Car Review Time!

Hi there, everyone! It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve posted. School and a new job (exciting, I know!) got in the way. All of my apologies being said and done, it’s time for a new post! I’ve been in the market for a new car for a while, but it was only recently that I started test-driving. I will be posting my reviews of the cars I test drive here…stay tuned! And of course, I’ll tell you what I end up buying (lips are sealed until then). Until then, here’s my reviews of a 2015 Subaru Forester and a 2014 Subaru Outback.

2015 Subaru Forester: The Subaru Forester is a staple for many Americans. It’s a very capable compact SUV in a lot of areas. It’s got a lot of room for whatever you might want to put in the back. I could easily take a couple of friends camping without having to fold the rear seats down. Fold the rear seats down, and you could sleep in the back! If the trunk does get dirty, it’s easily cleanable. Visibility is amazing, thanks to large, airy windows that give the impression of the interior being much larger than it is. That feature is great for taller people like me. The only downside to so many large windows is that it takes a while to heat up or cool down. If you’re tall, you’ll find decent, but not great leg space in the rear seats. You can fit, but you won’t be as comfortable as you would be in the larger, longer Outback. In the driver’s seat, you’ll find comfortable seats for people of most shapes and sizes. The seating position is excellent. You sit high up, and have a commanding view of the road. The mirrors are large, and you are always aware of where the vehicle is on the road. The model I drove wasn’t fully loaded, but it wasn’t unnecessarily loud. It was fairly quiet, but it could certainly do with more sound insulation. There aren’t many buttons to fiddle with, and there weren’t a ton of options. The interior is somewhat bare-bones. To fix that, you have to step up to the loaded model. Now, let’s move onto how it drives.

The Forester is decently quick. Be careful when you’re leaving a stop though, as the throttle tip-in is very aggressive. You’ll scoot across an intersection in no time. One benefit to this is if you’re trying to pass somebody at any speed. The engine can get a little buzzy at higher RPMs, but you never really need to floor it. It’s got more than enough power for everyday driving, and if you want more, Subaru offers a turbocharged engine. The AWD system is great just about everywhere. It turns on a dime. On the test drive, I was able to pull a U-turn on a 2-lane road. Obviously, this is a massive benefit for parking lots, large cities, and off-road. The Forester’s short wheelbase also helps with this. Subaru has been utilizing continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) for several years now, and while I’m not a huge CVT fan, the Forester’s CVT is one of the best on the market. If you’re coming from a car with a conventional automatic transmission, or a manual transmission, it will take a while to get used to no shifting. If you want to have more control over the transmission, the “Sport” mode for the CVT mimics a 6-speed automatic. Is it like an actual automatic transmission? No, but it does a good job of trying!

The Forester has light, communicative steering. You can feel the road surfaces, but you won’t be fighting for control of the car if you hit a large pothole or go over a speedbump. It has great suspension tuning. However, a downside to cars with short wheelbases is that they can feel busy on bumpy roads or on the freeway. It’s not a bad thing, but you do have to make constant, small adjustments to keep the car going straight. It has strong brakes, and the brake pedal feels firm. You have a lot of confidence when you’re braking. It’s got a nice engine note. It’s not that classic Subaru rumble, but it doesn’t sound terrible either.

While I wasn’t able to take the Forester off-road, there are many owners who have. The short wheelbase and AWD means that the Forester is able to go through mud, snow, down a rutted dirt road, through sand, and over most obstacles with ease. It instills a sense of confidence in the driver, especially if it has all-terrain tires. It should only seem obvious why active people flock to the Forester. It’s got plenty of space, is capable off-road, fun on the road, gets decent fuel economy (I averaged about 26 mpg on the test drive), and is easy and affordable to maintain. Plus, it’s safe (5-star NHTSA overall crash test rating)! I would highly recommend the Forester for: young families, active people, people who need a compact SUV, and those who want reliability and safety. A new Forester will start off anywhere between $22,000-$33,000. That’s before options, of course. But, that’s exactly what all of it’s competitors cost. A used Forester (let’s say 2014 and up) will cost about $20,000 or so. That’s not a bad deal, and you get a whole lot of car for the money. Image result for subaru forester

This is a 2018 Forester (image from the Subaru website, all credit given to their talented photographer). This might be my favorite color for the Forester. What’s yours?

2014 Subaru Outback: Essentially a longer Forester, the Outback is also a staple for many Americans. The 2014 Outback I drove was great. I loved it. You don’t sit as high up as you do in a Forester, but you still have a great view of the road. It’s a bit slower than the Forester, but it has enough get up and go for something it’s size. Neither the Outback nor the Forester are sports cars, no matter how hard they try. But hey, trying hard isn’t a bad thing! Subaru really makes some fun cars to drive! The Outback isn’t as sporty as the Forester, but it’s not what Subaru’s engineers designed it to do. It’s not boring by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not enjoyable in the way that the Forester is. But I’ll get to that later, OK?

Inside the Outback, it’s not nearly as airy as the Forester, but that’s OK. There’s a whole lot more room, especially in the backseat. The interior feels more high-quality as well, despite being the same materials. The seats are even more comfortable, which is an added bonus for long road trips. The backseat has much more space than the Forester. I was able to sit behind my seating position, and have plenty of space. The Outback is much more of a family car than the Forester. The whole interior is much more user-friendly for kids (and adults). Plus, there’s more bells and whistles than the Forester (even in the base model Outback I drove). The trunk is gigantic (the Outback is basically a station wagon branded as an SUV). I could easily fit two bicycles into the trunk without having to fold the rear seat down. Plus, if I wanted to put something onto the roof rack of the Outback, it’s a significantly lower car than the Forester. I wouldn’t have to lift a kayak or mountain bike above my head to put it up, unlike the Forester. The Outback is like a library inside. Even when I floored it and went on a rough road, it was very peaceful inside.

Now, how does the Outback ride and drive? Quite well, if I do say so myself. It’s not as busy of a ride as the Forester is, primarily due to it having a much longer wheelbase. As I previously mentioned, the Outback rides much better than the Forester. It’s smooth and quiet. It’s not as quick as the Forester, but it’s got pep aplenty. It’s still got aggressive throttle tip-in, but it doesn’t rocket off the line like the Forester. It isn’t as fuel-efficient as the Forester, but you don’t buy a Subaru for fuel economy. I averaged about 22 mpg on my test drive, but it’s not unheard of for owners to get anywhere from 18-24 mpg. The Outback doesn’t turn quite as well as the Forester (again, long wheelbase), but it still turns well for how long it is. Thank the AWD for pivoting the car around. The steering feels similar to the Forester’s. For all essential purposes, the Outback rides and drives like a more refined Forester.

Just like with the Forester, the Outback’s AWD is a wonderful feature. Because the Outback is much longer than the Forester, it’s not as good off-road, but it’s still quite capable. There are a few local vineyards that traded in their trucks for Outbacks because the Outbacks are more comfortable, fuel efficient, and just as capable off-road. If you go camping, kayaking, mountain biking, or have an active lifestyle, the Outback is the way to go. The tradeoff in fuel economy for the added space, the better ride and drive, and cushy seats is well worth it. The salesman told me that the Outback was designed for dirt roads, sand, mud, and snow. It’ll follow a Jeep everywhere but rock crawling. Just like the Forester, the Outback is incredibly safe. Think of it as a larger, nicer Forester. Of course, there’s some downsides to a larger vehicle built on the same platform. You’ll get worse miles per gallon, if you go off-roading, you won’t be able to go as far, and how often will you be using all that space?

Image result for 2014 subaru outback

This is, for all essential purposes, the Outback that I test drove.

If I had to choose one of the two, which one would I pick? That’s a hard question, but for me, I would have to go with the Outback. Even though it gets worse miles per gallon, and I probably won’t use all the space it has to offer sometimes, and let’s be honest here: how often am I going to go off-roading? The Outback rides and drives better than the Forester, is much more comfortable, and is an all-around better fit for me than the Forester.

Stay tuned for future car reviews! I’m glad to be back and writing!

What You Should Fill Your Two Car Garage With

If you had such strong brand loyalty that you had to fill your two-car garage, what car combinations would they be? Here are mine. Tell me what you would fill your garage with!

  • BMW i8 and X5 M: For the moment, the closest thing to a spaceship you’ll get is the BMW i8. It has liberal use of carbon fiber, and it’s fast enough for most of us mortals. The X5 M is fast, luxurious, comfortable, and can haul a lot of people or random things you get. The funny thing is that the i8 gets better fuel economy than the X5 M, and the X5 M is almost as fast as the i8. Sounds like a good combination to me!
  • Cadillac CTS-V and Escalade: Cadillac aimed for the throat when they introduced  the CTS-V in 2004. That hasn’t changed one bit, and we should be grateful. The CTS-V uses a barely-detuned version of the Corvette Z06’s LT4 motor. If you need to haul a bunch of people in the lap of luxury, go for the Escalade. The Escalade radically changed the SUV game in 1999. This might be even better than the BMW combination.
  • Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Colorado Z71: The Corvette Z06 is the automotive equivalent of a fighter jet that an inexperienced pilot can dogfight in. The Z06 will hold it’s own against a flat-out racecar on a track, but you can daily drive it. However, you’d be better off daily driving the Colorado Z71. Get the Colorado with the Duramax diesel engine, and you’ll get great fuel economy and have more fun than with a gasoline-powered Colorado in the process.
  • Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and F-150: You’ll get the utmost in performance with the Mustang Shelby GT350. Road & Track named it their Performance Car of the Year. I can’t say the 2017 F-150 SVT Raptor is the perfect garage-mate for it because it hasn’t come out yet. You’ll have to make do with the F-150, which is a great truck in it’s own right. Plus, good luck carrying anything bigger than a shopping bag or briefcase in your Mustang.
  • Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Grand Cherokee SRT-8: Few unmodified cars can do as well off-road as a Jeep. However, when you build one towards the heavens to explore places few others have been, they tend to be horrific on the street. See, the solution to that is to have a Grand Cherokee SRT-8 for actual streets. If you’re only going to drive a Jeep on the streets, it might as well have 475 horsepower…
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and E63 AMG wagon: Mercedes has a giant killer on their hands with the spectacular AMG GT. We shall see if it will topple the giant that is the Porsche 911. Either way, the AMG GT is a fantastic driver’s car. In fact, Motor Trend named it their Best Driver’s Car. If you need more utility than a two-seat supercar can offer you, but still want to go fast, get the E63 AMG wagon. It’s slower than the AMG GT, but you can take the whole family with you.
  • Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Macan Turbo: Unless you go out and buy a legitimate race car, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS is the closest you’ll get. It’s street legal, so you can drive it to the track. It won’t be at all fun with potholes, speedbumps, and road imperfections, so fill out your garage with a Macan Turbo. If you squint hard enough, you could convince yourself it’s just a hatchback with really big wheels.
  • Tesla Model S P90D and Model X P90D: I’m sure that most of us would love to own a Tesla. The Model S was a groundbreaking car. The Model X is pretty damn cool as well. I’m still holding out for the Model 3, and would love to see a Tesla Roadster version 2.0, but this would be the perfect electric garage.
  • Volvo S60 Polestar and XC90 T8: I’ve always been a fan of Volvos. However, very few of their cars are truly exciting. However, the S60 Polestar is by far the sportiest car that Volvo has offered in a very long time. The XC90 rivals Range Rovers in terms of luxury, but at a much lower price. Go for the T8, and you’ll have a 400 horsepower hybrid to play around with. How can you not love that?
  • Mazda Miata and Miata Cup Racer: It’s just like with Jeeps. If you buy one to build it up to win races, you should have a stock one to drive around. With the ND generation (4th generation) of the Miata, you can get a stock Miata for daily driving, and a full-out race car. The Miata Cup Racer costs a tad more than $50,000, and a loaded stock Miata goes for around $30,000. While not everybody can afford both of these Miatas, it’s likely that nobody on this list could buy the combinations of cars I’ve listed.

Making A Grand Entrance, or Getting to Thanksgiving in Style

As you know, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season with a full belly.  At least 80% of all Americans travel for the holiday.  I know that those who are traveling by road will be traveling the crowded interstates.  For those taking the back roads, I’ve put together a list of ten cars that have at least 400 horsepower and seat four people comfortably.  Tell me which one you’d like to take.

  1. Audi S8:  The 2013 Audi S8 has 520 horsepower, yet it isn’t a car that is 6000 pounds and fast in a straight line like a Rolls.  Instead, it weighs 4400 pounds.  With Audi’s signature Quattro AWD system, the S8 will go where a Rolls would never think of going.  Do you know of any full-size sedans other than the S8 than can get to 60 in 3.5 seconds?  Plus, the interior will enclose you in Alacantara and leather sourced from the finest tanneries in the world.  Not a bad way to travel…
  2. Bentley Mulsanne:  Would you like to make an even grander entrance than the S8?   If you do, take the 2013 Bentley Mulsanne.  A 505 horsepower 6.75 liter, twin turbo V8 powers the massive Bentley to a heart-stopping 4.8 seconds to 60.  It might not be as fast as the S8, but it will look better at speed.  All four of you and your lucky friends will be enshrouded in pillowy, massaging seats that have leather.
  3. Cadillac CTS-V Wagon:   The Caddy is one of the more powerful cars here, yet one of the first choices for a back-road blast.  The CTS-V Wagon is fast, with a top speed of 190 mph (governed!), and it will carry turkeys, luggage, and plenty of eggnog and brew for Thanksgiving without breaking a sweat.  Plus, it will look like you are having a blast.  Which you WILL be, right?
  4. Dodge Charger SRT-8:   The Charger has long held a soft spot in my big car heart.  It’s fast, it makes a statement, and it’s loud.  What’s not to love?  Plus, the SRT-8 can be purchased for under $50,000!  60 mph comes up in a show-stopping 4.3 seconds.  This makes it the large family-oriented performance car of the century!
  5. Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec:  The Hyundai is the first Korean performance sedan.  It competes with the Mercedes-Benz E550, yet offers almost as much room as a MBZ S-Class.  It may be smaller than the gigantic Equus, but it’s MUCH more fun to drive.  Plus, it will get people asking what it is.  Some will think it’s a Lexus, others will think is a Mercedes.  Tell them it’s a Hyundai, and take some photos for me!
  6. Jaguar XJL Supercharged:  The 470 horsepower, 5.0 liter engine is powerful enough to move this big boy.  Fast.  The interior is even nicer than the engine.  There is a suede-like material that Jag used for the headliner that is very soft and nice.  The engine is so powerful that you can load up the trunk and have your friends in the back stretched out.  What’s not to love?
  7. Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged:  The Range Rover Supercharged has a 510 horsepower engine that is basically the same one you’ll find in the XJL Supercharged.  This powerful engine will take the nearly 5000-pound SUV to 60 in a mere 5.2 seconds.  Plus, it will haul all your gear wherever you want it.  You can quite literally load up the shotguns and go hunting wild turkeys in the Rockies.  Plus, it’s got  a very similar interior to the XJL Supercharged.  Not bad for an SUV that costs almost $120,000.
  8. Mercedes-Benz GL550:  The GL wowed the 2013 Motor Trend SUV of the Year judges so much that they named it SUV of the year.  It’s the first MBZ to win that title since 2001.  The GL550 doles out globs of torque and 429 horsepower.  It’s powerful, fast, quiet, AND it will follow the Range Rover Supercharged.  For a while.  The Designo interior rivals that of the luxurious S-Class, with comfortable leather seats that seat seven.  Plus, you can take all your gear in the back and still have room.  It’s bigger than an Escalade, yet smaller than a Navigator EL.
  9. Porsche Panamera GTS:  The powerful Panamera GTS will haul four people in relative comfort, thanks to it’s leather-covered Recaro seats.  It has AWD and 430 horsepower.  It’s like the Nissan GT-R Black Edition, with two more doors!  And a rumbling V8!  Plus, it will get 24.5 mpg on the highway!  VROOOOOOOOM!
  10. Tesla Model S Signature Performance Edition:  The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year deserves to be on this list.  Why?  It’s extremely powerful electric motor produces 416 horsepower at the wheels.  This means that it’s there as soon as you start it.  It might not have the range of the Mulsanne or the Panamera, but it will make the most amazing entrance ever.  It carries almost as much as a Chevy Equinox, plus it has 285 miles of range!  Plus, you can get to 60 in jolting 4.0 seconds!  This is one silent VROOOOOOOOOOOM!

Have fun daydreaming about what could be, when you’re stuck on the interstate wishing you’d taken the backroads. These cars may not be ‘The Family’s New Car’, but they definitely have serious style!   P.S.  Do you have any cars that have at least 400 horsepower and seat four comfortably?  I’m sure you do…