2012 Subaru Impreza Long-Term Road Test


2012 Subaru Impreza: Los Angeles to Nevada City

April 10, 2013

2012 Subaru Impreza

I've lived in California my entire life and I've never driven up Highway 395 or seen Lake Tahoe. This trip to Northern California in our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza would be different. I wanted to take the long route and see something more than flat, soulless freeways. The first leg of the five-day journey will take me to my father's new home in Nevada City, CA, 532 miles away.

After a few morning hours on the road, my first stop is at a vista point on U.S. Highway 395 to stretch my legs at The Aerospace Valley.

2012 Subaru Impreza

Back on the road, I notice that the Subaru locks out the audio settings while on the move. Even with cruise control engaged, the Impreza won't let me adjust the bass levels up when the hip-hop mood strikes or back down when I want to wind down with a podcast.

2012 Subaru Impreza

This is annoying, but I'm thankful for the picturesque route. I stop at Red Rock Canyon National Park, Owens Lake, Mt. Whitney, Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Mountain and Mono Lake and I'm only half way there. The Subaru is comfortable, capable and I'm really cozy after 300 miles.

2012 Subaru Impreza

2012 Subaru Impreza

2012 Subaru Impreza

The speed limit on U.S. 395 is 65 mph, which is five miles an hour lower than most of Interstate 5 travelling up the center of California. The decreased speed does more than slow me down, it builds character. It gives me the opportunity to stop and see small towns with unique architecture and country motels.

2012 Subaru Impreza

This place distinctly reminds me of the Cozy Cone hotel in Cars. I want a dinosaur outside my motel room window. The 12-year-old inside me demands it, but I must move on.

2012 Subaru Impreza

I find a 1972 Honda AZ600 for sale on the side of the highway. I wonder for more than a moment if the 36-horsepower engine could get this microcar up to speed on the freeway quicker than the Impreza, whose 148-hp four-cylinder has its strength sapped by the continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Impreza is fine at speed and acceptable around town, but its leisurely acceleration feels almost dangerous while joining high-speed traffic. It's got no oomph. If I'd brought a few friends on this trip, I'd really have to plan my moves. Alas, the vintage Honda doesn't look like it runs and I need to get going.

After putting some more miles behind me I stop for a photo-op at Walker River. Highway 395 parallels the river for several miles. All four windows go down and the sunroof goes back. It's cold outside, but the mountain air is a crisp and refreshing change to the metropolis smog I'm used to and I have seat heaters.

2012 Subaru Impreza

As I get close to Lake Tahoe, I decide that I agree with editor Phil Reed when he recommends you get the manual transmission for this car. Yet, even though our CVT-equipped Subie feels gutless in the mountains, it's eager and composed around the bends. It's like it wants to succeed at being a good little car, and the all-wheel-drive system definitely helps.

2012 Subaru Impreza

Lake Tahoe is vast and beautiful. I wish it weren't so overcast and gray, but I explore a bit and read some roadside placards. Dinner time is approaching quickly and I want get there before the light fades so I put Tahoe in the rear view.

2012 Subaru Impreza

I told my father that I'd be in for dinner around 6:00 p.m. and that's exactly when I pull up under a light rain, outside his cabin-style home, among the Redwood forests of northern California. Including one full fuel fill-up, snacks, lunch and a dozen impromptu photo shoots, the day has only taken me ten hours. Google maps estimated 9 hours 16 minutes. I've made great time without having to stare at eighteen-wheelers, countless bland fast food restaurants, and endless miles of pancaked roadway. Next stop: Monterey Bay, CA.

2012 Subaru Impreza

Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 17,630 miles

Comments

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    And this is why you take the blue highways. From someone living in the Great Lakes, it's kinda funny to read about how vast Lake Tahoe is...and then looking at the photos you can see clear across it to the other side.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    Nice digs

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I am really disappointed in the way Subaru is choosing to go with it's cars. Universal AWD does not make up for the weak engine/CVT combo. My Forester had a great suspension, outstanding visibility, comfortable seats, and acceptable fuel economy. But it's 2.5/4EAT combo was just aweful. Rev's would rise with no change in speed just like it had a CVT. I can only imagine what an even weaker engine and an actual CVT must be like. A manual is just not an option in any car I have to share with my wife, so sadly another Subaru is not in my future any time soon.

  • 06scooby 06scooby Posts:

    Yeah Subaru's are just plain more fun to drive and sprightlier when you row your own gears. When we had our Legacy Wagon with the manual, I'd frequently take summer drives up the mountain roadways with the sunroof open and windows down and at a quick pace would have a blast. Driving all the way around the lake on a summer day is good for the soul. I miss that car! As far as the drive, 395 is our preferred route from Reno when we visit family in So Cal. We drove I5 through sacramento one time, and I'll never do that again. The walker river canyon is one of my favorite parts of that drive... I just drove that way for work just 2 weeks ago and I always stop there at the river and lust listen to it rush by for a few minutes!

  • 06scooby 06scooby Posts:

    And bankerdanny, I feel for ya. I had girlfriends in the past that had no interest in learning to drive whatever manual I was driving at the time, and I was fortunate enough to marry my wife who hates automatics after learning to drive mine, and now we both drive manuals... and nothing else will do!

  • cherryfan cherryfan Posts:

    As an Impreza owner with the CVT, I don't get the gutless comments. Yes, I've seen all the 0-60 times, and I also drive a 2012 Ford Focus manual, so I do have some frame of reference. But I just drove 500 miles in the mountains of Colorado last week, with no problems entering the Interstate and cruising through the Eisenhower tunnel and over Vail Pass at 65-70 (except for the requisite 50 or so in the tunnel). Rpm rarely topped 4k rpm, even at 10,600 feet @ 70 mph. Would I like more hp? Always. Are manuals more fun? Of course. However, I've come to see the CVT as the perfect mountain transmission, because it can choose whatever gear ratio the grade requires. The much-maligned boxer engine and CVT get great mileage in the mountains, too—hand-calculated 31.5 mpg despite a fair amount of snow and ice to deal with. And the handling in snow and on ice inspires confidence, even with the stock all-seasons.

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Subaru Impreza in VA is:

$126 per month*
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