Saturday, July 4, 2015


A product review

As my spouse-and-life-partner joined me in retirement, our financial advisor counseled us: “Now is the time for you two to really enjoy the life you’ve earned.  If you want to travel, travel.  If you need to upgrade a vehicle to maximize those travels, do it.”

We began thinking about the functions required of a retirement vehicle and whether our current fleet would meet those needs.  The Nissan pickup is a powerful workhorse that will go anywhere if you don’t mind hauling your gear in the open bed.  The Honda Civic is a great commute car but nobody’s commuting any more.  Historically, the best memories had been made in a primitive Isuzu Trooper II (lotsa room, lousy power) and a Jeep Wrangler (lotsa power, lousy room.) 

Mentally, we drew up a list of important factors for whatever might ferry us into and through the next step.  Among them:

·      Reliability,
·      Fuel economy,
·      Versatility,
·      Comfort,
·      Bells and whistles, and
·      If we decided to get down to just one car, what car might meet our future needs?

At the nexus of these six considerations, we found the 2015 Subaru Forester.

Six weeks and about 3,000 miles into ownership, and with its first adventure under its belt, here are some pictures and impressions.

The Sube is quieter on the highway than the Honda (not a fair comparison because the vehicles are designed for different purposes) and it returns 28.9 miles per gallon which is on a par with the Honda.

We never feel the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) shift.

The “tall wagon” architecture of the vehicle where occupants sit up higher provides a welcome commanding view of the road.

The ride is taut and the leather seats are firm.  The seating position accommodates my 34-inch inseam and cranky knees, so a four-hour stretch is not at all taxing.

The six year old Honda has a more user-friendly "infotainment" system but the Forester came equipped with “Eye-Sight” technology.  It lets us know when we’ve drifted out of a lane – or if we change lanes without using the signals.  When cruise control is activated, eye sight adjusts the car’s speed to maintain a safe distance behind the vehicle in front.  (Other brands probably have this, but this feature is a first for us and it seems very cool.)

We packed a week’s worth of stuff into the Sube and headed for Pinecrest Lake and Sonora Pass.  Heading across a 102-degree Sacramento Valley, the interior remained cool although the black dashboard seemed to absorb and reflect some heat.

Freeway joints were slightly noticeable.

Once in the foothills, the car eagerly handled curves and competently tackled rises and falls although the 2.5 liter boxer engine does make it known that it is pulling a hill.

On a side trip, a steep, deeply rutted road led us to a promontory.  The X-mode feature (a button you push to lock the CVT transmission in a low band) allowed the car to creep into and over and out of dips, roots and rocks – reminiscent of Dad’s ’69 Toyota FJ 40.   

With an 8.7-inch ground clearance, we never scraped bottom.

Subaru at this point in time, doesn’t make a slew of different cars.  They essentially have one basic engine design with three variations, a couple of transmissions across all model lines and offer nice option packages within each of the models they sell.  Like Moto Guzzi on the motorcycle side of my life (one basic engine design, three models with variants) Subaru appears to have found a niche, striving to refine and perfect their offerings within that smaller realm. 

So far?  Great car.  Most important: my spouse-and-life-partner loves it.  While I enjoy and will continue my adventures on the motorcycle(s), I’m looking forward to adventuring in the ’15 Forester with her.  My fervent wish is that she’ll let me drive it - at least occasionally.

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Congrats on the new purchase. We have a 2011 Forester we absolutely love. It tows the dirt bikes on the trailer, great for camping, daily commuter for hubby, and just an all around great vehicle. Just under 50,000 miles on it and not one hiccup or anything that needed to be fixed under warranty.

    1. Thanks. It amazes me how many of these you see on the road after you've purchased one; that, and nobody I've talked to who owns one, regrets the purchase. We're looking forward to many years of adventures...

    2. We own an Isuzu Trooper II and we can say from experience that it does have power and it is reliable. We use ours when we go camping, and we have taken it deeper into the woods each trip with no issues. The truck runs great in snow, on the beach, and of road in a number of harsh conditions.

    3. We LOVED our Trooper II, too.