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!

Subaru Previews Updated Legacy and Outback

We’re just days away from the 2012 New York International Auto Show. As show time edges closer, Subaru today previewed revised versions of the 2013 Legacy sedan and Outback CUV which will be formally unveiled in New York next week. While the Legacy and Outback were completely redesigned for 2010 and have since enjoyed considerable sales success, Subaru has definitely gone beyond the typical mid-cycle refresh.

While the front end has been completely restyled, Subaru is introducing an all-new engine for 2013. A new 2.5L boxer four rated at 173hp takes over as the base engine in the Legacy/Outback. As always, all-wheel drive is standard. Buyers can choose from a six-speed manual or a Continuously Variable Transmission. While the new engine offers only modest gains in power and torque from the motor it replaces, Subaru claims improved low-end torque. Fuel economy is also improved, projected at 24/30 MPG city/highway for the Outback, with the Legacy getting 32 MPG on the highway. Both Legacy and Outback are still available with a 3.6L boxer six, rated at 256hp, paired to a five-speed automatic.

Apart from the new engine, Subaru has also made improvements the body structure, suspension and steering. Subaru claims the work results in a smoother, quieter ride, improved handling agility and a 40% reduction in body roll. Also new for 2013 is EyeSight Driver Assist, which bundles adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and vehicle lane departure warning in what Subaru says will be one of the most affordable safety systems available. Inside, buyers are treated to a new instrument panel, improved seat fabrics, while base Legacy/Outbacks now get Bluetooth, USB charging port and iPod control capability as standard fare.

While there is no word yet on pricing or availability, I must hand it to Subaru for taking a mid-cycle refresh to a new level. In a business where new headlights and taillights are enough to be considered a ‘revision’, Subaru has gone to great lengths with a new engine and chassis improvements to stay ahead of the competition. Stay tuned, as The Garage will be eager to review the latest from Subaru!

Ride to 2nd at 100 Acre Wood with Mark Higgins

Block may have taken his sixth win at the woods that Christopher Robin played in, but reigning Rally America Champion Mark Higgins wasn’t going to let him win easily. Being second on the road however, Higgins had to content with the dust that was left hanging in the air as the Ford driver attacked the stages. Even with the addition of a “dust minute”, the Subaru America team still had a tough time seeing the road through the haze.

Check out Higgins in action after the break.
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On board with Martin & Johnson at Tall Pines

It has been a week since the 2011 edition of the Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, Ontario and the onboard videos are beginning to pop up. The warm weather brought unusually high speeds, which led to a high attrition rate. Pines is usually known for having lots of “offs” due to snowy roads, but this year there was just one roll. Even still, just 25 of 60 teams finished the rally!

Our first video comes from Chris Martin and Brian Johnson, who put on a great show before becoming one of the casualties of Tall Pines.

On board video after the break.
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Win a the Ultimate Rally Experience with Crazy Leo at Tall Pines

The Rally of the Tall Pines. An icon on the North American rally scene. The final major motorsports event of the year.

As always, The Garage Blog will be there to bring you the sights and maybe even some sounds of the 2011 Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, Ontario. You can be there too, for a rare opportunity to get up close and personal World class rally cars and their drivers. Best of all, it is free!

Of course, the best way to see the event would be to spend a few bucks on the Tall Pines VIP pass which includes transportation to and from the stages, food and special perks along the way. Perks like heat! They even throw in a bunch of official Tall Pines swag. For just $145 it is one of the best deals in all of motorsport and sells out every year. To learn more, visit the VIP program page.

The 2011 running of Tall Pines promises to be the biggest ever, with 60 teams entered ranging from classics to open class monsters. Along with the usual Subaru and Mitsubishi suspects, we’ll also see new Ford Fiesta rally machines. Add in a vintage Volvo, a Corolla and even a Datsun and there should be some great drifting action all day long. Mother nature is hard at work freezing the ditches solid and laying down a bit of snow to make things more challenging for the drivers, more exciting for the fans!

If you are really feeling lucky, you should enter Crazy Leo’s contest over on his Facebook fan page. The Crazy Leo VIP Rally Experience is like the VIP program on steroids. The winner gets a ride with Crazy Leo in The Beast, an open class Subaru WRX, during Friday’s shakedown stages. The prize also includes admission to Leo’s Tall Pines after party, complete with free beer!

All you need to do is submit your favorite rally photo to chris@crazyleo.net and you will be entered in the contest. Better hurry though, the contest closes on Wednesday at 10 pm.

Regardless of how you choose to watch the event, you HAVE to go to Bancroft this Saturday to check out the action. Come early and dress warm!

Photos from the 2010 Rally of the Tall Pines

Review: 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5XT

Auto journalists are a fickle bunch, and I will be the first to confess that at times we’re sometimes at odds with auto manufacturers. Subaru is a prime example. Us journos loved oddball Subarus, and praised them for catering to a rugged, left of center crowd that was small, but fiercely loyal. But the truth is, this is the car business, and Subaru is in the business of selling cars-and they wanted to appeal to more than quirky people living in New England and the Pacific Northwest. So, Subaru went mainstream. But with its strong selling Forester, was Subaru able to make an appeal to a larger customer base while still maintaining the ingredients of what makes a Subaru, a Subie? Read on.

The Forester is a familiar and well-loved fixture in the Subaru family. Now in its third generation, Subaru made a dramatic move with the Forester, changing it from an eccentric, tall station wagon to that of a more conventional small SUV designed to go head to head with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The Forester is an inoffensive design that assumes the silhouette of its competition. In other words, apart from the grill, it’s very hard to know you are looking at a Subaru. Our test car, finished in Sage Green Metallic seemed to make the Forester all the more transparent. That said, high-end touches such as chrome door handles and aluminum roof rails added a touch of class to its appearance. It would take a pretty astute Subie fan to note we were driving a turbocharged Forester, as a hood scoop and dual exhaust pipes are the only exterior hints of the extra power. From outside, the hood scoop isn’t really noticeable, but from the driver’s seat it is extremely pronounced, and does no favors in forward visibility.

Subaru’s are traditionally known for purposeful, but somewhat austere cabins, so it was a little odd to climb into a a plush, fully-featured Forester. The seats were comfortable, but offered no lateral support. Apart from aluminum pedals and an interesting weave on the floor mats,  there isn’t much to differentiate the Subaru from any other small SUV. The gauges were crystal clear, and most controls were intuitive to use. However, the audio and navigation interface seem behind that of the competition, and it puzzled me to no end that I could not figure out how to manually move from one satellite radio station to the next. It shouldn’t have to be that hard, guys. Stranger still were the cupholders in the center console-they were squares. With my wife’s iced coffee moving around I was terrified to approach corners with any level of enthusiasm for fear of the cup flying out of its square. Awful design. Fix it. In its favor, the Forester boasts a roomy cabin, a comfy rear seat with copious leg room, and an impressive amount of cargo space. I did wonder how our test car’s light-grey leather interior would stand up to the wear, tear and abuse a typical family would exact on this car.

Subaru recently overhauled its engines for the Forester. True to form, Subaru continues to offer a boxer four cylinder, this time a 2.5L rated at 170hp. This engine can be teamed to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Our test car was equipped with the turbocharged 2.5L, good for 224hp, but the only transmission available is the four-speed automatic. While the tranny has no glaring issues in performance or execution, Subaru is down one or two cogs its competition offers. In other words, this transmission is an antique, and should have been updated when the engines were. Naturally, all Foresters have all-wheel drive. Our turbocharged Subaru offered plenty of pep around town, and hit highway ramps with authority. I’d have preferred a firmed up suspension and more steering feel to go along with the quickness, but again, I know Subaru is going for a broader market, and the 2.5XT was never meant as an Impreza WRX SUV. That said, the ride quality is about where it should be for a family friendly small SUV.

A base Forester will run you $20,495USD, but our test car was the top-spec 2.5XT Touring model. Standard features included HID headlights, panoramic power moonroof (it’s huge), dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth, power driver’s seat, leather heated seats and a rear vision camera. The only factory option was GPS navigation, which brought our as-delivered price to $32,320. The price may sound high for a Forester, but it actually falls right between a top-spec Honda CR-V which has less power, and a V-6 powered Toyota RAAV4 which is more powerful, so taking that into account, our test car seems priced right for its power and features.

But the question remains-did Subaru sell itself out in its quest for greater marketshare? Did they abandon the loyal buyers who have supported them for decades? The simple answer is no, they have not. All Foresters continue to have all-wheel drive as standard equipment. A boxer, horizontally opposed four cylinder resides under the hood, and Subaru continues to support turbocharging as they have since the early 1980’s. These are the basic ingredients that make a Subaru a Subaru, and in spite of more conventional styling, Subaru has remained true to what has defined them as a car company.

In sum, the Forester can sit comfortably with the best in its class. With an improved audio/navigation interface, a six-speed automatic and some workable cupholders, Subaru has the potential to keep the sales momentum of the Forester going strong.

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Subaru Holds Pricing for new Impreza

Subaru is introducing an all-new Impreza for 2012, and the good news is the base price remains the same as the outgoing 2011 model. A four door 2.0i with a 5-speed manual will start at $17,495USD. A new CVT equipped car will add an additional $1,000, while the same car in 5-door hatchback form will add another $500. Buyers can upgrade to Premium and Limited models in both body styles, while Sport Premium (available in 5-spd and CVT) and Sport Limited (CVT only) models are restricted to the five door topping out at $22,595. Options such as moonroof, alloy wheels, all-weather package and navigation can be bought separate or grouped together. Conspicuous by its absence is the availability of an Outback model.

The 2012 Impreza is endowed with an all-new 2.0L boxer four rated at 148hp, and as before, all Imprezas will be equipped with all wheel drive. EPA gas mileage is rated at 27/36 MPG when equipped with the CVT, and Subaru boasts this makes the Impreza the most fuel efficient all-wheel drive car in North America. Expect the new Impreza to hit the showroom floor this November. For enthusiasts hankering for the more powerful WRX and WRX STI versions, watch this space as we promise to keep you updated as soon as we get more details.

Crazy Leo can’t stay away from the dirt, even at Mosport

They call him Crazy Leo and he’s a fiend in a Subaru on loose surfaces. Crazy Leo drives rally cars. This weekend though, Crazy Leo traded in his gravel tires for slicks for his first ever road race in the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship at the legendary Mosport International Raceway.
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