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  1. #1
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    New-to-me-car: 2008 Impreza

    This being Seattle, "I replaced the old Subaru with a newer one" is about like saying "Of course I took out the recycling," except in frequency. Considered a fair range of cars, but the preferred characteristics of course don't all exist in one car:

    - Hatchback / wagon
    - Mileage like the Aptera, or barring that, the Prius
    - Doesn't need premium gas
    - Seats 4 if needed
    - Fun to drive (though driving is fun, to me, anyhow)
    - Smooth on the highway
    - ABS, all disk brakes preferred
    - regular-size wheels, not stylish big ones
    - All-wheel drive (must be acceptable in snow, and able to ascend the rocky, muddy, rutted road to the camp where I go to an annual family reunion)
    - Safe, at least considering the already chosen risk of leaving the house in a moving metal box
    - Small (for parking)
    - Big (for hauling)
    - Inconspicuous (draw no unwanted attention)
    - Personalized (provocative bumper stickers)
    - Stick shift (84 percent non-negotiable)
    - Reliable (to my mind, nearly synonymous with "Japanese")
    - Cheap ... or at least reasonable ... or at least not going to make me trade in one of my livers
    - Quality construction, so I can amortize over a nice long time
    - Has a sunroof, for the joy of driving with it open
    - Has no sunroof, for body/structure integrity
    - Black
    - White
    - Up
    - Down
    - Cheap, or free if possible

    I've been considering a new(er) car for a while, but had hoped to stretch out my current Outback (a '98, in declining health) for a while longer, but a blinking CHECK ENGINE light, a few expensive repairs, and a throaty, demonic voice muttering "GET OUT! GET OUT!" every time I drive it, all led me to increase the pace of my search. Two days ago, found a Craiglist ad for a hatchback that's decent on gas, is a stick w/ AWD, in black, and is the same car (except trim) that my sister-in-law drives, and this morning I bought it.

    It's a 2008 Subaru Impreza, "Sport" trim. (My old one has not turned me off to Subarus -- only to buying from shady private sellers who, it turns out, don't reveal previous accidents, remove --!!! -- the Check Engine indicator's bulb, etc.) So far, I've driven it only once (from the dealer in Bothell to Capital Hill), and have thus only been lost once. How does one get lost on a one-turn trip? If I knew, it wouldn't happen as often ...

    Hoping it's the start of many years of good transport -- it better be, since I now have roughly enough money left in the bank to buy one coffee (drip). I considered several much-older, much cheaper cars, and was tempted mightily, but I like having at least a year's worth of remaining factory warranty. Being able to get to places like Camano Island State Park (north of Seattle, and a beautiful place for casual camping) is a valuable thing. I also typically cross the country at least once a year, like to snowboard, have friends more than 60 miles away, etc, so a car powered by AA batteries was not in the cards, and though I like the idea of Biodiesel, a) Subaru's diesels are not yet available in the U.S., and b) I am anyhow uncertain of the availability of diesel fuel when driving relatively isolated places. In most of the world, that situation is probably reversed (based on reading Jim Roger's account of driving around the world by car -- http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Capi..._bxgy_b_text_b , though his earlier trip by motorcycle -- http://www.amazon.com/Investment-Bik.../dp/0812968719 -- used a gasoline engine).

    The whole transaction took less than an hour, from getting there, filling out forms, nodding a lot, to driving away fairly happy. Was in a hurry; a coworker agreed to fill in for me for an hour or so, and I didn't want to abuse that courtesy. Ideally, I would have spent a lot more time poking through more dealerships, and perhaps a more thorough investigation of this car itself, but ... real life got in the way, and I am optimistic about it. The price also seems right -- and I'm more willing to gamble that this reflects some undisclosed flaw, since it <em>is</em> under the factory warranty for 20,000 more miles. This is also the car that I rather hope my mom decides one day to get (in automatic transmission form -- she has given up manuals). I hope that manual transmissions hang on enough years longer, and AWD spreads to ever more model lines, that the convergence will be greater. But the obvious, and fairly affordable, choice for someone who wants both has been Subaru for a while. (Any contradiction to this? I'd like to be wrong -- sort of.)

    Btw: the runner up car (this has been a long narrowing-down process of researching and watching ads -- mostly on Craigslist) is the Toyota Matrix. Unfortunately, you can have either AWD *or* a stickshift in the Matrix (or the basically identical Pontiac Vibe), but you can't have both at the same time. Otherwise, I'd probably already have one of these -- they get better mileage, on paper at least, than does the Impreza. My sis-in-law, however, consistently outperforms the sticker's highway mpg, and I hope to as well.

    So there's my story of the day.

    timothy

    p.s. And it's slated to cross the country in early August, will probably be loaded with a fair selection of the T.B. line
    Last edited by timothy; 04-23-2009 at 11:53 PM. Reason: added links to Rogers' books -- not affiliate links, note, just handy to Amazon for the reviews.

  2. #2
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    Demonic whisperings make you give up the car? Sissy.

    Everyone who I know who has a Subie loves it dearly. I have been debating between a Forrester and a good ol' Jeep myself. My good friend is a bird watcher, and has punished his Forrester going back and forth across trails and passes... like a loyal dog, it just keeps begging for more.

    I had a Matrix for a few years. I think you made the right choice. The Matrix is ideal if you never set foot outside the city/suburbs. Like my ID and my Brain Bag, it also seemed to hold more things than are physically possible in this reality. But I don't see it as the camping vehicle!
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  3. #3
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    That was the heart of it ...

    "The Matrix is ideal if you never set foot outside the city/suburbs. Like my ID and my Brain Bag, it also seemed to hold more things than are physically possible in this reality."

    Yep -- if I had it only as a true and literal "city car" (and even for a "cities and highways and mild suburbia"), I'd probably ditch the demand for AWD. I won't plan for the *very* worst case scenario (Mad Max, dogs and cats living together, etc), but occasionally scary mountain roads, and icy highways where there's no easy place to pull off, are part of the fabric of my driving life.

    I've moved cross-country a few times -- and a few more besides, if you count Texas <--> East Coast as sufficient "cross country" -- always with either a Suburban (when my father was co-driver) or a wagon / hatchback (when it was just me). You learn the exact number of ping-pong balls that will fit in a given car well enough The Matrix (and the Honda Fit, for that matter, and more obviously the squarish Scions) hold stuff, and more stuff, and more stuff. So does the Outback: I know exactly how many blue-topped plastic bins I can fit in there ... since I don't currently intend to leave the PacNoWest (barring the imposition of a state income tax, which might push me to TN or TX), I have decided to care less about maximum load capacity.

    Perhaps the most impossible, amazing, yawning chasm of a cargo area was my Saab 900. I did its suspensions no favors (perhaps compliments, though) with all the stuff I crammed into that magic hatch. I wish that company was doing better; perhaps someone (I hope) will buy the marque, and issue (ala the New Beetle) a 900 for the 21st century, with the same perfect shape, but all-wheel-drive, and generally made into even more of a low-flying aircraft. (See relatedly: http://slashdot.org/~timothy/journal/227441)

    timothy
    Last edited by timothy; 04-23-2009 at 07:41 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicTiki View Post
    Demonic whisperings make you give up the car? Sissy.

    Everyone who I know who has a Subie loves it dearly. I have been debating between a Forrester and a good ol' Jeep myself. My good friend is a bird watcher, and has punished his Forrester going back and forth across trails and passes... like a loyal dog, it just keeps begging for more.

    I had a Matrix for a few years. I think you made the right choice. The Matrix is ideal if you never set foot outside the city/suburbs. Like my ID and my Brain Bag, it also seemed to hold more things than are physically possible in this reality. But I don't see it as the camping vehicle!
    My head turns with interest at a few odd cars like a Honda Element, but I think I'm addicted to Subaru from now on. My 2006 Forrester is fun to drive and the perfect size for carrying stuff without being overly large. The new redesign of the Forrester is much nicer on the inside but the increased size was a bit disappointing to me. I haven't test driven it yet but my guess is that it can't handle nearly as well as my 2006 just based on height and width. I'm sure it's good enough but I do like how nimble my "small" Forrester drives.

    The one thing that drives me nuts is how little I get benefits from the AWD. Around here it's flat and the worst weather we get is flash floods from heavy rain. AWD can't really help with that. I find myself envious when I fly to places like Maine or Seattle and I see all the Subie drivers who are driving their vehicles in the snow.

  5. #5
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    Pretzelb:

    You know, the Element was a dark horse candidate for me: I leaned against mostly based on mpg. I really like their configurability, the actual look of them (in colors other than infection orange), etc. Now, I saw a few for sale for about $5k less than I just paid for the Impreza (and it's one of the few other options that's available in an AWD stick-shift variety), and it would take an awful lot of fill-ups to make up that difference in mpg alone, but ... well, went w/ the Impreza, and a jaunt last night along I-5 was salutory

    And down to earth: the AWD, low center of gravity, etc, are nice and helpful, but nature throws loops, and no car is *actually* magic -- my Outback, to my mortification (but in the interest of full disclosure, I disclose) has slid off the road after hitting some black ice in Colorado, and slipped spookily on Seattle's slick, snow-laden, unsalted streets (December last). However, I think it did better than most other cars would have done (under my direction at least) in the same circumstances. In other words, I like all the help I can get

    (If I had kids, I might give up the punch and slightly better mpg of the Impreza for an Outback, for some extra room and more security. Compared to any car *I've* driven, though -- not a huge number -- the Impreza has kick that makes me wonder whether I'd ever want to press the pedal in one of the 300HP tricked-out ones at all.)

    timothy

  6. #6
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    I'm reading all of this with much interest - I currently have an Impreza and think I'm going to move to a Forester (need the ground clearance) next. Good thread!
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  7. #7
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    We have a used Forrester that we bought from somebody who wanted to upgrade to an Impressa.

    It looked new when we bought it, we paid for a VIN car report and everything was ok, so we got it.

    We had wanted a Subaru Forrester the day it came out but it took some years and a cross-country move for us to get one.

    We sold the previous car on the other coast and used some of the money for the new one.

  8. #8
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Do you like your Forester, backpack?
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  9. #9
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    i've been driving a 2008 subaru outback and just love it! this is my first and only subaru, and i can't say enough good things about it. it drives wonderfully. it has lots of room in the back for stuff. when i first got it, i felt the passenger compartment was a bit cramped - but that was because the car i was driving before it was a 1990 mercedes 560sel. but i'm quite comfortable with the space inside now.

    i was looking for a wagon and considered many options. looking at toyota, honda, saab, volvo, vw, audi, and bmw, subaru was the clear pick. it beats out the competition in safety, reliability and price.

    one thing i didn't understand is why they only offered the ipod kit for the impreza in 2008. i believe that it is an available option for all subarus now.

    while we haven't gotten much winter weather here the last two years, i remember being in my friend's outback some years back. this is actually what first got me to thinking about a subaru. my neighborhood was iced over and i couldn't get out of my street even though outside streets were clear. my friend came in with the subaru without any problems, picked me up, and took me to work.

    i've had no problems with mine, but i only have about 30k miles on it. i plan to drive it for many more. will i get another subaru?

    i'd really like something electric. let's see what the options are in another 5-6 years.

  10. #10
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    i'd really like something electric. let's see what the options are in another 5-6 years.
    Well, there were rumblings about a diesel/electric hybrid boxer from Subaru a few years ago. I'm still hoping it will happen.
    ID (Black/Steel/Wasabi) w/ Q-AM strap,Large Cafe Bag (Olive/Wasabi), Small Cafe Bag (Olive, Cayenne. It may be a gift!) Clear Quarter Cube (my version of the snake charmer), an Olive clear organizer wallet, and a slew of strapeez.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by nikonnut View Post
    Well, there were rumblings about a diesel/electric hybrid boxer from Subaru a few years ago. I'm still hoping it will happen.
    yes, i do recall hearing about that. though, something purely electric would be very cool!

  12. #12
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    If wishes were horses ... a diesel would have been great, if it got the impressive mileage of many other diesel cars. My sister's fiance has a VW (tdi?) that gets something like 55mpg.

    Re: the passenger compartment of an Outback seeming "cramped" -- wow! I guess that was a spacious Merc! I've driven several thousand miles in old Suburbans (circa early '70s vintage to perhaps mid '80s), and there the space was plentiful but IMO ill-used. The interior of my Outback reminded me more of ads I drooled over as a kid for how "civilized" everything was inside the front seat of a Jaguar / Mercedes / etc. The Impreza is much more Spartan -- which is fine, as far as it goes. It's not *bad* by any means, but (as my friend Beth, who was briefly a passenger in the Impreza today) said "there's no cloth!" (on the door panel area), and I had to concede this point, which is also made by many of the car's reviewers. However, she did not wipe the grin off my face when I accelerated a bit more than strictly necessary in the lower gears

    Now that the Impreza's in hand, trying to be as objective as possible, I think the true 2d place car may have been not the Matrix, but rather another Outback. A friend of mine has a 2007 or 2008 Outback (which, sadly, requires premium gas), and the 10 years between hers and mine have made a big difference -- very plush-feeling, but she uses it for driving to the mountains / desert / the corners of the Earth, and it handles this well. I looked at one Outback, but I decided against gambling with another car with the Check Engine light on; that light* marked the start of a long and expensive voyage of discovery with mine ... but, surprising myself, I was tempted by it: the interior updates since 1998 address some of my complaints wrt ergonomics etc, and the seats are far more comfortable. The Impreza as well as the Outback, in their current forms, no longer put a drink holder in a spot that blocks operation of the radio / climate control. Cupholder location may seem a petty thing to complain about, but a) since much of my driving is fairly long distance, I really like to have a handy spot for a cold drink and b) though this would not happen in a Subaru, note that spilling Coke into one's key slot (look at where the key is in a Saab 900 and imagine how this might happen) can lead to a very, very expensive repair in the town of Ruston, Louisiana. Which is not a hotbed of Saab parts suppliers. I had to rely on a competent but shade-tree mechanic; parts had to be ordered -- by bus (?!) -- from Shreveport or Houston; I left my car until I could return two weeks later. The whole experience was ... sub-optimal. It helped turn my mind to Japanese cars, though.

    timothy

    * Actually, its absence. I believe, with evidence, that the fellow who sold it to me removed that bulb. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

  13. #13
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    Darcy: Foresters are nice, but the few mpg deficit really bugged me. Some weeks I don't drive at all, but when I do it's often for a long distances. Rather than an Impreza, a Forester might also be the right car for my mom (in ice-prone Pennsylvania). At that fuel consumption, I'd probably choose the Element (in AWD) for its flexibility, but I might trust the Forester more for safety.

    But as I wrote in a different response, I would probably also have been pleased with a (newer-than-mine, or even the same age and well-cared-for) Outback. I've put 100,000 miles on mine, near enough, over the past 5.4 years (which includes three years during which I didn't drive much, for me ), and is a great car for crossing the country, etc. One of my favorite things: great visibility. I'm a fan of wagons (is your Impreza a wagon / hatchback, or a sedan?) because when you look back and see the glass, you know right where the end of the car is. I have never owned a sedan, partly for this reason. Of the small sample I have to draw on (Volvo 240 wagon, Ford Escort wagon -- made by Mazda, Saab 900, Subaru Outback, Impreza), the Outback was surpassed in all-around visibility for the driver only by the Saab.

    I am tempted constantly to try to get in as a caller on Car Talk and ask if I could get the body and turning componentry of a Saab mated with Japanese "organs" for all other functions

    timothy

  14. #14
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timothy View Post
    Darcy: Foresters are nice, but the few mpg deficit really bugged me. Some weeks I don't drive at all, but when I do it's often for a long distances. Rather than an Impreza, a Forester might also be the right car for my mom (in ice-prone Pennsylvania). At that fuel consumption, I'd probably choose the Element (in AWD) for its flexibility, but I might trust the Forester more for safety.
    It bugs me too, but I'm not sure if there is a better car out there that A) has the ground clearance of the Forester, which I need for getting to trailheads and B) can fit large dogs AND other people. The Element is pretty low to the ground. Regardless, it's still a ways off before I consider a new car - maybe there will be some new developments between now and then.
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  15. #15
    keb
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    My first car bought myself was an Outback, loved it... Until it wasn't big enough for three car seats across. Now I have an AWD Toyota Sienna and justify the low MPG by my short drive to work and filling the car on weekends with other people's kids as well as my own... All the kids love my car b/c we have Spongebob on the DVD player all the time and the doors slide automatically. All the parents (including my wife) make fun of the fact that I love my minivan so much that I just got a new one. No sports cars for me...

    Otherwise, I tell every parent of driving age kids that their first car, if they can afford it, should be a Subaru of some kind... Run forever, AWD, safe, not too flashy but not too parental... Here in PA love the Outback or the Forester...
    Western Flyer (Crimson); 4Z Brain Cell; Swift (wife); Empire Builder (Black/Steel/Wasabi); Aeronaut (Black/Steel); Side Effect (Black), 3D Cube (Olive); lots of cubes/pouches/kit; Synapse (Navy/Solar); Smart Alec (Cardinal/Steel)

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