Everyone loves Subarus
For the second year in a row, Subaru has won Kelley Blue Book’s Best Overall Brand Award. They also repeated in winning Most Trusted Brand and Best Performance Brand this year, indicating strong consumer confidence and brand loyalty. And they have the sales numbers to match.
For a number of reasons, auto industry sales seem to be gradually leveling off in the US. Subaru, however, has been setting records for nearly a decade. Improbably, the small independent automaker has more than tripled its sales figures since 2008. In part, the surge is owed to the emergence of the outdoor lifestyle into the American mainstream. Subaru’s legendary all-wheel-drive system comes standard in all of its models (except for the BRZ) and has made Subaru the unofficial brand of adventure types for a while now. Mostly, though, they’re just good cars. They are affordable, reliable, and do everything you expect of them. Practical is the word.
Long gone are the days when Subarus were driven only by chemistry professors and roller derby jammers. Everyone is jumping on the ‘baru bandwagon, which, incidentally, has all-wheel drive and plenty of room for you to join. Take a look at the lineup that keeps Subaru winning awards, and try one out for yourself.
First released in 2013, the BRZ was developed in collaboration with Toyota, who offers their own less-desirable version, the FT-86 (formerly the Scion FRS in the US). Notably, the BRZ is Subaru’s only model without all-wheel drive — this affordable, lightweight sportscar relies purely on its rear wheels to get going. For 2017, the 2.0L flat-four gets a power boost from 200 hp to… 205 hp. So stock examples are not setting any quarter mile records, but thanks to exceptional balance and handling, the BRZ can get sideways without much prodding. In fact, ask any BRZ owner about its smile-factor, and they’ll confirm that wide grins are to be had behind the wheel of this playful puppy.
Subaru is an unusual company in more ways than one. One such way is the amount of wagons, or five-doors, it sells compared to sedans. Buyers snatch up the Impreza at a rate of 30 percent sedans to 70 percent five-doors. The obvious advantage of the hatchback Impreza is the added space — a necessity for toting around bouldering crash pads or groups of many dogs, as Subaru owners are wont to do. As for looks, that comes down to taste, but it is telling that the practicality of the hatchback seems to be the chiefest concern for Subaru drivers. All versions come with Subaru’s go-to 2.0L boxer engine, which is efficient and adequately powerful, as you’d expect.
The rally-inspired WRX is an Impreza after a full cycle of testosterone injections. With a hood scoop, flared fenders, and a turbocharged boxer engine, the WRX offers a fun and affordable package that appeals to the kid in everyone. The current generation, only offered as a sedan, puts its 268 horses to the ground through a standard six-speed manual transmission, to all four wheels, of course. The WRX’s five seats, all-weather capability, and exciting driving experience have made it an enthusiast favorite for years.
For drivers really looking to take advantage of Subaru’s rally pedigree, the Impreza WRX can harden even further into the STI. The STI is a true polymath and a famously capable sportscar, offering things like “comfort” and “space”, while upping the power figure to 305 snorting ponies. As it is driver-focused, the STI wears beefy Brembo brakes with yellow calipers, and is only available with three pedals and a stick in the middle. Damn right. The STI offers a neck-snapping, sweaty-palm driving experience in a package with almost no compromise. This generation comes only as a sedan, and there’s still no sign of a return to hatchback form, but a man can dream.
For the crowded midsize sedan segment, Subaru offers the Legacy: a spacious, comfortable, efficient automobile with all-wheel drive. If the Legacy had a name, it would be Gary. Gary is handsome, reliable, and can handle some nasty weather, but otherwise blends into his surroundings and talks too much about work. Though it only comes with an automatic transmission, there’s an optional 256-hp flat-six, and a touch more luxury inside. Kudos, Gary.
You may have seen the Outback, well, anywhere and everywhere. Subaru’s best-selling model is in its element whether it’s shuttling kids to soccer practice or hauling ski bums around the Colorado Rockies. The Outback is efficient (28 combined mpg) compared to similarly reasonably-priced all-wheel-drive crossovers, and is a no-brainer for your next road trip. There’s a reason so many people buy Outbacks and enjoy them — it’s just great at what it does, which is a lot of things.
The Crosstrek, which made its debut for the 2012 model year, is essentially a lifted Impreza. At 148 hp, the Crosstrek is not in a hurry to get anywhere, though it can go almost anywhere you want it to. Rather predictably, there is a spacious interior and great visibility. So, another all-wheel-drive crossover hatchback from Subaru? Yeah, but this one has almost nine inches of ground clearance, and is probably the most outdoors-focused model in the Subaru roster. Plus, consumers have given Subaru no reason to stray from their tried-and-true formula of five-door, winter-agnostic, rugged citadels of reasonableness.
Can you guess what shape of car the Forester is? Yes, it’s another Subaru with the same 2.0L boxer, the same practicality, and the same crossover-ness. The Forester is virtually unchanged since it debuted 20 years ago, except today it is larger and has five whole horsepower more! But Foresters are flying off the shelves, err, floors, in record numbers. In 2016, Subaru sold nearly 200,000 in North America alone. Its best trick is a little feature called X-Mode that re-configures the drivetrain to increase traction and escape mud and slush traps. Until the Ascent goes on sale next year, the lovable Forester is the largest Subaru in the lineup.