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Car Number Six (of six)

June 30th, 2010

Even though my Subaru had been great for me, I doubted its ability to transport me through to the completion of my pending round-the-continent trip.  I needed something newer.

The search process began with a wide survey of the options.  Would I be best served by a sports car?  An SUV?  A sedan?  How much space would I need?  How much power?  How new would be new enough?  What could I afford?  What would best fit my personality?

I decided that the trip would require ample cargo space, so that narrowed the field to SUVs and wagons.  (Sorry, minivans failed the personality test.)  I liked the romance of a true body-on-frame SUV, but more efficient use of space and superior gas mileage made the crossovers and wagons attractive, too.  Ignoring the fact that I don’t ever do any serious off-roading, I very nearly purchased a Toyota Land Cruiser, but that deal fell apart during negotiations.

After more research, test drives, and soul searching, I did what has got to be one of the stupidest financial transactions in the world.  It’s something that I’ve written and spoken against.  It’s something that I’d never done.  It’s something that I swore I’d never do.

I bought a new car.

The flat-6 engine is a thing of beauty.  The pistons in the opposed cylinders balance each other giving the machine incredible smoothness.  The horizontal (or “boxer”) configuration sits low in the engine bay, which endows the vehicle with a low center of gravity and thus superior stability.  The unusual shape also makes possible unusual drivetrain layouts, which allow the rise of vehicles with charisma.

Only two mass-market car companies currently manufacture flat-6 engines: Porsche and Subaru.  My Outback had a flat-4, so I had already experienced the Japanese take on the layout.  Porsche has been my favorite car company for a while now, so I gave them serious consideration, too — but their SUV, the Cayenne, did nothing to stir my passion, and a 911 would be totally impractical for the trip.  Subaru won.

Last Wednesday, I closed on a brand new dark red 2011 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited.

My 2011 Outback

My 2011 Outback

The 2011 model is very similar to the SUV-of-the-year 2010 model, a fact that I at first found a bit unsettling. I bemoaned the Outback’s transition from quirky wagon to mass-market crossover.  “Why?”  I asked the automobile gods.  To which they responded, “Drive it.”  So I did.

After that first test drive, I knew my car search was over.

The Outback with Split Rock Lighthouse in the distance

The Outback with Split Rock Lighthouse in the distance

Roomy, powerful, capable, and comfortable: the Subaru had what I wanted.  The only thing I would have liked to have had was a manual transmission, but the 5-speed auto is a tolerable compromise.

Near Finland, MN on MN-1

Near Finland, MN on MN-1

Mine is the top-of-the-line version, with the 6-cylinder boxer engine, leather interior, nav system, sunroof, and a host of electronic gizmos and mechanical whiz-bangs.  It took me a couple of weeks to find the right one after that first test drive, but I succeeded.

Also on MN-1

Also on MN-1

Will it be a good car for me?  I hope so.  It doesn’t have the cachet of the BMW in the public’s eye, but the Subaru nonetheless has a very devoted following.  It’s the right car for me for the time.

This new Outback is a substantial 13 model years newer than my old one, and it’s 11 years newer than the next-newest car that I’ve owned.  There has been incredible technical progress in the intervening decade, but the new Outback still reminds me of the old one.  It’s about the same size, just a few inches taller, wider, and longer.  It has a lot more power, which is nice, as well as a few more cubic feet of cargo room, but when I slip behind the wheel, I can tell that the two machines are brothers.  It’s Subaru magic.

The 1998 Outback with the 2011 Outback

The 1998 Outback with the 2011 Outback


  • Dark red 2011 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
  • 3.6 L naturally aspirated flat-6
  • 5-speed automatic transmission
  • 256 hp / 247 lb-ft
  • Ivory leather interior
  • 34 miles when acquired (June 23, 2010)
  • 702 miles as of today (June 30, 2010)
  1. Vince
    June 30th, 2010 at 07:29 | #1

    Congrats on your new vehicle! Did you take it ‘up north’ already, or was that where you picked it up?

  2. Keacher
    June 30th, 2010 at 07:53 | #2

    Yup, I got it in St. Cloud, then last weekend I took a day trip up to the North Shore. Hence, the 600+ miles in less than a week. 🙂

  3. Angela
    June 30th, 2010 at 10:11 | #3

    Nice. When are you taking me for a ride to show it off? 🙂

  4. June 30th, 2010 at 11:10 | #4


  5. Simon
    June 30th, 2010 at 19:45 | #5


  6. September 20th, 2010 at 21:35 | #6

    people who are down on minivans haven’t drive the sweet honda odyssey……or they don’t have children.

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