Saturday, October 14, 2017

Meet the Baja Blast!

I recently found a 2006 Subaru Baja Turbo that was in need of some TLC.  With the body in good shape, an accident-free title, and an affordable price, I managed to make it mine.  This one is an Automatic with a 2.5 liter Turbocharged Boxer and 114,000 miles on the clock.  The interior was really dirty and the drivers seat leather was torn, but after some serious cleaning, I got it back in good shape.  It needs some mechanical love but will be great once it's all caught up.  To get it, I had to sell my 1999 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe, but it went to a good home and I'm excited to now have a fun AND functional car.  

There's a laundry-list of things I need to repair and replace to get it running right.  The brake pads, brake rotors, shocks, suspension bushings, and endlinks were all pretty shot so I've been going through those to fix em.  As with any vehicle that has lived it's life in Nebraska, the salted winter roads have not been kind to these components and some of the bolts have been troublesome to remove.  Still, I've been making good progress with these items and should have it riding right pretty soon.

Once I'm done getting the "Baja Blast" up to speed, I'll hopefully have a better idea of which direction to go with this in terms of modifications.  I think I've at least settled on the idea of not going any lower than stock ride-height, as I do like the 8.4 inches of Ground Clearance on this.  I've never had a tall Subaru before, so the idea of going off-road and having fun where my 2016 WRX STI can't go.  Light bars, lift kits, knobby tires, there's a lot to consider in this realm.  

It's nice having two different spectrums of Subaru-ness at my disposal.  The WRX STI is great on pavement and has a good time on dirt for Rallycross.  Plus I get my manual transmission fix with it and a good amount of power.  The Baja is a Blast in it's own way, giving me good ground clearance and hauling capacity while still delivering fun with it's turbocharged engine.  I feel like it's a good mix and look forward to enjoying both ends of the spectrum with these two.


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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Baby Driver - More than just a Subie Scene

It's a heart-thumping heist-thrilling hoonigan's dream on the silver screen.  And there's so much more to it than the red WRX that caught your eye in the trailers!

I was fortunate enough to see an early showing of Baby Driver this weekend.  Normally I write about Subarus on this blog, and certainly the footage leading up to this film's release had enthusiasts buzzing about the Hawkeye drifting it's way through Atlanta's streets.  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that those scenes made me say "I should check this out".  As the air date neared, I worried that Baby Driver would be nothing more than a bunch of cool car chases with a few Hollywood icons drizzled in and a plot that meanders from chase to chase.  I'm happy to report that this is certainly not the case.

From start to finish, Baby Driver, delivers in droves.  Building the character of "Baby" (Ansel Elgort) starts right from the top, but so does the musical choreography that follows the entire film.  The emotional connection of music to driving has been something I've loved since I started driving.  Seeing it take form in this movie was truly enjoyable to take in.  Wright's incorporation of pop songs like Bellbottoms, Harlem Shuffle, and Nowhere to Run, frame each scene so closely that it almost feels like musical theater choreography.  Each strike of the music coincides with a door closing, a gun shooting, a crash unfolding.  It's so fun to see and hear 30-something songs hand picked by Edgar Wright over the last two decades come together for a truly engaging experience.

If this isn't enough to convince you that this film is worth more than you gave it credit for, maybe the 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is.  The only things missing from Baby Driver are seatbelts on the theater's chairs.  So buckle up and hang on for the roller coaster that'll keep you engaged to the end credits.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Invidia R400 - 2016 Subaru WRX

It's been a little bit of a wait thanks to a recall with the initial batch of these, but the Invidia R400 "Gemini" Catback exhaust is finally out in the world.  Available for the BRZ, WRX, and WRX STI, it offers a deep, rich exhaust note and a high flow design that optimizes engine performance.  These were designed to fill the sound gap between the Q300 and N1 system. The R400 produces a unique, aggressive note while reducing harsh cabin noise.  We paired this R400 system with a Invidia J-pipe for the 2016 Subaru WRX it was installed on along with a tune provided by Boosted Performance Tuning.

I was surprised at how nice this exhaust sounded.  I own a WRX STI and am used to that "Subaru Rumble" that Unequal Length Headers provide.  The stock WRX has Equal Length headers so most of the exhaust systems I had heard up to this point had sounded fairly generic and had lost their character.  While certainly not as obvious, the Gemini R400 manages to bring a light warble to the sound, especially at lower RPMs.  The pops and bangs accompanying each lift and shift are fun, too.

Like most Invidia products, the fitment and finish is great.  The exhaust outlets are a little wider than I expected based on the pictures I had seen before.  They fill out nearly every inch of space provided by the stock WRX bumper and have that crisp engraving on the side.  Things bolt up where they should be and the whole install was a piece of cake.

Perhaps the most satisfying thing about the R400 is that you can enjoy a lively exhaust without obnoxious cabin noise or drone.  It's relatively calm under normal city driving but playful and enjoyable with a quick dab of throttle.  Even when under hard acceleration, with the windows up, you can easily talk to the person next to you as you row through the gears.  Downshifting to a stop some drone manages to make it's way through, but it's not noticeable enough to be a deal breaker.


There's a reason the Gemini R400 was tough to come by when they first came out.  Response was far higher than Invidia expected and the recall on the first batch backed up things even more.  My friend waited two months to get this exhaust system but, after testing and tuning his WRX, we both agree it was worth the wait.  This system works great on the WRX and WRX STI, but I feel like there's a shortage of exhaust systems that I like on the WRX while there's a good long list to choose from with the WRX STI.  For that reason, the Gemini stands out to me as an excellent choice for 2015+ WRX owners looking to upgrade.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Boxers @ Baxter 2017


On July 15th and 16th, Nebraska will be buzzing with the iconic rumble of Subarus moreso than usual.  It's Baxter Subaru's 3rd Annual "Boxers @ Baxter" event!  This year's event is gonna be a blast!  Here's all the details you need to know about this weekend of Subaru!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Are Subaru Limited Editions Worth It?

Recently, the Subaru portfolio has been getting a lot of attention in the way of "Special Editions".  From the red-clad Special Edition Crosstrek to the eye-catching Series.Yellow BRZ, these stand-out Subies have limited production numbers and come as they are.  With the BRZ tS and WRX STI Type RA on the way to start off Subaru's latest run of 50th Anniversary Special Edition models, it's a good time to figure out if these Limited Editions are worth their bumped-up asking prices.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Focus RS vs WRX STI

Road Tests, drag races, and track attacks galore have been pitting the Focus RS up against the competition since it's release last year.  In the Subaru WRX STI camp, it's been a common point of discussion and debate, especially when it comes to the drivetrain of the new kid on the Ken Block.  As I've mentioned before, the market needed something like the Focus RS to breathe some life and competition back into the hot hatch / performance daily segment.  So what's the score look like now that it's been unleashed on the world?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Why the BRZ "STI" won't have a Turbo

It's hype time!  Subaru fans are about a week away from the unveiling of a STI-badged BRZ.  This will mark only the second vehicle that Subaru has released in the States as a complete car from Subaru Tecnica International, with the first being the 2004 WRX STI.  Over a decade since then, and 5 years since the BRZ's release, those 3 iconic letters for Subaru fans will make their way onto this new offering.

Among the hype, there's a lot of speculation swirling around this car... especially concerning a power increase.  Something fans have been asking for awhile.  This won't come in the form of forced induction like many assume.  The BRZ STI (officially dubbed, regardless of it's specs and features, will still be naturally aspirated.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Launch Control Season 5 Release!

For most "petrol heads", the words Launch Control usually refers to an electronic aid drivers accellerate quickly from a standing start. Supercars, Hypercars, fancy exotics, hoonigan machines, they've usually got something like this to get them off the line in a flurry of smoke. For Subaru Fans, Launch Control usually signals something else: it's time to watch rally!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My '12 Impreza Modifications

It's "Throwback Thursday" so I thought I'd write up an article on a car I get questions about weekly.  From blog comments to e-mails to NASIOC messages, I'm always surprised how many questions I receive about the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i that I owned.  The car started life as a base model with a CVT and I did a good amount of modifications to it before I sold it.  There aren't many folks out there modifying these 4th Generation Imprezas so, when I was doing my own research for the car, I learned quickly that a lot of what I wanted to do hadn't really been done before.  I relied heavily on the experience of those around me.  From local Subaru enthusiasts to friends at the dealership I work at, I was able to learn a lot and get things to work the way I had hoped on the car.

2012 Subaru Impreza 
In this post, I'm hoping to answer a lot of the common questions I get about my Impreza Hatchback.  Below, the modifications are listed with links to more details about them.  Otherwise, this might be a pretty long read if I list everything about each modification!  Enjoy!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Co-Driving with Craig Drew

On April 15th and 16th there was a special Co-Driving Course held at DirtFish Rally School in Snoqualmie, WA.  Heading up the instruction was Craig Drew of Subaru Rally Team USA.  Craig and David have won the last 6 Rally America National Championships together and I've been following this duo since I got hooked on rallying in 2011.  To learn about co-driving from one of my rally heroes was an incredible experience, one that I won't soon forget.  Not only was this a great amount of fun, but the detailed information Craig shared with us about his job as a co-driver was engaging and eye-opening.  There's so much more to Co-driving than I ever imagined!


The class began on Saturday with introductions of the classmates we'd be working with.  There was a wide variety of talent in the room.  Some were like me, new to rallying with little-to-no experience outside of spectating.  Others were doing regional and national level rallies and seeking to build on what they already knew.  Craig's instruction really catered to everyone, explaining the basics while also giving insight and details that veterans could use to strengthen and build upon what they already knew.  

We focused a lot on the duties and preparation a co-driver takes on before a rally.  The amount of pre-event work was surprising to me at first, but his motto rang true: If you Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail.  There's so many things going on during the weekend of a rally that, if your team isn't properly organized, you're already at a disadvantage before the car even hits the first stage.  Craig stressed the importance of preparation but also gave us helpful tips and things to check that would make things work out easier.  He's done this once or twice.

In the mind of an enthusiast, people like Craig Drew can seem like super heroes.  He made it a point to compare things between his Championship-level work with SRT USA and his beginning days with privateer teams to give a proper perspective on the scope of work being done.  This made the instruction much more accessible to people like me who could easily seem in over our heads with top-level advice.  As long as the basic skills needed to be a good co-driver existed, there was a confidence that these abilities could be built upon to get to a level like this as long as the desire to get there existed.

The second day was a bit more hands-on.  After a morning of studying and creating pacenotes, our class headed out to the WRX STIs at DirtFish Rally School.  Piloted by the instructors for the school, these mobile classrooms were the best opportunity for us to take what we had learned and put it to use.  Craig's setup simulated elements of an actual rally.  We took a 2-Pass Recce through the course with the drivers to get our pacenotes set.  Craig checked our notes after our runs to help us tweak them to flow better and be easier to read at speed.  Before we did our first run at speed, Craig had set up a timecard for us to use to check in at the start.  After we got through the time controls, it was time to get our pacing down with the notes as the instructors whipped us through the course at competition speed.  Each student got 3 runs at speed to help us make adjustments as we went through.  After every run, Craig checked in with the driver and co-driver to get feedback and see if there were more adjustments to be made and any advice he could give to help improve the next run.  



The instructors were easy to work with, too.  At times during our runs at speed they would chime in over the intercom to give us feedback for the pace of the notes being delivered which helped us make necessary adjustments on the fly.  Craig's input between each of our runs reaffirmed what we had been taught and allowed the drivers to give feedback to him as well.  I really can't think of a better way to have been introduced to co-driving.  From the classroom to the course, there was a lot to take in, but it never felt overwhelming.  Each step was a gradual progression to the next which helped even the most novice co-drivers get a handle on everything that was going on.  Craig's experience as a co-driver in various levels of the sport made him easily approachable for just about any question the class had for him which made the atmosphere of the classroom easy and inviting.

Our class left that weekend armed to the teeth with everything we needed to know about Co-Driving.  The notes I have from this course will be invaluable as I start to get into this sport and work towards competing at my first Stage Rally someday.  It can be harder to find opportunities to gain experience on rallying here in the US, but with two national-level rallies within driving distance to my home I should be able to grow my rally legs and get at this.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Still a Rally Car


When the WRX STI first came to the US fifteen years ago, it was an out-of-the-box rally car.  Raw, rumbly, and ready for the rough stuff, it was honest about it's intentions.  Over time, I had thought that the WRX STI had become diluted with frills and convenience features and lost sight of that.  However, if there's one thing the WRX STI has been criticized for: it's the aging driveline still at it's core.  Regardless of what shell it's attached to, the guts that made the first car great are still there... and that has never been more obvious than last weekend.

That's because last weekend I was forced to use my 2016 WRX STI Series.HyperBlue in a local rallycross event as my '99 RS was having suspension issues.  Brilliantly, I had sold my all-season tires for the STI a month before and had nothing but summer tires to run on.  Still, I needed to get through the event and I knew if I just took it easy, this street car would be fine.  After it's first surprisingly good lap... I had a feeling I could open it up a little more.  Then a little more after that.  And after a few laps finding the limits of Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires on dirt, I had managed to land the second fastest time of the day.  Oh, and that was 2 tenths off of the fastest time set that day by a 6-time SCCA Rallycross Champion.  

Sure it's got push-button start and a Harman Kardon audio system.  But the beating heart of the WRX STI that came to us years ago is still in there... and it still knows what to do.  This car really impressed me given that I had a generous helping of power with minimal grip at my disposal, but I found speed and confidence with a car I had expected to only be good for some pretty pictures.


I can only imagine what this car would've done with some more appropriate tires.  In fact, I'm starting to wonder why I don't use this instead of my '99 Impreza Coupe.  Despite all the creature features and the slammed tuner brotella vape scene that has been associated with some of these newer cars, it's so great to see how capable and focused this car still is.

Monday, April 24, 2017

WRX STi: Get a GRiP!

The iconic "Boxer Rumble" of the Subaru WRX STI, brought out by Unequal Length (or UEL) headers, may be going the way of the Dodo by 2020.  When I decided to finally give mine some aftermarket exhaust, I spent a lot of time researching to find the right one.  Reading reviews, watching YouTube videos, and talking with owners helped me get an idea of the different features, designs, and brands available to get the "right" sound.  Of course, there's not really any one right answer for this.  There are trade-offs and compromises to everything, so finding the right mix is important.

For me, it came down to minimizing cabin drone and producing a throaty rumble without being too obnoxious.  When my research was complete, the exhaust I felt had the best of these characteristics was the ARK GRiP Catback Exhaust.  This exhaust utilizes Helmholtz resonators to alter the sound of the exhaust note and for differences in power delivery by adding two chambers to the exhaust.  In turn, these resonators help cancel out unpleasant frequencies of sound in the exhaust.  This technology and build quality comes at a price, so to save money, I managed to find one that was used and in great shape!

I paired this exhaust system with a Grimmspeed Catless Downpipe (now out of production), a Grimmspeed Electronic Boost Controller, an Innovate Motorsports LC-2 Digital Wideband, and had it professionally tuned by Boosted Performance Tuning.  Numbers are running around 300whp and around 330tq.  The power increase is instantly noticeable and, thanks to the added flow of the downpipe, there's a significant reduction in turbo lag.  It's also more consistent and predictable so driving it is even more of a blast than before.  Installation was relatively simple for everything.  The only thing that tends to be a pain is the STI's intercooler, which needed to be removed to install the Downpipe and heat shield.

Overall I'm incredibly happy with it.  All the sound I love without ruining the cabin with obnoxious drone.  Put up the windows and you can still talk to the passenger while you row through the gears.  Add in the music being created by the ARK GRiP exhaust and it's too easy to smile with each pull.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rallycross Super Weekend 2017

On April 22nd and 23rd, the Nebraska Region SCCA Rallycross program hosted a Super Weekend at I-80 Speedway.  Saturday saw a Rallycross School instructed by veteran drivers during the day with a Twilight Rallycross competition held in the evening under the stars.  Sunday served as the main points event with a full day of competition.  Given that the first two events before this had been cancelled due to poor site conditions, participants were eager to hit the dirt in this 2-Day event.  

Students worked with national-level talent during the Rallycross School.  Instructors Jon Simmons and Alex Reinkordt are both Rallycross veterans and have extensive experience.  They teamed up with Jan Gerber, a 5-Time SCCA Rallycross Champion, to help students improve their rallycross skills considerably.  Tie that in with hours of invaluable seat time and two consecutive competition events to put their new abilities to work and the Rallycross school was a big hit!  
The Twilight Rally, held at dusk going into the cover of night, saw record turnout.  18 competitors drove through a Glow-Stick marked course adapted from the Rallycross School held earlier in the day.  Dry and Dusty conditions paired with a setting sun made visibility a challenge, but the group powered through and kept the pace right up to the final run.  Some competitors even saw their times improve despite the low visibility!
The weekend continued with Sunday's Rallycross Points event for the NRSCCA.  26 competitors were welcomed by dry sunny conditions and a gentle breeze to help move the clouds of dirt and dust along for each pass.  Using a course adapted from the previous two events, competition went strong through morning and afternoon heats.  There were a few stops for mechanical issues and a course adjustment for safety near the end of the day, but everything ran smoothly.  

You can see my photos from this event in my Flickr album.  Pictures for this event start on Page 2.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Refreshed Outback adds More

Alongside the mid-cycle refreshes for the 2018 WRX STI and 2018 Legacy, the Outback is poised to take yet another step towards refinement.  Since it's redesign as a 2015 model, the Outback has built on and improved it's flagship status for Subaru.  The changes for it's 2018 version (being released in the Summer of 2017) go further than the usual updates Subaru usually addresses.

Space and size remain as they had from the 2015-2017 Outback models, but the entire infotainment system in the Outback has been revamped to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  The display itself is larger, has better resolution, and multi-gesture touch control has been improved from the previous system.  The climate controls just below the 8" Touchscreen have also been revamped and simplified.  

Among other interior updates, the Outback receives an additional interior color option: Titanium Gray.  The existing Slate Black and Warm Ivory interiors remain as well as the Java Brown leather that is exclusive to the "Touring" trim levels.  That's a total of four different interior colors available on the Outback (double what was offered in 2015).

There's the usual suspects for updates on the exterior.  New steering-responsive headlights grace the redesigned front bumper and grille.  There's also new 18" wheels for the Limited trim Outbacks.  Enhancements made throughout the Subaru Outback chassis include revamped suspension dampers for a smoother ride, along with retuned Electronic Power Steering and brake systems for a more direct feel.

Subaru's quietest riding vehicle just got quieter.  The Lineartronic CVT for 2.5i models now uses a quieter short-pitch chain, and adjustments to engine timing under acceleration that reduces powertrain noise. It's reshaped exterior mirrors, new sound-insulating glass for the front side windows, and thicker rear wheel well aprons all reduce cabin noise.

For revisions that will only stick around for the 2018 and 2019 model years, seeing this level of improvement is impressive.  These updates will keep the Outback competitive and fresh until it moves to the Subaru Global Platform in 2020.   

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Next Stage - "Higgins Blue" STI

When I first picked up my Series.HyperBlue WRX STI in October of 2015, it was the quickest car I had ever owned.  For the first few months of driving, I was convinced the car was driving me around but after I got used to the power, I had a better understanding of how to use it without getting out of sorts.  Shortly after, I had it tuned by a professional to smooth out the power and make the car more predictable to use and have really enjoyed it.  But now it's time to take my "Higgins Blue" STI another notch up.

It took me awhile to even decide if I wanted to start modifying this car at all.  The subtle rumble from the exhaust, the point-and-click passing power, it's still fun.  There's more power that can be tapped into without going bonkers under the hood.  More free-flowing exhaust and boost control can go a long way, so I did a little research through the seemingly endless supply of forums, online stores, and reviews to find some things to get to the next stage.  "Stage 2, Bro!"

Cliche tuner culture remarks aside, I'm getting it all put together this month.  A GrimmSpeed Catless Downpipe, GrimmSpeed Turbo Heat Shield, GrimmSpeed Electronic Boost Controller, Innovate Wideband, and a ARK GRiP Catback Exhaust should transform how this car moves.  More power, less turbo lag, and better control throughout the powerband... not to mention the music that the ARK GRiP will create out of the Titanium quad tips.  There aren't many other folks in my area using this exhaust either, so getting something unique was a plus.  It also will reduce cabin drone, which will make long trips a little easier on my ears.

Once it's all installed, I'm off to go get it tuned the next day and be ready to roll just in time for the Wednesday Night Meet.  I'll post an update with sound clips once it's all done!