Posts from ‘Subaru’
Also check out Tom Appel’s “Senior-Year Lust: The 5 Coolest Vehicles of 1983,” Ed Piotrowski’s “Senior-Year Lust: The 5 Coolest Vehicles of 1998,” and Rick Cotta’s “Senior-Year Lust: The 5 Coolest Vehicles of…1974.”
In my senior year of high school, the auto industry was finally pulling out of the 1990s and moving away from all of the jellybean car designs produced during that period of time (*COUGH* FORD ASPIRE *COUGH*). While many other desirable cars were available, these were my favorites from my graduation year of 2002. Though I had to settle for driving Mom and Dad’s Volvo 240 sedan and station wagon (vehicles I learned to love and still do), these were the ones I lusted after. I put pictures of them on my bedroom wall and on the inside of my locker door at school to show the world that I was a car enthusiast, and had damn good taste in vehicles.
Subaru is using the 2013 New York Auto Show to show off two vehicles that represent what officials call the “two sides of the brand.” One side is geared toward environment friendliness, the other toward high performance.
On the former front, observe the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid. The conventional XV Crosstrek launched for the 2013 model year. Essentially a Subaru Impreza Wagon with a raised suspension, the vehicle is similar in concept, but obviously smaller than, the company’s Outback station wagon.
The Hybrid looks almost identical to its all-gas-powered sibling. It shares the gas model’s lofty 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive. It has less than one cubic foot less passenger room and only about 1.5 cubic feet less cargo space. Both vehicles will use a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed “Boxer” 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Take these aspects out of the equation, and the Hybrid is actually quite different from the standard model. Engineers reworked the chassis to accommodate the hybrid system’s extra weight. As for that system, a 13.5-kilowatt nickel-metal hydride battery powers a 13-horsepower electric motor. This is smaller than other battery/electric systems. As such, this vehicle will run solely on electric power only in very specific circumstances.
Every fall, our staff convenes in a room to duke it out over the year’s Best Buy choices. As might be expected, we don’t always agree. Okay, actually we rarely agree. Our consensus is always that the winners are great vehicles in their respective classes, even though some may think they’re not the best vehicles in their respective classes.
Making the decisions even tougher is that many vehicles don’t fit neatly into one of our 19 different categories. While “crossovers” are typically thought of as bridging the gap between cars and SUVs, there are numerous examples of vehicles that slot between two classes. Almost by definition, that means they may not excel in what we consider to be their class’s expected attributes, and thus they fall under the “also rans.”
To me, at least, that seems unfair. So I’ve assembled a group of cars that are fully worthy of consideration even though they haven’t been voted Best Buys. Note that all the vehicles on this list are cars (another list is forthcoming that will include SUVs), and all start at less than $20,000.
Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I will not suggest that the cars here are the ugliest vehicles that retailed during the period being discussed, but they are certainly worthy of some serious design scorn. To me, ugly cars usually suffer from an overabundance of design elements—really, the visual equivalent of mixed metaphors. But most importantly, I just think the five cars here are nasty-looking. I realize that I am in the minority on the Celica, but I suspect that I have the people’s support when it comes to dissing the Taurus. Got your own list of ill-favored rides? Let’s hear it.
1996-1999 Ford Taurus
This sorry redesign (pictured above) marked the beginning of the Taurus’s slow decent into rental-darling hell. How Ford let the Taurus go from making car-design history to looking like an asthmatic catfish is beyond me, but buyers stayed away from these midsize sedans and wagons in droves. A deeply discounted (and deeply decontented) Model G variant was added midway through the ’96 model year, but as it turned out, making map pockets optional wasn’t effective tonic for cringe-worthy styling.
We here at Consumer Guide take great pride in our annual Best Buy award process. Every year, we lock ourselves in a conference room and don’t come out until we have a list of vehicles that we think best represent their respective classes. Well, a few of us might come out for a bathroom break, maybe to get a glass of water, but no matter.
This time, I’m going to take a swing at giving out my own awards. They’ll encompass a variety of “categories,” mostly good, some not so much. It’ll be somewhat tongue in cheek, but the thought and decision-making process is quite serious. The only criteria is that I must have driven these vehicles some time during calendar 2012. In somewhat legal gobbledygook, the opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Consumer Guide Automotive, its parent company, blah-dee-blah.
There are no trophies here. If you’re an automaker who would like your “EdWard” in physical form, feel free to search online for a fill-in-the-blank participation certificate and print it out. Now on with the show.
Also check out Tom’s 5 Ugly Vehicles, Part 1: 1995-2004.
One sure way to load your inbox with nasty emails is to publish a list of ugly cars. I caught the most flack for selecting the Toyota Celica as one of five nasty-looking rides for my 1995-2004 list. Please be sure to check that out.
Here, I step backwards a decade to the era of sharply creased edges and faux aerodynamics. Normally, I wouldn’t drag exotic or limited-production vehicles into something like this, but there’s one pricey ride from the early to mid-’80s that really stands out as aesthetically challenged.
Note: I am aware that some of these rides don’t fit all that neatly into the 1985-1994 envelope, yet, when I look back, that’s when I best picture them.
Got your own list of eyesores from this era? Let’s hear ’em.
Aston Martin Lagonda
Sometimes I love this car; usually, though, I just hate it. Credit Aston Martin for taking a chance on something daring. Auction prices would suggest that this strange door-stop design has not warmed the cockles of car collectors, which means that if you want to buy a really ugly, more-or-less exotic used car, you can do so on the cheap. Be aware, however, that the car’s infamous electronic instrument panel—replaced in later models with a more conventional setup—is impossible to keep working.
Perhaps failures is too strong a word. But these are all vehicles that impressed me mightily when new yet suffered lackluster sales and were discontinued without being replaced by a similar model. For sake of brevity, the list includes only models that disappeared within the last decade. A couple are now fairly inexpensive used cars, while others have achieved cult or collector status and unfortunately remain out of easy financial reach. Did I miss your favorite?
1997-2002 Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler
This was certainly one of the most distinctive and adventurous vehicles to ever come out of the Big Three. As such, the Prowler is among the few cars in recent memory that was a classic right off the showroom floor. While everyone bemoaned the fact that it didn’t have a traditional hot rod’s V8 or manual transmission, the V6/automatic combination worked well enough for everyday driving, as did the car itself—which was almost a surprise considering its radical design.
Below are the test drive notes of Consumer Guide Automotive Editor Ed Piotrowski. Also check out Consumer Guide Automotive’s complete review of the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek.
Acceleration: Fairly modest, all things considered. Engine needs fairly high revs to produce power beyond adequate. CVT has an issue: It won’t immediately shift out of reverse and into drive.
Fuel Economy: An excellent 27.99 mpg over 231 miles, 65% highway.
Ride: A 6-minus, 5-plus [out of 10] in my estimation. Probably a combination of the tires and body structure makes the Crosstrek not feel as solid as it should be. Not as bad as an Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, but nowhere near as slick as a Mazda CX-5.
Steering/Handling: Steering is a bit heavy at low speeds, but has great road feel once you’re moving. Solid grip and little body lean make this a capable handler.
Quietness: The engine has that unique boxer sound, and you hear just about all of it when accelerating. The CVT doesn’t help here. Not much road or wind noise, though.
Subaru continues to be a hot commodity among shoppers. Much of that success comes from the popularity of its compact Forester SUV. In an effort to keep that momentum going, the company unveiled a redesigned model at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The 2014 Subaru Forester features updated styling, increased passenger and cargo room, and a new top-line engine. Like most Subarus, the 2014 Forester comes standard with the brand’s Symmetrical all-wheel drive. It will have better off-road chops than most of its rivals due to a tall 8.7 inches of ground clearance.
Forester wouldn’t be a Subaru if it didn’t have a horizontally opposed “boxer” engine. The standard motor carries over from the 2013 model, a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. It pairs with a new 6-speed manual transmission (which replaces the previous 5-speed) or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that behaves like an automatic. Subaru is projecting this engine to achieve 24 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway. Models equipped with this engine are called 2.5i. They are subdivided into Base, Premium, Limited, and Touring editions.