2012 Subaru Impreza: Nevada City to Monterey, CA.
April 15, 2013
There are only 250 miles ahead of me on the second day of my road trip in our long-term 2012 Subaru Impreza. Going out with the family for brunch in Nevada City and checking out some local sites takes up most of the morning agenda before hitting the road.
I'm well rested, confident and optimistic about the shortest travelling day on my road-trip schedule. It might not be my favorite car in the compact class, but this Subaru definitely has its moments in the sun.
Getting around in the Subaru Impreza is easy in unfamiliar territory. It's small, maneuverable and has amazing visibility. Landmarks and picturesque waterfronts are abundant here, so my morning stops include Scotts Flat Reservoir, various statues of gold-mining settlers and vividly styled buildings like the local courthouse. Architecture with some history behind it is more plentiful in these small, northern California mountain towns and the Subaru fits right in.
I've seen at least two dozen other Subarus just this morning and it makes perfect sense. Going with a lighter front-wheel-drive car like the Ford Focus might seem smart for a weather-free town like Los Angeles, but when you introduce more rain and snow, this car becomes much more practical.
Travelling alone I'm not cramped in the Subie's cockpit but I stop several times on the route, educating myself with roadside signs and stretching my legs more than necessary.
Before long, my overconfidence comes back to bite me. The back roads I've chosen start to fill up with Sunday drivers and posted speed limits become more of a distant hope than a reasonable restriction. On one particular stretch of road, the center lines remain a solid double-yellow for miles and I'm held to 20 mph under the posted limit behind a tall, soggy stack of cardboard boxes.
Back on the freeway it's not long before I am caught in a thunderstorm and stuck in gridlock. I'm constantly checking the clock. Getting to my hotel on time isn't a concern, but my dinner destination closes early. Eventually the weather and the road clear up and I make it back to up reasonable speeds.
While I wasn't in love with the Impreza at first, it is growing on me. The driver seat could definitely be improved with some adjustable lumbar support, but after several hours, I'm still relatively pain-free. The ride isn't stiff or back-breaking, either, but it is firm enough to get a feeling for the pavement conditions even in a heavy downpour. Just as night falls, I make it to Shadowbrook Restaurant in Capitola.
The cable car at Shadowbrook along with waterfalls and a flowing creek below make for a gorgeous view while I savor the Hawaiian Butterfish and the Chocolate Meltdown.
On a wide variety of terrain, including curvy mountain roads, hilly city streets and a few boring freeway miles, the Impreza's all-wheel-drive system is more than capable in the heavy rain. Handling feels sharp and predictable around corners and the Impreza never seems short on grip.
Tune in later for the longest day on my road trip and some shots from California's epic Highway 1.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 17,880 miles