Category Archives: Subaru

Tough and Solid as a Subaru – Just a Geeky Middle Kid – The Crosstrek

Check out our YouTube Video of this Subaru Crosstrek.

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV at the Washington DC Auto ShowSubaru has a long history of being a go-anywhere, tough roadworthy car brand. From the early days as DL and GL and before, well maybe not as far back as the tiny 360.  Today, Subaru has any number of choices from sleek sports cars to full-size SUV’s, a Sedan and a choice of  Station Wagons.  All with symmetrical all-wheel drive, which along with their boxer engine are Subaru staples.

 

Subaru CrossTrek PHEV Plugin Hybrid
Subaru CrossTrek PHEV Plugin Hybrid

Then there is that middle child, the Crosstrek. An SUV is a smaller size with plenty of what most people want in an all capable vehicle, large enough on the inside for most uses, in a small footprint.   And this middle kid can get even geekier in the Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) which we had the opportunity to experience for a week driving around for a weekend on the streets of Washington DC.

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Plugged IN

While the PHEV Crosstrek is more hybrid than EV (Electric Vehicle,) it still provides an intro to the EV lifestyle. Without the range anxiety that a full Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) may give you.  In my use, it provided 15 miles all-electric on a 110v overnight battery charge from my garage outlet.  After the battery was depleted it seamlessly transitioned into gasoline-powered hybrid mode.  What I liked most is that you had your choice of EV or hybrid mode at the push of a button.  Allowing it to be operated in all EV mode or go hybrid, with the gasoline engine engaged. Personally, I like to save the EV driving for someplace special such as in a park or other peaceful place.

Subaru is known for UTILITY

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Battery under the rear cargo floor
Subaru Crosstrek PHEV Battery under the rear cargo floor

And the Crosstrek is utilitarian, while still being well turned out, tech-forward, and comfortable. Don’t expect plush in any Subaru. Though the Crosstrek has a lot of nice touches like the use of quality materials and the overall interior design. And being a PHEV, there are lots of iridescent blue highlights on the inside, letting you know this is not just any powertrain you are piloting.

Subaru CrossTrek Interior
Subaru CrossTrek Interior with blue accents and stylish seating.

Anything with four-doors and a hatch is all about utility. The Crosstrek carries the battery under the rear cargo area, elevates the hatch floor about four inches from where it would be in a non-PHEV version.  The downside here is that the second-row seatbacks are at a lower point than the hatch floor. Not one long uniform cargo floor when the 2nd-row seats are folded down. The battery takes up space, so if you had a tall box, you could

Subaru Crosstrek loaded with pet supplies
Subaru Crosstrek loaded with pet supplies

have some problem fitting it in the cargo area.  For our use, the higher floor did not impede loading the cargo area. Though we can see it could be taking up valuable space when you really needed those extra inches.  With doors that swing open wide access for loading items through the rear doors is easy.

 

 

 

Driveability

Subaru Crosstrek with items in the cargo area
Subaru Crosstrek with items in the cargo area the rear seats fold down lower than the cargo floor.

When colleagues drove this car, they complained about the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), it did not bother me in the least bit. While in the old days a CVT may have been an issue, being whiny and not very responsive, today Subaru has made it pretty seamless in operation. The Crosstrek had plenty of power in both PHEV and hybrid mode, enough power to propel it down the road and up hills.

Subaru Crosstrek rear seat
Subaru Crosstrek rear seat

Driver and passenger room are plentiful. In our tester, the seats are leather-trimmed in contemporary design and exciting hues. The use of leather may not be what a buyer of a “green vehicle” would choose. Though for pet owners, as Subaru owners tend to be, it tends to be the right choice as other seat coverings can get damaged with claws and nails, as well as troublesome to clean.

Subaru Crosstrek Cockpit
Subaru Crosstrek Cockpit

Crostrek’s interior design is functional and well-tailored. Buttons are where they need to be, and the three screens, the center, the top center, and dash provide plenty of information. The top center screen offers a visual of the hybrid functionality and is an extension of the actual dash screen. While the other screens provide the necessary information that you expect from them.

 

What’s Not To Love

Subaru Crosstrek PlugIn Port
Subaru Crosstrek Plug-In Port

Subaru has a marketing campaign based on Love, so finding things that go against that is not too easy. First of all, the Crosstrek is not plush, while not spartan, it is all Subaru, simple, and to the point. The Crosstrek at times rides like a truck and in our unit, with 9K miles on the odometer, it was a bit noisy, though we expect that noise is a part of the Crosstreck’s character. And yes, the hybrid engine function sometimes sounds like a wood chipper hard at

Subaru Crosstrek dash switches
Subaru Crosstrek dash switches

work.  If you are expecting a more turned out experience the Outback or Legacy or even Forester might be a better choice. Though those models do not come in a battery-powered version. Though we expect they will in the future, as everyone really likes the higher fuel mileage hybrids offer.  Like any Subie, you will get the same experience if you are seated in the front or the rear. This brand creates a complete cabin experience, and not just a nice space up front for the driver, forgetting anyone else is going to ride in the vehicle.

 

Is this EV Drive A FAD?

Subaru Crosstreck PHEV Plugged in at home to a 110v outlet
Subaru Crosstreck PHEV Plugged in at home to a 110v outlet

While the Crosstrek is the only hybrid or EV variant available in the US from Subaru, we doubt that it will be the only one for very long.  EV powertrains are quickly evolving, and the Crosstrek PHEV is an excellent step in the direction.  Especially for those who want to tread lightly on our planet and not burn gasoline to do so. Electric Vehicles can be earth-friendly when not using fossil fuels to produce electrons.  With the ever-growing wind and solar power, it can be a great option for charging. We agree that battery production is hardly earth-friendly.

Subaru Crosstrek Pluged In at a public charger
Subaru Crosstrek Plugged In at a public charger

If you rely on EV Charging stations alone, and not have the hybrid backup, there is that concern of range anxiety. Worrying about where will the next plugin will be, and will it be operational. With the hybrid, you can pretty much find a gasoline station throughout the land.  Having the best of both worlds does give EV ownership a better feel.

 

Why you should buy a Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek PHEV engine
Subaru Crosstrek PHEV engine

EV side, this is a significant step for those looking to upgrade from a smaller hybrid econobox. As this is asymmetrical (which is Subaru’s term) all-wheel drive. If you are looking for a vehicle that is surefooted, rugged, and spacious, this is a good option.

Subaru owners love their cars and return to buy them time and time again.  After passing down their high mileage cars to a friend or family members, or doing a properly reviewed adoption to someone who is also a fan of the brand.  That kind of long-term owner commitment is something that means something.  Ask any Subaru owner, and they will tell you how they will always own a Subaru.

Subaru Crosstrek Engine Oil Filter
Subaru Crosstrek has a gasoline engine which means an oil filter

If you want more room but less attention to detail on the interior check out our review of the Mitsubishi PHEV Outlander.

We thank Subaru and NAV’s for the opportunity to spend a week in this vehicle. Neither provided any compensation other than the loan of the vehicle and the first tank of fuel.

 

Words an images by William West Hopper (unless otherwise noted)

William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret
William West Hopper, VIP Tour Guide at the 2019 Washington DC Auto Show. Photo by Bonnie M. Moret

Wiliam West Hopper is a life-long automotive enthusiast who thinks of cars as both an extensions of one’s personality as well as a utilitarian device.  Mr. Hopper has served as local, regional and national leader of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America, and currently serves as President of the Washington Automotive Press Association, a professional automotive media organization based in Washington DC. Mr. Hopper also writes on travel as well as interior design. And is known for an eye for a great consignment or thrift shop, thus authoring a no out of print guide to Washington DC area second-hand stores.

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A Tale of Two Sporty Cars Under $30K

 

2016 Subaru BRZ Hyper Blue Edition
2016 Subaru BRZ HyperBlue Edition

As the summer came to a close, both a Hyundai Veloster RSpec and a Subaru BRZ Hyper-Blue Series were delivered back-to-back, giving me a chance to compare these two under $30K 6-Speed Manual 4-cylinder powered sports cars. Each very different vehicles, both aimed at the younger enthusiast oriented driver, and quite available to folks of an older age.

The 2016 Hyundai Veloster R-Spec in Pacific Blue. A lot of fun for very little dough!
The 2016 Hyundai Veloster RSpec.

While both were blue in color, each one was as different as their azure color. Both have plenty of power from 4-cylinder engines. The BRZ has a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter premium fueled Boxer Engine that Subaru is so well known for, the Veloster a smaller 1.6 dual-spool turbo (axis) that runs on regular fuel. Both 4-seaters, the BRZ a classic 2-door with a trunk, and the Veloster an unconventional 3-door hatchback. Both share limited rear passenger headroom, the Veloster offers leg room for the rear seat passengers, where in the BRZ to provide back seat legroom involves taking it from those in the front.

 

Onboard technology; the Veloster has a multi-display dash easily controllable from the steering wheel, and a 7” center stack screen that provides information on vehicle operation as well as the audio system.  The BRZ is very driver-centric, with the tachometer being front and center, and the speedometer off to the side, but also shown digitally so you know, that you are exceeding the speed limit. The BRZ provided basic info, mileage, mpg’s, but not a complete suite of information like the Veloster’s cluster did, which provided on both the dash and center display. Both vehicles featured all the latest from side-curtain airbags, backup camera, and very visible LED lighting.

 

Interior design, both used materials that were nice to the touch, with a layout that was focused on the driver, and bolstered sports seats. In layout and design, the BRZ was more race-car inspired, while the Veloster is more mainstream as a sporty vehicle. Both cars have touch screens in the center stack, the Veloster required less distraction from the road to use it, mostly due to the having the controls on the steering wheel, while the 2016 BRZ did not have controls on the steering wheel, the 2017 model does. I find having those controls located on the steering wheel helped the driver keep their eyes on the road.

So where is the difference in the two BLUE Sports Cars? Design, Price, and Drivability, would be the answer. Design: BRZ is the more classic sports car with the long hood, with an interior that favors the driver and front seat passenger with small cargo space. While the Veloster design is like a drop of water in the wind, with interior space for driver and all passengers and cargo area that can be expanded by putting the rear seats down. The BRZ wins for a sexy sleek design, while the Veloster wins for functionality.

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Drive Train: Veloster RSpec features a 1.6 turbo that runs on regular fuel, which gives it plenty of pep to a six speed transmission which gives it plenty of control, and front wheel drive, which can be a bit temperamental, (tire spin). The BRZ has a powerful 2.0 Boxer premium fueled engine, that shifts through the 6 speed manual with ease. The rear wheel drive is more of a conventional enthusiast sports car.  While I liked both cars for performance, I felt more exhilarated by the Veloster in performance.

On-board Technology: Both feature center mounted touch screens, the BRZ’s 6.2” provides basic infotainment information and connects to your phone for Bluetooth operation, while the Veloster’s 7” provides infotainment and vehicle operation, as well as Bluetooth telephony. Both dashboard clusters feature analog gauges, the Veloster’s info screens give more info than you need. The BRZ features a basic digital speed display, odometer, fuel economy, nothing fancy.

Price: Veloster is the lower priced of the two with a delivered price of $22425. BRZ HyperBlue Series at $28,485. Both have lesser and higher cost options, depending on how you equip the vehicle. Long term value, insurance value, and deprecation have not been considered, but for just the numbers, the Veloster wins this by rolling off the dealer’s lot six-thousand dollars cheaper.

Drivability:  While neither would be a choice for a long road trip, due to their tight sports suspension and race-style bucket seats. Both are a lot of fun to drive with the 6 speed, and even with 4-cylinder engines have plenty of power band for routine driving. The BRZ has a noisier cabin, with road and gear noise from the mechanicals. The Veloster was a bit smoother ride with a quieter cabin. My choice here would be the Veloster, even though the driver’s seat was uncomfortably tight on my derriere’.

Flash and Noticeability, the BRZ in the Hyper-Blue Series trim with black spoke wheels drew plenty of attention where ever it went. The Veloster slipped by with a bit more obscurity. BRZ for the win here.

Over all, both are a lot of fun to drive. If you are a tight-wad like I am, the Veloster is my choice. But the BRZ has a lot to offer, though at a higher cost.

Words and images by William West Hopper

Subaru BRZ, A Driver’s Sports Car for Under $30K.

 

2016 Subaru BRZ Hyper Blue Edition
2016 Subaru BRZ Hyper-Blue Edition

Check out the Queer4Cars Youtube Video

Pulling into a driveway with the 2016 Hyper-Blue Edition Subaru BRZ  the first response was, “That’s a pretty car, what is it?”  I said, “A Subaru!”  “I thought Subaru’s are for trekking in the woods” was the surprised response.

While we Americans have long had an image of the Subaru brand as being one that is utilitarian, sturdy, and dependable with its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, and boxy design, many are not aware that the brand is so much more, and this 2016 Hyper-Blue Series Subaru BRZ is a great example that not all Subies are set for rough roads.

 

Subaru SVX, one of the early sports cars of the brand.
Subaru SVX, one of the early sports cars of the brand. (photo credit, unknown)

 

While you may not think of Subaru as high-performance muscle cars, it has a long history of sporty cars, and even “sport trucks,” think the original Brat from the 1970’s or the SVX of the 1990’s, not to mention the ever popular rally and autocross favorite the WRX, which is often seen modified and street racing.

 

 

Fraternal Twins, Scion FRS & Subaru BRZ.
Fraternal Twins, Scion FRS & Subaru BRZ. (photo credit Sofyan Bey, Redline Reveiws)

The BRZ shares a platform and design with the Toyota 86 (previously known as the Scion FRS,) in a classic sports car shape. These are the collaboration by two automakers, bringing the best of each brand to the build. Subaru’s legendary Boxer Engine, Toyota’s long history of sports cars, combined into a sporty riding and handling coupe,

 

 

 

 

Subaru BRZ Hyper Blue Edition features stitching on the steering wheel, and seats that match the exterior paint.
Subaru BRZ Hyper Blue Edition features stitching on the steering wheel, and seats that match the exterior paint.

The BRZ is a young auto enthusiast’s car, it could be considered pretty lean for most modern auto consumers. While it has plenty of standard features, this car is a driver’s car, and really nothing more, creature comforts are basic. The BRZ is noisy, you hear not only the road, and what sounds like a number of the mechanicals from the engine and transmission, though in a good way, almost to the level of a decades earlier import mini-pickup truck noisy.

 

 

Subaru BRZ touch screen info center is not as intuitive as it could be.
Subaru BRZ touch screen info center is not as intuitive as it could be.

While most American driver’s will just turn up the radio to drown out any unwanted sounds, the BRZ’s radio is not an audio enthusiasts dream, and the touch screen controls were hard to use, and required you to take your eyes off the road. This has been changed with the 2017 model by putting audio controls on the steering wheel.

Subaru BRZ rear seats are in name only, leg room is not optimal.
Subaru BRZ rear seats are in name only, leg room is not optimal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the BRZ has seats for four, but best fits two, a driver and a passenger, as the back seats have almost no legroom, fine for packages, but little else.

Subaru BRZ trunk space can be enlarged by putting the rear seat down.
Subaru BRZ trunk space can be enlarged by putting the rear seat down.

 

 

Trunk space is small though adequate for a simple over night trip,  don’t plan on using it to load up at the big box store, that is what the Outback or Forester is for.

 

 

 

 

 

Agility is a big part of the fun of the BRZ, steering inputs are immediate and put you exactly where you aim the wheel.

Subaru BRZ has a short throw 6-speed manual shift, though an automatic is an option.
Subaru BRZ has a short throw 6-speed manual shift, an automatic is an option.

With short shifts, that are very solid and intentional, it did take a while to learn where each of the six-manual-speed shifts were located.  Revving the 2 liter normally aspirated Boxer engine was not a problem when you missed a shift, (it sounded great) and was very forgiving. This street racer was quite secure on the road, and provided an economical 29 mpg on premium (91 or higher fuel) after a week of driving on both straight line highway and twisty country roads.

 

Subaru BRZ Hyper Blue Edition featured very nice black wheels, a Brembo Brake caliper option is also available.
Subaru BRZ Hyper-Blue Edition featured very nice black wheels, a Brembo Brake caliper option is also available.

Do not think this car is going to let you slip by unnoticed, the attention factor is high, especially in this Hyper-Blue (a bright powder blue) color with shiny black wheels. I found that this car got attention from everyone from young boys, to the highway patrol, which means you have to be careful how you drive it.

 

It is indeed a driver’s car, and for under $30K, it is a car that you will enjoy if you enjoy spirited driving. It is not a car where you set the cruise control and get to your destination without thought. This is a car that is all about the road, as the fun is in the driving, and the destination is just where you end up.

 

Words and Photographs (other than where noted) by William West Hopper.

wwh-in-brz-tux
William West Hopper in the Subaru BRZ Hyper- Blue Edition prior to attending the Radnor Concours d’ Elegance Black Tie Dinner.