SUBARU’S FORESTER WILDERNESS AND HONDA CR-V
SEARCHING FOR A NEW SET OF WHEELS
I’ve always admired the brute ugliness of the A10 Warthog. It’s so ugly that pilots of other combat military aircraft make fun of it – and its pilots. But below 2000 ft it’s merciless at close air support.
One pilot of the Warthog was so tired of being chided about its looks that one night he pinned a note on the door of a (more) traditional fighter pilot that read: “There’s no intelligent life above 2000 ft”.
The Subaru Forester reminds me of the A10 in appearance, if not in practice. The wheels and tires are definitely too small. The greenhouse is too big for its overall length, and its stubby rear end is almost comical.
But the Subaru Forester in Wilderness drag, while exhibiting the worst fuel economy of the Forester models, does have its strong points, ‘though winning the all-important automotive beauty pageant is not among them.
The Subaru Forester Wilderness comes with 3000 lb of towing capacity, and a rear axle ratio of 4.11:1 (vs 3.70:1) in other Forester variations. That’s what gives the Wilderness its extra towing capacity, as well as its compromised fuel economy. The paddle shifters give it a sportier feel, but no one will mistake them for a manual transmission. And few will use them, I suspect. Despite the shortcomings, the Forester Wilderness does have a certain appeal, though. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t consider adopting one on a permanent basis.
What’s holding me back is that I already have a Subaru, a 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5L with a manual transmission. And despite the fact that Subaru Certified it as a CPO vehicle when I bought it in 2014 with 47k miles on the odometer, it’s spent a lotta time in the shop. Much of that time at Subaru’s expense. The rest at my expense.
Finally, at only 172k miles, it needs a new engine or a new home. Subaru doesn’t care. They told me that. And I believe them.
Only I care.
I love the car. When it works, I glide through all six gears with ease, shifting effortlessly while depressing the (3rd) clutch. My kiddo calls my Outback “the cocoon”. Despite the bright sun and torturous heat we experience here in Central Texas on an often daily basis, the dark-as-legal window tinting it has, along with my Oakley sunglasses, keep things pleasantly cool in the cockpit. It is indeed a cocoon. And the manual transmission gives you power that belies its actual horsepower.
So, rebuild or replace? “Das ist die Frage”, as the Germans like to say.
Truth be told, I want a manual transmission more than anything else. But I need it in a suitably functional vehicle, which means an SUV or a sedan. But the corral of suitable candidates is rare, and getting more rare every day. In the under $40k group I’m considering, the Subaru WRX, the Honda Civic Sport and the Honda Civic Si all have manual transmissions.
Sure, I’d like something a tad sportier, like Honda’s Civic Type R. But the Type R is commanding premiums of $10K-$15K above MSRP. Not to mention that – on a daily driver basis – it’s not the practicality I am looking for in a regular ride.
But we all have our vices. And if you’re willing to attract the police every time you go for a quart of milk, the Honda Civic Type R, which gets a mere 24mpg and costs an additional $3500 over 5 years to operate, is a pretty nice choice. And worth the extra fuel cost, although not necessarily the dealer markup.
Which leads us through the Honda showroom to another Honda offering. The CRV or the CRV Hybrid.
The Honda CRV is a much better choice than the Forester in any number of areas, with practicality leading the way. In Hybrid trim the CRV leaves the Forester at the starting gate while it races down the fuel economy track, posting a truly of-this-century 40mpg in city driving. And very close to that on the highway. Plus, it’s not nearly as quirky as the Forester.
In fact, he CRV does everything right, which is likely why it Honda’s numero uno on the Honda sales chart. Plus, it’s pretty. Maybe not beauty queen gorgeous, but pretty. There’s no mistaking it for an automotive version of the A10 Warthog. The CRV in any trim, checks every box. Except one.
It lacks soul. And as David Porter and Isaac Hayes so eloquently phrased it, and then Sam and Dave memorialized it in a song of the same name:
I’m a soul man
I’m a soul man.