Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Launch Edition Landing

For those waiting for the 2015 WRX STI Launch Edition, your wait may be over... in May.  Likely delayed due to a recall on the STI Exhaust, the coveted Launch Edition trim level, which was limited to 1000 units, is starting to make the rounds.  Most expected the Launch Edition WRX STI to be out first (as it's name would suggest) but as early as April, there were already units hitting dealership lots before the classic blue car with gold wheels touched down. This one was spotted in South Dakota, so they're starting to arrive finally.

Sadly, 2015 will mark the last "hurrah" to the Blue and Gold livery made famous by the 555 Rally Cars that etched Subaru into WRC History.  "State Express 555" was a brand of Cigarettes made by Benson & Hedges, an iconic look that Subaru won't offer on a factory car ever again.  It's a shame that this legendary look for a Subaru Rally Car is going away simply because of it's original association... something that has long been overshadowed by the fame that a Subaru with blue paint and gold wheels has accomplished.  Current liveries for Subaru Rally Team USA feature Dark Gray, White, and Blue for David Higgins / Craig Drew and Dark Gray, White and Red for Travis Pastrana / Chrissie Beavis.  Even the Global Rallycross cars seem to be moving away from any sort of Blue with Yellow or Gold.

The same day the Launch Edition WRX STI was announced also marked Subaru's re-signing of Travis Pastrana to Subaru Rally Team USA, so while one legend was on it's way out, another was making their return to the sport that these cars excel at.  Episode 2 of Launch Control does an excellent job of retelling Travis' history with SRT USA as he settles into a familiar car with a familiar team around him.  It's an interesting changing of the guard, especially considering how their paths crossed, to see the 555 Livery that Colin McRae made famous back in the 90s fade away while Travis Pastrana is signed up again to take the reigns of a Subaru.  Not to say that McRae can ever be replaced, but at the core of it all is Subaru and Rally... regardless of the name on the window or the colors on the door.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Project Partners

The RS has a buddy to hang out with now!  One of my friends recently picked up a 2001 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Wagon as a project car, so it's fun to trade ideas and stories with someone else working on something similar.  With the cars roughly the same age and in similar shape, the issues they have are usually on the same page.  It's also been fun to get out and enjoy some dirt and gravel alongside another car that isn't afraid to get filthy.  On several occasions, we've gone out in search of fun roads to kick up dust on.

He is also preparing the vehicle for Rallycross, so it's fun to have a handful of folks I know now who are into that sort of stuff.  From sharing advice and parts to pitching in with some work done, prepping these cars for Rallycross has really become a group effort.  For someone who's still new to it, this kind of experience is invaluable and makes enjoyable to do.  Not only do we look forward to the seat time dodging cones, but also the camaraderie around our fellow rally enthusiasts. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Global Rallycross WRX STI!

Acronyms were invented for times like this.  The Global Rally Cross World Rally eXperiment Subaru Tecnica International is at the New York International Auto Show!  Or... The GRC WRX STI is at NYIAS!  Either way you cut it, the 2014 season for Subaru Rally Teams are gonna have a lot of fun.

Both teams have started this years competition using the tried-and-true 3rd Generation WRX, but this is a transitional year with the new kid on the block.  Vermont Sportscar has been working with the 4th Generation WRX design to see what it can do and what they need to do to prepare it for two similar... and yet very different disciplines.  Two for the Rally America series to be used by David Higgins and Travis Pastrana and two for the Puma GRC team with Bucky Lasek and Sverre Isachsen.  Both teams are expected to transition to the new chassis as soon as development and testing are completed later this year.

The one pictured is a Rallycross-Spec car with a custom widebody kit, modified spoiler, and all the usual rallycross modifications, such as seats, tires, rollcage, etc. While there weren't any engine specs available, since this is a GRC car, I would imagine it's using a 2.0 liter boxer... so this may be using a motor that's more similar to the new 2015 WRX with the FA design instead of the tried-and-true EJ design that's in the US-spec WRX STI.

Head on over to SubieSport to see more photos of the new look for Subaru's rally teams!

No More Manual?

Tomorrow, at the New York International Auto Show, the new face of Subaru's flagship will be unveiled.  The 2015 Subaru Outback, slated for release later this summer, should bring another level of refinement to the lineup with lots of new features that will make it competitive in it's market.  However, when the Legacy was revealed earlier this spring, the Manual Transmission option had gone the way of the Dodo.  One can only assume that the Outback will follow suit, as the two are sisters when it comes to features.  This might upset many of the Subaru Faithful who have stuck with their tried-and-true manual gearboxes over the years.  It's always been available in every model (except the TriBeCa) and many who knew the Subaru brand had come to expect a manual transmission, even if it didn't have all the bells and whistles.  No leather, no sunroof, no problem... as long as it had 3 pedals.

There's also the addition of the Sport Lineartronic transmission in the WRX to give it an automatic option not seen since 2007.  So while the Manual option is going away on their more popular models like the Legacy and Outback, the automatic option is making its way into the sportier cars, too.  Even at the Ride-and-Drive event that I was at in Minnesota with the WRX, the only model we test drove was the Sport Lineartronic automatic as opposed to Subaru's new 6-Speed.  While I was impressed with how this new CVT worked in the WRX... it's still not what many core enthusiasts are looking for.  At least they still have the option to get a manual, but for those who had been waving the flag for the manual transmission Legacy and Outback, they'll have to warm up to the CVT Flappy-paddle gearbox.

Not all is lost, though.  The Impreza still features a 5-speed manual transmission in the base model, premium, and Sport premium, as well as the premium XV Crosstrek.  The Forester's new 6-speed manual transmission option also got a bit of an upgrade when Subaru added the panoramic sun roof to the premium version.  The BRZ, WRX, and WRX STI will all still have manual transmissions too, so there's still plenty to choose from in Subaru's lineup of cars and crossover vehicles.

I think what's getting left out here isn't just the clamoring enthusiasts on a web forum, but the adventurer at the core of the Subaru brand.  The manual transmission option does more than offer shift-crazy drivers some fun, but it's practical for those who need that control.  Not something to mimick gear shifts like a paddle shifter or "manual mode", but the ability to give complete control to the driver.  On difficult terrain, those who still know how to whip through gears in their Subaru are crowned king of the hill over the automagic CVT models when push really comes to shove.  There's no denying that the CVT gives Subaru the competitive edge with gas mileage in the market, but I think moving away from a manual transmission option is something that will not be received well by their loyal long-time buyers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Launch Control: Season 2 Starts!

The second season of Subaru's "Launch Control" series is back!  I loved the first season of this behind-the-scenes look at Rally with the Subaru teams.  Both SRT USA and the Puma GRC Team were thrilling to watch in their pursuit of victory in the 2013 season.  This year the stakes are even higher with new faces, new cars, and new obstacles!

If you missed Season 1, click >this link< to get caught up with the action.  Season 2 episodes will also be added to that.  I've embedded the new episode below.  Every other Wednesday (starting April 16th), there will be a new episode posted!

As if I didn't already look forward to Wednesdays with the Weekly Meets held here at my dealership, now this great series is back!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Playground - Dirt Course

Last night I went and hit some gravel roads with a good friend of mine who recently picked up a Legacy GT Wagon.  We had a lot of fun twisting through winding gravel roads near the Platte River, using much of the same route for the Gravel Express cruise I organized last fall.  When I got home that night, I found myself wanting to return to the dirt course that was near my home.  I set out the next morning to explore the ever-changing landscape that is "The Playground".

About a month ago, I feared that the days of this dirt paradise would be over.  Concrete paths now occupy the majority of the course I had once practiced on (see the original course >here< ).  However, new paths have emerged that remain unpaved and are slightly more challenging than the smooth flowing course I used last fall.  The course is longer than my original route and actually crosses over from one side of the man-made lake to the next thanks to a 6-foot-wide land bridge that has been added.  Despite the rain, I decided to take a crack at the new landscape with the RS.  The video is admittedly shaky, as I don't own a GoPro, but it's the best I could come up with.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Legacy of Legacy

From auto shows to magazine reviews, the automotive media is usually caught up in what's the next big thing.  However, when Subaru-Global announced that the 6th Generation of their Legacy sedan was on the way, they still stopped to take a look back at 25 years of history on this great vehicle.  This is the Legacy of Legacy.

Since 1989, the Legacy has been an iconic staple in the Subaru lineup.  After a quarter of a century, it's still getting attention, receiving awards, and constantly improving to meet the needs of the consumer as time changes.  Through each generational design, the Legacy not only represents the core of Subaru's best technology, but also passes the torch on to each successor.  

Check out the videos, pictures, and history of the Subaru Legacy on their website created to honor this vehicle's heritage.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's in a Name?

WRX.  The name of Subaru's rally-bred Impreza.  While it's ditched the Impreza name for 2015, it hasn't ditched it's roots.  Sure it's got pretty toys and such, but after today's experience around an auto cross course, you can still feel it there.  This latest World Rally eXperiment (or whatever your theory is) certainly takes things up a notch... and in some surprising ways, too.

Click the link at the bottom to read up on my personal experience behind the wheel.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rocketships in the Parking Lot

Quick update on my trip to Minnesota to visit some very capable cars.  There's a Lightning Red 2015 Subaru WRX Premium with a CVT and a 2015 Subaru WRX STI Limited w/Nav in Crystal Black Silica sitting in the parking lot.  Figured I'd share the photos before the event tomorrow.

UPDATE:  I've been uploading more photos to this Flickr Album.  Read up on the Ride & Drive event with Subaru> What's in a Name?

2015 WRX & WRX STI

Monday, April 7, 2014

WRXy Time!

Tuesday morning I'll be headed up to Minnesota to stay the night.  It'll be tough catching some "Z"s knowing the next day I'll be behind the wheel of the new 2015 WRX and WRX STI.  I've been looking forward to finally driving this car for quite awhile now.  Beyond the design, the colors, the options, at the core of this car is how it DRIVES.  You can read every review, watch every video, and scour every spec, but until you drive a car that is meant to be driven... it's tough to know exactly what it's like.

It's not just the changes from 2014-2015 that I'm looking forward to.  I know there have been improvements in the car to handle better, be tighter, and stay flatter.  Initially, the difference between the current model and the new one will be what gets my blood pumping.  What I'm really interested in is getting a feel for how these cars are different.  There's more separating the WRX and WRX STI than there have been previously and I get the feeling that, while they'll both be fun to drive, they'll have more defined characteristics that will make each a desirable car.  It'll be more than "Well do you want a WRX or do you want the better one?", which is kind of the impression many fans had before.  Cost-difference aside, the WRX may well be the star of the two with it's new engine at the core.

The WRX STI's main focus will be it's suspension.  It's a tried-and-true EJ series motor under the hood that's been transplanted into a stiffer body with improved suspension and a new gearbox.  The WRX's main focus will be it's new engine and transmission.  While there's more "new" going on with the WRX, there's still more power and performance going on with the WRX STI.  And those differences will draw a line that had previously been blurred by similarities.

It's finally time to stop analyzing the information out there, sifting through the "It looks like an EVO" comments, and debating the unknown.  Now's the time to drive it!  I'll see you on the other side*, folks!

* Wednesday Evening

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rally America on NBC Sports

We heard about this at the beginning of the 2014 Rally America Championship series, but those months have turned to hours.  From the sheets of ice to the road less traveled, there's finally television coverage of one of the greatest sports of all time.  NBC Sports is following each step of the way through the championship this year and, while the coverage isn't live, it's a huge step in the right direction for getting this largely overlooked sport in the United States the recognition it deserves.

Saturday, April 5th, starts off where most Rally enthusiasts were back in January, so it'll be interesting to see races that most fans already know the outcome of.  I'm personally more interested in HOW it's approached and the level of coverage that the series will give to the cars, the drivers, their teams, and everything else that encompasses each event.

2pm EST, switch over to NBC Sports to see the SnoDrift Rally like never before!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Midwest Subaru Meet (June 8th, 2014)

After a few months of planning, things are finally starting to get nailed down for a big event in the Heartland.  Members of the Siouxland Subaru Club, Nebraska Subaru Owners Club, and Midwest Subaru Owners Club have banded together to create the fist "Midwest Subaru Meet" to be held in Ponca, NE (near Sioux City, IA).

The Tentative Schedule kicks things off at noon on Sunday, June 8th.  There will be plenty of time to line 'em up and check out rides, but there's also a generous helping of curvy swervy roads that weave through the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway and Ponca State Park throughout the day.  The cruise route covers almost 50 miles through some of the best paved roads in Northeastern Nebraska with some beautiful overlooks of the Missouri River.

For more information on the MSM, go to the Facebook Event link listed below!  Sign up and bring your Subaru!