Nevada City to Monterey, CA. - 2012 Subaru Impreza Long-Term Road Test

2012 Subaru Impreza Long-Term Road Test

2012 Subaru Impreza: Nevada City to Monterey, CA.

April 15, 2013

2012 Subaru Impreza

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.

2012 Subaru Impreza

2012 Subaru Impreza

2012 Subaru Impreza

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.

2012 Subaru Impreza

2012 Subaru Impreza

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.

2012 Subaru Impreza

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.

2012 Subaru Impreza

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


  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Travis, I live in the northeast, and believe me, FWD cars like the Ford Focus do just fine here. From your perspective, they make sense only for weather-free locations like LA? In your heavy rain you encountered, any modern FWD hatch would have been just fine. Stuff like that is much more a function of tires than anything else.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    You know, I've lived in Toronto and Windsor/Detroit areas, and even though we never get the crazy amounts of snow that you'd find in places like Calgary, we still get a pretty good blanket of the stuff year after year, and I never had problems with any of my 2WD cars, either front or rear drive. I never really understood why people think AWD is necessary in anything less than a foot of snow (anything more and most people stay at home anyways), especially when it only helps marginally when you're turning and most certainly does not help when you're braking... i.e. the most important part.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    (that applies to rain by the way. In this case it makes even less of a difference, as long as your tires work well in the rain. Continental ExtremeContacts. Do it.)

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    "Grow on you" is exactly what Subarus do. They are not great looking cars. They don't have great tech and there's rarely anything eye-catching or memorable from a brief sit in the cockpit. They are not at their best on a stand at the car show or in a showroom or dealer lot. But while other cars might be at their most impressive the first time you sit in them or the second you drive it off the dealer lot, Subarus are at their best 6 months later or 6 years later. Their engineers clearly take a long term view of customer satisfaction. This approach may not be the best for rapid growth or sales success fueled by great looks or nice features (see Hyundai). But it is great for sales growth driven by customer loyalty and word of mouth.

  • Could someone please explain to me exactly how having AWD helps with driving in the rain? I feel like the tires make the all the difference in the rain, not the drivetrain. The same could be said for in the snow. Any competent driver with decent tires can drive a car with any drivetrain (FWD, RWD, AWD) in pretty much any weather. For example taking a Mercedes SLS AMG to Mount Rushmore in the winter.

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