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I've loved cars since I could first remember, my grandfather having a 1967 Ford Galaxie 500XL Fastback 390 and growing up on muscle cars but my affinity knows no borders as I own a Subaru WRX.
24th November 2014
Like many petrolheads the world over, since the loss early last year of our beloved Top Gear, I have long wondered what the old Top Gear trio would do next and how it could ever compare to what we’d lost. Before too long it was announced that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May had signed with Amazon to do a new car show, to be offered on the Amazon Prime video streaming service. Now, let me be absolutely clear, from the moment of the announcement I could say I was willing to pay one hundred of my dollars for a year of Amazon Prime to see what the boys came up with. I didn’t, but that’s the beauty of the world of shared accounts we live in here in 2016. If only Comrade Marx could see us now. Anyway here we are, it’s a bit short of 2am on November 18, 2016 and I’ve just finished my first ever watching of the Grand Tour. A lot has been riding on how this show was going to turn out; would it be just a relabeled Top Gear? How were they going to keep things fresh and interesting? How would it stack up to the revamped and relaunched, and now slightly less overcrowded Top Gear (sorry Chris, but frankly piss off)? Without going too far into the details of the episode for the sake of those who’ve not seen it yet, I’d like to start by saying I wish that Jeremy, Richard, and James had left the BBC a lot sooner. In essence, what the first episode of The Grand Tour has presented us as petrolheads is exactly what made us love Top Gear in the first place. The premiere obviously dedicates a lot of time to laying out the groundwork of the show and how things would be done, and while still slightly close to old Top Gear in format, it brings along necessary change. For starters, the studio making way for a globe-trotting tent with three lovable idiots having all kinds of car-related escapades is simply fantastic as far as I reckon. The setting for tonight was the high desert of California, with an American audience. And then next week in Johannesburg, there’ll be some South Africans! And all around the world it goes! As a viewer that’s far more interesting and diverse than a mostly British crowd in dreary, seemingly constantly wet Dunsfold, England in the same studio every week. As for the presenters themselves, it’s as though nothing has changed and they still have that magic sort of chemistry between them that makes the whole thing just brilliant to watch. I think what impressed me most was that in one hour and ten minutes of uninterrupted programming, I didn’t even once check my phone. The last time a show had my undivided attention such as that was during the last season finale of Game of Thrones! Through the entire episode I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, and every minute was just more and more of what we, or at least I, really wanted to see. Three idiot friends having a blast with cars the same way I do with my idiot friends. If they have as little problem going forward keeping me entertained as they’ve had tonight then I’m glad Top Gear had to die, and long live The Grand Tour.
So, having seen what a good race Melbourne provided for us, bar that absolutely terrible qualifying format, I’m curious as to what my fellow CTzens think of Ferrari’s pace this year vs the Mercedes duo. Personally I believe that had Ferrari gone for the medium compound after the Red Flag, the grand prix would’ve been theirs to lose rather than stopping again and having Vettel play catch-up to the Mercs. Does anyone else believe that this year’s Ferrari is good enough to give Mercedes a fight for the title?
Asking a man to write a review of his car, especially when he loves it, is honestly like asking him to review his wife(just without worrying about her being in earshot). Since September 5, 2015 I have been the proud owner of a 2002 Subaru Outback H6-3.0 LL Bean Edition and let me start by saying that it definitely doesn’t receive nearly the attention it deserves. Sure, you can only buy one with Subaru’s less-than-fantastic 4-speed automatic which never seems to be able to grasp proper shift points. Sure from the front end it may look ever so slightly like an abhorred Platypus. Sure they’re known here in the Northeastern US for being insanely rust prone. But, after owning my own used model for the better part of 6 months now I, in all seriousness, cannot be critical of this car. The gearbox may not have any idea when it’s supposed to shift, but when it is actually in gear and you’ve got your foot down hard enough to bring the 3-liter flat-six above 3500rpm the whole thing starts to transform around you. 212hp may not seem like a lot, and to an enthusiast it usually doesn’t, but being the fully kitted-out luxury wagon it is and weighing in at 3600lbs, it’s absolutely enough for those of us with a heavier right foot to have some good old-fashioned triple-digit fun. The handling is honestly what has consistently surprised me the most in my experience owning the LL Bean, becaise for being really more of a utilitarian everyday commuter, it has absolutely no problem with being chucked into bends faster than you’d imagine being possible. The suspension is soft enough that it can comfortably handle any element of daily use from highway cruising to some proper off-roading, but there is nowhere near as much body roll as I’d anticipated and was nowhere near even my previous Outback, a ‘98 2.5. Its ability to corner in a relatively flat manner had me staggered when I put it through a trial by fire not knowing what to expect, namely by finding myself in a convoy of other Subarus where I admittedly did not belong. Our group was flying up a back road in the Catskill Mountains trying to keep up with the idiot we mistakenly allowed to lead, and I was sandwiched between the baddest-ass of bugeyes and a 2012 STi hatch, and even doing 3 times the speed limit was able to stay glued to the back of the car in front with no issues, other than one instance of understeer which can be attributed to bald front tires rather than anything to do with the car itself. Throw it into a bend at any speed, however much steering lock you wish, and Subaru’s fantastic mechanical AWD system combined with a great chassis will make sure that it holds on and makes you look good. Moving to the interior, Subaru does a very good job of making sure everything you are frequently in contact with is pleasing to the touch. The steering wheel is the same leather-wrapped unit you get in the ‘02-‘07 WRX but without the Momo Racing logo and real wood inlays. The automatic climate control works like a charm, as do the heated seats, wiper bay, and side mirrors making it a great winter car on top of having AWD, and the factory sound system is fantastic never mind that it’s 14 years old. It really is that good. The seats, however, and in my case the driving position do leave a bit to be desired. Now I realize it’s by no means a racing car and is meant for comfort, but if you’re going to make it the most powerful model in the range then it’d make sense to include some more supportive seats that don’t permit you flying side to side when you find a good bit of road. As far as the driving position leaving something to be desired, this is something of a personal issue. Myself being 6’3”, it is damned near impossible to find a position I’d call “comfy” while driving but the Subaru really throws me out of whack. The seats in the LL Bean are too tall and too padded for someone like me, so that if you move the seat close enough to have a comfortable handle of the steering wheel it makes a project of operating the pedals because your knees are in a constant battle over space with the steering column, and if you adjust your seat back to compensate then the steering wheel is out of reach and because it is non-telescoping there isn’t a thing that can be done for it so I can never get the position just right and that is just a proper pain after a while. But, I will say good on Subaru for allowing headroom enough for those of us who are properly sized even if they do hate our knees. Rear legroom is enough for full sized adults and the trunk space, being a wagon is fantastic as you’d imagine. Overall as an enthusiast, I don’t feel that it’s exactly the right car for me, hence I’ll be selling it off to buy an older WRX, but I’ll say this… It’s damn close.
So, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon everyone! Come May or so(hopefully in time for Wicked Big Meet) I’ll be selling my beloved H6 to my best friend because he wants a Subaru for his first car, and use the money I get from that to go out and pick up a WRX. It’ll be my third Subaru, first Impreza, second H4, and first turbo and I honestly couldn’t be more excited to become a WRX owner!