Sunday, September 3, 2017

Driving Music - Soundtrack of Speed

Long before I was hooked on Subarus, I was hooked on Music.  As such, whenever I have a long stretch of fun roads ahead, having a "soundtrack" to go along with it has been a must.  Especially after watching motoring shows, having the right tunes is key for my personal driving enjoyment.  Over several years my music library has been steadily growing and I've managed to make a few playlists of different genres of music to fit my mood every time I go out for a spin.  As I prepare to head north for the final round of the ARA National Championship, my trusty iPod is loaded up with the music that drives me.  Below are a few samples of what I listen to when I'm on the road!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

ARA - Onwards and Upwards

The newly formed American Rally Association just finished up their inaugural 2017 season at the Ojibwe Forests Rally.  6 National Championship events built a short, yet exciting season for the upstart ARA.  With a down-to-the-line championship between the #199 Subaru of Travis Pastrana and co-driver Robbie Durant and the #75 Subaru of David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew finishing out the rollercoaster season, the ARA certainly had highlights throughout the season to talk about.

Instead of resting on their laurels of the past season, the ARA went onwards and upwards just one day after the last event of the season, outlining plans for expansion of their National Championship for 2018 as well as the addition of Regional Rally events on the eastern and western coast of the United States.  In total, the National Championship for the American Rally Association will feature 7 races.  5 of the events we already know from the 2017 rally.  The 6th will add the Idaho Rally in September, and a 7th will be announced at a later date.  Here's the 2018 ARA Calendar as it sits currently.

National Championship

  • Oregon Trail Rally April 20th - 22nd
  • Olympus Rally May May 19th -20th
  • STPR June 1st -2nd
  • New England Forest Rally July 20th - 21th
  • Ojibwe Forests Rally August 24th - 25th
  • Idaho Rally Sept 14th - 15th
  • 7th Event TBA


Junior Championship

  • Oregon Trail Rally April 20th - 22nd
  • Olympus Rally May May 19th -20th
  • STPR June 1st -2nd
  • New England Forest Rally July 20th - 21th
  • Ojibwe Forests Rally August 24th - 25th


Keep an eye out for future announcements as the 2018 Season Approaches!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Diode Dynamics - STI Lighting

I've really liked the new "Angry Eyes" of Subaru headlights that have been featured on recent cars.  The LED "Boomerang" or "C-Light" that surrounds the hawkeye-style headlight designs adds a modern touch, but sometimes they aren't the brightest.  As a result of this, many of the Subarus that feature this kind of headlight design still need Daytime Running Lights (DRL) to be on because the C-Light itself isn't bright enough to function as one.  Some of the latest Subarus to come out (2018 on up) that have this feature are bright enough to act as a DRL, but in the case of my 2016 WRX STI... it just wasn't bright enough.  Until now!

Diode Dynamics carries a myriad of LED lighting products for vehicles.  The kit I got replaces the stock C-Light with a much brighter sharper light.  It's quite a bit of effort to install, as the light rests inside the headlight housing.  To reach it, the entire front bumper cover must be removed as well as each headlight housing.  While these lights were being installed, the orange corner reflectors were blacked out and the light was re-wired to activate the JDM Fog Light Bezel LED light, as the two lights turn on together.  The effect is a much sharper and more aggressive looking headlight assembly that doesn't look like an aftermarket modification.  These brighter C-Lights are easily visible during the daytime and are even more obviously bright at night.  It's a clean finish that really sets off the front-end.



I would recommend this to anyone with a 2015-2017 WRX or WRX STI looking to improve the look of their car while still giving it a clean stock appearance.  I would especially recommend this for anyone with a Base or Premium WRX, as the lights really transform the aggressive look of the headlight.  Plus, having the light apart gives you the chance to make other aesthetic changes.  It would have been a little tricky to do this install on my own not having any experience doing something like this, but I was lucky to know someone who had done this before with their car and had a helping hand.

Friday, August 11, 2017

2019 Subaru Ascent Details

After a hiatus from the 3rd-Row SUV segment, Subaru is bringing a competitive punch to the market in Spring of 2018.  This long overdue and highly anticipated family SUV has been teasing auto shows this past year with two different concepts being displayed toting the design features to come.  Built on the new Subaru Global Platform, the 2019 Subaru Ascent will have lots of goodies coming with it for growing Subaru families to enjoy.

At the heart of the Ascent lies a brand-new engine for Subaru.  Using a similar design to the Forester XT and WRX, the powerplant in the Ascent is a larger 2.4 liter Direct Injected 4-cylinder Boxer Engine with a Twin-Scroll Turbocharger.  Mated to a High-Torque Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), it should deliver smooth and efficient power through it's full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.  Power output is not known yet at this time, but the Ascent will be able to tow up to 5,000 lbs with this setup.

Subaru's EyeSight System, which hosts a suite of safety equipment, will be standard on all Ascent models.  Front and Rear facing cameras aid with parking visibility while Pre-Collision Systems keep an eye out ahead for any trouble.  Tie this in with the Ascent's fantastic cabin visibility along with crash ratings designed to meet current and future safety standards and this new addition to the family looks to easily continue Subaru's run of Top Safety Pick + Awards.

The big news with the Ascent is how BIG it really is.  For starters, the Ascent can jump up from it's 7-Passenger status to 8-Passengers with the option to replace the two center Captains chairs with a Bench seat for 3.  While the cabin's dimensions haven't been released, it's as big or larger than most of it's current competitors.  To accommodate all those passengers, the Ascent's interior is full of USB Charging points along with an army of Cup Holders to stow drinks for your crew.  Along with Dual-Zone Climate Control for the front, the rear passengers have their own controls and vents in a roomy cabin.  Above them is a massive two-piece power moonroof that nearly covers the entire ceiling, adding to it's already stellar visibility.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto lie at the core of Subaru's Infotainment System on a large touchscreen radio with intuitive controls and sharp resolution.

Built alongside the American-built Impreza, Legacy, and Outback, the new Ascent will be a great addition to the Subaru lineup for 2018.  More details will be released later in the year so keep an eye out for updates as we get closer to the release!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ojibwe will Decide ARA Championship

It's been a few years since a Rally Championship in the US came down to the line like this.  When the newly-formed American Rally Association (ARA) kicked off their inaugural season in early 2017, Subaru Rally Team USA had both of their driver duos ready to battle it out on even terms.  David Higgins and Co-Driver Craig Drew have won the last 6 National Championships with Rally America while Travis Pastrana and Co-Driver Robbie Durant have been making a more committed return to rally.  After 5 rounds battling it out in identical rally cars, the two teams have been locked in close competition and, after a crazy battle in New England, it looks to come down to the line!  Ojibwe will decide the ARA Championship!

The story so far between the #75 and #199 Subarus has been a rollercoaster so far.  Higgins and Drew took the first win at Perce Neige in Canada only to be edged out a few months later at Oregon Trail by Pastrana and Durant.  At the following Olympus Rally in Washington State, Higgins regained the lead with a dominant win and another win at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally.

At that point it was looking like the veteran team in the #75 Subaru would take the Championship until the New England Forest Rally when things got interesting.  It started with a rough finish to Day 1 when Robbie Durant was injured during the last stage of the day.  Unable to finish the rally, Subaru Rally Team USA employed the help of one of their crew, Greg Dorman, to sit in for Durant and finish the rally.  Day 2 was especially tough on the cars.  Higgins' lead disintegrated when the rear passenger wheel was ripped from his car.  During service, the crew was unable to make full repairs needed to get his car back to 100%.  With only a second separating Higgins and Pastrana, the #199 Subaru took the win to clinch the ARA Championship Points.

David Higgins and Craig Drew have won the Rally America National Championship 6 years in a row.  With Travis Pastrana's improvements and commitment getting results, he's got a shot to win it all at the Ojibwe Forests Rally.  It's too close to call and, with the unpredictable nature of rally, it's still anyone's championship to win!  When the dust settles in northeastern Minnesota, who will take the ARA Championship home?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Hyper Blue gets some Weave

I'm usually not a fan of unpainted carbon fiber parts on a car.  Unless it's a black or dark-colored car, the contrast between the carbon fiber and the car itself just isn't something I like, especially in the case of larger parts like a hood or a trunk.  I know there are others who do like that but it's just not usually something I'd go for.  I'm especially against the look of an unpainted hood on the 2015-2019 WRX and WRX STI because of the panel of paint between the hood and the grille itself.  It looks odd to me, so I had pretty much ruled out the idea entirely for my Hyper Blue STI.

The idea of hood vents, no matter how functional or useful they might be, had always been something I wanted to add to my car at some point.  However, the only two ways I had seen this achieved was with either a carbon fiber hood or cutting holes in the stock hood.  Neither option really seemed desirable until I saw what a fellow Hyper Blue STI owner had done with his.  He had painted the entire hood to match and left the vents on either side in carbon fiber.  A hint of weave showing through with the rest dressed to impress.  I loved the idea, found a hood, and got to work!


Paint-matching the factory Hyper Blue color was easy.  This car isn't that old so there's really no fade to worry about.  Plus the M3Y paint doesn't have any tricky metallic or pearl coat to mess around with so the only tough part was the vents.  The paint line around the vents after masking them off would've been easy to spot and feel if it wasn't done properly, so we sanded them down to have a nice finish when the clear coat was applied.  The end result was a crisp line between Hyper Blue and Carbon Fiber while maintaining a smooth glossy texture along those lines.

I'm incredibly happy with how this hood turned out.  The larger hood scoop is much more obvious and the side vents add some contrast and detail to the car.  Once I've finished building the new air dam to feed my top mount intercooler, it'll be even better.  For now, I'm just happy with how this aggressive hood has transformed the look of my car.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

2018 WRX STI Changes

The 2018 WRX STI, hitting showrooms in July of 2017, has a few changes for it's following of enthusiasts to enjoy before the complete redesign in 2020.  Built on the platform that came out as a 2015 model, the new 2018 brings some extra bits to make this the best of the "last dinosaur": the EJ257.

Factory Recaro front seats (optional on the base STI and standard on the Limited) bring some stiffer bolstering to the cabin, along with more Pino Black accents all around.  A new top 5.9 inch screen reads out vehicle information (boost, fuel economy, etc) and combines it with the climate control display that was previously separate.

In keeping with the "Best performing STI ever" claims, this latest version features 6-Piston Brembo front calipers and drilled brake disks bring more stopping power to the STI, along with a revised inverted strut suspension all around.  These calipers are surrounded by massive 19-inch wheels wrapped in Yokohama Advan Summer Performance Tires.  Power remains the same, although a Type RA version coming later has a slight bump to 310 horses.

An odd omission to the 2018 STI is Fog Lights.  These have been standard on the STI for awhile, but earlier models did leave these out in favor of "covers" on the front bumper.  Much like the styling of the Focus RS and the Civic Si and Type R, the 2018 WRX STI has large vents or "intakes" covering these spots.

While these have been claimed to be "brake cooling" ducts, this is likely not the case.  Most of the vent is purely cosmetic, with only the lower corner of each actually has an opening with small duct work that pushes air up into the inside of the bumper cover.  The space the air is being pushed through is where the bumper would've had Fog Lights on it.  There aren't any changes inside the wheel well or engine compartment to make use of this air being funneled in to make use of these ducts, either.  Because there are no openings within the wheel well that could channel air from these ducts to the brakes, there's no chance for them to do any sort of cooling for the 6-Piston Brembo brakes.

The new LED Headlights also have the High-Beam function built within them unlike the Halogen High Beams having a separate housing on the previous version.  The Turn Signal now occupies the area where the High Beam once was, giving the front end a cleaner, more aggressive look.

As I've mentioned before, this new STI is the last time we'll see the older engine under the hood.  The next revision for the STI will come riding on the new Subaru Global Platform and the FA-series Direct-Injected Boxer engine.  The 2018 and 2019 WRX STI is the last of the EJ-breed.