Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2009 Subaru Outback: Unflappable & Unstoppable

Plays Well with Mud
No matter the weather or the season, our Subaru Outback is perfect. It isn't flashy, it isn't super fast, but it gets the job done without complaint and with such capability that you just stop noticing how well the car works. The Outback is at the ready all the time. Add some good weather-appropriate tires and I think you can go anywhere.

  • Good mileage (20/26)
  • Partial Zero Emissions
  • Big sunroof that the kids can also enjoy
  • Easy to drive
  • Good in the snow, mud & rain (see Symmetrical Drive page here)
  • Integrated roof rack is standard on all trims
  • Manual shift mode is a great option when you need to slow down, but don't want to step on the brakes
  • Made in Indiana at a zero landfill plant (watch "Environment" video here)
  • Kids are not embarrassed by this wagon
  • No one can accuse you of showing off your wealth (although they can accuse you of showing off your practical side)

Our Subaru History
Is this our next Subaru?
The 2009 Subaru Outback we have now is our third Subaru wagon in 17 years of marriage. Our first was a beautiful taupe colored 5-speed 1994 Legacy wagon. We bought it used with 40,000 miles in Dubuque, Iowa, and loved it through many winters and a move to California. The Legacy wagon was such a step up from our very wimpy 1988 Toyota Tercel hatchback (which did not make the move to CA). That Legacy wagon was handed down to my brother-in-law who took in to L.A., and he gave it to my father-in-law who now has it back in Northern California. Last night our 10 year old son told us it's mileage is equivalent to driving it around the world 10 times. It doesn't look as good as it did in 1996 when we bought it, but it still gets the job done without putting up a fuss.

     Our second Subaru wagon was a 1992 2WD wagon we bought from a couple living among the redwoods in Northern CA. This wagon was not as nice as our first, but it was perfect for my husband's short commute. This wagon was also passed down, this time to a friend in Berkeley. I don't know where it is now, but it's likely rumbling around the Bay Area somewhere.

     My husband came back to Subaru after driving two Saabs (a 9-3 and the 9-5 that his brother still drives) and a Lexus IS350. The Lexus was a fun little car, but it didn't work well for our growing kids, our dog, or our trips to the snow. Subaru's make sense for our family and our lifestyle, and I think we'll have one in the garage for many years to come. (And since we seem to have a hand-me-down trend going, my brother-in-law and father-in-law will also have Subaru's in their garages.) I recently felt another surge of love for Subaru when the local transmission expert told me he tells his clients to get either a Subaru or an Audi with AWD, a true 4WD, or a standard 2WD. In his experience the Subaru AWD is the best and it's not worth messing around with other AWD vehicles.

Meet Our Supercar
We love skiing and just returned from a long week in the snow near Lake Tahoe. We left home in the middle of a big storm and took the Outback instead of my Lexus RX because of the Subaru's superior 4-wheel drive. It was a good call. It snowed and blew all the way up and over Donner Pass but we kept going and didn't have to stop to put on chains like all the minivans and sedans we passed.

Plays Well with Snow
     The real Supercar moment came when we got to the cabin and the uphill driveway. A neighbor had called us en route to let us know that the plows hadn't come by and that she couldn't get her Chevy 4WD up our driveway in the 18 inches of fresh powder. Her suggestion was to park in the flat driveway across the street and move our car in the morning after plowing. Well, any self-respecting Subaru owner has to at least try to go where others can't, so my very capable husband took a little run at the driveway and we got half way up. We backed down and tried it again. This time our very capable Subaru made it all the way up, pushing snow out of the way like a plow. All four of us were filled with pride and gave the very dirty Outback a big pat on the hatchback.

     Even though we could use our Outback as a plow, we knew that a new pair of snow tires would be ideal. On Saturday I took the family to the ski hill and then I went to a great tire shop in Truckee: Stone's Country Tire & Auto. Once 4 new Mastercraft Glacier Grips were on, I had absolutely no problem getting around Truckee on un-plowed streets. I truly felt unstoppable. The Outback, however, didn't seem to notice the new tires. It just did what it does best: carry people, dogs and gear from Point A to Point B safely and calmly. It's like driving with a yoga instructor/Grateful Dead fan: "It's all good, Man. Just breathe deeply and root your feet (tires) to the Earth." Maybe I could be a Subaru in my next life... I like the combo of unflappable and unstoppable no matter the conditions.

The Gritty (and Clean) Details
Cargo area without tray
We have 2 kids and a dog, so we know all about crumbs and car seats, mud and dog hair. Our Outback has leather-trimmed seats that are very easy to clean and the carpet is industrial strength and also very easy to clean (even puppy hair comes off easily). All Outbacks come with a cargo-area tray made from puppy-proof plastic that also keeps melting ski boot snow from causing carpet mildew. I give the interior finish an 'A' for kid and dog-friendliness. (Our Outback has charcoal gray interior, which I prefer over the light interior shown here.) The only gripe we have about the inside is the tight legroom for the second row passengers. But all the seats are more comfortable than my 2001 Lexus RX, so the kids don't complain about their butts, just their knees.

     I like being up a bit higher when driving for better visibility, but that's probably because I'm more accustomed to it. The appointments inside are not spartan or cheap at all. A little wood trim adds refinement, but not too much. This is the perfect car for Minnesotans: nice, humble, not too flashy, and doesn't mind snowy winters.

     The Outback has fine visibility even when packed to the gills. We could use more room when the kids want 2 friends to join us on ski trips, but all the good features outweigh the need for a 3rd row. I still think its odd to have frame-less windows in the front doors, and I worry that a window might break when a kid slams the door, but that hasn't happened yet on either the 1994 Legacy that Grandpa drives or this 2009. And maybe they don't have window frames for a reason.

Check out the Subaru website's Engineering page: Clear explanations of what their technology is and why it works so well.

We All Need Practical
I love luxury and sinking into a well-trimmed, purring car that says, "Looove me" in the style of Luigi from the Pixar movie Cars. I could do luxury most days. But there is definitely a place in all of our lives for practical vehicles. Sometimes you need to haul lumber or bags of sand or a bunch of muddy soccer kids. Some days you just don't want to wonder if your car can make it up the snowy driveway. Driving a Subaru no longer means that you live an alternate lifestyle in Colorado and spend your time weaving hemp blankets. Driving a Subaru means you have good sense and can rock designer jeans along with your Patagonia Better Sweater (my all time favorite sweater). All their environmental goodness is a great bonus that we support 100% and something that should continue to set Subaru apart from the crowd.

It is such a relief to have a safe, reliable, unpretentious family-hauler when you need one. As the Subaru ads say, it's all about Love.
Our Outback is rarely this clean...

Photos courtesy of Car Mama, and

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I just need one Subaru Impreza WRX model.
    Can you please help me in this respect to buy one such Impreza used car.
    Mainly I need the address of the best dealer in US, who can supply the specific used model.

  2. There are a lot of places online that showcase used Subaru's. Also search using Twitter - I have a few followers who specialize in Subaru. I hope you find what you need!