COAL:2003 Subaru Outback – All-Weather Friend

All pics are of the actual car!

In the summer of 2011, we were doing quite a bit of camping.  The CR-V was too small to haul the camper, so I’d bought a Dakota for that purpose.  I’d had the CR-V for a few years, and had grown tired of it.  Combine that with some annoying repairs I’d had to do and it was time to sell it and get something else.

I hate to admit it, but I get tired of cars very easily, and aside from a few “classic” cars, usually sell them after a year or so.  I wish I knew why.  I’m sure I’m not alone, though.  I’d watched Kijiji looking for something, and this Subaru came up.  All wheel drive, good tires and body, for $4000.  I decided to buy it.

Love the beige/brown combo with the woodgrain.  One of the nicest cars I’ve had.

It was a 2.5 litre, 4-speed automatic car.  It was a mostly impressive drivetrain, with its flat-four being butter-smooth and torquey all through its rev range.  The transmission did its job unobtrusively, and the locking rear differential made the wagon a ball to drive in the snow.  It used no oil, nor did it leak antifreeze.  It was well-optioned, too, with heated seats, heated mirrors, and a special heated strip under the windshield wipers to help keep them slush-and snow free.  I haven’t seen it before or since in a car.  It also had the usual cruise, air conditioning, and power windows and locks.  The biggest impression I was left with driving the car is that this is what a well-made GM car should be made like.  The inside wasn’t like any other Japanese or European car I’d been in – soft, textured dash and door panels, the beige, brown, and woodgrain with no major swaths of grey or black plastic, and solid-feeling controls.

There was an outside thermometer on the right hand side when the key was on.

The gauges and controls were also mostly great.  As you can see above, the gauges were clear and well laid out.  Everything else was sensible, with the exception of the headlight control.  I think there was a switch on the dash for the main lights, and you can see in the picture above the rocker switch on the column for the park lights.  I think I just left the headlights on all the time as they went on and off with the key.

Still a great looking wagon.  I still love the look of it.

I had the opportunity to put a lot of kilometers on the Subaru in the time I had it.  At work, the management at head office in Montreal had decided to replace our old AS/400 text-based business system with a flashy new system from SAP.  I’d interviewed and gotten to be a chance to be on the training team.  I’d be helping develop and edit training materials, provide classroom support, and provide on-the-job training.  As part of this, lots of travel between our branches in Maritime Canada would be required, and the Outback was my chariot.

It was a good performer on the highway, never short of power.  It wasn’t good on fuel, either, only being able to net about 23 miles per gallon on most trips.  A 4-hour trip in the car was OK, but the 8-hour trip to Fredericton was a bit long – being a big guy, there wasn’t much shoulder or arm room between me and the door of the car.  I had some stormy trips in the winter, but the car never failed me.  As for the SAP implementation, the less said about that, the better.

The less said about that Mazda 5, the better.

One day, while filling the car full of gas, the gas started running out of it underneath.  I got it home, and put it up on ramps to have a look.  I suspected something on top of the fuel tank was not right.  It looked like they installed the tank, and then the rear suspension and driveline, and finally, the exhaust.  It wasn’t rotten underneath – but a lot of the fasteners were really crusty, and I didn’t feel like tackling that repair.  I didn’t want to sell it outright, so I went to see what I could get on trade.  It looked and drove pretty well, and I got what I paid for it on trade.  Has anyone else had a car addiction like this?