Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your modern technology fascinates me.

While up in New Hamster, I was left Robin's brand spankin' new Subaru Forester in which to motor about. As someone who's been toying with the idea of a "crossover" SUV, but hasn't spent more than test-drive time with one, it was enlightening.

First, it was obviously superior in every way on dirt and rough pavement. With the Zed Drei, the optional sport suspension and 35-series tires make it ride like a Conestoga wagon on even the smoothest gravel or dirt roads; exceed twenty miles an hour off pavement and your vision will be so blurred by the jouncing and vibration that you won't see the parts that fall off every time a wheel crashes over the minutest of surface imperfections. Conversely, the Forester is so serene and composed on dirt that "I honestly had no idea I was going that fast, officer," becomes a very real conversational possibility.

On the flip side, over a decade of driving a sports car has me used to control inputs that are acted on with alacrity. For instance, to change lanes on the interstate in the Bimmer, you don't so much steer as merely apply pressure in the direction you wish to go. By comparison, the same act in the Forester involved enough action, from the wheel through the steering gear to the tall-'n'-wobbly front tire sidewalls, that it felt like I was ringing down to the helm for rudder changes. Don't get me wrong, compared to the average passenger sedan there's hardly any difference at all, and compared to a truck-based SUV it feels like Handling By Lotus, but it still took some getting used to for me. (And don't get me started on how weird automatics feel, without any direct correlation between engine noise, the tach needle, and how fast the car is going; that's witchcraft and deviltry right there...)

The thing that most delighted me, however, was the modern stereo that takes over your iPod when you plug it in like a lancet liver fluke does to a hapless ant. I may just wind up keeping the Z3 after all and resign myself to another ten years of wind noise on roadtrips and slithery winter driving, but I'm getting one of those fancy dashboard Victrolas.


Yrro said...

If trends continue I will be forced to buy nothing but sport cars and compacts for the rest of my life, as I can't stand driving an automatic and they just aren't making them for SUV's, vans, station wagons, or pickups any more.

poobie said...

Yrro, you can get a forester with a stick. You just can't get a very fancy one. Ran in to the same problem when I bought my Impreza. Had to go to from Tuscaloosa to ATL to get one that had a sunroof, but not a slushbox.

I _really_ like my Impreza, though. It shares a basic platform with the Forester, but doesn't have quite as much room behind the back seats. it's still pretty cavernous in the back if you fold the seats. Not quite as much space as the wife's Jetta wagon, but enough most of the time.

Fred said...

Manda has an Impreza... and it beats the snot out of my little Chevy. If you drop the shifter all the way down you can get a sort of half-assed manual too, just no clutch.

Bram said...

I can sympathize. The wife and I have a Mazda CX-9 for the kids, dog, road trips, etc... Not bad for an SUV, just blah.

We also have a 3-series with a manual and the Sports Package. Much better to drive. Unfortunately, my wife seems to think of it as "her" car.

Weer'd Beard said...

It feels so Alien to me. Like suddenly having a dude across the bar wink at me, and I suddenly contemplate leaving my wife for a life of Massachusetts gay matrimony.

There's nothing wrong with it, but I never thought it applied to ME.

Of course what I'm really talking about is my recent sale of my Ranger with a stick shift, for a Ford Edge.

I'm now driving a FWD (with 100% computer controlled AWD) manual transmission. Even with the base engine!

I'm almost appalled how much I enjoy driving around what I have dubbed "The Ugly Station Wagon" that only has two input pedals than what I thought was the prerequisite three.

Maybe I'm hanging up my wild years...maybe technology has really crossed over the line. I suspect I'll never know which or what combination...

Anonymous said...


It's not a station wagon, it's a compact SUV. Stop calling it a station wagon. My dad drove a station wagon, I drive a compact SUV. I would not be caught dead driving a station wagon.

Tam make him stop calling my SUV a station wagon. It's not a station wagon it a compact SUV!

All right its a friken station wagon, are you happy now! I'm an old coot who no longer drives V-8 Mustangs and Cameros and calls his station wagon an SUV. Have some pity for Christ sake!

At least I still have my old F 150.


RevolverRob said...

As poobie said, you can get a Forester with a stick. Just not the Forester XT with sport suspension and a turbo. Which, really, and I mean really, pisses off my wife. She refuses to drive automatic equipped vehicles on principle, and certainly refuses to acquire one for daily purposes. I wouldn't hesitate to call my wife a technological luddite, she prefers pump action shotguns, manual transmissions, and phones that do not qualify as smart.

I on the other hand, embrace our new technological overlords. When I bought my Mazdaspeed 3 last year, I was stunned to learn about Bluetooth integration with my phone, and was pleased that for $150, I could integrate my Ipod into the car and control it via the fancy buttons on the steering wheel, that also tell me about fuel mileage, service intervals, and let me change the radio station and volume. All the while, I still managed to get a decent sized station wagon with three pedals, 6 forward gears, and enough turbo-aided power to pull a small freight train.

Chris said...

I recently discovered my Sierra P/U has been tracking gallons used to date since new. Not MPG,but gallons actually consumed. How's that for creepy technology?!?


Unknown said...

Jeep still makes the Wrangler with a manual, 6 speed no less and the new engine will make the 2 door quite peppy. You can take the top off on days that it is not raining and the new ones have both a sunroof/t-top equivalent and the fancy schmancy electronic bells and whistles (power windows and door locks, neat stereos with Bluetooth integration etc...) my wife's face when she discovered that the stereo in her new 4 door Wrangler could access the music on her iPhone through the aether was priceless.

I will admit that I don't like crossovers. I see them as the automotive equivalent of the Taurus Judge.

I will also confess to having been hooked on sports cars. However, I transferred to Jeeps almost 15 years ago and I never looked back.

Nathan said...

I love my Ford Escape.

And I like it a lot more than Ford's crossover Edge.

Built on a car platform, too, not a truck platform. (Yay Mazda!) Great for those long interstate trips because it doesn't beat you to death like a truck. Handles like a dream in town.

And you guys can have your sticks, my left knee forced me to give up clutching back in 2002. These days it's automatic all the way, baby.

Kristopher said...

Yup ... Media player car stereos are all the rage now.

I put a $40 Media player receiver in my old Suburban ... only does AM/FM and a USB port.

Just shove a small USB stick ( or an iPod USB plug ) into the front, and away it goes.

Joe R. said...

I have a 2002 Subaru WRX Impreza and you would enjoy the driving with it. I will admit that the vehicle's handling is good but is better off-road. Subaru does make some different vehicles that people like but there are some stipulations owning one.The biggest is that they will run forever but the body won't last past 10 years!

I picked up a 2007 Mazda 3 hatchback to compliment the WRX. The 3 is a Mazdaspeed version and actually has more power than the WRX but has the same problem the Zed Drei does - beautiful handling but doesn't like the dirt roads!

Joe R.

Patrick said...

Even the new Bimmers are giving up sticks in favor of the "Almost Drive" - the mode where it is not quite an automatic and not quite a stick because it lacks a clutch pedal.

I scoffed, I chided and I even laughed. Then I bought one for the wife (335 xi M-style) and I like it. Off the line it is even faster than a real manual transmission.

The tech has gotten real good. With optional paddle-shifter (the horror), there is also serious advantage to being able to drive and shift with two hands on the wheel. For instance, covering winding roads with no brakes and the ability to maintain positive wheel control with two hands at all times.

I still have the pickup in the driveway. The wife hates driving it now that I abscond with her car daily.

And the nav/control systems in the new cars are amazing. It was 7 years since we bought anything new, so we were astounded when it just sync'd with the iThing and started to work. Nav maps with satellite imagery and three USB ports to upload data. It is officially more computer than my old laptop, which is also dying for an upgrade.

The only bad thing is the gravel road can be abusive after new rock is dropped into old holes. And I already skunked one tire hitting an unavoidable pothole on a bridge. But did I mention the awesome nav-thingy...?

Tam said...


Twin-clutch paddle-shifting manuals are much less disconcerting, because they don't use a fluid coupling between the engine and rear wheels, so there is a linear relationship between the numbers on the tach, the numbers on the speedo, and the noise in the cockpit.

Turk Turon said...

The fancy dashboard Victrola can also be used as a GPS and phone. Ferrari has the right idea: just provide an iPhone dock.

Patrick said...


You are smarter than I on these things. I was surprised how much fun the BMW was to drive. It still is, several months after the new-ness wore off. I get a lot of time on back-country winding roads and enjoy them. I do set the speed monitor low to avoid being an ass (I go the limit to avoid Amish).

The best part is when I meet up with a two-lane fast road. This let's me gun while I merge. Sure beats the pickup in pick-up.

Maryland is not the place to test speed these days. Everyone is getting tickets left and right. The budget is down and suddenly traffic stops are all the rage. There are few warnings, but I had one friend say the cop was actually apologetic about tagging her with a fine for a small amount over the limit. MD let's people avoid points on the first ticket if they just pay the fine, so few will fight these.


Borepatch said...

We had a Subaru Legacy wagon for 130,000 miles. Cheap, reliable (I think we never did much more than oil change, but must have done the timing change with that sort of mileage).

Good car.

The Freeholder said...

I swapped out the best car I ever owned, and Olds Intrigue with the Autobahn Package (and certain tweaks in the computers--bye-bye, Mr. Speed Limiter) for a Subaru Outback when the Olds's transaxle took the last train for the coast (@ 260k) a bit over a year ago.

I miss the effortless acceleration and single-toe braking ability, and I also miss the I-forget-but-ridiculous-for-a-4-door-familymobile skid pad rating.

God, Mrs. Freeholder hated riding with me in the mountains. :-)

It took a year of relearning every reflex and retraining myself, but I've learned to love the Outback for it's finer qualities. I can carry enough gear in the back for an entire day at the range, and I don't drag in the ruts trying to get there. Travel on less-than-pristine roads is much more comfortable, and travel when the footing is bad is much better. AWD is a seriously neat idea.

Don't care for the CVT, but I'm getting used to it. I have to admit it has its moments, but they're few and far between.

And 30+ MPG isn't bad, either.

Justthisguy said...

I rented a Subaru with AWD to drive up to GA for my Dad's funeral a few years back. I never got used to it. It cornered really well, but I couldn't tell how close I was getting to the limit of adhesion.

It had an auto-tran with a lever I could tap to go up and down. That was kinda fun; leave yer foot in the throttle and just tap the lever. It was kinda like a bike, that way.

The thing had an amazing number of safety bombs in it. Not just on the wheel, but all around the cabin. I swear, I think Martin-Baker may have been a contractor when they were putting in the "airbags".