The Surprising Side That Will
Make You Fall In Love With Them
by Bill Flitter
Can I see myself driving Subaru cars?
I asked myself that question when my Honda Pilot with high miles was on the fritz. I grew up in a family mostly of American car drivers. It was an unsaid rule that the foreign vehicles were the commuter cars, whereas the American SUVs and pickup trucks were the workhorses of the family and were thus used for heavy hauling and for trips with several passengers. I always thought Toyotas and Hondas were meant to last forever, and the American-made vehicles, well, they just weren’t. Which is why we usually traded our American cars in before their odometers hit 100,000 miles. It was a death wish if you didn’t, I thought; the wish – or rather, the guarantee – being of course for a dead car.
The Side of Subaru Cars You Haven’t Seen
All of this has changed through the years. And so, too, has consumer wants and needs. People don’t want raw engineering; they want and have become reliant on, the latest and greatest technology now standard in most makes and models. They want backup cameras, they want driver assist technology, they want dashboards that sync with their iPhones…they want it all.
People also want luxury. And up until recently, Subaru cars had all but been ignoring these demands. You see, the beauty – and, some might argue, the drawback – of Subaru is that it does not respond to trends, and that’s because it does not aim to please everyone.
Subaru cars had – again, up until recently – been appealing to the same people they had been for years. From the outside, we might classify ‘those Subaru people’ as Birkenstock-wearing, L.L. Bean enthusiasts, or hippy-loving outdoors-types or lesbians. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Except now, like most of those name brands I’ve listed above – specifically, I’m thinking about the L.L Bean “Bean Boot” my mom used to wear that has somehow become the college hipster boot of choice – the trends have come full circle and back in favor of Subaru. And what once might have been thought of as a more nominal following, has become mainstream and one of the industry pacemakers.
- Backup cameras,
- Bluetooth connectivity,
- USB ports,
- Larger touch screens, and
- Subaru EyeSight®, which combines everything Subaru engineers know about safety
The flashy new technology features some consumers find important, but that will undoubtedly end up costing them an arm and a leg to fix when they bug out, is not Subaru’s style. Sure, they’ll put in a sunroof here and some leather seats there, but you’re not going to walk into a Subaru dealership and make demands, like wanting a certain trim package with a different make and model. Or, swap interior colors as nauseum. They just don’t offer it. But when they do implement a change, or adopt a new feature, you can almost bet on it serving a pretty significant purpose. They don’t just do something because people tell them what they want, they do it for the love of the car. And it’s why I love Subaru.
Subaru vs. Everyone Else
The Subaru product thrives on simplicity. Hell, they’re not even trying to add more dealership locations or “points” as they call them. Their focus, at least from the outside, seems to be on maximizing what they already have. And they must be doing something right, because unlike some manufacturers, Subaru is and has been consistently posting profits.
Right off the line, Subaru is designed from the ground up to be different, and it starts with the fact that all Subarus come standard with all-wheel drive. This compared to Honda or Toyota, where AWD was added as an afterthought, and intrinsically it is different – better different.
From old to new, the Subaru engine has essentially remained the same. Why change a good thing, right? Subaru uses a 4-cylinder boxer engine versus the standard V4 or V6 inline engines found in almost every other major brand.
Facts on boxer engines:
- Boxer engines fire in sequence: 1-3-2-4; while an inline-four engine’s combustion reactions happen in this order 1-3-4-2. From an engine balance standpoint, flat fours (Subaru box engines) balance secondary forces, while inline-fours do not. This means inline-four engines usually require balance shafts to cancel out vibrations.
- Boxer engines also naturally have a lower center of gravity, which translates to better and safer vehicle dynamics. Here’s how: in the event of an accident, the engine can tuck under the vehicle compartment, instead of impacting the passenger.
- If you know someone who drives a Subaru, chances are you’ve heard them complain about how seemingly small services, like spark plug changes, are expensive. The drawback to the boxer engine is that it is boxier and takes up more room. Where inline-four engines are narrower and also provide extra room for better steering applications, they also only use one cylinder head and it’s much more accessible than Subaru’s. Hey, you win some, you lose some.
The only other thing I’ll say about Subaru’s engine options is that where other brands have been late to offer Turbo engine options, Subaru was first. They don’t pioneer things often, but when they do, it’s on the important stuff like the engine.
In Summary: Subaru Cars Got What You Need
Here’s how I break down car manufacturers:
- German vehicles are the best-in-class for driving
- Japanese vehicles are the most reliable
- Subaru Cars are the best of both
This is also why there is a substantial following of Subaru drivers who, like myself, appreciate the art of driving, but don’t want to compromise on reliability and quality.
Over to You
Can you see yourself driving Subaru Cars? Have you owned Subaru cars in the past? Please add your opinion and feedback in the comments. We would love to hear from you.