Ode to a Subaru

Does the car you drive define you? I doubt that is true in all cases, but one’s vehicle of choice can often reveal a number of things. A vehicle could expose the driver’s socio-economic status (though not always). A vehicle can also reveal our hobbies. Oddly enough, some people develop emotional attachments to their cars so that their car becomes an extension of there own being. I’m not there yet. I am not even really a car guy. I appreciate them as tools. However, I find myself falling head over heels for my Subaru XV Crosstrek. I love it because it facilitates my needs. A car might not define you, but it should be able to take you where you want to go.

I have not owned a lot of cars over the years as I have always consider it prudent to drive them until they are on the verge of breaking down for good. When I turned 16, I drove a Ford Bronco II for about 6 months. After that I traded for my dad’s Ford Ranger for around a year (so that he could save miles for his warranty). At 18, I bought a used 1995 Ford Mustang.  That Mustang was an incredible car. I drove it for 10 years and it only had one major failure. The head gasket gave out, but Ford paid for the repair because it was a factory defect. The car served me very well, but I did not have a strong emotional attachment to it.

When my wife and I decided that the Mustang might be close to death, we sold it and bought a new VW Jetta. The Jetta is a pretty cool car too. Although it is not a luxury auto, the build quality of it seems good and it has a lot of nice features.

When I got married, my wife came with a Dodge Neon. After 15 years of faithful service (seriously), we decided to sell the Neon and get a new car. The problem with the cars that I had previously owned was that they did not facilitate my hobbies and interests in the outdoors. The Mustang was a straight shift and a fun car to drive, but not down a dirt road. You see, most of the best in outdoor recreation lies far from paved surfaces. Up until this point in my life, I either had to borrow a truck or risk taking a car, which was my daily driver, down a forest service road. It was not an ideal situation. I forded a creek once in the Mustang; it led to a $400 repair bill.

Now that we were buying a new car, I did not want to compromise again and get something that I would not serve my interests. However, trucks, particularly 4x4s, are not cheap. At the time, I did not have the time or money to fix up a beater.

Then I discovered Subarus. I first investigated Outbacks. They are cool cars, but I liked the more compact “sportier” look of the Crosstrek. But we worried that it was too small. We have a toddler and a large carseat. Could there possibly be enough room in the back seat? But once we got to the dealership, we discovered that there is possibly more room in the back seat than the front. That made the decision for us. This was a car that came with the same AWD and grand clearance as the Outback and yet was cheaper and looked better (to us).

Here’s the thing about Subarus. They are incredibly capable cars. The AWD system is legitimate. When it is coupled with over 8 inches of ground clearance, the car will take you places many others simply cannot. Do not kid yourself, the Subaru cannot rock climb, ford deep streams, or go down extremely rutted and unmaintained forest roads like a tricked out Land Rover. However, the Subaru costs much less at purchase. It does not require a ton of money in upgrades. Plus, my Crosstrek typically gets anywhere from 26-30 mpg. For the money, I do not think you will find a more capable car.

TrayMountain
The Crosstrek can get you to places like this easily and safely.

Here is a sampling of what I have managed to do in my Subaru. The first few months I just drove down dirt roads in the Oconee National Forest because I could. My kid would take his afternoon nap in the back. I also discovered that it is a wonderful car to access mountain trout streams. In fact, my fishing has increased twofold since we got the Crosstrek. I wanted to revisit the summit of Tray Mountain in northeast Georgia, but I did not think that my toddler could make the trip from Unicoi Gap on the paved highway. That did not matter because I could drive up the dirt Tray Mountain Road and get to within a mile or so of the summit.

Our big adventure in it so far has been the Great Hulsey Western Roadtrip of 2016. We drove from Athens, Georgia to northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. We planned to camp most of our nights out there so we hauled a bunch of camping equipment and coolers with us. We really were not cramped for space at all. There are not many vehicles that can match that cargo capacity, capability, and fuel economy. Really, the Subaru was a primary reason that the trip was a blast.

ChildSubaru.jpg
The cargo capacity even has room for a post-hike snack.

That trip’s cargo needs highlight the only real upgrades I have made to the car. It came equipped with a roof rack. I put a Thule Canyon cargo basket on top and it has been incredible. For that trip, I put a fairly weatherproof Keeper bag in the basket and all our stuff came back dry even though we experienced a couple of significant rainstorms. We have also remodeled a house recently and the basket came in handy for carrying all manner of construction supplies from Home Depot and Lowes.

With my dad’s help, I have also installed a Torklift Central Ecohitch Invisi. The hitch itself is awesome. It takes advantage of a hole in the back bumper of the Crosstrek to hide the hitch and minimize any loss of ground clearance. I already have a Carry-On Trailer hitch rack to carry things like coolers or the week’s trash to the collection site. The hitch rack is also an awesome trunk space when you want to go camping and need the actual boot to house your dog. I also intend to get a bike rack when I actually take back up that sport. A small trailer is also a possibility, but apparently there is not a great way to wire up the Crosstrek for trailer lights. Plus, it only has 1000 lbs of towing capacity.

I hope you have gotten the point that the Subaru has met almost all of my needs at a price point that I feel good about. I have not even mentioned that it is also an incredibly safe care. It hits that sweet spot of being exactly the car I needed. A car does not have to be an extension of your being, but it should at the least get you to where you want to go.

When I told my dad that I was looking at Subarus, he told me of a guy he works with that drives an old Outback. He proclaims that the day that car dies, he will be right back at the Subaru dealership door to buy a new one. I also mentioned my interest to my uncle. He noted that Subaru owners are a bit like a cult because they seem so devoted to the brand. I do not fancy myself much of a follower in general, but this is one cult that I think I have joined.

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