimitedIn the very recent past, six-cylinder midsize sedans were often the cars consumers acquired because the basic four-cylinder powerplants were insufficient devices. As fuel efficiency became more of a concern, as economic concerns prompted families to consider less costly purchases, and as larger four-cylinder engines became more refined and powerful, the six-cylinder option gradually became less necessary.

In 2014, upgrading from the four to the six means an increase from sufficient power to over-the-top acceleration.

Usually.

Rewind to 2002. The V6-powered Honda Accord, a 3.0L car with 200 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, was tasked with motivating 3274 pounds. The latest four-cylinder in Honda’s Accord is a 2.4L tasked with propelling only two fewer pounds (in Sport trim) with only 11 fewer ponies than in that 2002 V6. The newer Accord – which just recorded record-high monthly U.S. sales – is two inches longer, its cabin is only slightly larger, and its trunk is 12% more capacious. It’s absolutely fine, completely capable, and as quick as the old V6, if not quicker. Or, if you want to accelerate like an 80s (or 90s?) supercar, you buy the V6.

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited profileThere’s much more to the new Subaru Legacy than an engine. It’s the only car in the class that comes equipped exclusively with all-wheel-drive. Its cabin is truly vast. The trunk, while shallow, is deep and wide and squared off. Interior quality is a couple of generations ahead of the last car. Road and wind noise has been kept to a minimum, and ride quality is really rather impressive. 576 watts and 12 speakers of Harman Kardon audio provides a positive acoustic experience. The steering and handling lack the edge of third and fourth-generation Legacy 2.5 GTs, body roll being the biggest complaint, but the steering is more natural and weightier than what you’ll find in many intermediate cars, and there’s no secondary jostling of occupants as the car recovers from severe road imperfections.

Driver comfort is enhanced by terrific visibility, and while my lanky frame never felt low enough in the car, there is a sensation of abundant up-front space that’s in keeping with contemporary “mid”-size cars, which easy fill a garage. The extensive list of active safety features (ADC, PCB, PCTM, VLDSW, BSD, LCA, RCTA) on this top-trim Legacy Limited work unobtrusively, unlike the Jeep Cherokee which brings you harshly to an unnecessary halt when reversing, for example.

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited rearBut in an era which supplies us with perfectly conventional family sedans that tempt consumers to switch out the capable four-cylinder engine for a high-performance V6  – America’s three favourite midsize sedans still offer remarkably quick V6 powerplants – the Legacy’s 3.6L horizontally-opposed six-cylinder reeks of insignificant extravagance. Subaru USA only offers the 3.6L on full bore Limited models and asks for an extra $3100 to take the plunge.

And what a plunge it is, as average fuel economy takes a nosedive from 30 mpg in the 2.5L to 23. The boxer six’s city rating is 20 mpg. In a mix of city and highway driving, we averaged 19.6 mpg over the course of a week. The six-cylinder’s fuel economy ratings are better than the all-wheel-drive V6-engined Chrysler 200’s; not as good as the 2.0L EcoBoost AWD Ford Fusion’s. Granted, in that Fusion, we saw 18.4 mpg. An Accord V6, lacking all-wheel-drive of course, is rated at 21/34/26 city/highway/combined.

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited steering wheelThe Subaru’s six-cylinder fuel economy is a highlighted issue because it’s yet another penalty you pay, in addition to the higher transaction price, for an insufficient amount of heavy throttle fun. By modern standards, the Legacy 3.6R doesn’t feel like a genuinely quick car, because it’s not a genuinely quick car. Four-cylinder power in a Mazda 6, for instance, will get you away from stoplights more quickly. Indeed, the last Legacy 3.6 accelerates more rapidly. The Subaru is heavier than it used to be, and that’s an undeniable part of the problem, but that weight pays dividends in a structure that feels very solid and a cabin that’s nicely hushed. Indeed, the 3.6L isn’t overwhelming even on paper: with just 256 horsepower, it does not rank among the elite. No, the bigger issue isn’t the Legacy’s overall heft and dearth of impressive specs but rather the connecting element between the engine and the wheels: this is the kind of CVT that gives CVTs a bad name.

Certain that added power cures all CVT ills, I was pleased to discover that the CVT in the latest Outback 2.5i we tested a few weeks ago was mostly inoffensive. Yes, sometimes it made unpleasant sounds. (This 3.6 makes a great noise but its orchestral talents are thrown out of tune by the conductor, the CVT.) But the 2.5’s delivery of power was not hindered by its gearlessness. Knowing this, I assumed that an additional 81 horsepower would only smooth out the CVTness.

Perhaps Subaru made similar assumptions and therefore did not take the time to properly calibrate the pairing, as the dearth of initial acceleration from rest is a miserable disappointment. The paddle shifters offer real assistance, but the frustration of being in a six-cylinder midsize car that simply doesn’t feel like a substantial upgrade over the four is not going to be alleviated by operating the paddles on a constant basis. (A six-speed manual is not available with either of the Legacy’s two engines in the United States; Canadian buyers can select a three-pedal layout with the 2.5L engine.)

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited Tech interiorFortunately, these disappointing realizations serve to highlight the gains made by more basic Legacys in the Subaru’s latest revamp. The new infotainment interface is quick and uncomplicated; only a long reach to the tuning knob and excessive glare on the screen itself let down an otherwise straightforward centre stack. The outgoing Legacy I drove around last winter was hugely uncompetitive. With all-wheel-drive included in the price and inoffensive styling, perhaps even a handsome front end, the new 2015 Legacy is just as staunchly Subaru as it’s always been, if less athletic, but it now feels as well-built as the category’s top sellers.

North America’s new vehicle market has developed a large appetite for cars and crossovers with four driven wheels. Yet the major midsize players from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, and Volkswagen have either never entered the all-wheel-drive fray or have forsaken the notion. Massive leaps in refinement have created an opportunity for the 2015 Subaru Legacy to capitalize on its unconventional layout.

The fact that the underperforming CVT-laden six-cylinder option is a terrible value is truly of little consequence on that front. A dollar-minded sedan buyer with a yearning for all-wheel-drive, decent fuel efficiency, and space for four already knows he’s better served by the base engine. Alas, historically speaking, not many of those buyers have actually existed.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. The Legacy was provided for review by Subaru Canada.

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Chart Of The Day: Subaru vs. Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chart-day-subaru-vs-volkswagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chart-day-subaru-vs-volkswagen/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:53:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912882 It’s not a brand new thing, this Subaru-besting-Volkswagen trend. But when Subaru outsold the Volkswagen brand in the United States in 2009 and 2010, Subaru was on a rapid upswing despite the market’s sharp decline, and all auto sales results were thought to be skewed by the recession. Year-over-year, Volkswagen volume shot up 26% in […]

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Subaru vs Volkswagen sales chartIt’s not a brand new thing, this Subaru-besting-Volkswagen trend. But when Subaru outsold the Volkswagen brand in the United States in 2009 and 2010, Subaru was on a rapid upswing despite the market’s sharp decline, and all auto sales results were thought to be skewed by the recession.

Year-over-year, Volkswagen volume shot up 26% in calendar year 2011 and 35% in 2012, a 113,731-unit increase. But 2013 volume fell 7%, and though the total number of sales was still far higher than anything Volkswagen had recently achieved, 2012 aside, there was cause for concern. Volkswagen’s new Passat, which, when 14,462 were sold in late December 2012 looked to have potential, slid 6% in a slowly growing midsize market. Volkswagen’s next big launch was to be the Golf, a car which, in America, simply didn’t have the potential for restore-the-brand volume that the Jetta and Passat sedans possess, or were thought to posess.

So here we are, with Subaru having reported its highest monthly U.S. sales total ever in August and Volkswagen having reported 17 consecutive year-over-year declines. Not all of the products marketed by these two brands in the United States are necessarily direct rivals, but they are both seen by many of their own buyers as slightly upmarket mainstream brands: Subaru arrived at this point after, until recently, fostering a niche status, while Volkswagen has consistently played on its German heritage.

The contradictions are obvious. Subaru is a tiny, part-Toyota-owned Japanese automaker. Volkswagen is the headline brand for the world’s second-largest automaker. The average margin of Subaru’s “victories” over Volkswagen during the last four months has been 13,693 units.

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The Source Of August 2014’s U.S. Auto Sales Growth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/source-august-2014s-u-s-auto-sales-growth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/source-august-2014s-u-s-auto-sales-growth/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:28:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=906633 Forecasts didn’t call for rain on August 2014’s auto sales parade, but there was definitely a general feeling of overcast heading into Wednesday as automakers prepared to release their monthly and year-to-date sales results. The rate of growth in the U.S. auto industry since the recession ended has been striking, but the chances of that […]

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U.S. auto sales growth by units gained August 2014Forecasts didn’t call for rain on August 2014’s auto sales parade, but there was definitely a general feeling of overcast heading into Wednesday as automakers prepared to release their monthly and year-to-date sales results.

The rate of growth in the U.S. auto industry since the recession ended has been striking, but the chances of that growth lasting forever – particularly when a month like August is compared with a very strong month like August 2013 – seemed slim.

Yet auto sales increased by 5.5% to more than 1.58 million in August 2014, an improvement of more than 80,000 units.

The forecasts weren’t all wrong. High-volume brands like Chevrolet, Dodge, and Volkswagen all reported losses, a 13% decline in Volkswagen’s case, the 17th consecutive month in which Volkswagen brand sales have decreased in the United States.

Jaguar volume fell 31%. Infiniti volume fell 23%. Fiat was down 20%. Scion sales likewise slid 20%. Cadillac volume was off August 2013’s pace by 18%. Sales at BMW’s Mini brand were down 17%. Buick and Volvo both lost 10%; Acura and Land Rover fell 9%. Lincoln was just south of level.

The bright spots, however, were particularly bright. Jeep, Ram, Subaru, Nissan, and Toyota were the biggest brands to post significant increases. Maserati, Porsche, Smart, Mitsubishi, and Audi were among the lower-volume auto brands to post meaningful improvements: 278%, 36%, 34%, 28%, and 22%, respectively.

Mazda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, GMC, and Lexus all grew by at least 10%. Toyota brand sales were up 7%. Hyundai grew 6%. (Kia, Chrysler, Honda, Bentley, and Ford improvements were all below the market’s 5.5% growth rate.)

Back to those five large and fast-growing brands, Jeep reported its best-ever sales month for the new Cherokee, America’s eighth-ranked SUV/crossover in August. Ram’s market share in the full-size truck category grew by more than four percentage points. Subaru sold more than 50,000 vehicles for the first time in a single month, and Nissan reported a car sales improvement of 18% in a car market that improved by just 2%. Toyota shot the RAV4 up to top spot among utility vehicles with record sales in a second consecutive month.

As for the fast-growing lower-volume brands, Maserati outsold Jaguar, albeit by just 49 units. Even with the Macan excluded, Porsche sales jumped 7.3%. Mercedes-Benz reported more than 1000 Smart Fortwo sales for the third time in five months, having not done so previously since September 2012.

Mitsubishi is not back to being a brand that can sell more than 300,000 cars annually in the United States, but sales have increased in six consecutive months and in ten of the last eleven months.

Audi reported its highest-ever monthly sales in the U.S. in August, generating 41% of the brand’s sales with Q models and the A4 Allroad, including the first 243 Q3 sales.

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Subaru Reviving The WRX Hatchback? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/subaru-reviving-wrx-hatchback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/subaru-reviving-wrx-hatchback/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:33:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=904969 When the latest Subaru WRX was released, the enthusiast fan base was forced to suffer the indignity of a sedan-only lineup. Subaru’s company line was that there weren’t sufficient resources to develop a hatchback model as well. But that might be changing. A hatchback WRX mule was spied undergoing hot weather testing, with a WRX […]

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When the latest Subaru WRX was released, the enthusiast fan base was forced to suffer the indignity of a sedan-only lineup. Subaru’s company line was that there weren’t sufficient resources to develop a hatchback model as well. But that might be changing.

A hatchback WRX mule was spied undergoing hot weather testing, with a WRX front end grafted onto an Impreza hatchback bodyshell. Given the popularity of hatchbacks in both world markets, and the WRX hatch’s fanbase stateside (where it accounted for about 45 percent of WRX sales), there’s a good case for its return.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:10:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902858 Of all the things that struck me during my week with the 2015 Subaru Outback at the end of August, it was the realization that this nameplate has been around for two decades which shocked me most. Is this because I’m getting old, that when I think something occurred recently, I find out it actually […]

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2015 Subaru OutbackOf all the things that struck me during my week with the 2015 Subaru Outback at the end of August, it was the realization that this nameplate has been around for two decades which shocked me most.

Is this because I’m getting old, that when I think something occurred recently, I find out it actually happened 20 years ago? Subaru first showed North Americans a Legacy Outback at the New York Auto Show in 1994. In other words, there are people who have been driving for four years who never knew a world without the Subaru Outback.

Yet during this long period in which the Outback, and Subaru as a whole, became increasingly successful, there have never been any properly direct Outback rivals, at least none that have made real hay off the Outback’s format. And yes, by the Outback’s format, I really mean the AMC Eagle’s format.

True, you could argue that most modern crossovers have stolen their offense from the Outback’s playbook. But driving the Outback is different, and it continues to be perceived by the vast majority of actual Outback buyers as different, as a true crossover; a true mid-point, between car and SUV.

Audi’s A6 and A4 Allroads are all good and well, but they’re very rare cars. Volvo’s XC70 has lingered, but it too has become very uncommon in terms of new car sales. Don’t even say the words, “Honda Crosstour,” within range of my ears.

One then wonders what’s always been so different about the Outback.

To answer that question, we would need to examine multiple products from multiple periods over the the last two decades. So what about this new car? What makes this 2015 model great; what ensures further success for the fifth Outback?

2015 Subaru OutbackSubjectively speaking, it looks better than the outgoing car. Though strikingly similar in most ways, perhaps too similar from some angles, its face is cleaner and classier. Unfortunately, this specific tester, a 2.5i Touring version on loan from Subaru Canada, features alloy wheels that do a really good impression of cheap wheel covers.

It’s better built than previous Outbacks were. There’s no hint of fragility to this car, no after-bump jiggles and rattles, no door-closing thwacks where there ought to be, and are, thunks. It is more than vaguely Toyota-like, and given the relationship between the two companies, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Interior quality and workmanship has taken a big leap forward, particularly where it matters around the driver. The infotainment unit is now modern, which is to say it meets our low expectations for in-car systems but doesn’t rise to the level of convenience you’d find in the new Mazda 3 or the depth of services in Chrysler’s UConnect.

With each new Outback iteration, there’s been a moderate increase in space and comfort, progressively less of the knees-to-chest awkwardness for rear passengers and arguably better seats for front passengers. This remains true, but I’d like the front seats to feature side bolstering that wasn’t quite so far away from my sides. The headrests feature a welcome range of adjustability.

Cargo capacity is up slightly from 34.3 cubic feet to 35.3; from 71.3 to 73.3 cubic feet with the seats folded as overall length grew by six-tenths of an inch.

The Outback is still a smart car. The roof crossbars are embedded in the flush-mounted side rails until you need them. Combined city/highway fuel efficiency has increased from 26 mpg to 28, three miles more per gallon than the 2014 Honda CR-V, America’s best-selling SUV/crossover, is rated to achieve, and on par with the 2014 four-cylinder Toyota Camry, America’s most popular car. Pressing Subaru’s X-Mode button turns the Outback, already a tall-riding car with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, into a very capable mud-runner by remapping the transmission and all-wheel-drive system and traction control. It’s not a joke.

2015 Subaru Outback rearThe 2015 Outback’s on-road behaviour produces what may be the most convincing argument that the Outback has improved. Ride quality is superb, as the Outback isolates occupants from road imperfections while maintaining a nice amount of firmness. The Outback has become a very quiet highway cruiser, no vibration seeps through the pedals or wheel or shifter, and the boxer four-cylinder has been further refined to reduce unwanted boxer noises.

Say what you will about the character of older H-4 Subarus, they weren’t the engines you strapped on if you were going to meet the queen. This 2.5L is now smoother, and there is still a hint of flat-four warble if you call upon it.

Subaru has also made a slight return to its more enjoyable driving roots after a fourth-gen car that was all too boring to drive. This new Outback doesn’t have the the same amount of athleticism enjoyed by the third-generation Outback; nor is there any real interactivity here. But body roll is kept to a minimum in comparison with most small crossovers and the steering is sufficiently quick to make me think I’d hustle this car whenever the opportunity presented itself. I wouldn’t have said that about the last Outback, and I certainly wouldn’t say the same for the Toyota RAV4 or Nissan Rogue.

Hustling is perhaps a stretch for the overburdened 175-horsepower powerplant, of course. There’s a great deal more cooperation now between the engine and the continuously variable transmission, so much so that the car no longer feels slow unless you’re accelerating from rest up a steep hill. The CVT is rarely annoying, offering a distinct stepping sensation and paddles if you want to exert some control. In the Canadian market, consumers are still given the option of selecting a manual transmission. Oh joy, oh delight.

2015 Subaru Outback InteriorYes, you’ll want the 256-horsepower six-cylinder, but you might not want its fuel bill, 22 mpg overall, or the $3000 premium you’ll pay on top-trim Limited models to get that boxer six. (Limiteds start at $30,845 including destination, $3000 more than the Outback Premium, which is $2100 more than the base Outback. We averaged a somewhat disappointing 24 mpg in mostly urban driving in the four-cylinder.) And you won’t need the six-cylinder – base four-cylinder Outbacks weigh less than 3600 pounds. They can make do.

Positivity aside, I’ll admit I grew somewhat bored of the Outback before the week was up. I blame the black paint for masking the more stylish look of the cladding – it looks great in lighter shades. We also have frequent access to more thrilling machines on a regular basis. The Outback doesn’t thrill, nor does it aim to.

No, the Outback really is just a new take on the old-fashioned station wagon. Rather, a 20-year-old take. But I realized when the Outback left our driveway that a rugged, roomy, affordable, surprisingly efficient, all-weather midsize wagon is basically the perfect car for almost everybody I know, in the same way flimsy, massive, affordable, inefficient, rear-wheel-drive full-size wagons were basically the perfect car for almost everybody I never knew 35 or 40 years ago.

There are things Subaru could do better, from re-injecting more fun back into the chassis, crafting less American-waistline-oriented seats, designing a faster power liftgate that doesn’t leave me standing impatiently in a parking lot with a 30-pound bag of dog food, reining in the aggressive throttle tip-in, and providing 200 standard horsepower.

Yet the 2015 version makes the Outback a better car than it’s ever been. Subaru has worked to make it better despite the lack of pressure from rival automakers; despite the security of Subaru’s steadily growing North American sales volume.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. These Outback images were supplied by frequent GCBC photographer Steffani Cain.

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Bark’s Bites: The Joys of Owning a Six Hundred Dollar Subaru http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/barks-bites-joys-owning-six-hundred-dollar-subaru/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/barks-bites-joys-owning-six-hundred-dollar-subaru/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:52:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903058 “I have a couple older Subaru wagons (96-97) for sale in Morehead. Message me if you are interested.” Interested? Was I ever! As I stated in one of my more recent contributions to TTAC, I have been driving my Boss 302 as my daily driver ever since I bought it (with a brief interruption from […]

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“I have a couple older Subaru wagons (96-97) for sale in Morehead. Message me if you are interested.”

Interested? Was I ever!

As I stated in one of my more recent contributions to TTAC, I have been driving my Boss 302 as my daily driver ever since I bought it (with a brief interruption from a 1995 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency Elite that had more electrical glitches than one might have thought possible). Well, with winter approaching yet again, and my right rear wheel still showing the ill effects of my last attempt to drive the Boss in about a quarter inch of snow, I thought it might make sense to investigate when a friend of mine made the post seen above on Facebook back on June 27th.

Fearing I might already be too late, I started the following message chain (the names have been redacted to protect the quilty):

27/06/2014 16:46

Bark M.

Interested in the subies! What are the details?

.

27/06/2014 16:58

G. T.

Okay one is an outback 1997 with 262366 miles and is in fair to good condition KBB is @$1800 The other is a legacy L with 163654 miles it has two set of wheels and tires. It does need a catalytic converter and some minor electrical. KBB on that one is fair condition is $684. I am open for offers especially for the pair. They are old gals but have been great cars.

.

27/06/2014 17:01

Bark M.

Does the legacy run?

.

27/06/2014 17:01

G. T.

Yes it is also a manual and is quite fun to drive.

.

27/06/2014 17:02

Bark M.

Any head gasket issues with either (and I promise that’s my last question)?

.

27/06/2014 17:03

G. T.

Yes the outback had that problem and it was replaced. That is an issue with these engines.

.

27/06/2014 17:03

Bark M.

That’s why I asked

.

27/06/2014 17:04

G. T.

There were no xmas presents for the kids that year

.

27/06/2014 17:05

Bark M.

Hahaha I bet not. Do you think the legacy could run from Winchester to the Lexington airport and back reliably (I lied apparently about the questions)

.

27/06/2014 17:05

G. T.

Yes it could

.

27/06/2014 17:06

Bark M.

I will take it for six hundred then if you’re cool with that price.
.

07/06/2014 17:06

G. T.

sold

And just like that, I owned a 1996 Subaru Legacy L Wagon, AND it was a manual! Imagine my surprise when he rolled into my driveway to make the exchange and I discovered that it was AWD! My good pal had done his KBB valuation based on the car being FWD, which meant that he had undervalued it by about $600. Well, perhaps he had been a tad generous in estimating the vehicle condition as “Fair,” too. The interior was covered in dog fur, especially the cargo area. The front passenger floorboard looked as though a soda had been spilled on it in 2003 or so and had never been cleaned up. The smell of dog was pervasive, too. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to press the cash into his hand before he changed his mind, although due to it being Sunday, we had to wait until the following day to actually change the title into my name.

The next day, I met him at the UPS Store where we had the title notarized. I swiftly took it to my local title agency, where it took a mere two trips and 45 minutes to get the title switched into my name (turned out that they needed the old plates). After paying a whopping $36 in property tax, I was officially the owner of My First Subaru.

Thrilled to death with my purchase, I drove it happily to the grocery store to make use of the spacious cargo area. After loading up the back with a week’s worth of groceries for the fam, I got behind the wheel, turned the crank…and nothing. Tried again. Nothing. The starter appeared to be working fine, and the battery wasn’t dead, but the damned thing just wouldn’t go. Oh, well. Good thing I had already added it to my insurance policy and had enthusiastically said “YES” when asked if I wanted Roadside Assistance. After a quick call home and a rescue trip by the rest of the family, I transferred the contents of the cargo area to my Flex and was ready to leave the Subaru to sit in the parking lot of the grocery store and be towed off to the local garage. I thought I might try it one more time, though, since it had been sitting for a while.

Boom, started right up, no problem, but there was a horrible whining noise that sounded like a belt problem of some type. Now what to do? The tow truck was already on the way. I decided to let them tow it to the garage anyway and allow the mechanics there to give it a once over (especially since I had bought it sight unseen and had no discernible mechanical ability).

They kept it for about a week. They couldn’t duplicate the issue. Every day I called and asked, and every day they told me the same thing. No problems with the car—it starts right up every time. No belt noise. Weird, right?

Well, I decided that I should go get it. Sure enough, it started right up. I drove over to the local library to take the kids to pick out some new books. Had a wonderful time at the library, picked out about 20 books each. Went to the Subie to drive home…no dice. ARRGH. Waited about 15 minutes. Tried again. Started right up. Oh, well. Home we go.

Ever since then, it has been dead reliable. I have driven it as far away as Charlotte (about seven hours) with no issues whatsoever. The radio works, the AC works, the power windows work (well, the switch did snap off in my hand, but it still works), the windshield wipers work, the CLA works…it’s been perfect. The shifter is exciting, because there’s no relationship between the actual gears that makes any sense at all. The shift lever will move several inches in any direction when in gear, and often just falls down and to the left, so there’s no real way to know what gear the car is actually in without doing some RPM and MPH calculations. Fifth gear is impossible to find—I have a 50/50 shot of putting it in third, instead.

I have tried vacuuming it with three different vacuums (Dyson, Shop-Vac, and Car Wash Hose), but the dog hair appears to be here to stay. However, the good news is that I have found nearly a dollar in change in the various crevices of the interior, so my net purchase price is getting closer to $599 every time I drive it. Also, it has a “LADY VIKINGS SOCCER” sticker on the rear driver’s side window that probably has a street value of about $5.

The best thing about the car, though, was pointed out to me by my good friend, Ryan, when he rode in it for the first time. “Man, I miss being in old cars,” he opined as I struggled to find third gear. “My car is a 2012, which is great, but it has no character, no personality. This thing has character.”

There’s no question about that. I fall in love with it a little more every time I pick it over the 444 HP beast nestled safely in the garage behind it. The little Subaru sits outside, parked in the grass next to my driveway, with nary a complaint. It goes when I call upon it. It sits inconspicously in the airport parking lot. It gladly takes my luggage in its vast interior and welcomes me home cheerfully with a slight whine of a yet-to-be-determined belt when I start it up. It’s like a previously neglected golden retriever—it just wants me to love it.

And I do.

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Junkyard Find: 1997 Subaru Legacy AWD Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1997-subaru-legacy-awd-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1997-subaru-legacy-awd-sedan/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899666 Living in Denver, I see tremendous quantities of old Subarus in local wrecking yards. Subarus after about 1985 don’t make it into this series (unless they’re XTs or SVXs or 4WD Justys), but the Legacy 4WD sedan is quite rare even by Denver standards so I made an exception for this car. This one has […]

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07 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLiving in Denver, I see tremendous quantities of old Subarus in local wrecking yards. Subarus after about 1985 don’t make it into this series (unless they’re XTs or SVXs or 4WD Justys), but the Legacy 4WD sedan is quite rare even by Denver standards so I made an exception for this car.
13 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has a key, which means it probably came from an insurance company auction rather than a city tow yard.
02 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust barely over 100,000 miles on the clock.
15 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy 1997, all Legacies sold in the United States had all-wheel-drive, but this was still special enough to warrant these “AWD” badges.
12 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy this point, the Outback wagon (still bearing Legacy badging) was so much more popular than the Legacy sedan in the United States that most of us forgot that you could even get this thing in a three-box car shape.
04 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese engines remain legendary (get it?) for blowing head gaskets.
14 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in Denver, crushed in Denver.

01 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Chart Of The Day: Subaru Has Risen, Mazda Not So Much http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-subaru-risen-mazda-much/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/chart-day-subaru-risen-mazda-much/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 12:54:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=893834 The more some things stay the same, the more other things change. Or so the saying doesn’t go. Mazda’s U.S. market share hasn’t been much more than level since a pre-recession surge, if you can call it that, to 1.99% in 2008. A brand known as something of the poor man’s BMW should be selling […]

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Mazda Subaru U.S. sales chartThe more some things stay the same, the more other things change. Or so the saying doesn’t go.

Mazda’s U.S. market share hasn’t been much more than level since a pre-recession surge, if you can call it that, to 1.99% in 2008. A brand known as something of the poor man’s BMW should be selling a large volume of cars in America, but BMW, with its expansive model range, sells nearly as many vehicles.

Subaru, on the other hand, has risen from niche status to a mainstream status in the span of a few short years. The WRX/STi and BRZ do contribute – 7.1% of the brand’s 2014 volume through the end of July – but Subaru has developed a real knack for knowing what U.S. buyers want. Consider the XV Crosstrek, an Impreza-based tall rider which, as it happens, easily outsells the Mazda 6.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru BRAT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-subaru-brat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-subaru-brat/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=892298 The Subaru BRAT, basically a factory El Camino-ized Leone, has quite the lawsuit history in this country, due to the Chicken Tax-evading-but-dangerous jump seats in the bed that made the BRAT a “car,” legally speaking. The BRAT was sold in the United States until the 1987 model year, but it’s nearly impossible to find examples […]

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03 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersThe Subaru BRAT, basically a factory El Camino-ized Leone, has quite the lawsuit history in this country, due to the Chicken Tax-evading-but-dangerous jump seats in the bed that made the BRAT a “car,” legally speaking. The BRAT was sold in the United States until the 1987 model year, but it’s nearly impossible to find examples built after the early 1980s. Here’s a reasonably nice-looking ’84 that Shawn Rodgers (you may recognize him as the hero of the Junkyard Build Quality Challenges, as well as the captain of the very fast Bunny With a Pancake On Its Head 24 Hours of LeMons Rabbit team) saw in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard last week and was kind enough to photograph for us.
02 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersI shoot junkyard BRATs whenever I see them, and so far in this series we’ve seen this ’79, this ’82 (which still had its jump seats), and this Sawzall-converted ’86 (I’m a sucker for cruelly hacked-up Subarus).
21 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers73 horsepower, which would be considered absolutely unacceptable in any vehicle attempting to be even vaguely truck-like today.
10 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersNice nearly-a-T-top double sunroof— called a “Halo Twin Roof”— on this one.
16 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersJust the lo-fi solution for listening to bad mid-80s AM hits!

In Australia, the BRAT was called the Brumby and it was marketed with ads featuring pig passengers.

In the United States, Ruth Gordon pitched the BRAT.

01 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 02 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 03 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 04 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 05 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 06 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 07 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 08 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 09 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 10 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 11 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 12 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 13 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 14 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 15 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 16 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 17 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 18 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 19 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 20 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 21 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 22 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 23 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 24 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 25 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 26 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 27 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 28 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 29 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 30 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers

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Subaru Eyes Le Mans, Has None For Compact Crossovers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/subaru-eyes-le-mans-none-compact-crossovers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/subaru-eyes-le-mans-none-compact-crossovers/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 10:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=888577 If any of you were hoping for a small crossover underneath the Subaru XV Crosstrek, you may breath now. The Pleiades-bedecked automaker has no plans for such a thing, as it has its sights on the Mulsanne Straight. Auto Express reports Subaru has no cash to spare to develop a CUV in the vein of […]

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2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

If any of you were hoping for a small crossover underneath the Subaru XV Crosstrek, you may breath now. The Pleiades-bedecked automaker has no plans for such a thing, as it has its sights on the Mulsanne Straight.

Auto Express reports Subaru has no cash to spare to develop a CUV in the vein of the Jeep Renegade or Nissan Juke, which would need a (non-existent) supermini in its European portfolio and matching turbocharged engine just to start. If it did have every ingredient needed, however, its small crossover would be a Euro-only affair, despite sales of 500,000 per year in the United States and a rebounding Japanese market.

Meanwhile, the automaker has eyes on going back into the racing game with hybrid power, with Le Mans in particular. Toyota’s fortunes in LMP1, along with Nissan’s 2015 return, have the executives’ attention, and company insiders claim the budget to go all in could be found “if there is a big English audience to recognize the Le Mans commitment.”

As for a return to WRC, Subaru would need to rework the WRX STi to attempt to compete against current rally fighters like the Ford Fiesta RS, Hyundai i20 and Volkswagen Polo R. Thus, a return to rallying is not likely anytime soon.

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Toyota Putting The Brakes On Further Capacity In America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-putting-brakes-capacity-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-putting-brakes-capacity-america/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:57:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=884729 Toyota is not going to be expanding any plants in the United States, even as they are forced to absorb further production of the Toyota Camry as their assembly deal with Subaru winds down. According to Just-Auto, Subaru’s Indiana facility built just under 100,000 Camrys in 2013, and the Georgetown, Kentucky plant that current builds the […]

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450x241xcamryttac-450x241.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ISVuN4EGAA

Toyota is not going to be expanding any plants in the United States, even as they are forced to absorb further production of the Toyota Camry as their assembly deal with Subaru winds down.

According to Just-Auto, Subaru’s Indiana facility built just under 100,000 Camrys in 2013, and the Georgetown, Kentucky plant that current builds the bulk of North American Camrys, is the busiest in the United States, turning out over 504,000 vehicles last year, with the Camry accounting for nearly 350,000 units.

With Avalon sales declining and the Venza reportedly being axed, there should be an additional 50-60,000 units of capacity. Even so, that leaves a shortfall, and Toyota is unlikely to increase imports of the Camry – which is built in Japan as well – increase beyond the handful it currently brings in.

The solution for Toyota will be to make better use of their current manufacturing footprint, through increased efficiencies. If Toyota wants to hang on to their “best-selling car” bragging rights, they’ll need to find some solution to the production deficit that appears to be looming.

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Piston Slap: New CV Boots? A Split Decision! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-new-cv-boots-a-split-decision/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-new-cv-boots-a-split-decision/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:53:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860313 TTAC Commentator Detroit Iron writes: Long time no talk (I sound like a native American an Indian).  (Yeah, not so much. – SM) I have an 09 Outback with ~65k miles.  I had noticed a bit of a burning smell after running it for a while and it was pretty strong after a recent trip.  […]

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TTAC Commentator Detroit Iron writes:

Long time no talk (I sound like a native American an Indian).  (Yeah, not so much. – SM)

I have an 09 Outback with ~65k miles.  I had noticed a bit of a burning smell after running it for a while and it was pretty strong after a recent trip.  I thought it smelled like a belt slipping but when I popped the hood the two belts looked fine.  After looking around for a minute I realized that the passenger side CV boot had torn and was dripping grease on to the cat.  Checking the other side revealed that the driver’s side boot was also torn.  Apparently this is a pretty common failure for scoobies.  The Internet says I should be concerned if I hear a “popping” sound or the clunk associated with failing bearings.  Luckily I am hearing neither.  The dealer had a set price of $370 per boot for replacing the boots that the service manager somewhat disconcertingly blurted out almost before I finished describing the problem.  The independent shop thought they could do both for less than $500 if the axles weren’t bad, but if they were bad then it would be another $450 per.

My question is this:  Can I just get split boots from JC Whitney and pack them with grease or do I really need to have the pros fix it?

Sajeev answers:

The split boots are probably a great idea, Dorman makes good stuff for old cars when the OEMs can or will not. That said, I’ve never used split boots on my rides as I roll RWD only.  But here’s the real problem: armchair analysis.

  • Do you think road dirt/debris lodged inside the boot will eventually eat the axle bearings?
  • Do you have any doubts to that question?
  • Is that your final answer?

Only you can answer that and decide what’s worth your time/money.  The $20-something for split boots is a cheap fix that’ll probably work, as you mentioned the axles are neither clunking nor popping: now try it from a standstill with the steering wheel turned at full lock (i.e. full left AND full right) and listen for the clunk.

If that test works out, well, go ahead and use the split boots.  They will probably extend the life of the axle long enough to justify their expense.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Subaru Behind Jeep, Ram As Most Off-Roaded Automaker http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/subaru-behind-jeep-ram-as-most-off-roaded-automaker/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/subaru-behind-jeep-ram-as-most-off-roaded-automaker/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857073 Jeep may be the first thing to come to mind when the idea of going off-road comes up in conversation, but when taking a trip from Los Angeles to that secret pool/art installation in the middle of the desert, you might find a Subaru waiting nearby. Autoblog reports the automaker’s vehicles are the third most […]

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green subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

Jeep may be the first thing to come to mind when the idea of going off-road comes up in conversation, but when taking a trip from Los Angeles to that secret pool/art installation in the middle of the desert, you might find a Subaru waiting nearby.

Autoblog reports the automaker’s vehicles are the third most off-roaded in a 2013 J.D. Power study, where 29.5 percent can be found departing the highway for the trail; only Ram and Jeep bested Subaru at 30.2 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Subaru’s director of corporate communications, Michael McHale, added that owners of his company’s offerings were “190 percent more likely to do outdoor activities than other brands,” meriting those treks off the beaten path.

Regarding individual vehicles, the Outback sees the highest use in the dust and mud at 34.7 percent. Meanwhile, most Jeep Grand Cherokee owners prefer the high street over high peaks, with only 21.1 percent deciding to experience just how “trail-rated” their SUVs are. The Outback is also among Subaru’s top three best-selling vehicles in 2013, sandwiched between the Forester and the XV Crosstek as the automaker celebrated its sixth consecutive year of record sales; 424,683 units were sold in the United States alone that year.

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Toyobaru Might Only Last For One Generation As Partnership Under Evaluation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/toyobaru-might-only-last-for-one-generation-as-partnership-under-evaluation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/toyobaru-might-only-last-for-one-generation-as-partnership-under-evaluation/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 15:07:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850962 The Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ may only exist for one generation, as comments by the car’s chief engineer suggest a dissolution of the partnership between Toyota and Subaru. Speaking to an Australian outlet, chief engineer Tetsuya Tada was cryptic about whether a next-generation sports car would have Subaru’s involvement. Tada left open the possibility that the […]

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FT86-Tada

The Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ may only exist for one generation, as comments by the car’s chief engineer suggest a dissolution of the partnership between Toyota and Subaru.

Speaking to an Australian outlet, chief engineer Tetsuya Tada was cryptic about whether a next-generation sports car would have Subaru’s involvement. Tada left open the possibility that the future alliance with BMW could yield an entirely new product, one that abandons the boxer layout for an inline engine or alternative powertrains.

Tada suggested that supercapacitors, like those used in Toyota’s LeMans effort, would provide a new solution for adding hybrid technology to a next-generation sports car. But Tada was adamant that turbocharging is not an avenue he wanted to pursue, stating

The trend of powertrains is of course downsizing and turbo charging, but my opinion is to retain natural aspiration in the future.”

Adding hybrid technology would allow the future sports car to keep its N/A engine while adding power and reducing its emissions and fuel consumption. But in the near-term, Tada’s team is exploring ways to improve performance of the current car, including more displacement, better intake and exhausts and even a revised final drive ratio.

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Junkyard Find: 1987 Subaru XT GL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1987-subaru-xt-gl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1987-subaru-xt-gl/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=844169 The Subaru XT is a car you won’t see often in most parts of the country, but Denver junkyards have tremendous quantities of old Subarus and so I see them on a regular basis here. So far, this series has had this ’85 XT Turbo, this ’91 XT, this ’91 XT6, and now today’s ’87 […]

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10 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
The Subaru XT is a car you won’t see often in most parts of the country, but Denver junkyards have tremendous quantities of old Subarus and so I see them on a regular basis here. So far, this series has had this ’85 XT Turbo, this ’91 XT, this ’91 XT6, and now today’s ’87 XT.

I shot a bit of video of the tilt wheel/instrument cluster in action. Since I have developed an unhealthy obsession with 1980s Japanese digital instrument clusters, I bought the one out of the ’85 XT Turbo. Today’s XT had the regular analog cluster, so I left it in the car.
01 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf you like 1980s design, this car is full of good examples. I was in college in 1987, and I remember thinking very clearly at the time that nobody will ever be capable of feeling nostalgia for this era. Now that Tears For Fears plays in supermarkets and Members Only jackets are making a comeback, I have been proved wrong about that embarrassing decade once again.
20 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMulti Point FI!
18 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars were full of weird little touches like these door-latch cover panels. Sure, more stuff to go wrong (and with 1980s Subarus, much did go wrong), but it was still cool stuff.
09 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis example is the ordinary front-wheel-drive version.
16 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomeday I will be unable to resist the lure of the Alcyone, and I will buy a nice XT Turbo or XT6.

01 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1987 Subaru XT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Capsule Review: 2014 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-2014-subaru-crosstrek-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-2014-subaru-crosstrek-hybrid/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=835961 Subarus shine when the sun does not. That reputation has been built on the back of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive so that in places that freeze, Subarus are everywhere. Given the concerns of the customer base and a corporate commitment to sustainability, a hybrid Subaru seems like an obvious slam dunk. That’s why it’s surprising it […]

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green subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

Subarus shine when the sun does not. That reputation has been built on the back of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive so that in places that freeze, Subarus are everywhere. Given the concerns of the customer base and a corporate commitment to sustainability, a hybrid Subaru seems like an obvious slam dunk. That’s why it’s surprising it took so long to get one, even with some ties to Toyota. The XV Crosstrek is the first Subaru to go hybrid. It’s definitely the Subaru of hybrids.

2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

What that means is that you’ll find a familiar 2.0 liter boxer four and all-wheel drive in the Crosstrek Hybrid. Added to that is a 100.8 volt, 13.5 kW battery pack that tucks .55 kWh of stamina under the cargo area floor. You lose just 1.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats, which is a nice trick compared to what happens in some other hybrid-ized cars. The combination of 2.0 liter boxer with compression bumped to 10.8:1 (from the standard 10.5:1) and electric motor makes the hybrid the most powerful Crosstrek there is. Total combined output is 160 hp vs. 148 hp for the gas-only model. More significantly, the total system torque is 163 lb-ft and you’ve got it all at 2,000 rpm. That beats the heck out of making those opposed pistons flail to 4,200 rpm for  the 145 lb-ft of the non-hybrid. The electric motor is cleverly integrated into the AWD system, a move that keeps the center of gravity the same as the gas model and doesn’t cut into passenger space.

The best Subarus are niche Subarus. The rowdy WRX and Crosstrek Hybrid are the gold and silver medalists on the lot. It says something about the Impreza platform’s versatility and quality. I haven’t forgotten the BRZ, it’s just not as good as the other two. The coupe gets a bronze because it’s not as versatile as the other two and still lacks the power it really deserves. Sales have increased every month since January 2014, when Subaru started keeping  track of Crosstrek hybrid sales. The model cracked 1,000 in May, and the total sits at 2,700 so far.

rear view of 2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

The $27,000 price for the the XV Crosstrek Hybrid I drove is close to reasonable. The entry price is $25,995, and with $825 of destination you’ve got the $26,820 bottom line. That’s for a car with cloth seats, no sunroof, and Subaru’s typically half-dismal audio system. If you want the nice stuff like leather and navigation, you’re looking at the $29,295 Hybrid Touring.

The more basic car has got it where it counts, though. It’s not stripped by any means, and the audio head unit easily connects to devices with Bluetooth and streams audio while allowing the steering-wheel audio buttons to control playback. This without stabbing at a touchscreen or dealing with voice prompts. The hands-free isn’t perfect – people I called asked me to repeat a lot of stuff because of audio quality. Three knurled dials give easy control over the HVAC and automatic climate control is standard for the hybrid. The steering column tilts and telescopes, and a rear view camera is also standard. The hatchback layout is useful, with a liftover height that’s easily managed even if you’re shorter, and that’s despite the 8.7” of ground clearance. That’s only 1/10″ shy of an F150 4×4. Other cars this size trading for this price carry more amenities, but none of them are all-wheel drive hybrids.

side view of 2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

Interior materials don’t feel $27K nice, but the design and ergonomics of the Crosstrek cabin present well. Visibility out is what now passes for good, and the controls are all easy to operate. Some, like the shifter, feel a little flimsy (wiggle that silvery piece of trim!), but the Crosstrek Hybrid is not a hard car to use, and that’s a happy thing.

Practical matters aside, this is the best driving Crosstrek, and all the changes made to the Hybrid should be mirrored across the range. The suspension has been retuned, which explains its good wheel control and buttoned-down feel in corners. It works well with the quick electric power steering, which is good on weight and direct feel. Other changes include thicker floor sections and increased sound insulation, both measures that increase the feeling of refinement.

2014 subaru xv crosstrek seats

The Crosstrek Hybrid is unique in that you’re getting all-wheel drive as part of the deal, and the improvement over gas-only Crosstreks is a bump to 29/33 mpg city/highway from 25/33. Pardon me for feeling like that’s a miniscule increase and that the 30 mpg average I observed is what all Crosstreks should be returning already. There are very few other all-wheeler hybrids, and they’re all more expensive. Luxe options like the Lexus RX 400h and Audi Q5 hybrid or the significantly larger Toyota Highlander hybrid aren’t directly comparable. A used second-generation Ford Escape Hybrid (or Mercury Mariner) is likely the closest actual competitor.

The rest of the Crosstrek Hybrid is bang on with the desires of its target customers. The batteries and motor don’t cut into the usefulness of the hatchback layout. There’s a good-sized cargo area behind the rear seats, and since those seats also fold, you’ve got one useful little tadpole on your hands. Moreover, the space inside the Crosstrek is comfortable for four, a bit squeezy for five. The rear seat legroom is probably the biggest sticking point. A quintet of tallies isn’t going to like it very much, but the Crosstrek is great for three or four average grown-ups. It’s even better for one or two smaller-statured folks with a big ol’ dog fogging the windows.

2014 subaru xv crosstrek hybrid cargo area

Another happy thing is the way the electric motor bolsters the 2.0 liter engine’s torque delivery and flattens out bandy feeling you often get from CVTs. The presence of paddle shifters to toggle between fake ratios feels really out of place. That’s money that could have gone into making the door panels padded so your elbow doesn’t fall asleep. At least with torque to go, the Crosstrek doesn’t have to wind up the engine so much to make forward progress. It’s a more relaxed way to get to speed, and it makes for a more refined Subaru. One annoyance, a major one, is the momentary hesitation upon taking off as the system fires the engine. It makes the car feel slow-witted, and it doesn’t build confidence when you’re trying to make a quick move in heavy traffic.

The hybrid system makes distinct shudders when the flame is blown out or fired up. You won’t get very far on electric-only, which generally seems to only operate in traffic jams. Subaru says the hybrid will crawl in an electric-only mode, but I found that the engine fired almost all the time when I wanted to move even a few feet. The Crosstrek hybrid is a few software tweaks away from greatness, but that doesn’t stop it from being good. The chassis feels solid, the steering is well-weighted, and the braking transitions from regen to friction very smoothly.

I was surprised to come away from the Crosstrek Hybrid so impressed with it. I’m not generally a fan of hybrids, and one that’s so obvious about what it’s doing SHOULD have put me off. Instead, it was charming. Clearly, I’m not the only one who’s been taken in by this car’s talents. If only all Crosstreks were this good.

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QOTD: Bring Back the Unibody Pickup? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-bring-back-the-unibody-pickup/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:35:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837665 For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried […]

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1024px-SubaruBaja

For decades, the formula for a successful pickup design in America has been pretty much the same. Design a simple ladder-frame chassis, drop in the biggest engine you can find, give it a front-engine rear-drive layout with an optional transfer case, and start raking in the money. From time to time, however, manufacturers have tried to swim against the current.

The last true unibody pickup (one without any type of traditional ladder frame) sold in the United States was the Subaru Baja, which ended production in 2006. A derivative of the Legacy/Outback platform, the Baja was Subaru’s attempt to cash in on the mid-2000s vogue for “sport utility trucks:” part-SUV hybrids like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and the Chevrolet Avalanche. While those more successful models were selling well over 50,000 a year at their peak, the Subie barely managed to shift 30,000 examples in a four year run. With its funky body cladding, exposed rollbars, and limited utility compared to those other truck-based SUTs with traditional ladder-frame chassis, the Baja never managed to become anything but a niche product. Even so, it followed in a long lineage of experiments with unibody construction for pickups.

The golden age of the unibody pickup was the 60s, when every major manufacturer offered at least one. Ford had the Falcon-derived Ranchero, as well as a pickup based on the Econoline van. (The 1961-63 full-size F100 is often cited as an example of a unibody pickup design, but as Mike Levine explains here, this is technically incorrect. The ‘61-63 still had a ladder frame underneath its single-piece body.) Chevrolet had a similar offering in the Corvair Greenbrier pickup, although the more popular El Camino utilized a ladder frame. Dodge got in the unibody game with the pickup version of its A100 van. The pickup version of the Type 2 Volkswagen Transporter was increasingly popular in the burgeoning small truck segment before it became a target of the infamous Chicken Tax. That tariff also kept out the Japanese, who might otherwise have attempted to sell car-based pickups such as the Toyota Corona PU. The most popular of all these unibody pickups was the Falcon Ranchero. It offered meaningful size and economy advantages over the full-size trucks of the time, and was available with a greater number of creature comforts.

Many of these unibody pickups disappeared in the 70s, as compact, conventionally engineered Japanese pickups became more widely available. Many of these were captive imports sold by the Big 3, who utilized tricks like importing cab-chassis units separately to avoid the Chicken Tax. Unibody pickups didn’t reappear again until the 1980s. The Subaru BRAT was the first of these, followed by the Rabbit-based Volkswagen Pick-Up. The Volkswagen PU was an attempt to squeeze more volume out of the disappointingly slow-selling Rabbit; the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp were similar attempts to expand the use of Chrysler’s L Platform. Neither of those was particularly successful, with both the Volkswagen and Rampage/Scamp cancelled after only three years. The BRAT was reasonably popular, lasting in the US market until 1987. The Jeep Comanche was based on the unibody XJ Cherokee, but used a ladder frame to strengthen the superstructure. Around 190,000 units were produced before new Jeep owner Chrysler called it quits in 1992; the company didn’t want the Comanche cannibalizing Dodge’s truck offerings. After that, there were no more unibody trucks in the United States until the introduction of the Baja. Cheap gas and a slew of competitive ladder-frame pickups meant that the incentive to develop a unibody pickup was limited.

Like Subaru, Honda tried to cash in on the SUT trend with the Ridgeline. Although based off the unibody Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline utilizes a hybrid chassis setup that incorporates a box frame. Sales have been disappointing, with the model scheduled to go out of production this month, although a sequel has been promised by Honda. The Ridgeline is often cited by midsize truck pessimists as emblematic of the reasons the segment has gone into decline. The truck offers no serious fuel economy advantage over a full-sizer. It also has a smaller bed, a lower tow rating, and less power, all in a footprint not much smaller than that of a full-size. Attempting to straddle segments was the Ridgeline’s doom. Buyers who wanted power, room, towing and hauling capability, and who didn’t care about mileage bought Avalanches, Sport Tracs, and full-sizers. Economy-minded individuals went for the cheaper, more utilitarian options like the Frontier and Tacoma. None of these alternatives were particularly great on gas, but neither was the Ridgeline; and they all offered price and/or capability advantages that the Ridgeline didn’t have. That doesn’t mean, however, that the unibody truck should necessarily go the way of the dodo.

The greatest argument against a renaissance in the small-to-midsize truck segment is profitability. Small trucks often have thin margins, and it’s hard to justify separate development programs for unique platforms. That’s ultimately what killed the Ranger in the United States, as well as the Dakota. GM is spreading out the development cost of the new Colorado/Canyon by making it a world market vehicle, but it remains to be seen if this strategy will work. Only the Tacoma has proven to be a consistent winner in the US market, and it also has the advantage of being globally sold; the same is true of the new Frontier. A US-only compact truck platform is a mistake. Repealing the Chicken Tax might open up the market to more imports, but ideally a compact truck would be developed from a platform already in use in the US. This would lower the cost of federalization, while at the same time increasing the margin derived from already existing platforms. That’s where unibody design comes in.

America is awash in unibody CUVs, whose platforms could be utilized to make compact and midsize trucks. The Chevrolet Montana/Tornado has been mentioned by small-truck aficionados as a possible import, but the cost of certifying it for American sale would probably be prohibitive. Instead, it would make more sense for GM to develop a small truck from either the Theta or Epsilon architectures, both of which have already been adapted for the American market. A small truck based on the Equinox, for example, might be profitably produced for the American market. If a small truck can offer significant price or fuel economy advantages over full-sizers, it can justify its existence against highly competitive full-size offerings. Even so, doubts remain about the segment’s overall viability. FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne recently alluded to this when discussing possible plans for a future compact pickup in the United States. Could a unibody truck be the savior of the compact truck segment?

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Reader Ride Review: 2015 Subaru WRX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2015-subaru-wrx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2015-subaru-wrx/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837689 When Eric pulled up in his properly blue WRX, I could see that he wasn’t entirely sure about the idea of letting me drive his car. To begin with, I’d changed the location of the meet three times in the past twenty minutes. Admittedly, that was because I hadn’t been to the Easton Town Center […]

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When Eric pulled up in his properly blue WRX, I could see that he wasn’t entirely sure about the idea of letting me drive his car. To begin with, I’d changed the location of the meet three times in the past twenty minutes. Admittedly, that was because I hadn’t been to the Easton Town Center in a few years and the first few places I could think of to meet had been closed or moved — but attentive readers will also remember that this is how Jeremy Irons tormented Bruce Willis in the third Die Hard movie. I was wearing bleach-spotted shorts and, I think, a One Lap Of America T-shirt. Furthermore, I was muttering to myself and shaking my head like a poleaxed goat. I’d just discovered that my wallet had gone missing during an airport run I’d made for a friend. In short, I looked and sounded like a crazy person, and I appeared to have a very strong desire to take Eric’s WRX to the airport for no legitimate reason — which, attentive readers will recall, is what happened to Bruce Willis in the second Die Hard movie.

With a visible effort, Eric smiled and stuck out his hand. “I’m Eric.”

“I’m Jack,” I replied. “We need to take your WRX to the airport.”

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Two hours later, I found my wallet under my Accord’s passenger seat.

Thanks for reading.

Just kidding! Yes, I did find my wallet later — but after a few minutes behind the wheel of Eric’s recently-broken-in “Rex”, I was ready to stop thinking about that and give my full attention to the car. Having driven the new Mk7 GTI just two weeks before this, I was eager to see how the two cars, natural enemies in the marketplace, would compare. Luckily for me, we truly do have the best and brightest among our readers. Eric, a successful young man with an understanding and manual-transmission-capable wife, is an outstanding example. What would Jalopnik do in a situation like this? Test-drive their readers’ “Forza 360″ cars while the far-from-MILFy single parents of said readers serve snacks like the Pin’s mom in Brick?

I’ll assume you’ve read Kamil’s recent press car review of a WRX Premium. This one, too, was a Premium, I think. (Eric will pop in and correct me if I’m wrong, but I am pretty sure this had a sunroof and didn’t have leather seats, which makes it a Premium.) Let’s go immediately to the meat of the matter: the dynamic capabilities of the WRX in the context of the competition.

The Subaru and the Volkswagen were very different cars twelve years ago but now, in 2014, they are united by an approach to ride, handling, and demeanor that can best be described as “adult”. As with the GTI, this new WRX is surprisingly quiet and thick-feeling, its sodden “thump” over every pothole betraying a very modern obsession with the lowest possible natural resonant frequency. The bugeye WRX had thin doors and rattled on the showroom floor, but this sedan might as well be an Audi for all the extraneous noise you get. Since the original Japanese Post Office Leones, badged simply “DL” and “GL” here, and possibly before, every Subaru has had a sort of inherent crappiness, a loose-jointed feeling that there just weren’t a lot of welds in the unibody. If you liked that, and a lot of people did, too bad. Little Rex is all grown up now.

Like the Volkswagen 2.0T direct-injected inline-four, the Subaru turbo boxer uses a small turbo and active wastegate control to keep torque at a consistent plateau through most of the rev range. Unlike the VW, the Subaru retains a fair amount of laggy turbo behavior despite what you see on a dyno curve. It’s much less aggressive on part-throttle than the GTI and a full-throttle run through the gears reveals a laggy hole in the delivery after each shift. Eric’s car is, thankfully, a six-speed manual. Intellectually, I accept the idea that a CVT of sufficient stoutness might be the perfect partner to this stumble-prone boxer, but I also intellectually accept the idea that I could probably manage to copulate with Lena Dunham under circumstances of sufficient provocation, such as danger to my child or an Aventador-sized cash bonus, and that does not stop me from finding both propositions repugnant to the extreme.
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So there’s a little bit of old-school to this car. Throttle-whoosh-shift-stumble-pause-whoosh and let’s do it all over again for the next gear. The GTI has this thing whipped for power delivery, even if the numbers aren’t as good. Eric’s curious about my Accord V6, so I offer to let him drive it. He’s obviously appalled by the fact that the dinged-up coupe contains the remnants of no fewer than four Kid’s Meals, plus a half-eaten bag of cheese puffs, and requests that I just tell him how the Honda compares. Well, it’s got nothing for either of the turbo cars down low, but it has a rush to the top that these tiny puffers can’t match. When the Accord gets going, well, that’s about the same time that the Subaru and Volkswagen are asthmatically blowing through the unimpressive space after the torque plateaus.
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After visiting the airport Departures area and quizzing the service personnel there about the likelihood of their having recently found any missing Couch Jet Age wallets, I decide to misuse the roundabouts and short two-lane couplers between the various parking lots as an impromptu autocross course. This is mostly second-gear work, with brief excursions to third. Here, the turbo is strong and the rush to the next corner is remarkably satisfying. The Subaru’s imperfect power delivery feels a bit more characterful than the electric-motor torque of the GTI. Shifting is no slower despite the four driven wheels, but you still don’t want to rush the synchros the way you would in a Mustang or Viper.
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The brakes are adequate but this is clearly a place where Subaru wants you to spend some extra STi money. Just three or four hard slowdowns from about 70mph to 30mph is enough to lengthen the pedal a bit. Remember, folks, this is a sub-$30,000 vehicle, not an AMG CLS. I’m also not pleased with their lack of ability to stand the WRX on its nose with hard application. Here, too, the Phaeton-ish brakes in the GTI Performance Pack are simply better, more reassuring.

In max-lat-g cornering around a roundabout, the Subaru pushes early and often, with plenty of progressive warning and behavior from the 235-width SportMaxx tires. It’s so predictable that I have no trouble immediately eyeballing the slip zone at approximately 80mph on a freeway ramp, letting the nose wander than rein in with pogo motions of the throttle. Think of a Focus ST, which can step right out on you in a corner if the throttle action is abrupt. Then restrain that to just a suggestion of motion, and you have the GTI. Now dial it back the same amount again, and you have the WRX. I can’t see getting this car to oversteer in any conditions short of a wet racetrack. The driveline feels relentlessly front-biased in all dry-road operation.

This extremely dignified default cornering attitude means that once again the Fiesta ST is going to be a more entertaining drive. Even my Accord feels considerably lighter on its feet and more tossable, due in part to narrower rubber, a lower beltline, less insulation, and a greater degree of power assistance for both steering and brakes. Still, it’s worth noting that this car is perhaps too quick to be tricky by default.

During our drive, I ask Eric why he bought this car. His answer is extremely self-effacing, referring to an old Sentra owned previous to this, the desire to have a little more power, and a preference for manual transmissions. He keeps noting that the vast majority of his experience has been in slower cars, and that perhaps that renders his opinion of his WRX less than credible. To the contrary, I think. I might have been behind the wheel of a Viper TA and Camaro Z/28 a few weeks before driving these four-cylinder model rockets, but the average buyer for a car like this is coming from a Sentra or a Civic or his parents’ old Camry. To satisfy that buyer, the WRX needs to be both fast enough and upscale enough to justify spending what feels like a long ton of money.

When you look at the Subaru that way — as a vehicle that should satisfy aspirational and dynamic desires — I think it succeeds admirably. Between this and the GTI, I’d take, um, the Mustang 5.0. Or possibly an Accord Coupe! But if you are going to spend a lot of your own money on a car that will be your daily transportation, your track rat, and your sanctuary during long trips, it’s hard to offer much argument against the WRX. The Volkswagen is considerably more upscale, more tasteful, more responsive, and probably economical. Against that, the Subaru offers a sedan form factor and all-wheel-drive. On the streets of San Francisco, it just has to be the Mexi-German hatch, but for the snow states, the WRX is the easy winner.
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(Disclaimer: This vehicle was provided to us by a TTAC reader who failed to come up with any flights, any five-star hotels, or any free half-bottles of Ketel One. I shouldn’t have to live like this. Thanks, Eric! — JB)

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Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru WRX Premium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2015-subaru-wrx-premium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2015-subaru-wrx-premium/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 12:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828394 Please welcome Hooniverse editor Kamil Kaluski for his first review for TTAC. Like much of the Playstation Generation, I spent much of the 90’s ogling over the forbidden fruit from the Land of the Rising Sun: Type Rs, EVOs, WRXs  – fun, reasonably priced, reliable, econobox-based sports cars with great potential. Naturally, I bought a […]

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Please welcome Hooniverse editor Kamil Kaluski for his first review for TTAC.

Like much of the Playstation Generation, I spent much of the 90’s ogling over the forbidden fruit from the Land of the Rising Sun: Type Rs, EVOs, WRXs  – fun, reasonably priced, reliable, econobox-based sports cars with great potential. Naturally, I bought a WRX as one as soon they debuted in 2002. Six months later I promptly sold it.

I didn’t hate the original bug-eyed WRX – I was just disappointed by it. The chassis, even with a set of Eibach springs, still rolled and yawed in every direction. The engine had no power below 3500rpm, and then, out of nowhere, burst to life in a boost-filled fury. The gear ratios of the five speed manual transmission made accelerating fun, at the expense of any highway comfort.  The fuel economy would have been poor for a V8 – for an economy car four-cylinder (even a boosted one) it was abysmal.

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If you were to blindfold a past owner and put them behind the wheel of the newest WRX, they’d immediately know what car they were in. Little cues, like the seating position, the shift knob and of course, the unmistakable, off-beat boxer hum, all remind you that underneath the much improved skin, beats the same rambunctious heart. Then again, the window switches seem to be carried over from the year 2002.

Outside of its Corolla-on-steroids looks, the biggest difference in the WRX is the engine. The displacement is back to two thousand cc’s, but there’s now variable valve timing and direct injection. The result is 268hp, which in the days of 300hp+ V6 Mustangs does not sound like much.The real news is the 258lb.-ft. that is available between 2,000-5,200rpm. Now that there’s some torque being made as low as 1000 rpm, daily driving is a lot more pleasant, while cruising on the highway isn’t going to drive you into madness. And it still screams all the way from 3000 rpm up to redline.

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But wait! There is more! For the first time ever, the WRX also manages to get decent gas mileage. With a 6-speed manual transmission, the 2015 WRX  is EPA rated at 21mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. My real-world heavy-footed trip down the New Jersey Turnpike resulted in a dash-computer calculated average of 27.7mpg, which I would say is pretty darn good. A CVT is a $1200 option, but really, why bother?

With the exception of a ride that is slightly rough over the worst of northeast’s post apocalyptic winter roads, Subaru has removed any objectionable behavior from the WRX that may be encountered during daily operation. Some may find it to be sprung too softly for serious at-the-limit driving, but Subaru really needed something more than a few horsepower and a big wing to justify the existence of the STI. Overall it’s a nice compromise for the enthusiasts and that incidental WRX buyer who just wanted an Impreza with more power.

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While remaining typical Subaru (that is to say, spartan if we’re being polite), the interior also received some updates. The biggest difference is one that you won’t see: road noise. The 2015 version is orders of magnitude quieter than the boomy, gusty examples previously sold here. More than the crappy fuel economy or the wonky gearing, this was my biggest annoyance when it came to driving long distances in my old WRX.

Head and leg room is abundant for all passengers, even on sunroof-equipped vehicles such as this one, and the manual seats are comfortable and supportive. All controls, with the exception of heated seat buttons, are logically located and easy to use. With small inoperable vent windows, door-mounted mirrors, and thinner than average A-pillars, the visibility all around is excellent.

The radio/infotainment system feels dated. The main display consists of segmented characters, and some information displayed on it may be incomplete. All controls are made via a bunch of small buttons and one knob. There are auxiliary controls on the left side of the steering wheel. There is also a secondary screen higher up on the dash which shares duties with the onboard computer, fuel economy gadget, and a boost gauge. Aux and USB inputs are located in the center console. The climate controls consist of three simple knobs – it might be the most efficient setup on the market, yet everyone else insists on more complex controls. It baffles me.

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Those unimpressed by its lack of evolution should be happy to know that Subaru has managed to refine the coarser elements of past examples, without eliminating any of its character or thrills. With a starting price of just $26,295, the WRX is one of the best performance car deals on the market. And if it looks a bit too sedate or Civic-esque for you, there’s always the hotter, sharper-edged STi.

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Subaru provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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Fuji Heavy To End Toyota Camry Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fuji-heavy-to-end-toyota-camry-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fuji-heavy-to-end-toyota-camry-production/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 15:05:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=818570 No, that title is not a misprint. Fuji Heavy Industries, which current builds the Toyota Camry at an Indiana assembly plant, will stop producing the mid-size sedan for Toyota starting in 2016. Fuji Heavy – parent company of Subaru- makes the Camry under contract for Toyota. Production will be absorbed by Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant […]

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No, that title is not a misprint. Fuji Heavy Industries, which current builds the Toyota Camry at an Indiana assembly plant, will stop producing the mid-size sedan for Toyota starting in 2016.

Fuji Heavy – parent company of Subaru- makes the Camry under contract for Toyota. Production will be absorbed by Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant that already builds the Camry. Automotive News reports that the move will free up an additional 100,000 units of capacity for Fuji Heavy, which builds Subaru cars at the plant. Fuji Heavy had sought to expand capacity sufficiently that it could build 300,000 Subaru vehicles per year at the plant – doing so will allow them to utilize the 100,000 units occupied by the Camry, as well as the 170,000 units allocated to Subaru, in order to reach their overall goal.

Georgetown is currently running flat out at 500,000 units annually, with plans to expand to 550,000 units already in the works. But there was no clarification on how Toyota would absorb a further 100,000 units, and retain the Camry’s position as America’s best-selling passenger car.

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Subaru: No WRX Hatch For U.S. Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-no-wrx-hatch-for-u-s-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-no-wrx-hatch-for-u-s-market/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808482 For those who want a Subaru WRX or WRX STi, but prefer the utility of the previous hatchback over the current sedan offerings, they should start breathing again, as Subaru will not be bringing such a beast to the United States after all. Motor Trend reports that last month, WRX project manager Masuo Takatsu informed […]

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Subaru Impreza WRX STi Hatchback

For those who want a Subaru WRX or WRX STi, but prefer the utility of the previous hatchback over the current sedan offerings, they should start breathing again, as Subaru will not be bringing such a beast to the United States after all.

Motor Trend reports that last month, WRX project manager Masuo Takatsu informed Motoring.com.au that Subaru “received strong interest from the US” for a hatchback variant, citing the 50 percent uptake by the U.S. market for the previous hatch. The statement came as a surprise to Subaru of America, who weren’t expecting anything more than the sedans:

We do not know about, nor do we have, any plans for a WRX hatch. Takatsu San is the product general manager of the WRX, but this is not something he has discussed with us.

One exchange between Subaru of America and Subaru of Japan later gave the final word: No WRX hatch will be forthcoming to the U.S. market, citing cost issues against producing both sedan and hatchback models.

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New York 2014: 2015 Subaru Outback Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-subaru-outback-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-subaru-outback-revealed/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:21:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803114 The 2015 Subaru Outback made a stop at the 2014 New York Auto Show as the fifth-generation wagon makes its way to the showroom floor this summer. Under the bonnet, a choice of either a 2.5-liter flat-4 or 3.6-liter flat-6 will send 175 to 256 horsepower through a standard CVT to all four corners. The […]

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The 2015 Subaru Outback made a stop at the 2014 New York Auto Show as the fifth-generation wagon makes its way to the showroom floor this summer.

Under the bonnet, a choice of either a 2.5-liter flat-4 or 3.6-liter flat-6 will send 175 to 256 horsepower through a standard CVT to all four corners. The Legacy-esque Outback should average 28 mpg from the flat-4, 22 with the flat-6.

As for safety, rearview camera, pre-collision braking and adaptive cruise control make up part of the overall driver-protection package on-offer from Subaru.

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Subaru May Revive The WRX Hatchback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-may-revive-the-wrx-hatchback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-may-revive-the-wrx-hatchback/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 11:10:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787009 Strong sales of the WRX hatchback in America have led Subaru to re-consider their “sedan only” policy for the current generation WRX. An Australian enthusiast site spoke to WRX Project General Manager Masuo Takatsu, who said that strong demand for the hatch in America (where it accounted for half of WRX sales) has led them […]

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Strong sales of the WRX hatchback in America have led Subaru to re-consider their “sedan only” policy for the current generation WRX.

An Australian enthusiast site spoke to WRX Project General Manager Masuo Takatsu, who said that strong demand for the hatch in America (where it accounted for half of WRX sales) has led them to re-consider their plans

“We have received strong interest from the US, where the hatchback was 50 per cent (of previous-generation WRX sales), so we’re now considering. The main target for WRX is the US…Japan is number two, Australia number three. Basically, we target these three markets.”

Takatsu said that limited resources were behind the lack of a hatch at launch, and interestingly, a two-pedal variant of the STi. Subaru’s Australian arm eventually expects the CVT powered WRX to account for as much as 50 percent of WRX sales, though the hatch has always been a much weaker play.

Oddly, the 90+ percent take rate for the sedan in Australia runs counter to its competitors like the VW Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST and Renaultsport Megane, which are all hatches. On the other hand, Americans are notoriously fond of sedans, but are the biggers buyers of WRX hatchbacks.

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