2015 Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally

The first weekend in June saw a return to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania in much warmer weather for the 39th running of the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally. Held over two days, the entire rally covers almost 422.6 kilometers (262.6 miels), 192.2 kilometers (119.4 miles) of  competitive stages split between dirt roads on Waste Management property Friday and public roads in state parks on Saturday. Drawing 70 regional and international teams, STPR is the fifth of eight Rally America Championships held in 2015. Past winners have included Subaru Rally Team’s David Higgins/Craig Drew, as well as Ken Block/Alessandro Gelsomino.

Parc Exposé

Parc Exposé

After a sunny Parc Exposé Friday morning, the teams left The Green in Wellsboro and headed to the Waste Management stages 1 – 3. Last year, a jump near the spectator area was added, and it did not disappoint… the spectators, anyway. It’s a sad thing to hear a driver tell his kid, “Tell mommy we’re coming home a day early. We broke the car.” Car 157 (Super Production 2008 Subaru STI Tomasorally) driven by Tomas Solnicky with co-driver Ray Vambuts bounced on landing off the jump and spun in a huge cloud of impenetrable dirt. When the dust settled, the car was off the course and unable to continue, though driver and co-driver were fine. All in all, 62 teams finished the 14.3k (8.9 mile stage.) By the time Stage 3 came around on the same course, 61 teams started and 54 finished.

Just before landing and spinning off course in Stage 1.

Just before landing and spinning off course in Stage 1.

All teams and volunteers then returned to the Tioga Fairgrounds for Stages 4 & 5. These “Super Special” stages see two cars on an almost half mile dirt course at the the same time, taking two spins around a twisting route and ending on a straight-away in front of the filled grands stands. The weather had other plans, however, and a violent thunderstorm blew in and stayed. After a constant downpour with too-close-for-comfort lightning, the evening Super Stages were cancelled.

Team umbrella, heading over to shield another car being repaired from the rain.

Team umbrella, heading over to shield another car being repaired from the rain.

Thunderstorm that ultimately caused the cancellation of Friday's Super Special stage

Thunderstorm that ultimately caused the cancellation of Friday’s Super Special stage

After an early morning Parc Exposé in town, 61 teams headed to Stage 6 – and 56 finished. Stage 7 saw William Petrow and Raphael Orlove – already out of contention and driving for exhibition only – roll over after taking a turn wide and clipping the embankment on the edge of the course. The Broken Motorsports 1992 Nissan 240SX came to rest off the embankment heading down into some brush, but media and rally volunteers pushed the car back on course and they sped off.

Pushing car back onto course after rolling onto roof.

Pushing car back onto course after rolling onto roof.

Service in Germania saw many teams frantically fixing limping cars. Robert Pepper, driving a 1991 Porsche 944S2 with co-driver Mical Davis, said his team had been up all night with about 20 minutes of sleep fixing the transmission, which was left with a hole the size of his fist after Friday’s stages. “That’s rally.”

Germania Service

Germania Service

The carnage continued from stage to stage, and by the start of the 14th and last trail stage, 46 cars started and 43 survived. The weather was spectacular on Saturday, so competitors headed back to the fairgrounds to meet the fans then complete the Super Special stage. The still-muddy course saw a few spins and lots of flying dirt, especially when Pink Curl Racing in the 2006 Mustang (Paul Cacioppo and Niall Burns) faced off against the crowd-pleasing Gary DeMasi and Stephen Kurey in a 1985 Ford Ranger. The Mustang just about made it to the end, but the 2WD swerved and got stuck on a berm. Ultimately, Subaru Rally Team’s Dave Higgins and Craig Drew faced off against FY Racing Team’s Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze for the podium. Overall rally winners were Higgins and Drew continuing their winning streak for their 11th win in a row, the FY Racing Team in second, and Nick Roberts with co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino taking third for Nick Roberts Global Rally Team.



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Tommi Mäkinen beats the snot out of 2015 Subaru WRX STI


For the recent launch of the new 2015 WRX STI, Subaru Canada took a bunch of Canuck auto journos to Buttonwillow Raceway, where they were introduced to a driver worthy of showing them what the STI is capable of. Tommi Mäkinen. We all get to go on some pretty cool events, but still I can’t help but feel jealous that I was not part of this trip. I mean come on, this is Tommi freakin Mäkinen, a real rally superstar. Watching him catch air in this bone stock, Canadian spec STI is most excellent, but it would have been better in person.

Just a note for some of you young bucks who might think that Mäkinen was solely a Mitsu pilot. Sure, his fame came from his performance in Subaru’s main rival’s machines, but the final two seasons of his career were spent in a Subaru. It is actually kind of frightening to think that the Finn retired fully 11 years ago! It seems like yesterday.

Review: 2014 Subaru Forester

091_2014Forester25iAh, Subaru. While the company has made great strides in going mainstream over the past few years, they still are not quite on the radar for the casual car buyer, who cannot be bothered to think about cars. You buy a Subaru because you seek one out. Sure, the easy thing is to just walk into a Honda or Toyota showroom, but even as Subaru is losing its quirkiness and expanding their appeal, their legion of fans remain loyal. I should know, I have relatives who have owned Subaru’s for nearly thirty years. And I get the appeal. My cousin taught me how to drive a stick shift in his 1976 Subaru wagon, which was an absolute riot to drive. Tall and narrow, we would navigate completely unmarked trails at the local park with nary a problem. Light blue with a blue plaid and vinyl interior, I was smitten with that car, and I wanted it badly, but by the time I was of driving age rust had taken its toll on the old girl.

So I had to smile when a 2014 Marine Blue Pearl Forester was dropped off to me, which has been redesigned for this year. Sadly, without a matching plaid interior. Yes, it is far more refined than the old ’76 Subie, but is the modern iteration of the tall, narrow wagon, or should I say crossover. What I miss about Subaru’s are their endearing but dorky looks. To the casual observer, this could be any car. Subaru has never been a company that looks to seek attention to itself, or be flashy, but the stylists took conservative styling to an extreme. Yes, it is a fine looking car, but what it lacks identity and character, qualities that were once the hallmark of Subaru.

137_2014ForesterLtdSubaru is known for their utility, and the interior of the Forester continues that tradition. Yes, it’s a little short on style, but that isn’t the point here. What we do have is a roomy interior with an impressive amount of cargo space. Finding a comfortable driving position is simple enough, and most of the main controls are intuitive to use. Unfortunately, our test car’s navigation and infotainment system was frustrating to use, and lags behind the competition. Selecting the SiriusXM satellite radio station you want should not have to be that hard. So, if you are in the market for a Forester, skip the high-end options, you will be much happier for it.

The new Forester is available with a choice of two engines, the first a 2.5L boxer four rated at 170hp, and a 2.0L turbo boxer four rated at 250hp. Of course, all Foresters are all-wheel drive. Base 2.5 Foresters can be had with a six-speed manual, but once you move up to higher trim levels, a Continuously Variable Transmission is your only choice. A manual tranny is not available with the turbocharged engine. Acceleration around town is adequate, the ride is comfortable enough, steering a bit numb-but the same can be said for most four cylinder small crossovers. The Subaru does the job it is supposed to do, but you never forget you are driving an appliance. Even the Subie’s signature boxer four’s engine note is muted. To quote, isn’t that what makes a Subaru a Subaru? The Garage are no fans of the mooing CVT transmissions which extracts all the joy out of driving, but buyers will no doubt appreciate the 24/32 MPG city/highway EPA fuel economy figures.

102_2014Forester25iThe Forester is available in six different trim levels. Our test car was the 2.5i Touring, the top-spec for for the base non-turbo engine. Standard equipment includes 17″ alloys, panoramic sunroof, dual zone auto climate control, 6.1″ LCD touch screen control panel with Navigation, Bluetooth, Harmon Kardon audio with HD radio and XMSirius satellite radio, power driver’s seat, power rear lift gate, leather interior, and heated front seats. Our test car added an option package which included keyless access and start, EyeSight Driver Assist, Pre-Collision braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision throttle management system and HID headlights, which are some pretty high-end tech items for such a modest CUV. All in, our Forester has an MSRP of $33,220USD. This is on the high end of the compact CUV price scale, but not a bad value for having the latest in high-tech safety features.

For sure, it was impossible to not recall my fond memories of my cousin’s beloved ’76 Subie, and as I watched the Forester drive off, again, I smiled having lived with a light blue, tall Subaru wagon. Yes, it still has the basic elements that make a Subaru a Subaru, chiefly a boxer engine, all-wheel drive, a no-nonsense interior and plenty of utility. What it lacks from Subaru’s of yore is that quirky character, but Subaru will quickly point out to me how much their sales have improved since they went mainstream. And they would also likely counter if it turned off their previous customers? To answer that, Subaru would also point out my cousin just bought a Subaru XV CrossTrek. His wife has a new Outback. And their son has a new Legacy. Question answered Subaru, carry on.

Global Rallycross carnage compilation by GoPro


If rallysport is the purest form of motorsport, then rallycross has to be the purest form of racing. It certainly is the most exciting, for fans and drivers alike. The sport isn’t new, having been active across the Atlantic for decades, where competitors battle it out of race tracks that are a combination of dirt and pavement. With the launch of the Global RallyCross Championship a couple of years ago though, the excitement was pushed to a whole new level.
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Subaru Debuts 2015 WRX STI

HIGH RES GOLD WHEEL OPTIONThe 2014 North American International Auto Show opened its doors to the media for day two of press days, and Subaru took the wraps off its range topping Impreza WRX STI. Built to be the baddest STI of all time, on paper the car seems to deliver. Yes, the requisite outrageous bodywork is present and accounted for, with a unique nose, ultra-wide fenders, LED lighting front and back, capped off with an absolute over the top rear wing. The look is convincing, yet not at all cheesy. Still, no one will confuse you for the stereotypical granola eating Impreza owner. For the full effect, make a run for your local Subie dealer to snatch up the limited edition Launch Edition, which gives you WR Blue paint and gold BBS wheels. Only 1,000 will be built for the US.

Of course, looks are nothing without performance to back it up. The WRX STI sports a new 2.5L turbocharged boxer four good for 305hp. With no apologies to posers, a six speed manual is the only transmission choice. As God intended. Other enhancements include firmer springs, a stiffer chassis, quicker steering, Active Torque Vectoring, Multi Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential and Brembo brakes. If some of that sounds like I am speaking a foreign language, my interpretation is the WRX STI will likely have incredible handling on tarmac, dirt, and gravel.

Inside, the STI features Alcantara seating with red and black leather bolsters, flat bottomed steering wheel and the obligatory STI badges. For the first time audiophiles can rejoice, as Subaru has put a premium Harmon Kardon audio system on the option sheet. Need more posh? Go for the WRX STI Limited, which adds full leather interior and a power moonroof. No pricing, performance, or when we expect to see the WRX STI in showrooms have been disclosed, but I think I speak for all of us when I say I cannot wait.

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How To Buy A New Car Part II


Welcome back to my story of leasing a new car for my wife. Part I detailed how, even though General Motors had cleared me for $2,500 off sticker price, two Chevy dealers did not honor the discount, with no explanation whatsoever. Our other consideration was a four door Subaru Impreza. Again, Subaru gave me employee pricing, and I approached Dan Perkins Subaru in Milford, CT. To his credit, our salesman honored the discount, but said he could do better, and he did. But, as I stated in my first post, I wanted no down payment apart from the first month’s installment. And Dan Perkins was having none of it. Even with exceptional credit, they demanded a substantial down payment.

Even accepting their terms, my largest hurdle was communication. The sales person I met gave me his card, and I e-mailed him the options and colors we were interested in. No response. I called the dealer, and spoke to him, but never got a call back. I visited the dealership in person, after my wife and I cruised the lot looking for cars we might be interested in. He wasn’t available, and the sales person who was available told me all the cars I looked at had been moved, and the dealership was closing soon, and I would have to come back. I again e-mailed my first sales person, specifying the Impreza we were interested in. No reply. And I know the e-mails were going through because I never received an undeliverable notice. But what burned me is Dan Perkins had me running around desperately around their lot looking for the car I wanted, and when I could not find it, told me to leave. When I sold Honda’s, the rule was as long as a customer was there, we stayed. Period. We never turned anyone way. Ever. With a complete lack of service from Dan Perkins Subaru, we threw up our hands and gave up. If they couldn’t be bothered to service and take care of us, they did not deserve our business.

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During this awful process, it was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and the VW Beetle Convertible was the sponsored car. My wife has owned a ’92 VW Cabriolet and a ’95 VW Cabrio. Not to mention our romantic relationship started after watching Patrick Dempsey’s ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ movie, where his female interest drive a 1987 VW Cabriolet. It was serendipity, and although pricier than the Cruze and Impreza, I was determined to make it happen. I first called Curran Volkswagen in Stratford, CT. I was told they had one denim blue Convertible in stock, and they refused to discuss price over the phone.

So, we made a trip up to where we leased our 2010 Jetta, at Langan Volkswagen in Meriden, CT. Alexio, our sales person was very helpful, and for the first time in our shopping experience, was determined to find the exact car we wanted, not what was on the lot. It so happened my test car that week was a VW Beetle Convertible Turbo. On our way to and back from a family gathering in rural Connecticut, we were totally sold on the car, now it was a matter of price. I know my wife wanted the car badly, but it was a bit of a stretch from our Jetta. But I had to make it work.

We did get a discount off the sticker price. I then went to Truecar.com and got a slightly lower price than what I was quoted. Langan VW met that price. Then they also honored the discount I received from VW America. In buying a car, timing is everything. Since my wife was happy with the 2.5 inline five cylinder in her Jetta rated at 170hp, paired to a six-speed automatic, I had an ace up my sleeve. The five banger is going away for 2014, to be replaced with a more powerful and fuel efficient turbocharged four cylinder engine. With that in mind, VW wants to dump all remaining five cylinder Beetles.

Alex found us a gorgeous Reflex Silver 2013 VW Beetle Convertible, and my wife could not be happier. Yes, you might find it mad that for a family of three this is our family car, but may I remind you millions of families around the world had the Beetle as their sole car and it worked out just fine. The trunk can hold a week’s worth of groceries. The Beetle has so far worked out great for us, and again I thank Langan VW, and Alex personally for making the buying process as stress free as possible.


Subaru Prices 2014 Forester


The Subaru Forester has undergone a massive transformation from when it started life as a 1998 model. With all-wheel drive, a boxer four cylinder engine and a slightly quirky persona, the Forester was a tall wagon that hit all the right notes with its loyal, and yes, quirky fan base. In 2008, Subaru ditched the tall wagon design of the Forester, and went typical compact crossover. Yes, sales of the Forester were up, but we questioned if Subaru had sold out. After testing a 2011 Forester, we concluded that Subaru had not, sticking with its core principles-all wheel drive, boxer engines, and turbocharging.

Which brings us to the all new 2014 Forester. Starting at $21,995USD for a base model 2.5i. A six-speed manual is standard-for $1,000 extra you can get a continuously variable transmission. I have to say it really disappoints me that Subaru opted for a CVT. The 2.5i is powered by 170hp boxer four, while there is the option of the 2.0 XT which features a 250hp turbocharged engine. The CVT is the only available transmission. A top-spec 2.0XT Touring will set you back $32,995. No word from Subaru as to when we can expect to see the new Forester in dealer showrooms.

Coolest Granny ever tries RallyX in a Subaru

At 91 years old, most of us are are being force fed energy shakes and munching on crushed ice from a foam cup, if we are still kicking at all. Youtube user YoungunnR’s Granny isn’t like most of us. This hard core old girl recently strapped in behind the wheel of a Subaru and headed out to do it in the dirt. Go Granny Go!

Check it out after the jump.
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Review: 2012 Subaru Impreza

For a brand of car I have never personally owned, Subarus hold a place in my heart. Never afraid to march to the beat of their own drum, growing up reading car magazines, I was bemused a car company would simply call a car a DL or GL. Their funky boxer four cylinder engines sounded like nothing else, and of course, all-wheel drive was a given. It was my cousin Tommy’s 1976 blue Subaru station wagon that drove me, windows down in Spring on I-95 to my very first pizza at the famous Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven, CT when I was in first grade. When I was 15, it was this same Subaru Tommy taught me how to drive a stick shift. It broke my heart that beloved blue Subie’s frame was rotting and I could not own it myself.

Fast forward twenty five years, thanks to our friends at Subaru, the completely redesigned 2012 Impreza appeared on my driveway, ironically in blue, and blessed with a five-speed manual. The only thing missing was my cousin Tommy giving me pointers on working a clutch while nursing a Budweiser in the drug store parking lot near my Grandparent’s house.

Subaru has made strides in trying to mainstream themselves in hopes of greater sales and profits, but with the new Impreza it is best described as a Legacy in miniature, and just quirky enough to keep the Subaru faithful satisfied. During my week with the Impreza no one complimented or criticized the car. Style-wise, I think the Impreza falls short of far slicker offerings like the Ford Focus, Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio. There’s not a bad line on the car, but the competition is sporting far more sophisticated duds.

If past Imprezas had a weak point, it was interior that bordered on crude. With the new Impreza, driver and passengers are treated to a comfortable, airy cabin with high quality plastics and soft touch materials. All gauges are easy to read, controls are a cinch to figure out. I found the seats fairly comfortable, and there was plenty of room for my 6’1″ frame. Lacking satellite radio, I used the CD player in our test car, and found the audio quality not quite on par with the competition.

In the engine room, Subaru has certainly reacted to the current economic climate. Typically when a car is redesigned, we talk of more power, but with the Impreza, it is the opposite. Subaru has opted for a smaller displacement 2.0L (from 2.5) boxer four rated at 148hp, which is also down on power from the larger engine. The good news is fuel economy, which is clearly what Subaru was after. Our Impreza shows EPA fuel economy figures of 25/34 MPG city/highway-pretty good numbers considering this car is all-wheel drive. The Subie gets off the line just fine, and I am still a sucker for the engine noise from that boxer four. The five-speed manual was a joy to use, and really added to the enjoyment of the Impreza. If you cannot, or do not want to shift for yourself, the Impreza is available with a CVT transmission, but I have read this drastically changes the character of the car, and not in a good way.

The Impreza is offered as a four door sedan or five door hatchback with five trim levels. Our test car was a 2.0i Premium, one step up from the base model. With 16″ alloys, Bluetooth, keyless entry and USB plug for your iPod. Fitted with the optional All-Weather package which adds heated seats and mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer, our Impreza rings in at a respectable $20,414USD, including destination.

Driving the Impreza, I kept thinking back to that quirky ’76 Subie wagon of my cousin that held so many memories for me. Obviously, the Impreza is light years ahead of that car, but Subaru, with its new Impreza, has managed to build a perfectly competent compact sedan without compromising its character. For us gearheads and rally fans, now we wait for the WRX…..stay tuned. Oh, and decades later, my cousin still has a Subie in his garage- a 2012 Outback.

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Subaru Annouces Pricing for BRZ

The much talked about Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are coming closer to reality, with cars expected to go on sale this spring. The BRZ will be offered in two trim levels. The base Premium model starts at $25,495USD with a six-speed manual, touch-screen GPS navigation, Bluetooth and HID headlights. The top-spec BRZ Limited stickers at $27,495, and adds Alcantara seat inserts, leather bolsters, heated seats and mirrors, dual-zone auto climate control, keyless entry and start, rear spoiler and foglights. All BRZ’s are rear wheel drive 2+2 sport coupes powered by a new 2.0L boxer four cylinder rated at 200hp. A six-speed manual is standard, while a six-speed automatic will add $1,100 to the tab.

The Subaru BRZ is positioned above the Scion FR-S as a more premium car. While there is plenty of excitement at the notion of a rear-wheel drive Japanese sport coupe, I just can’t help but think that a base V-6 powered Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro offers more than 100hp than the Subie at a lower price. Will American sport coupe buyers be willing to pay a premium for a car that is underpowered compared to the American competition? At The Garage we’re as eager to see how this plays out as you, so stay tuned!