Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 was fun!

Taking a quick minute to look back on 2013 as far as the Subaru-side of my world is concerned.  Whether it was something new for Subaru as a company or something I personally did, the Pleiades Star Cluster was certainly a big part of this year for me.

Subaru started off the year showing off the 2014 Subaru Forester and I got to take a close peek at it at the Midlands International Auto Show.  Never imagined that a couple months later it would be in my own family.  My dad purchased a Forester 2.5i Touring with EyeSight and has been singing it's praises to friends and coworkers ever since.  It's been fun seeing my loved ones catch the Subaru fever!  Later on, the Forester got MotorTrend's SUV of the year, so it felt good to know we had made the right call even before the award was given to it.

During the summer, my fiance got a 2004 Subaru Outback Sedan H6 that will become part of our family when we get married in May of '14.  She's been having fun with that car and I'm so proud to have found this little monster sedan for her!  We've named it "Agnes" and it's been a great reliable car for us.  I've been helping with maintenance on it as I continue to learn my way around Subarus, so it's been an enjoyable experience for both of us.  Her dad (my future father-in-law) got a '14 Legacy, too... so both of our families have these great vehicles.  It's really beginning to look like "All We'll Drive".  When our families get together, it's like a big Subaru Meet every time and it makes me incredibly proud.

Had some fun with my own cars over the summer, too.  With some help (well, a lot of help) from my good friend James, I was able to get Side Skirts installed on my base-model Hatchback.  Didn't think it was doable until he planted that seed in my brain and we got to it.  Installed the Rally Armors on there, too... so we had a good ol' time.  James was also a coworker of mine for a few months at my dealership, so it was fun bouncing ideas off him about Subarus.  He's since become a Service Advisor, but that doesn't change much other than that I don't get to see him every day.  It's just a continuing trend of the great people I've met as a result of owning these cars.

Speaking of great people, we had some REALLY fun events this year with the Nebraska Subaru Owners Club.  From the Gravel Express route to the Fall Meet, there were lots of great opportunities to get out and drive with friends.  I always look forward to the weekly meets here at my dealership and continue planning bigger events for folks to enjoy.

2013 also marked the start of a fun project: a 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe.  It was in need of some serious TLC and I was happy to help.  We've been getting friends together to work on it from it's initial cleanup and into it's suspension work, interior replacement, and addressing the many issues caused by neglect, it's been a fun project to be a part of.  It's been adopted by my driveway, filling in the empty bay next to my garage at home and I've been learning a lot about driving this Rally Car on gravel and dirt, too.

We also got some exciting news in the Subaru World for next year.  At the LA Auto Show in November, Subaru unveiled the 2015 Subaru WRX that will be getting a '14 release.  Many spy photos, renderings, and concept car images had been teasing fans about the future of this icon for Subaru Enthusiasts, so it was great getting confirmation of this car.  While some may still have their doubts, I'm personally stoked for this car, especially after seeing the Driving Sports TV review of this and hearing the praises he had about the car's handling and responsiveness.

All in all, it's been a great year for me... and Subaru has certainly been a big part of it.  Subaru has had a great year for sales, continuing to meet and exceed the needs of their customers and turning heads with their award-winning designs.  Whether I was meeting new friends or drooling over the next generation of the WRX, Subaru made this year a lot of fun for me.  I'm happy to work for them, proud to have my family drive them, and enjoying every mile!  And 2014 looks to continue that trend!!  Happy New Year, everyone!  See you next year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Better with Friends

Been having some more fun on Gravel and Dirt, but recently I've been having more fun with friends along for the ride!  Yesterday, a good friend of mine tagged along for some fun at The Playground.  Despite the spotty snowy/icy conditions and his coolant leak at the end of our 4th run, we had a great time!

Took some video that I might upload later, but having a mile-and-a-half of pure dirt to run on has been quite fun.  It's also very close to where I live, so I've found myself going up there about every weekend.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Welcome Back, Winter!

December 21st!  It's officially winter, and I can't wait for the white stuff to fly!  Our area has had two little volleys of snow in late fall, but now there's no excuse for Mother Nature to hold back now!

Planning winter events with my local Subaru owners group is always tricky, but thanks to things like Facebook, we stay pretty connected on snow days for those last-minute "OMG it's SNOWING!  Let's Go PLAY" ideas.  Unfortunately, those ideas will probably go on hold for the next few days.  Forecast just looks cold with no signs of major precipitation for the rest of the month.  There's supposed to be some flurries flying tonight, but I don't expect any significant accumulation.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Driving Sports: 2015 WRX Review

Driving Sports TV had a live feed earlier today that included their review of a 2015 Subaru WRX Limited with the CVT option in Ice Silver Metallic.  Ryan Douthit hosts an in-depth review direct from the cabin as he twists the new WRX around every turn he can find.  There's a lot that it covers, including the 5 x 114 wheel size, which means you can put those STi BBS wheels that everyone has been photoshopping onto the new WRX pictures anyways, so that's fun.

Anyways, the link to Ryan's review is after the jump!  Many enthusiasts were still either on the fence or flat-out against the new design.  Gotta wonder if this will change anything?  Honestly, for those naysayers, I think it's gonna take a drive for themselves to see the car in person and to feel it out.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gorilla Top-Mount Cold Air Intake

Earlier in the fall, I had been testing out a homebrew top mount cold air intake on the RS with help from RS25.com.  Things were good and there was a noticeable performance increase with this setup... but it just wasn't quite solid enough for me.  I had done some weather testing with it that it held up against, but after some not-so-smooth roads I barreled through, I realized that this design wasn't going to hold up to Rally, which is likely the direction this car will go.  Luckily, Derek at Gorilla Off-Road Company makes equipment for Subarus that do hold up quite well to this demanding motorsport.  After talking with him about the system and how his worked, I moved forward and picked one up for the RS.

Performance wise, there aren't any real changes between the homebrew setup and the Gorilla intake, as they both draw cold air directly from the hood scoop.  Both systems use a K&N Filter (I just purchased a new one to replace the beat-up one that the RS came with) and they're both hooked up directly to the intake manifold on this MAP-based system.  Really, the only thing that was wrong with the homebrew setup was that I wanted something a little more solid that could take the same abuse the rest of the car has managed to endure so far.

Derek's intake is actually crash tested, as he recently had one out of a wrecked RS for sale that only had scratches on it. It's built with a durable 6061 aluminum box that uses factory mounting brackets and is finished with a heat insulating black powder coat application.  As with the weather applications, I can say that I have put the homebrew system through it's paces.  The Gorilla Intake was mounted just before Winter Storm Dion and I drove the car all day through it with no issues.  Even after I had the car parked for several hours and snow had accumulated onto the hood.  I just started it up and drove away with snow flying off the car.  I'd imagine snow ahead of the hood scoop made it's way in, but after inspecting the intake once I was home, there still were no signs of any water that might have melted through.  

I'd say that, for normal driving conditions, the homebrew system does just fine.  It wobbles a little and I'd just worry about the intake getting tossed around.  It also took me a couple tries to get the fitment right and I was never 100% happy with how it sat under the hood scoop.  With the Gorilla intake, fitment was spot-on.  It's rugged, sturdy, and I just feel more confident with a solid setup like this whereas with the homebrew system, I was checking under the hood every time I hit a bump to see if it had wiggled itself loose or something.  I can focus less on worry about the car and more on bettering myself as a driver.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Let it Snow

Got the first snowfall of the year, as I don't count the crummy ice/sleet mix we got a few weeks ago.  Figured it was more than appropriate to go have some fun in the RS.

Last winter I had fun in my '12 Impreza Hatchback, but that's an automatic.  Things are a little different on snow in the RS with a Manual Transmission, not to mention a car that's a little more rally-inspired.  I made sure to take a more scenic route while running errands.
After a full morning of blasting through snow, I realized you couldn't tell what kinda car it was from behind.  To let my fellow motorists know how a little coupe was having a ball in this weather, I wrote in an explanation on the trunk.  Should clear up the confusion.

Winter Storm Dion dropped snow on more than just this area.  Snowfall stretched from the midwest into the northeast, so it's been fun seeing other friend's adventures in snow.  Below are photos of some of my fellow Subaru owners who got out in this weather for some fun!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

RS Revival: Puzzle Pieces

As the '00 Impreza 2.5 RS takes shape, a growing allotment of parts are lining up to make it even better. There's still things ahead of this car for maintenance and repairs, but it's exciting to see and feel the changes.   However, there are a couple of inbound items in line for the RS that will help give it some direction as to which route this car could possibly pursue.  For now, the car will still be fun to drive and enjoy, nothing serious.  As more parts come in for the car, the picture of what it could be becomes more clear.

The first piece is really just replacing a beat-up K&N Filter.  In the adjustments to the homebrew design of the Top Mount Cold Air Intake trick learned from RS25, there's now damage to an already poor-condition K&N filter that the car came with.  Initial fitment of the intake had the filter sitting too high and screws from the hood scoop were poking at the filter.  The silicone coupler had not been cut down enough like other designs had, so it sat too high over the engine.  Eventually, with enough jostling and jerking around as a result of my spirited rally-car-wannabe driving, the filter had worn grooves into it and had also worked the entire Homebrew TMCAI setup loose.  That's when we took advantage of a Cyber Monday deal last weekend and nabbed a new K&N Filter for cheap.  Also, the intake was repositioned down a little further, trying for that perfect fit.  However, it has become clear that a DIY setup like this just isn't structurally sound enough for the driver to be confident with when driving on unstable surfaces like dirt and gravel.

Luckily, when I was researching the TMCAI, there was a company that makes a solution to my problem: Gorilla Off-Road Company.  I was able to talk with the owner through DirtyImpreza.com's forums about pursuing their design, which is built with a durable 6061 aluminum box that uses factory mounting brackets.  It's coated in a heat-insulating black powder coat application and can use standard-size filters, paper or otherwise.  The K&N Filter will work just fine in this sturdy and secure setup.  This is the second piece of this weekend's puzzle.  Gorilla Off-Road Company has made quite the name for themselves in Rally with Subaru, so I'm excited to have a design that's been put through it's paces by experienced drivers.

The third piece of the puzzle came into play just after watching a video from SubieSport that featured the XV Crosstrek.  The driver of that XV was none other than autocross and rally champion Paul Eklund.  Paul owns Primitive Racing, which specializes in Evo, Suzuki, and Subaru Rally Performance Parts.  Probably the most common product I've seen come from Primitive is their skid plates.  It seemed only fair to the RS that, if it were to undergo the continued beating planned out for it, that it would need some form of protection before a boulder snaps the frame in half or rips the differential out from underneath.  With that, a skid plate and rear diff plate for the RS are making their way onto this car.

So there's more in store for this car.  Progress pictures will be up once they start making their way onto the car!

Exceeding Expectations

In March of 2013, Subaru released the 4th Generation of their Subaru Forester as a 2014 model.  With a redesigned interior, exterior and a CVT getting it great fuel efficiency, it quickly started racking up awards.  From receiving the highest safety ratings to it's MotorTrend SUV of the Year award, the Forester has been in high demand since arriving at dealerships.  Subaru of America predicted to sell 8,000 Foresters per month but recent numbers have been far higher, selling 12,000 units instead.  As the production facilities struggle to keep up with demand and orders continuing to come in, Subaru's hand was forced.
Subaru of America - Tomorrow (December 5th, 2013) will be the last day that the sold order system will be open to accept orders for 2014 Subaru Forester and Forester XT. It will be open until 11 PM eastern time. We plan to begin accepting sold orders for MY 2015 orders in March.
Essentailly, if you wanted to order a Forester, you've got two days to do it!  Otherwise you'll be at the mercy of what local dealerships have in their inventory... which is pretty bleak in most cases.  In the Central Region, over half of the allocation of inbound Foresters are either sold or reserved before they even reach their respective dealerships.  It's a unique problem to have.  On the one hand, Subarus are flying off the lot.  On the other, there's not enough supply to meet demand.  Most automotive companies would kill to have this "problem", but then again, Subaru makes about as many vehicles total as a company as Toyota makes of the Corolla each year.

Either way, I'm glad my dad got one when he did!  He's always sending me links of rave reviews about his car.  Makes me proud to know he's happy with what he's got!

Monday, December 2, 2013

'15 WRX STi Speculation

In the recent wake of the 2015 WRX release at the LA Auto Show, a lot of fans were left wondering "Well what about the WRX STI?"  We only know that, from the build sheet that was revealed earlier, the STi version will have a 2.5 liter Boxer engine... and I even manage to question THAT fact, since Subaru does not currently have a turbocharged FA motor that large.  This question up in the air has many fans who are fixated on the possible power gains to be made from the current 305hp setup to the next generation a little fidgety.

However, according to MRT Performance, there's some nifty bits that aren't so much concerned with power as they are handling.  Apparently, the biggest and most critical new development for the next-generation WRX and STI is the new ‘Axle Forward Layout’ chassis configuration.  This was seen on the Exiga Concept car at the 1997 Tokyo Auto Show.  The AFL is designed to give the new WRX and STI even better handling, balance and stability thanks to the positioning of the clutch and front differential.
With the clutch and diff effectively switching places, the front axle is now located further forward than before, meaning the engine can be positioned lower and further back in the chassis, thus optimising front-rear weight distribution. This modification also permits the wheelbase to be lengthened, which also serves to enhance interior space and allows for a revision of the suspension components.
The only problem I find with this news is that, later in the article, they say the WRX "will be powered by a revised version of the current model’s EJ25 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine" which conflicts with the FA20 engine we saw at the auto show.  Granted, it's an Australian-based blog, so they may be getting different configurations than the US.  The AFL makes sense, especially considering the information supplied in the Walkaround Video mentioned that the engine placement is lower than before.  This AFL design would permit that.

WRX Spotted!

There's a 2015 WRX in Crystal White Pearl wandering around California that KelvinBRZ of the FT86Club forums happened to stumble upon.  Manufacturer plates on the back, likely the Premium trim one we saw in the Walkaround Video during the launch on the 20th.

It's neat seeing someone spot one out in the wild.  When asked if it "looked better in person", KelvinBRZ said this:
"It definitely caught my eye when I glanced in the general direction. The front definitely looks very aggressive, but the back doesn't stand out as much IMO. It definitely looks better in person (well the front does at least)"
 Good to hear photos aren't quite doing it justice.  I actually thought the BRZ looked better in person than in photos when it was initially released, so I'm not surprised to hear a similar diagnosis with the new WRX.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Funday

There's an area near where I live that I affectionately refer to as "The Playground", which is essentially the future site of some kind of suburban development.  There's a slowly-growing man-made pond in the middle surrounded by curvy roads cut into the side of the hill that I love to explore.  However, the site is only vacant on Sundays, so if I have time, I bring the RS out there to have a look around.  It's a constantly-changing landscape makes for new challenges each time I've visited since I initially discovered it two months ago.  However, there are portions that are starting to be paved with concrete, so this Playground is nearing the end of it's lifespan.  Figured I'd go visit it again before it's gone.

There's also an empty gravel lot just south of the Playground that I've been practicing in.  My experience as a driver in a Manual Transmission with no Traction Control or Brake Assist Nannies to save me is quite limited, so I've been trying to practice controlling the car.  Fueling this morning's adventure was the "Easier Said Than Done" film by Matt Johnston, which I had purchased and watched last night.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretending to be a rally car driver after watching that movie!  Nothing serious, just me having fun in the Project Car.  Made a quick video that, for some reason, glitched out at the very end... but I don't mind it.  Enjoy!