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© 2001-2003 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

Thank heavens for Preparation M to soothe that flying-monkey burn.
This is the story of a car. It's not a Ferrari. It's not even a Firebird. It's a car. A car that is functional and practical, yet still fun to toss around. This is the story of what happens to a car day in and day out. The normal life of a normal car. Wherever this car goes it will go with a pencil, a logbook, and a camera so that we can capture the role of the automobile in modern America.

   3 Dec 2001    5          $0          inspection

We chose a 2002 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport for our car. We first met Thumper with five miles on the odometer, still wrapped in its shipping plastic. It's the exact color we wanted. It has a 165-hp 2.5-liter boxer four cylinder engine, a five-speed manual transmission, and full-time all-wheel-drive. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, comfy seats, a CD player (it's about time manufacturers included these standard), antilock brakes (but with primitive drum brakes in the rear), fog lights that actually shed useful light, cruise control, and a long list of thoughtful touches -- a power outlet in the hatch, a clip to retain the extra third rear seat belt when not in use, a storage bin for the cargo cover, and many more small things that show someone, somewhere, was thinking about living with this car.

Options include a keyless entry system -- which really should have been standard -- and a couple of items that we probably wouldn't have ordered, had we ordered a car from the factory. These are an armrest extender that seems to work as intended but probably isn't worth the money it takes to get it, a cabin air filtration system that is probably of dubious value, a very nice cargo net, and a silly but cute chrome tailpipe cover (it's cheap, and anyway it seems they all have it). That's as stripped-down of a car as we could find, and for the slight cost it hardly seemed worth custom ordering something else.

We had wanted a spoiler, but they are apparently on national backorder. Thumper has to get by without it, although we're thinking about adding one later once they become available again. We also had the dealership install a Subaru trailer hitch and a differential protector plate. The hitch arrived in time for delivery but the plate did not; we'll have it installed later. Finally, since we do get real winters here in West Virginia, we added rubber floor mats.

We would have dearly loved a WRX wagon, but we asked the monkeys flying out of our butt whether there was an extra $5,000 up there that we could pull out, and they said no.

   4 Dec 2001    6          $19,870.67  delivery
                             ($18,785.00 Impreza Outback Sport)
                             ($939.25    West Virginia sales tax)
                             ($47.00     W.Va. title & tags)
                             ($24.42     Fairfax Co. business tax)
                             ($75.00     processing fee)

We bought Thumper from Ben Greer at Paul Brothers Subaru in Herndon, Virginia. That's about a three-hour drive from our home in West Virginia, but it was well worth the effort. Ben told us the straight truth about the value of our trade-in (we ended up selling it privately), and in quoting us a price on his cars, showed us the dealer invoice and his markup. The processing fee was realistic, there was no pressure, no hard-sell for undercoating or other garbage, and all the test-drives we could ask for (we tried several before settling on the Outback Sport). It was probably the most hassle-free dealership experience we've ever seen.

Contrast this to our local dealership, John Howard Subaru, where they expected us to pay full MSRP, tried to bury the actual rollover of our trade in fuzzy math, and included a few mandatory fees such as "dealer ad group" (we're supposed to pay for their ads?) $150; dealer "services" (oh you'll get serviced all right...) $600; paint sealant $200; fabric protectant $80; and pin stripes for $50! All told it would have cost us an extra $2,500 to buy our car from John Howard. The time and gas money spent going to Virginia was repaid many times over by the friendliness and honesty at Paul Brothers.

The first thousand miles will be a very difficult time, since the break-in period requires us to keep the engine below 4,000 rpm. The boxer loves to rev and it has plenty of torque for a four-cylinder so it's quite tempting to let 'er rip! But we're keeping the lead shoes in the closet for now and allowing Thumper to settle in to real life.

In the first 150 miles we've noticed that, when cold, the silly but cute chrome exhaust pipe cover rattles against the trailer hitch. We'll have Paul Brothers take a look at that when we bring it in for the differential plate. It's annoying. Also, we've heard some wind noise, but at this time we're not sure whether it's coming from a bad seal or it's just the normal sound from the luggage rack on the roof.

   7 Dec 2001    300        $14.49       Shl 87- 12.084 gal @ 1.199
  10 Dec 2001    567        $11.87       Exx 87- 10.902 gal @ 1.089
  12 Dec 2001    918        $15.72       Exx 87- 13.798 gal @ 1.139
  15 Dec 2001    1,288      $14.29       Amo 87- 14.308 gal @ 0.999
  21 Dec 2001    1,567      $13.14       Shl 87- 11.341 gal @ 1.159
  22 Dec 2001    1,773      $31.16       oil change
                             ($21.17      Mobil 1 10w30 4.2qt@5.04)
                             ($7.99       Wix filter)
                             ($2.00       W.Va. sales tax)
  24 Dec 2001    1,906      $15.15       BP  87- 13.540 gal @ 1.119
  27 Dec 2001    2,238      $16.09       Tex 87- 13.883 gal @ 1.159
  27 Dec 2001    2,239      $0           installed diff plate- warr.
  27 Dec 2001    2,239      $130.63      ski rack
                             ($113.00     Subaru ski rack)
                             ($12.00      Subaru mounting brackets)
                             ($5.63       Va. sales tax)
  30 Dec 2001    2,572      $16.26       Exx 87- 13.561 gal @ 1.199

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  |  December fuel use: 103.417 gallons, $117.01      |
  |    2,572 miles travelled, 24.87 mpg @ $1.131/gal  |
  |  December maintenance: $31.16                     |
  |  Total cost of operation: $148.17; 5.8 cents/mile |
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The first 2,000 miles have been a great time for first impressions. Our favorite impression right now is that of our gas receipts: a steady 25 mpg on 87-octane fuel. Some people prefer to run higher octane fuel in their car regardless of the recommended rating, but we fall firmly in the camp of sensible frugality. Manufacturers have to pay for warranty claims, and they don't like to do that: it raises costs. If 87 octane isn't good enough for the car, then why would they risk hundreds of engine rebuilds under warranty just to grab one or two extra customers on the front end? It's just not plausible. If the manufacturer says we can use 87, then we use 87; if the engine doesn't seem to run right on 87, then we take it in and find out what's not working right. The ugly flipside is, of course, that if the manufacturer insists on premium, then we give it premium.

Fortunately, our Outback Sport loves 87 octane and runs just fine on it even at 85 mph.

So we hear. Yeah. We wouldn't know anything about 85 mph from personal experience. But we hear that the Outback Sport is surprisingly stable and still quite energetic at such speeds. The 165-hp boxer is one seriously enthusiastic little engine.

We switched that little engine to synthetic oil. There are a lot of benefits to synthetic oil which we've seen firsthand over the years, especially back when we raced a Pontiac Firebird. Technical mumbo jumbo about less contaminants and additives, greater resistance to extreme temperatures, more stable molecular structure, greater lubrication qualities, etc. are all well and good, but the one benefit that keeps us coming back to synthetics is the oil change interval. With synthetic in there, oil changes can easily be stretched to 5,000 miles. We've done enough oil changes over the years that anything which puts some distance between them is a-ok with us. And if it makes the engine last longer as well, so much the better.

Moving a little further back, we really like this new five-speed. We've driven quite a few Subarus over the years and the earlier five-speeds were simply not all that satisfying. This revised version is pretty darn good -- still no Miata, but far better than earlier cars. The one weak spot in the tranny is the same one that's dogged this unit for as long as we've been driving them: reverse gear. We don't know if it's not synchronized, or positioned oddly in the case, or what, but Subarus have long had a problem where reverse gear is sticky when cold. By sticky we mean "if you can't find it, grind it." (Current manual-trans Subaru owners are nodding their heads. Nonowners aren't sure what we're talking about.) We were hoping this would have been addressed in the new design, but it remains. Since we know it's a normal characteristic, we won't be bringing it in for service.

The all-wheel-drive is great fun. Since we have a manual, ours is an even 50/50 split front to rear, unlike the automatic cars with their 90/10 split. The difference is that manual cars have a viscous coupling whereas the automatics are electronically controlled. It should come as no surprise that we prefer the 50/50 system; it's no secret that we don't care for front-wheel-drive cars. AWD works great in the rain, and it's completely seamless. The driver can't tell it's at work; the car simply fails to slip. At all. We haven't tested it in snow yet.

We've also driven Thumper across an untended but relatively level field and it was just like driving down the street, except bumpier. No mechanical intrusions at all. In a somewhat more interesting test we paid a visit to the Cooper's Rock Mountain Lion Sanctuary on a rainy day. They are located in a valley at the end of a rutted, rocky, and -- at the time -- muddy road. The mud presented no problem for the AWD system, and Thumper crawled right over all obstacles along the way. It was a first-gear crawl; we were afraid of having to do extensive clutch work to prevent the engine from stalling, but such fears were unfounded. The engine would lug quite slow while the car clambored over debris, and then perk right up for faster travel on the smoother parts. It was a piece of cake.

Of course, neither situation is real off-roading, but we think it's far more non-pavement duty than most cars of this type ever see.

We've changed our mind about the armrest extension: we use the thing all the time. It's perfectly positioned and the extra bin is handy. However, we still have reservations about the nearly $100 it takes to get one.

Paul Bros. finally got a chance to install the differential plate (we missed the original appointment on Dec. 18 due to illness) and we can say with authority that we can't tell it's there. But we saw it while it was being bolted up, and it is one rugged piece of steel. With some of the roads we crawl down, we'll be glad to have it there.

They also figured out why the tailpipe was rattling against the trailer hitch: Thumper has the wrong hitch. A new one is on its way and we'll have it installed soon.

   2 Jan 2002    2,906      $15.32      Exx 87- 13.944 gal @ 1.099
   4 Jan 2002    3,046      $7.04       Amo 87-  6.071 gal @ 1.159
   9 Jan 2002    3,326      $7.36       W.Va. state inspection
                             ($7.00      inspection)
                             ($0.36      W.Va. sales tax)
  11 Jan 2002    3,356      $16.42      Exx 87- 13.924 gal @ 1.179
  20 Jan 2002    3,609      $15.00      Riv 87- 12.403 gal @ 1.209
  27 Jan 2002    3,901      $14.84      BP  87- 12.801 gal @ 1.159
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  |  January fuel use: 59.143 gallons, $68.62         |
  |    1,329 miles travelled, 22.47 mpg @ $1.160/gal  |
  |  January maintenance: $7.36                       |
  |  Total cost of operation: $224.25; 5.7 cents/mile |
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ever since bringing home "the beauty of all-wheel-drive", we've been wondering just how beautiful it really is. Yeah, it's surefooted in the rain. Sure, it drives across fields without blinking. And okay, muddy roads don't cause a flinch. But what about some real terrain?

Hey, we're not talking Rubicon Trail here. We can tell the difference between a station wagon with AWD and a purpose-built 4x4 offroader. But we thought the middle of January was a good time to square off with Mother Nature.

Our selection? Spruce Knob, a mountain that, at 4,850 feet above sea level, is the highest point in West Virginia. It has a 30-mile gravel access road that (eventually) winds its way to the top of Spruce Knob and back down the other side. It is not maintained in the winter months. Whatever falls on the road stays there. And on January 20th, what fell on the road was six inches of snow. Hallelujah! Perfect.

We set off with great enthusiasm and shortly had left the plowed road for the domain of 4x4 trucks. These were plentiful at first, as the access road followed the path of a popular fishing creek. Most of them were parked off the road: Blazers, Chevy and Ford pickups, a lifetime supply of those manly Dodge Rams, and even the occasional Explorer or 4Runner. Cars? Forget about it. We was it. But the presence of these larger trucks were comforting in a way; we knew that if we were making a huge mistake, someone would be able to pull us out.

When we did meet one of these behemoths headed downstream, the passing arrangement consisted of us putting our mirror as close to the cliff wall as we dared, and the truck putting his outside wheel as close to the edge as he dared, and both parties waving as we held our breaths on passing. This seemed to work reasonably well, though sometimes the deeper drifts along the edges tested the ability of our Subaru to plow through.

As the access road abandoned the creek for greater heights, the truck traffice likewise fizzled. Soon we were sharing the road only with a couple of diehards returning from the frozen lake upstream and the occasional group of recreational snowmobilers. They travelled fast, but they were also agile and easily worked around our ponderous Outback Sport.

By this time we were purely in first gear, and that's where it stayed until we reached the summit. Along the way we slipped a little but stayed on course; we never seemed to be in any real danger of sliding off the road. At one point, where our access road merged with another for the frozen lake, we accidentally drove across the median, unable to tell the difference between turf and road. The occasional marker confirmed that we were indeed still on a road, somewhere.

There was a parking lot at the top of Spruce Knob, which was paved for some incomprehensible reason. We were the only ones there! We felt like kings of the world for a minute, until it dawned on us that if we ran into trouble on the back side of the mountain, there was no one else here and no one knew we had come up except for the fishermen we passed back at the creek. We couldn't afford to run into trouble.

The other pass proved steeper but shorter. Going downhill required a different technique than going uphill; going uphill, one simply bulled forward and if trouble neared, one stopped. Going downhill, there was no guarantee for the stopping part.

We stayed in second gear for the ride down, allowing engine braking to slow us as much as possible, and going down to first gear for the tight switchbacks. This worked well and our descent was even less eventful than our ascent. We only encountered one vehicle on the way down, and that was a WRX of all things. His performance tires seemed to be giving him more trouble than our tires did.

Overall it took us three hours to cover the 30 miles. But we made it without assistance, and Thumper has proven itself capable of handling truly inhospitable roads with ease.

The ski rack we bought last month was child's play to install; it didn't even require tools. And it did a great job holding skis and poles in place. They never budged. The racks lock, so in the unlikely event that a thief was slithering through the hills of Canaan, our gear was relatively safe. We have instructions for installing a ski rack. in Paradise Garage's Stories From the Garage.

   1 Feb 2002    4,061      $7.71       Exx 87-  6.648 gal @ 1.159
   3 Feb 2002    4,421      $16.28      Shl 87- 13.809 gal @ 1.179
   4 Feb 2002    4,472      $0          replace trlr hitch- warr.
   7 Feb 2002    4,736      $15.44      All 87- 13.801 gal @ 1.119
   9 Feb 2002    4,764      $29.67      oil change
                             ($21.17     Mobil 1 10w30 4.2qt@5.04)
                             ($5.98      Subaru filter)
                             ($0.84      Subaru plug gasket)
                             ($1.68      W.Va. sales tax)
  25 Feb 2002    5,011      $15.34      BP  87- 13.237 gal @ 1.159
   9 Mar 2002    5,274      $15.11      Exx 87- 12.599 gal @ 1.199
  10 Mar 2002    5,575      $13.88      Cro 87- 11.573 gal @ 1.199
  11 Mar 2002    5,710      $6.04       Lib 87-  4.956 gal @ 1.219
  14 Mar 2002    6,030      $16.25      Exx 87- 12.910 gal @ 1.259
  23 Mar 2002    6,328      $18.86      Exx 87- 14.087 gal @ 1.339
  29 Mar 2002    6,628      $18.54      Cit 87- 13.251 gal @ 1.399

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  |  Feb/Mar fuel use: 116.871 gallons, $143.45       |
  |    2,727 miles travelled, 23.33 mpg @ $1.227/gal  |
  |  Feb/Mar maintenance: $29.67                      |
  |  Total cost of operation: $397.37; 6.0 cents/mile |
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We skipped February because, as the log shows, we barely drove anywhere after the first week.

Nevertheless, something important did happen in February: Paul Bros. Subaru replaced the trailer hitch. Yes, at last, no more rattling from the hitch! A quick comparison of the old hitch vs. the new hitch shows just how completely wrong the original was; where the first one had a straight bar that went all the way across the back of the car (banging into the exhaust tip along the way), the replacement has an arch that easily clears the exhaust. They don't look anything alike. They must have had some newbie working on the car the first time.

The service manager got us in and out in a couple of hours, and we were on our way without the rattling.

While we were there, we remembered the strange diminutive Wix filter and decided to buy a genuine Subaru filter made by Fuji. What we got was a genuine Subaru filter made by Purolator. Yes, Purolator. So, to get a properly sized filter, there's no need to pay the big bucks for a Subaru filter. Just go to the local auto parts store and grab a Purolator instead. It is, literally, the same part.

The balance of February and March have been uneventful. The rubber trunk mat paid for itself many times over when one of our Scottish Terrier automotive journalists decided to poop in the car. eeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww. Just pull it out and hose it off. (Hey, you don't get hard-hitting car reviews like this from Motor Trend!)

Our biggest concern presently is the wind noise. It's a lot more obvious now that it doesn't compete with the exhaust system rattling. We're still not sure whether it's coming from the roof rack or the hatch, but it's damn annoying. We figure we'll be taking it in for this sooner or later.

   4 Apr 2002    6,922      $17.42      BP  87- 12.541 gal @ 1.389
   6 Apr 2002    7,120      $11.79      Exx 87-  8.425 gal @ 1.399
   7 Apr 2002    7,496      $19.61      Amo 87- 14.020 gal @ 1.399
  10 Apr 2002    7,830      $18.08      Shz 87- 13.204 gal @ 1.369
  19 Apr 2002    8,138      $18.53      Exx 87- 13.243 gal @ 1.399
  26 Apr 2002    8,467      $20.94      Shz 89- 13.972 gal @ 1.499
   5 May 2002    8,766      $19.41      Exx 87- 13.305 gal @ 1.459
  12 May 2002    9,094      $12.00      car wash
  13 May 2002    9,096      $20.16      Exx 87- 14.210 gal @ 1.419
  17 May 2002    9,408      $19.16      Exx 87- 13.503 gal @ 1.419
  23 May 2002    9,756      $20.14      Exx 87- 14.607 gal @ 1.379
  26 May 2002    10,097     $17.28      BP  87- 12.440 gal @ 1.389
  30 May 2002    10,411     $20.01      BP  87- 14.101 gal @ 1.419

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  |  Apr/May fuel use: 157.571 gallons, $222.53       |
  |    3,783 miles travelled, 24.01 mpg @ $1.412/gal  |
  |  Apr/May maintenance: $12.00                      |
  |  Total cost of operation: $631.90; 6.1 cents/mile |
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The wind noise seems to get worse as temperatures rise. Strange. By summer we'll probably have to take it to a dealer.

Otherwise, Thumper continues to perform flawlessly. It drives as comfortably at 80 mph as it does around town -- in sharp contrast to our Neon, which is no fun over 70 mph. The cargo cover is great for protecting valuables from prying eyes while travelling, and the dog crate fits perfectly with the 60/40 folding rear seats. The rubber trunk mat allows us to carry jugs of used motor oil to the recycle center without fear. These small touches are what separate the good cars from the great cars.

Our highway driving has increased substantially, which no doubt is the source of the 2 mpg increase in fuel economy compared to January.

   2 Jun 2002    10,563     $23.91      oil change
                             ($20.08     Mobil 1 10w30 4.2qt@4.78)
                             ($2.48      Purolator filter)
                             ($1.35      W.Va. sales tax)
  11 Jun 2002    10,686     $18.16      Exx 87- 12.982 gal @ 1.399
  21 Jun 2002    10,889     $14.31      Che 87- 10.530 gal @ 1.359
  22 Jun 2002    11,198     $19.46      Exx 87- 13.158 gal @ 1.479
  24 Jun 2002    11,545     $20.15      BP  87- 14.401 gal @ 1.399
  30 Jun 2002    11,655     $0          passenger side mirror breaks
   3 Jul 2002    11,717     $0          warranty service
                             ($0          ordered mirror)
                             ($0          adjusted rear hatch)
                             ($0          rotated tires)
   8 Jul 2002    11,822     $19.13      She 87- 14.079 gal @ 1.359
  17 Jul 2002    12,112     $17.94      All 87- 13.297 gal @ 1.349
  20 Jul 2002    12,454     $21.75      Tex 87- 14.321 gal @ 1.519
  26 Jul 2002    12,760     $18.83      Exx 87- 13.461 gal @ 1.399
  30 Jul 2002    12,892     $0          warranty service
                             ($0         replaced passenger mirror)
                             ($0         repaired cargo net)

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  |  June/July fuel use: 106.229 gallons, $149.73     |
  |    2,481 miles travelled, 23.36 mpg @ $1.409/gal  |
  |  June/July maintenance: $23.91                    |
  |  Total cost of operation: $805.54; 6.2 cents/mile |
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On the Outback's third oil change, we took our own advice and went to Advance Auto Parts for supplies rather than the dealer. Sure enough, there was the exact same oil filter -- except for the box that said "Purolator" on it instead of "Subaru" -- for less than half the dealer's price. Advance also had a good price for Mobil 1, so we stocked up on that as well. All told, we saved about five dollars over the last change, without any loss of quality. Not bad.

While Thumper continues to run very well overall, this period marked the first time we had to bring the car in for unscheduled warranty work. We came out to the car one day to discover that the spring mechanism inside the passenger-side mirror had broken, allowing it to swing freely. Quite bizarre.

Unable to return the car to Paul Brothers Subaru, and extremely reluctant to take any chances with John Howard Subaru (we never miss a chance to tell people how they tried to overcharge us $2,500 in the deal), we scheduled an appointment with Larry Myers Subaru in the nearby town of Fairmont. They got us in quickly and treated us well.

They agreed with our diagnosis that the mirror was broken (duh) but were not able to explain how it happened. No matter, as they ordered a new mirror to be installed later. They also attempted to track down our wind noise; they adjusted the rear hatch and rotated the tires, to no avail. The noise persists. They suggested it might be the roof rack, a theory we'll test on our next long trip.

Larry Myers had the replacement mirror in about a week and a half, but our own scheduling conflicts kept us from bringing Thumper back for nearly a month. They were okay with that, and had the mirror replaced very quickly when we did finally get the car to them. They also repaired our cargo net; since the last visit, one of the corner hooks had come loose.

We are very grateful that Larry Myers Subaru seems to be on the level, because we sure didn't want to go back to John Howard Subaru.

Fuel economy dipped somewhat, but this is to be expected with the A/C on almost all of the time. We've also switched back to mostly city driving, which hurts matters further. Our more heavy-footed driver appreciates the A/C cutout -- when the throttle is wide open, the car automatically turns off the A/C compressor until the driver comes to his senses. This gives just a little extra push when passing. Very nice.

   7 Aug 2002    13,020     $20.03      BP  87- 13.917 gal @ 1.439
  16 Aug 2002    13,331     $19.24      She 87- 14.159 gal @ 1.359
   1 Sep 2002    13,563     $16.38      BP  87- 11.382 gal @ 1.439
   7 Sep 2002    13,759     $12.59      Exx 87-  9.129 gal @ 1.379
   8 Sep 2002    14,050     $16.62      Lib 87- 11.237 gal @ 1.479
  16 Sep 2002    14,363     $18.47      She 87- 13.589 gal @ 1.359
  30 Sep 2002    14,637     $19.52      BP  87- 13.952 gal @ 1.399

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  |  Aug/Sept fuel use: 87.365 gallons, $122.85       |
  |    1,745 miles travelled, 19.97 mpg @ $1.406/gal  |
  |  Aug/Sep maintenance: $0.00                       |
  |  Total cost of operation: $928.39; 6.3 cents/mile |
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We're at a loss to explain the sudden drop in fuel efficiency. We must have spent most of our time in town this cycle, as we typically see about 20 mpg around town.

There is very little to report. We crushed the cargo cover with a floor sander -- oopsie! -- but we were able to bang it back into shape with a hammer and punch. This wasn't a fault Subaru could have anticipated, so we didn't bother trying to make the warranty cover it. Thumper hasn't required any maintenance and has not picked up any unusual habits.

   6 Oct 2002    14,865     $15.72      BP  87- 10.847 gal @ 1.449
  13 Oct 2002    15,095     $23.91      oil change
                             ($20.08     Mobil 1 10w30 4.2qt@4.78)
                             ($2.48      Purolator filter)
                             ($1.35      W.Va. sales tax)
  15 Oct 2002    15,125     $16.81      She 87- 12.017 gal @ 1.399
  25 Oct 2002    15,290     $12.00      She 87-  8.577 gal @ 1.399
  26 Oct 2002    15,623     $18.11      Cit 87- 12.499 gal @ 1.449
  28 Oct 2002    15,960     $17.75      Lib 87- 13.058 gal @ 1.359
  30 Oct 2002    16,314     $20.50      Cit 87- 14.149 gal @ 1.449
   2 Nov 2002    16,560     $13.89      Amo 87-  9.788 gal @ 1.419
  11 Nov 2002    16,863     $18.75      She 87- 13.402 gal @ 1.399
  26 Nov 2002    17,085     $16.71      Exx 87- 11.943 gal @ 1.399
  30 Nov 2002    17,368     $18.92      Exx 87- 12.707 gal @ 1.359
   9 Dec 2002    17,615     $16.76      She 87- 12.336 gal @ 1.359

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  |  Oct/end fuel use: 131.323 gallons, $185.92         |
  |    2,978 miles travelled, 22.67 mpg @ $1.415/gal    |
  |  Oct/end maintenance: $23.91                        |
  |  Total cost of operation: $1,138.22; 6.4 cents/mile |
  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Fuel economy is back where it belongs. Thumper hasn't given us any additional trouble. The brakes got squeaky, so we inspected them for wear -- it would have been disappointing to need new pads after only a year, but it turned out to be just dirt; the pads were in fine shape.

We really pushed the limits of the car when we went on vacation, hauling two dogs and all their stuff in addition to our own baggage, but we managed okay. We talked some of trading in for a Legacy of some sort, but by the end of the week we'd decided that we would miss the Impreza's more-compact size and nimbleness. Down the road, should we need more cargo capacity, we'll just get a roof carrier, or maybe even put that hard-won trailer hitch to good use.

This is the end of the road for Thumper's Chronicles, but not for Thumper. The car has been so trouble-free to this point that we do not anticipate any major developments from here on. If something should ever come up, we'll update this page accordingly.

Thanks for reading!

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Window Sticker

This sticker lists all of the features that Subaru considers standard. Although some are stretching the point, it's still a very nicely equipped vehicle.

The Lineup

Awaiting predelivery. Hey, we like the Outback Sport just fine, but do you think anyone would notice if we accidentally took the keys to the yellow WRX instead...?

Over the Curb

Civilization is only a few feet away, but this is still a few feet farther than most cars venture from the flat black stuff.

Outback Sport

Just in case any small animals were unclear about what type of car this is, Subaru made it easy for them. The literate ones, anyway.

The Mud Test

It's no Rubicon Trail, but this is the smoothest part of the mud road to the mountain lion sanctuary. Our previous car, a Cadillac, would have choked.

Scottish, Right?

Taz and Heather, our Scottish Terrier automotive journalists, demand to know why they always have to test vehicles from the way-back. However, they adjusted and now consider it to be their part of the car. The rubber trunk mat is excellent for dog-duty. But Subaru, how come no dog barrier?

Size Matters

Oil filters. Wix on the left, Subaru original on the right. Normally we are huge fans of Wix, but this discrepancy seems odd. Hey Wix engineers... any comment?

Gotcha Covered

The differential cover plate is the big black piece of steel covering the silver piece of steel sandwiched between the two green thingies. It certainly looks like it's up to the job. The fact that it's not standard equipment really brings home how most of these cars are actually used.

Really Haulin'

On a daily basis, Thumper feels like it can haul anything, but the holidays really put it to the test. We're about one child-seat away from needing the Official Subaru Christmas Cheer Roof Carrier.

Honeymoon's Over

That new car aura doesn't last long in a West Virginia winter.

Before Spruce Knob

We took a "before" picture at the base of Spruce Knob, just in case we had cause to take an "after" picture from some calamity. Thumper proved up to the job though; an "after" picture would look much like this one.

The Plot Deepens

Road? We're on a road? No, really, there's a road under there (we think) and we've started to get the concept of having faith in machinery. We don't know how it works exactly; we just know that it does.

Road to Nowhere

Shortly after accidentally driving over an embankment that we couldn't see in the snow, we ponder whether this "road" actually goes anywhere. We were able to turn around here; one of the few points along the way that we could have turned back without having to reverse for a few miles. We pressed forward.

We're Tops

We made it to the top, at about 4,800 feet, the highest point you can take a car in West Virginia. Strangely, after 20 miles of snow-covered gravel access road, the parking lot at the summit was paved. It looks like you could drive a Miata up here, but trust us, you can't.

The View

Hey, we worked like dogs to get this picture! Forgive us for showing off a little!

Gone Skiing

The ski rack looks nice and saves room inside by keeping the skis and poles on the roof. They're safe up there too; the racks lock, and the expensive stuff won't get whacked by other cargo. Good thing we didn't get a white Outback Sport -- we'd never find it.

Rack Installation

The ski rack is a piece of cake to install. Stories From the Garage demonstrates.

Choices, Choices

An Impreza and a Neon both sit in front of a house the day after a snowstorm. One is cleared off. The other isn't. Discuss.

Packin' It In

Pack carefully and it's amazing how much stuff will fit in these things. In this case it was two humans, two dogs, a dog bed, six chairs, a trash can, a drawer, a bucket, and some miscellaneous stuff. It'll also hold over a dozen bags of mulch.


Our hard-earned trailer hitch. Which, we have to admit, remains unused.

Where Subarus Dare

With the passing of the Industrial Revolution, there are a lot of ruins to explore in West Virginia. Here, Thumper is parked in front of a long-abandoned main office for a coal mine.

Maybe Only 3.5 Years?

Here's the mysteriously broken mirror. Despite the fact that it appears to only be a problem with some kind of tensioning spring, Subaru replaced the entire mirror unit. Thank heavens it was under warranty.