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2016 Subaru WRX STI Series.HyperBlue review


There aren’t many blues I’d pick over Subaru’s famous “WR Blue Pearl” but this “Hyper Blue” is one of the few. This exterior is exactly how I’d spec out a WRX STI, black wheels, big wing, six-speed, meaty tires for winter. I snagged the keys for a weekend of Christmas shopping and cross city driving; the only thing missing was a thick coat of December snow. Instead we had a few 60-degree spring-like days. Mental note: The WRX is just as fun on damp-dry pavement as it is on dirt or snow.

The STI launches like a rubber band with all four wheels clawing for grip on hard starts. The clutch pedal has some weight to it, which I like, making the narrow friction point easy to navigate once you’re used to it. If the clutch is too light it makes it harder to take off smoothly in some cars. It also catches right near the floor, an important feature for anything that needs to be driven fast.

First gear goes by quickly, and before you know it you’re at the top of second gear at 50 mph. At this point I usually send it to fifth or sixth gear, because I’m on the street and not a psychopath. With the windows up you can hear the turbo and blowoff, though the tire noise does its best to block it out. The WRX was always a little thin in the noise cancellation department. My only complaint throttle-wise, and it’s not really a complaint, is that at 75-80 mph in sixth gear, the tach is right in the powerband. That means it’s a little hard to keep at a constant speed. If your foot moves a centimeter, your head snaps back, if you let off a smidge, it pops forward. It’s a great system for driving fast, not good if you’re trying to keep it under 80 mph. The Brembo brakes are solid with a nice bite at the top and a short, progressive stroke after that.

2016 Subaru WRX STI Limited review notes

Purpose-built for the hardcore


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: In a world where even performance monsters like the Corvette can return 30 mpg on the highway and entry subcompacts like the Honda Fit offer smooth, silent sewing-machine engines, the WRX STI continues to be an ass-kicking, raucous, gas-guzzling throwback to the 1990s, carrying nothing it doesn't need to go flying through the gravel and dirt.

To be fair, our Limited does get a bit cush with its heated leather/Alcantara seats and touchscreen infotainment options, but if you start to think Subie has lost some of its soul, just push the Start button. Yes, I know the rocking-on-its-mounts lawn tractor engine is part of the Subaru experience, and all the fanboys relish it, but for the rest of us, Subie's big turbo H4 feels slow to rev and coarse at lower rpm. Keep it around 3K, right on the edge of boost, though, and there's plenty of thrust on tap. It's just not as immediate or as fierce as the late Mitsubishi Evo, nor is it as refined as the Golf R. The upcoming arrival of the Ford Focus RS will be the big test for Subaru's rally rocket and its ability to trade on brand loyalty and proven tech.

2015 Subaru Impreza review notes

AWD for masses


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Where the hell did this thing come from? The Subaru Impreza used to be a tinny Japanese oddball that rode the coattails of its famous WRX big brother. If you owned a basic Impreza it was because you wanted a ’Rex but couldn’t afford it, or you were such a crunchy granola that a VW Golf didn’t have enough street cred for you.

All that has changed. Our Impreza Limited is a viable -- and arguably superior -- competitor to any compact hatch on the market today, including segment stalwarts like the Focus, Mazda 3 and new Golf. It’s fully featured -- our high-zoot Impreza had nav, satellite radio, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning and heated leather seats - and Subaru has finally exorcised its styling weirdnesses inside and out. The result is a great-looking hatch whether you’re looking at it on the street or looking out from behind the wheel.

The Subaru XV Crosstrek looks the part of a rugged crossover and backs up its appearance with proven Subaru capability.

2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Premium review notes


EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek 2.0i Premium actually made me hope for more snow. Yes, that’s right: It’s that much fun in the slop. I’m a big Subaru wagon fan, always have been, and this car cements it all the more for me.

I had the good fortune to get in this baby on a recent Monday afternoon, right after snowmageddon. The little dear got me home no problem, clambering over the snow and slop without complaint.

I like the way the car looks. It fits the car’s spirit, its personality. There’s an honesty here. Nothing fancy, nothing gimmicky. The seats are cloth and you actually have to use a key to start it -- no push buttons here. You also have to turn the headlamps on and off. I have no problem with any of that.

The drivability (at least in the mess) is fantastic and I don’t care if it doesn’t have ginormous horsepower. The car just works for me. Again, no surprises here, no gimmicks. Just solid, steady as she goes, in the mess we’ve had here the lately.

The 2015 Outback 2.5i Premium comes with the Lineartronic CVT, which features paddle-shift control switches and is instrumental in the Outback’s significantly improved fuel economy.

2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium review notes


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Value is rare enough in new cars to surprise when one finds it: The 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium qualifies. For a small family living in an area that routinely sees snow, I’d be hard pressed to come up with a better all-around daily driver for anywhere near the $31.5K Subaru wants for this attractive, well-built wagon.

That’s not to say there aren’t compromises: The Outback’s flat-four won’t win you any drag races, and the CVT contributes its usual odd NVH characteristics, particularly in passing/hard acceleration, but that’s the tradeoff for 28 mpg combined -- really outstanding mileage for a 3,600-pound AWD wagon. I’ll have to wait for our cumulative mileage comparisons to come in for a final verdict, but the trip computer was showing real-world high-20s during my time with the car.

Even with the boxer engine and CVT, the Outback is a really nice car to drive -- value here doesn’t equal cheap or chintzy. The combination of a higher seating position, good damping and Subaru’s characteristic chassis control means the Outback feels more premium than its market position would suggest. These are well-planted, confidence-inspiring machines, and from behind the wheel it’s obvious why Subaru is on such a sales roll. High-quality cloth seating with bun warmers (really the best of both worlds on a cold morning), a well-executed interior layout with logical controls, tons of room and an infotainment system that allowed me to connect without forcing me to learn a new “improved” user interface all make the Outback an easy car to live with.

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium review notes


ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: The Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry all come in at about $23,000. Equipped with four-cylinder engines, they all deliver about 175-185 hp, so really it all comes down to preference. The Legacy, though, is the only one that offers all-wheel drive.

I don’t know why it gets outsold by the thousands every year, because it offers nearly everything the other guys do, plus a little extra style to go with that AWD.

The 2.5-liter H4 is sufficient, but to make any sort of moves or passes, you have to basically floor it. The CVT makes fake shifts near redline, but that’s hard to get over, especially when you’ve been used to manuals and standard automatics most of your life. At least in the WRX the trans is tuned for fun; in the Legacy it’s tuned for efficiency. I guess 36 mpg on the highway is a good selling point. 

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited review notes


ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: In September, Subaru sold 6,198 Legacies -- a respectable jump from the 2,847 they moved during the same month the year before. The introduction of a new generation certainly helps matters, but it’s still a far cry from the 21,693 Ford Fusions, 28,507 Toyota Camrys and 32,956 Honda Accords sold in September.

But the Legacy’s increased sales are well deserved. The new car’s improved interior has an infotainment interface that actually operates like it’s from this decade, a smoother and quieter ride, and more respectable fuel economy. It’s definitely a more mainstream-focused vehicle that some may consider watered down from the Legacy from two generations ago that offered turbocharged versions and a hotted-up GT Spec.B with WRX suspension components bolted on it. It was a more mature WRX, but that kind of stuff only appeals to enthusiasts, who in the grand scheme of things aren’t the meat of the market.

The Outback has been redesigned inside and out for the 2015 model year, though its an evolutionary refresh.

2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium drive review


What is it?

The Subaru Outback is all new for the 2015 model year, though you'd be forgiven for having to do a double-take to notice that this is more than just a facelift. The Outback continues to dominate the crossover segment which it arguably pioneered, and its ubiquity on our roads is a testament to its success in the marketplace -- that's why Subaru decided not to mess with success too much in designing the fifth-generation Outback, which seeks to maximize and refine the qualities that have made it a winner.

Exterior design has taken a turn for the safe: Gone is the plastic cladding that used to adorn many an Outback's bottom half in previous generations. The Outback has received the new version of the corporate grille, which used to change more frequently for Subaru than for most of its competitors, and the result is a cleaner, fresher front fascia. Design language used to communicate ruggedness has not departed completely, but it has migrated to the front fog light surrounds, the roof rails.... and that's about it. The new front fascia also features a metallic chin guard, which does not diminish the relatively high departure angle of the front bumper, and it's a nice stylistic touch that gives the Outback's new face some balance. Out back, the design of the tail lights has retained that "mismatched" look fervently practiced by BMW; just about everything else remains similar to the outgoing model.

2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium review notes


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: The 2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium looks a bit tall on the outside, but get in and you’ll think you’re in the Popemobile. There’s a ton of glass, to the point the sunvisors are extra long in an attempt to cover enough windshield area to justify their existence (unfortunately, they don’t slide when flipped to the side so I was frequently blinded while traveling with the sun to my left). Seriously, this thing’s like a modern AMC Pacer, except with the addition of a huge glass moonroof. You are in the fishbowl.

Anyone familiar with current Subaru products will be instantly at home behind the wheel of the Forester (as long as they’re not shy, anyway). The familiar flat-four rumble is present, and the car’s CVT offers decent feel and NVH, at least as far as continuously variable transmissions go. The car is very stable and planted in any kind of reasonable driving situation -- again, a Subaru hallmark. It’s also quiet, at least until it reaches freeway speeds, at which point wind noise starts to overpower the stereo and conversations. Considering the Forester’s upright stance and 93 square miles of thin glass, its quietness at lower speeds is pretty impressive.

2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited review notes


ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: This new 2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited is an odd sort of vehicle. Not a bad vehicle -- Subaru managed to tuck some open-grain wood veneers in the cabin, so there are even a few luxury touches here and there -- but an odd one.

The basic long roof proportions are there, but it’s seemingly a few inches bigger in every direction. More headroom, a wider cabin, longer from nose to tail, etc. Looking at our first drive, it seems that the only thing that’s grown substantially is roof height -- it went up a substantial 2.2 inches. Well, that and cabin volume; there’s more room from armrest to armrest, even though the car itself isn’t much wider than its predecessor.

Anyway, I’d hesitate to call the Outback a wagon at this point. It’s more of a high-riding wagony crossover, to invent a segment. And I can’t really think of anything else it compares with except maybe the more-expensive Audi Allroad.

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