How to Lose an AutoCross for Less Than $100
A month or two ago, I had the brilliant idea to enter a rental car into a car show, and see what I would win. The Avis Hummer H3 I spent untold hours detailing won first place in the truck category. Being only slightly insane, I decided to try another rental car challenge (due to my Porsche still being in various pieces), and enter a weekend special into an SCCA Autocross. Nearly winning my division last year, I believed that winning was mainly due to the driver, not the car, so of course I would come out on top no matter what I was driving. $78 later in rental fees and race entry fees, I had a 2008 Subaru Outback, with a 173bhp, AWD and lots of cargo space. Despite ripping nearly 150lbs of weight out of the car, the Subie couldn't have been more disastrous. The Sportshift always held the wrong gear, and wouldn't let you shift manually under extreme maneuvers. The steering became so imprecise that I was no longer driving the car, I was guiding it. The AWD made the car understeer, or oversteer, in a completely unpredictable manner. The lack of low end power had me uttering strings of curses upon exiting nearly every corner. I was easily outrun by a similar 2.5-liter equipped Impreza. I was outrun by a Honda Civic, a Dodge Neon, and an automatic-equipped Toyota Echo. And then we loaded the wagon up with five people, kept to the starting line, and learned the joys of e-braking through the corners, where the Outback stopped skittering, and literally "hopped" around the bends. As a race car, the Scooby gets one-star. But I suppose you already guessed that.
I own a '98 Forester and I concur with Wheatridger. The stock handling is surprisingly crisp with manageable understeer, especially considering what type of vehicle it is. I say this as someone who drove an Eagle Talon Tsi AWD hard for 10 years. That was an excellent little car that could've been an all-time legend if it hadn't been compromised by a horrific 62/38 weight distribution.
Toyota Echo? Wow, that must have been embarassing. I feel sorry for you.
IronEagle- My Talon was a 1990, and was surprisingly good for a first year, brand new model. I only got rid of the Talon b/c I needed something with more cargo space and better reliability. I am currently eyeing a Forester XT, but we shall see. AWD conversion is a heck of a project, I salute you!