2013 Subaru BRZ: Utah Road Trip, Part 2
July 22, 2013
You should always take the back roads when you're driving out West and you have the time. Even if you don't have the time, you should do it, especially if you have a car like the 2013 Subaru BRZ that handles well. Every one of these little roads goes through some national park or monument and you don't want to miss that.
The only problem is that Utah has some pretty high elevations. At no point were the BRZ and I below 4,000 feet, and at one point, we were at 9,600 feet on Utah Highway 12 in the Dixie National Forest. The altitude was absolutely an issue when trying to use passing zones, as fearless tourists in rental cars would pretend not to notice the dark gray sports car trying to accelerate past them and hit the gas instead of yielding.
I never lost any of these battles, but completing these passes required a fair amount of determination: It's not the frequent shifting I minded (I love shifting). It was the middling amount of torque in any gear. I was reminded how I've been spoiled in recent years by turbocharged sport compacts like the Mazdaspeed 3, Focus ST and VW GTI. The MS3, in particular, would have been great on this route.
I decided to take a break (from the other motorists) and a photo when we came upon a scenic overlook at that 9,600-foot summit. There's no alpine wonderland up here at this time of year. It's basically a high plateau with grassy meadows.
My favorite part of the drive was the section of Highway 12 that goes through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The topography along this stretch is like nothing you've seen before (well, unless you've been there), and everybody stops to take it all in and go on hikes. As a result, the road opened up, and the BRZ and I got to go through a few turns unimpeded.
I was hoping for tighter, slower corners so that I could enjoy the Subaru's quick steering and firm suspension calibration without having to work too hard. But it turned out this highway is mostly about faster, sweeping turns. But whatever, I still had fun. Just kept the 2.0-liter engine revving hard and tried to avoid momentum-killing activities like slowing down. No question, though, I'd love to make this trip again in our newly supercharged Scion FR-S.
As you'll see in the photos, the closer I got to Zion National Park and the Nevada state line, the hazier the sky got. When I got to the park entrance, I could have sworn I was entering the Angeles National Forest, there was so much smog. Then, I heard a radio report: wildfires, bad air quality all over the state. And that is why these amazing rock formations look so washed out, thereby ruining hundreds of family road trip photos.
Zion also had Southern California-style traffic jams due to an abundance of tourists with cameras (like me) and a very long tunnel on Highway 9 that was limited to a single lane of traffic (east- and westbound motorists take turns) due to a complete lack of lighting within the tunnel. After navigating through all this, it was almost a relief when I got to the turnoff for Interstate 15.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 18,953 miles