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Subaru's Ascent into the three row SUV market an interesting entry

Subaru's largest vehicle, the Ascent, has received some tweaks and upgrades for the 2023 model year, undoubtedly to help it compete better with such vehicles as Mazda's terrific CX-9, the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, VW Atlas, etc. with which it goes head-to-head.

The Ascent's three rows of seats can accommodate up to eight people, seven if you opt for the optional Captain's chairs for the second row (I'd opt for those, since their comfort beats the pants off a bench seat, while also making it easier to get back into Steerage), and it's roomy and comfortable enough to compete happily in this niche.

It even offers some advantages, such as Subaru's famous "symmetrical all-wheel drive" that kind of emulate what Audi has done traditionally with its famous quattro: instead of the vehicle being front-drive biased that sends torque rearward when called for (like nearly every other one this niche), it defaults to all-wheel drive, though it can still direct extra torque to where it's needed.

I like this system – I've enjoyed the Audi version for more than a decade now and am firmly in the "real" all-wheel drive camp. When you can find it…

This configuration should also make the Ascent more efficient in off-road situations, not that I'd advise climbing a roadless mountainside with it. But for more "pedestrian" off-road uses, it should excel, handling the "ascent" with aplomb.

Enhancing the AWD system is the X-MODE system, which Subaru says is meant "for when the going gets really tough," i.e. snow, ice, really crummy roads. Apparently, it adjusts the engine's torque output and where it's sent, depending on where it's needed. more...

Subaru Legacy a very nice vehicle to drive – unless it drives you nuts

Subaru's historic legacy is a long string of interesting, all-wheel-drive vehicles, and its current automotive Legacy continues that trend by offering a nice-to-drive sedan that'll handle all four seasons of weather with aplomb.

Alas, Subaru has chosen to follow the "nannie herd" by making the vehicle so annoying that I, for one, would hesitate to visit a dealership to purchase one.

It's too bad, because I really liked driving Subaru Canada's Legacy GT through some very wintry Calgary roads this past January. It has plenty of pickup, from its turbo "boxer" four cylinder engine, a cat-like independent suspension and Subaru's famous symmetrical all-wheel drive. I couldn't even bring myself to hate its CVT, continuously variable transmission, the way I do usually when I drive a car that's saddled with one.

Subaru's sample Legacy GT, which rang in the till at $41,995 (the base Touring is $32,995), is their largest sedan, and it's full of modern technology. It seats five comfortably, is handsome inside and outside, and will probably last as long as its owners want it to.

According to Subaru Canada's website, this seventh generation Legacy has been "restyled and retuned for the new model year", though it was pretty nice last year, too – nanny caveats notwithstanding.

The exterior tweaks include a new and sportier-looking front fascia, headlights and bumper (the GT trim level gets its own front grille "with bold red accent trim", and there's custom badging on the trunk lid. more...

Subaru Forester Premier a very nice vehicle – but it isn't without its annoyances

The Subaru Forester was arguably the company's first SUV, though it may have seemed more like a tall wagon than a Sport Ute. Since then, the company has expanded its SUV offerings, but the Forester is still around and there are still a lot of things to like about it.

It's still my favourite Subaru, in fact, one which I would have put one on my short list back in the day had I been in the market. And the stuff that made that Forester so compelling then are still there: symmetrical all-wheel drive, good ground clearance, plenty of storage/hauling space and good driving dynamics.

This current model is the fifth-generation of Forester and Subaru unleashed it on the marketplace in 2019. Typically, this means it's time for a mid-cycle refresh and that's exactly what Subaru has given it. There isn't a lot that's new, but the tweaks include a new bumper and headlights, a redesigned panel under the rear bumper and new trim around the rear window.

You also get some new materials and colours – at least you can on the top-line Premium trim level of Subaru's sample.

But this stuff is really just gilding the lily – and adding marketing opportunities for Subaru – for what was already very nearly a great car, er, SUV. more...

Limited Edition Subaru Outback lives for off-road action

Subaru's Outback is branching out for 2022, offering a new, limited edition "Wilderness" trim level that ups the off-road ante in a vehicle already known for its non-asphalt manners.

Like most Subarus, the Outback – which arguably came to fame when Australian actor Paul Hogan pitched them back in the 1990's as the world's first sport utility wagon – has a loyal following, and the vehicles are very popular in areas where outdoorsy folk congregate.

When I was in Alaska about a decade ago, for example, it seemed as if the only vehicles around were either pickup trucks or Subarus. Ditto for rural areas of the British Columbia interior that I've frequented. And of course, city folk embrace them as well, undoubtedly for their all-wheel drive prowess that comes in handy when the roads get less than optimal.

And now, for those whose Subarus are destined to eschew asphalt as much as possible, the Japanese carmaker is bringing in the new "Wilderness" trim level, which increases the car's asphalt-eschewing creds in new ways.

At the heart of Subarus' appeal is its full-time all-wheel drive, which every Subaru except for the sports car BRZ comes with as standard equipment. It's a kind of nod to Audi's quattro system, in that it isn't a front or rear wheel drive car that can send torque to the usually non-powered axle when necessary. Nope, this is a real AWD wagon – Subaru calls it Symmetrical Full-Time AWD – and that's a wonderful feature on road and off because it can take an already good handling vehicle and make it seem as if it's on rails. more...

Award-winning Subarus bring Big Brother to some otherwise nice vehicles

Subaru, the Japanese car company, has won two Automobile Journalists Association of Canada "Best Car in Canada" awards, for its new Legacy and Outback, and on the whole they're very nice vehicles.

Though neither won the Best Car in Canada award for 2020 (that went to Mazda's terrific 3 sedan/hatchback), the Legacy took its category as Best Large Car in Canada for 2020, while the Outback was named Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2020. That's pretty good!

And then they went all Big Brother.

I'm talking about obtrusive nannies, a topic I address regularly in this column because I find some of them particularly annoying. Lane keeping assists are particularly vile because they aren't smart enough to tell if you're swerving uncontrollably or just having a bit of fun apexing a curve, while some blind spot monitors get all a-flutter when you're merely turning left at a dual turn intersection and there's someone else turning in the lane beside you.

To this mix, Subaru has now brought an entirely new level of obtrusiveness. It's called DriverFocus, is available on the Premier trim level – and it has actually won at least one award. The system uses facial recognition software and a camera pointed at the driver's face to put a 1984 Telescreen in your vehicle. more...

Subaru Forester gets a nice upgrade for 2019

My favourite Subaru is back with a new set of clothes, and it's a nice new wardrobe for a vehicle that was pretty nice already.

That said, Subaru continues to inflict a continuously variable transmission on its non-manual transmission vehicles and even though it's better than many it's still as whiny and annoying as I am when faced with honest work.

According to the company, the Forester has been re-engineered from the ground up for 2019, including a new BOXER engine, where (like many Porsches) the cylinders are mounted "flat" rather than in a "V" or a line, so the pistons face off against each other, like boxers duking it out. There's also a new CVT Subaru says works with the new PUGILIST engine to create more power while also increasing efficiency.

The vehicle is also new inside, which is a good thing because past Subarus have seemed to me (perhaps unfairly) to be a tad long in the tooth in how they felt compared with some other carmakers' offerings. Indeed, this Forester – and the Ascent I reviewed a while back – seems as modern and up to date as any vehicle in their class, and that of course is a good thing. more...

Subaru Climbs back into the three-row market with Ascent

Consumers looking for a three row SUV/Crossover have a new choice in Subaru's latest new model.

The Ascent, new for 2019 and, according to Subaru, their largest vehicle ever, is aimed straight at such vehicles as Mazda's terrific CX-9, the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, VW Atlas, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Yep, it's a pretty crowded niche.

And that's great! More choices are certainly better than fewer.

The Ascent (add a couple of "S's" to the name and you surely have a decent – or de-scent – fart joke!) seats up to eight people and features all the stuff that has made Subaru popular with its loyal audience – such as symmetrical all-wheel drive that's comfortable on and off road. Alas, it also inflicts a couple of things that aren't so good – stuff such as a continuously variable transmission (though this one is far from being the most annoying CVT I've experienced) and nannies that are so annoying I found myself cussing at the vehicle repeatedly.

That said, there's a lot to like about the Ascent, including a comfortable and attractive interior that's designed and built mostly logically, as well as coming with most of the more mainstream tech features found on most new vehicles these days – stuff like Bluetooth, power this and that, you name it.

The Ascent is Subaru's first foray into this niche since it killed off the old Tribeca, which was a pretty bizarre-looking (another fine Subaru tradition: remember the SVX?)  but fine to drive "crossover" (it toed the line well between minivan and SUV). more...

Subaru Impreza PZEV - surprising fun despite lack of oomph

It's no STI - or even a WRX, but the 2015 Subaru Impreza PZEV can still be a reasonably compelling drive despite its uninteresting power plant. 

The PZEV moniker means it's a "partial zero emissions vehicle," and though I know they're trying to differentiate themselves from "dirtier" engines, you could say that every other car that isn't all-electric is also a "partial zero emissions vehicle" - because "partial" does not mean "is" zero emissions. In fact, Subaru describes PZEV as producing "zero evaporative emissions, offering extremely clean emissions" and making "the most of every drop of fuel" and the company claims the car can get up to 8.5 L/100 km in the city and 6.4 L/100 km on the highway, even with its all-wheel drive configuration.

I can only imagine how much fun it would be to drive in a manner conducive to getting those figures… more...

Subaru enhances its Legacy and upgrades its Outback for 2015

Love 'em or hate 'em, Subarus have earned a loyal following for their tradition of offering all wheel drive vehicles that can take you virtually anywhere at any time. And for 2015, two of the company's top models have been tweaked to make them an even better choice for those susceptible to the brand's charms.

That has never really included me - though I like the Forester quite a bit - but I can certainly see why people love their Subarus. They're built well, offer most - if not all - of the technology a modern car should, and they'll probably perform yeoman's service for their owners virtually forever. more...

Subaru Forester XT

If the temperature falls in a Forester, and no one's there to feel it, does it still get cold? It's a question for the ages.

Ages three to five undoubtedly – or maybe IQ's in that range – but if nothing else a unique way to get into a review of the 2014 Subaru Forester, the Japanese marque's entry into the "cute ute" segment of the market.

For 2014, the Forester is supposedly all new from the ground up and the company says the new version is "ready to put even more distance between itself and the competition." Subaru wasn't specific on the point, but they undoubtedly mean more distance ahead of the competition. So does it leave such worthy competitors as the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, VW Tiguan et al in its dust? more...

Subaru Impreza aims for four wheel economy

Subaru made its name in part by creating a niche made up only of all all-wheel-drive vehicles, and the 2012 Impreza continues that commitment in a reasonably priced car that will undoubtedly appeal to Subarufionados. more...

Subaru Legacy, Nissan Rogue – Affordable All-wheel Drive

All-wheel drive can come in a handy if you're looking for the most traction or flexibility in where you can take your vehicle – such as in snowy climes or to off-road locations.

Nothing is free, of course, and all-wheel drive technology also adds weight and complexity to a vehicle, and any time you add something to a basic vehicle you can assume the price is going to go up as well. Fortunately, all-wheel drive doesn't have to break the bank, as witnessed by the two vehicles under discussion in this column: the Nissan Rogue and Subaru Legacy. more...

Entry Level Subaru Still "Impreza-ive"

The 2010 Subaru Impreza sports a few upgrades and enhancements designed to make it more attractive to its base of loyal customers – and others – while remaining true to its "rally-bred" roots.

And why not? The Impreza 2.5i I drove may not be the most refined vehicle on Earth, but it still has a lot going for it. Chief among these is Subaru's famous symmetrical all-wheel drive system coupled with the "boxer" engine that sits low up front, pistons moving horizontally toward each other (hence the "boxer" moniker), helping give the car a very, well, down to earth center of gravity. Both features come in very handy in climates that experience stuff like snow and ice. more...

Subaru Forester Remains Tree-mendous for 2010

The Subaru Forester is a nice blend of wagon and SUV, a vehicle that's comfortable and attractive and which does its job well.

Now in its third generation, the Forester received a major makeover for 2009, and the minor tweaking it receives for '10 should help it remain competitive in a rather crowded market niche.  more...

Subaru Impreza WRX Turbocharged Fun

Subaru's hot little WRX is back, with new clothes but the same impertinent attitude, and fans will probably be pleased.

For 2009, the Impreza has been given a new body (sedan or 5 door hatch) that I happen to like quite a bit. The old Impreza looked okay, but the new one is more modern in appearance, with a bold new front grille and aerodynamically-sculpted profile. The WRX version comes with a ground-effects body kit, a functional hood scoop, and a rear spoiler sSubaru says was derived straight from rally competition. more....

Subaru's Enduring Legacy a Strong Statement

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary describes Legacy as, among other things, "anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor".

Considering that, Legacy might seem an odd name for a car Subaru undoubtedly wants to be thought of as up to date, especially since the test unit I drove for a week and a bit included the company's PZEV technology, an eco-friendly move that's decidedly modern in its "greenness". more....

2009 Subaru Forester - a Clear Cut Choice

The '09 Forester looks quite a bit bigger than the retired lumberjack whose job has just been outsourced to it. Actually, it's only about three inches longer and less than two inches wider, which makes Forester Nouveau just a tad smaller than the Toyota Rav4 and a bit longer, but narrower, than the Honda CR-V. And that feels about right. Forester feels more like a car to drive than those other two fine competitors, though, and that's okay. more...

2008 Subaru Tribeca Gets Rhinoplasty, Refinement

The new schnoz is the first thing you'll notice about the 2008 Tribeca (assuming you approach it from the front!). Gone is the weird, supposedly aviation-inspired triple grille, replaced by one that looks decidedly Chrysler Pacifia-ish. It's a little bland compared to the older grille (proving that you just can't please some people), but it works.

There are new headlamps, taillights, rear spoiler and liftgate this year, too, as well as a redesigned rear quarter and rear quarter windows. The taillights look a tad larger than the more B9 ones from last year's model, and the headlamps are more horizontal than the previous triangular-ish ones. Other than the grille and maybe the more squarish rear quarter windows, the differences are subtle but effective and make the Tribeca a little nicer on the eyes. Not that it was an ogre before…. more...

Subaru Creates a “B9” SUV

Subaru has jumped into the so-called SUV market with both feet, offering a terrific new vehicle that’s at least as nice to drive as any other SUV I’ve tried.

Subaru has been marketing its Forester as an SUV for several years now, but I’ve always found it more of a tall wagon than an honest to goodness SUV. And that’s fine! I’ve always liked the Forester, and prefer it to most SUV’s; along with the old Mazda Protégé 5 it has been one of my favorite such wagons, though the Subaru has had the advantage of the company’s traditional all wheel drive.

But Subaru is trumpeting the B9 Tribeca as the real SUV deal, though they’re calling it a “Crossover Utility Vehicle”. And it does look a little like a cross between an SUV and a minivan, without the minivan’s traditional sliding side doors. It drives like a cross between a minivan and an SUV, too, and while that may sound like the B9 Tribeca has a split personality, it drives very nicely regardless of what you want to want to call it. more...

Subaru’s Outback Comes Back Out Front?

One of Subaru’s "legacies" is its self proclaimed “world’s first sport utility wagon,” the Outback. Basically a beefed up version of the Legacy, the Outback is newly redesigned for 2005, a freshening that keeps what made earlier versions popular, but ups the styling and technology ante to reflect the current state of the art better.

I’d never driven a Legacy or an Outback before this review, though I’ve driven most other Subarus from the past couple of years, so I was extremely interested to try this top-of-the-line 3.0R VDC model. I like Subarus, especially the Forester, but on the whole am of the opinion that they don’t come off quite as refined in their feel and appointments as some of the Japanese competition I’ve driven.

This obviously doesn’t matter to Subaru owners, who find many other things to love including their four wheel drive stability and all around driving prowess (as well as a good “fun to drive” quotient). more...

Forester Branches Out

In theory, if you take a nice vehicle and add a turbocharger to it you’ll up the driving fun ante.

In practice, at least as far as the Subaru Forester is concerned, this is exactly what happened. Yippee!

The Forester is Subaru’s SUV, though the company likes to say it has the functionality of an SUV with the driving experience of a sports car. And that isn’t a bad description, because it really does balance both tasks – though that also makes it come off as not quite master of either.

It’s close enough for me, though. Not only is the Forester, especially this Forester, my favorite Subaru, it’s one of my wife’s favorite cars of all the vehicles we get to review – probably the one she’d run out and buy first if the Lotto Gods were to smile upon our family. more...

Subaru's Little Pickup Serves Lifestyle Warriors

Subaru thinks it has the answer for people with lifestyle toys to haul but who don’t want to own an honest-to-goodness pickup truck to haul them.

It’s the Baja, a version of the company’s Outback from which Subaru’s engineers have sliced the rear end, replacing the station wagon's bum with a small pickup bed. The result is an odd kind of hybrid vehicle – not in the gas/electric power plant hybrid vein but in its blend of comfortable car and utility hauler.

Subaru has the courage to march to its own drum, and you can’t fault a company for showing gumption. That said, the Baja’s unique appearance led me to muse that the “AWD” badge on its rear was a new kind of phonetic spelling for “odd.” more...

Forester, simply “Treemendous” - Subaru SUV a Nice Ride

If a tree falls on a Forester and no one’s around to see it, does it still leave a dent?

Undoubtedly - and I apologize for the lengths to which I’ll go to make a bad joke.

Fortunately, Subaru’s Forester SUV is no joke; rather, it’s a very nice vehicle to drive and is nimble enough that it may be able to avoid said tree, as well as other road hazards such as snow and the like.

In fact, the Forester is my favorite Subaru to date. I’ve driven a few other models all, unfortunately - including this Forester - shackled with automatic transmissions, and despite my leanings toward sporty offerings the Forester left me really impressed. more...

Subaru Impreza Impresses

Subaru's entry level Impreza may be the most affordable in the company's Impreza line, but that doesn't mean it's stripped bare.

The Impreza 2.5 line ranges from the TS of this review to the pocket rocket WRX. The TS doesn't feel particularly entry level, however, and its performance is more than adequate for reasonably spirited every day driving and its features are comparable to other cars in its class.

Available in sedan and "Sport Wagon" configuration (I drove the wagon), the TS is powered by Subaru's 2.5 liter "flat four" engine. This is the only engine available, but that's okay; it puts out 165 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 166 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm, buzzily winding up to its just-past 6000 rpm redline when you wind it out. more...

Subaru's Road Rocket Cries for a Manual - Slushbox, Turbo Lags

Subaru's Impreza WRX is being hailed by many as a legitimate road rocket. Inspired by the marque's championship rally vehicles, the 2002 WRX' secret weapon is a turbocharged, two liter four cylinder power plant that cranks out 227 hp and 217 foot pounds of torque.

The result is supposed to be a Really Fast Car - and with its five-speed manual transmission it probably is. Unfortunately, the Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon I drove was hamstrung by the optional four-speed automatic transmission and, off the line, that and a case of turbo lag has turned this projectile into a bit of a brick.

To be fair, once you get the revs up past 3000 or so, the afterburner kicks in and you're sent hustling with remarkable abandon. Until then, however, one is tempted to get out and push.

That's a shame, because there's plenty to like about this car, especially if you view yourself as any kind of enthusiast. more...

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Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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