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Old 07-14-2003, 12:17 AM   #1
KiKoBa
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Default And they say you can never go home again... need some help deciding.

So... the time has come... and I have decided that my next car will be a Subaru. I actually owned a Legacy many years ago, and it was very near and dear to my heart, but when the lease was up I no longer needed a vehicle (had moved back home to NYC) so I gave it up. When it was time to get a set of wheels again, I went with a VW GTI because I wanted a sporty hatchback and the WRX was not available at thet time. Now, it seems like there are too many options in the Subaru world.

I test drove an '04 WRX, an '04 Forester XT, and a Baja today and was happy with each of them (though, obviously, the WRX and Forester are more fun than the Baja). Let me tell you my situation, and then perhaps you can send some advice my way.

Aside from the sporty driving element (which they all have... I would wait for the Baja Turbo if that's what I really wanted), what I need is a backpack on wheels... something that I can take hiking/camping, biking, sailing, rockclimbing, skiing, and all the many other outdoor activities I enjoy. I know that each of these vehicles fit this bill in their own way... just as my Legacy did... but does one outshine another when taking in the big picture. I hear the Forester XT, due to it's 2.5 engine, has better power at high altitudes vs. the WRX. Is this noticibly true? The Forester also has a higher ground clearance... but the Baja Turbo is supposed to have the highest of all three when it comes out. Which of the vehicles, if any, has the more rugged suspension for when I tackle old logging roads and other unpaved/precarious routes? Aside from a sportier look, what does the WRX have over the Forester in the way of advantages? In spite of its marketing, does the Baja really offer enhanced versatility vs. the other two? Or, rather, does it limit what you can take with you because of the narrow hole in the switchback pass-through and the lack of cargo security. Basically, I'm looking for the Subaru for all seasons, for all reasons (at the risk of sounding corny... too late). Which would you choose?

I'm hoping to get advice from people who have lived with their vehicles for a little while and have gotten over the honeymoon... though advice from all is more than welcome.

Also... I prefer the '03 look of the WRX. Are there any major advantages that really mean anything (i.e. brakes, suspension, stabilizer bars, etc.) that the '04 has vs. the '03? I know there was a link somewhere that listed all of the features that were new on the '04... but I couldn't seem to find it with the search function. (yes, apparently I'm that stupid). If someone could direct me to that link, that would be a great help.

I know this is a pretty basic and possibly silly post... but it never hurts to ask... and perhaps someone who has lived with their vehicle can pass on some wisdom that can only be gained over time.

Thank you, in advance, for all of your help and advice. I'll take it upon myself to welcome myself back to the Subaru family... and I happy to be home again.

Regards,

Trip
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Old 07-14-2003, 12:29 AM   #2
tre36
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Kikoba, for all means if you want a backpack on wheels the forester would be it. That was the main reason I got the forester over the impreza. There is a lot more room overall inside the forester than the impreza. There is definitely more "utility" in the forester. I have taken my ride up to the mountains for skiing and through the Olympic forester park up here in WA state and the forester handled every terrain wonderfully. I love the WRX but I wouldn't be too comfortable in it on long trips.

Well, its all based on preference so have fun!
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Old 07-14-2003, 01:20 AM   #3
RunForestRun
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Wink Re: And they say you can never go home again... need some help deciding.

Quote:
Originally posted by KiKoBa
... I prefer the '03 look of the WRX. Are there any major advantages that really mean anything (i.e. brakes, suspension, stabilizer bars, etc.) that the '04 has vs. the '03?...
'03 XS and '04 XT have the same brakes as the WRX. As far as suspension, the Foresters are given more ground clearance and not as much attention to stabilizing has gone into them as compared to the WRX: Forester is Subaru's crossover (SUV/wagon) thus given the increased height and utility capabilities vs. the WRX's track-tuned stylings.

I backpack around the Sierras and take my '03 Forester everywhere I'm "legally" able to. The Forester's offroad capabilities are underappreciated. And the Second Generation's ('03-'04) on-road (track) capabilities are just now being tapped.

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Old 07-14-2003, 03:14 AM   #4
ducktapeguy
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I second what RunforestRun says. I take my forester onanything that slighty resembles a dirt road, and the Foresters are pretty capable off road, if you have any doubts, just look at some of the Australian Forester owners on Subaruforester.com. And the only other advice I can give you is that the forester is probably the has the most utility out of the three. Off road, the WRX wagon is okay, but lower ground clearance. Baja may have higher ground clearance (I'm not really sure, I thought both were 7.5 inches), but it's probably not the ground clearance that will be an issue. I haven't measured both of them, but just looking at it, If anything, that will be the part that's going to stop you. the Baja suffers the same problem as the Outback, that's the rear bumper.The forester overhangs are shorter, so that's better in rough roads. And then there are the lift kits and suspension upgrades you can do if it's still not enough

As for space, I think the forester offers more USABLE space than the WRX wagon, and maybe even the baja. It's more square shaped, so the hatch doesn't intrude as much into the interior. and if you need to sleep in it, you won't have to squeeze through that switchback like in the baja. Plus, since you live in L.A, you probably want to keep your stuff locked up at all times, something you can't do as well in the baja with the open bed. And if you want to add a roof rack, the forester will hold a larger roof rack than the baja.

And finally, you should get the forester XT all of us Socal people can come over and get a ride in it. I call shotgun. Plus that'll be one more forester owner when we start having meets.

Oh yeah, where are you going on these rough logging roads? Anyplace local? Because I want to go.
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Old 07-14-2003, 09:09 AM   #5
Chromer
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Mobile backpack, mobile motel: Sleeping in a Baja would suck if the weather wasn't nice. At 6', I can sleep pretty comfortably in the back of my Forester if I lay kitty-corner. Bring on the snow, the wind, the rain. There is somewhat better security for your gear too, as it's all inside rather than laying out in an open bed.

As far as offroad goes... Well, I don't know. But I've been over some pretty nasty logging and skidder roads, and log decked bridges with my Forester. The gound clearance has been fine. The bigger limit is the approach and departure angles, but I think it is better than the Baja in that respect. My only worry is that I'm going to rip the mudflaps off it when the wheels come down off a log. I've only ever had to turn back short of my destination once, and that was only because of an unexpected 24" water crossing where I was worried about flooding the interior...

If you guys spent more time going 60mph+ on uneven dirt roads (and that's the Forester's real element - smooth stable ride on rough surfaces) you'd appreciate the soft springs, the long suspension travel and the small stock anti-roll bars a lot more. Locking your independent suspension together isn't always a good thing.
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Old 07-14-2003, 09:42 AM   #6
mutcth1
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Got to agree with everyone above. I use our Passat wagon and Outback Sport for supporting our mountain biking/kayaking adventures. Although the idea of the Baja is strangely appealing, its practicality is kinda lacking.

To me, the advantage of having a pickup bed would be to avoid using a roof rack. Since the Baja's bed is so small, two mountain bikes fill it (and you need to use the extender) and even a short whitewater kayak won't fit. The passthrough into the back seat won't help much either, except maybe for kayak paddles - but who wants to drive with that thing open to the elements all the time?

Plus, any of these sports has both big stuff (bike/kayak) and tons of ancillary gear (helmets, packs, clothing...) You either need to put a roof pod on a Baja to hold this stuff (or pack it into dry bags) or put it in the backseat, losing cargo capacity.

Seems to make more sense to buy a closed wagon and a roof rack - capacity for four plus equipment, and all of the stuff goes on the roof (or, if you're lazy and travelling solo, you can put the bike/boat inside.) As for me, I'm torn between the 2.5XT and the 2005 Legacy turbo wagon - I think I'll wait....

Tom
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Old 07-14-2003, 11:46 AM   #7
mhelouin
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I've owned both a WRX wagon and the Forester XT, and I kept the XT.

Everything everyone has said previously is correct. "backpack on wheels"--gotta be a Forester. You'll have more room, better ground clearance, and a really nice ride.

Nothing wrong with the WRX. It is just smaller. It does handle better, and is more of a sports car.

My only real complaint with the XT is gas mileage.

Substantive differences of the '03 WRX to 04 was electronic brake distribution, new headlight design, more efficient engine cooling.

Happy shopping.
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Old 07-14-2003, 01:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
My only real complaint with the XT is gas mileage.
Hopefully that can be fixed with a final drive gearset and a rear end gearset out of a 98-03 junkyard special.

What powertrain warranty?
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Old 07-14-2003, 02:53 PM   #9
KiKoBa
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Thanks for all of the responses so far.

Here's something... when I test drove an XT the other day, I was amazed and how short the uptake was on the clutch. I would hit the friction point having only just come off the floor the slightest bit. When I drove the WRX, with a short throw shifter, it wasn't nearly as sensitive. Though I would, of course, get used to the XT after a few hours on the road, has anyone who owns an XT, or has driven one for an extended period, found it to be particularly tempermental or twitchy in normal day to day driving? I love the speed at which I could shift with the short uptake in spirited driving... but am concerned it would become very tiresome and jumpy during my city commute.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Was this clutch an exception to the norm? As I said, the WRX with short throw, and an OBS and Baja (though those don't really count, I guess), felt much smoother off the line when I wasn't trying to break any landspeed records. Or was it just that I had driven the XT first, and had gotten used to the short uptake by the time I got to the WRX?

Thanks, again, for the advice I've been getting.
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Old 07-14-2003, 03:37 PM   #10
Jack Brown
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kikoba says, "... when I test drove an XT the other day, I was amazed and how short the uptake was on the clutch. I would hit the friction point having only just come off the floor the slightest bit. "

This is surprising; I've had my XT for 3 weeks today, and one of my persistent complaints is exactly opposite your observation! My clutch pedal has to come substantially farther up from the floor than I'd like before the clutch finally begins to engage. I haven't measured the pre-engagement travel, but I'm guessing it's 2 to 3 full inches. This is annoying; I like to drive smoothly, and this long travel-before-engagement makes it difficult both to launch from rest and to change gears smoothly. Unless the dealer can adjust the pedal so that the beginning of engagement occurs closer to the floor, I'll find some other way to reduce the pedal's excessive travel.

jb
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Old 07-14-2003, 05:05 PM   #11
KiKoBa
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That is interesting that you had such a different experience than the one I had. I currently drive a VW GTI 1.8T, and the clutch has to come up several inches before it engages... a little too much if you ask me. However, the centimeters it seemed to take before the XT clutch engaged is a little too short of an uptake, IMO, for smooth and reliable driving. There has to be a way to reach a happy medium.

Have others been having my experience or one closer to jb's? How much of an adjustment can the dealer make to help me achieve that happy medium, should I choose to go with the XT? I must say, in almost every way the XT seemed superior to the WRX... to my personal tastes, of course (though I do love the look of the WRX... especially the '03). My real balking point is my concern regarding the twitchy mannerisms experienced with this practically zero-travel clutch. Can I put my fears to rest and just assume that it was an aberration? Either way, will it be an easy/inexpensive adjustment to get the pedal to engage right were I want it to?

Thanks.
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Old 07-14-2003, 06:25 PM   #12
KiKoBa
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I posted this in the General forum, but thought I'd repeat it here to hear from some Forester owners:

"When I'm driving up the PCH (for those not familiar, it's a beautiful, twisty road... a Miata's dream... that takes you up and down CA's coast)... will the WRX blow the XT out of the water in the fun factor dept.? Or is it a close race? (I'm not talking about a race between the two... just the joy of driving sensation)"
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Old 07-14-2003, 06:47 PM   #13
RunForestRun
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally posted by KiKoBa
..."When I'm driving up the PCH (for those not familiar, it's a beautiful, twisty road... a Miata's dream... that takes you up and down CA's coast)... will the WRX blow the XT out of the water in the fun factor dept.? Or is it a close race? (I'm not talking about a race between the two... just the joy of driving sensation)"
Well, the Forester's INSANELy LARGE Moon Roof definately adds to the joy of the driving XPERIENCE! A moon roof u won't find in a WRX - actually anything else in its class (wagon/small SUV) for that matter.
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Old 07-14-2003, 07:27 PM   #14
Jack Brown
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kikoba asks, ""When I'm driving up the PCH (for those not familiar, it's a beautiful, twisty road... a Miata's dream... that takes you up and down CA's coast)... will the WRX blow the XT out of the water in the fun factor dept.? Or is it a close race? (I'm not talking about a race between the two... just the joy of driving sensation)"

I'd say that depends completely on what driving attributes you value most highly. If you value strong acceleration at nearly any engine speed and in nearly any gear (as I do), the XT will be far more enjoyable - just punch it and go! If you don't mind rowing the gear lever to keep the revs up, and place a large premium on ultimate cornering prowess, the WRX is your choice.

If you insist on both, get the STi...
(but be prepared to sacrifice most of the cargo capacity <read: daily versatility> you get with the WRX wagon and even moreso with the XT).

jb
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Old 07-14-2003, 08:07 PM   #15
KiKoBa
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You're right about the enormous moonroof being a unique joy. Unfortunatley (and I know this point is plastered all over the place... so I won't go on about it) you can't get the moonroof in the XT without also accepting an AT and leather... neither of which interest me in the slightest. I'll never understand the reasoning behind that decision. Now... can a dealer cut a moonroof into an XT? I know some dealers do that for other makes and it's all under warranty. Is it a Subaru option, as well?

Oh... and that was a good point about the cornering of the WRX vs. the torquey speed of the XT. It's something I'll have to take into serious consideration.
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