Mad tailgate slamming in a Subaru and meeting Ron Dennis


So an interview with Ron Dennis today. If you’re not going to turn up at McLaren in an Ferrari Enzo or Porsche GT3 then something very ‘under the wire’ is required.

Enter the mighty Subaru! Yes, the joy of driving a car this understated is that nobody sees you anyway. And even if they do, they just assume it’s because you live on a smallholding where a supercar dare not tread.

Provided I don’t need to open the tailgate, my passage through the McLaren car park in Woking should be a low key affair.

Why? Well, the boot on my Outback just refuses to shut on one slam. Yesterday, I looked like a madman, repeatedly slamming the door time after time like a character from The Simpsons.

No idea why but if you own a Scooby, please let me know if you have the same problem too…

I’m having a Clarkson rant about the Subaru’s lane departure warning system


Some of my favourite Jeremy Clarkson rants have been about minor features in cars that drive him nuts. You know the kind of thing – sat navs that won’t shut up, doors that lock themselves, the Vauxhall badge…

Pointless safety devices are top of my list. The anti collision warning system in a Volvo, for example. It alerts you to the fact you are about to plough into something with flashing red lights and a siren. Almost made me crash anyway.

Even the down-to-earth Outback has one lurking in the handbook – the lane departure warning system.

Call me old fashioned but I’m of the opinion that if you can’t steer down a 15ft wide lane in a car for mile after mile, you shouldn’t be driving a one ton missile anyway.

So the Outback has such a system which I just can’t turn off. Well, I can (it’s a button under the dash in the most awkward place that makes me drift into the middle of the road as I scrabble to find it…) but it keeps coming back on.

So every time I tweak the centre line entering a fast corner, it goes off! Madness. Clarkson would hate the pointlessness and so do I…

The Subaru Outback – a non-nonsense SUV that laughs in the face of mood lighting


When drivers of the old Subaru Outback were surveyed about what they would like to see in the latest model, most were far more concerned with comfort and economy, rather than the design.

Which might explain why the 2016 car looks very similar to the version it replaced. They’re not the sort of people who are worried about mood lighting in the cabin, or fancy seat trim.

No, Subaru drivers (excepting the WRX) are non-nonsense types who just want their SUV to do what it says on the tin – and bloody well get on with it.

I still think the interior of the Outback leaves a lot to be desired but you won’t worry about damaging it as much as the inside of a pretty Range Rover Evoque or BMW X3. And you won’t be paying as much for the pleasure either.

Subaru’s workmanlike Outback needs a labrador on the options list


The Subaru Outback should come with a list of alternative options. Things like a labrador, antique furniture and several bales of hay.

Because that’s what you need to feel truly at home in this rufty-tufty four-wheel drive. It’s everything a humungous Volvo estate used to be – until the Swedes went all lifestyle on us.

This isn’t a car for uber-cool urbanites. It’s very much designed for countryfolk who want a hard working estate that cope with anything they chuck at it.

If you want pretty and interior mood lighting, go drive something from German. Me, I’d pick the Scooby every time…

Subaru – the only SUV to be mentioned in a Blondie song


I live in the Cotswolds. I see more Subarus than Ford Mondeos and there’s a very good reason for that – they are exceptionally good cars for country folk.

There are so many new SUVs on the market in 2016 that to find a model with an off-road heritage is pretty difficult. Subaru has it by the tractor load.

This latest Outback is classic Subaru. Slightly oddball looks, tons of interior space but a low rent, dated cabin that’s more practical than stylish.

If you want an SUV that will take you anywhere but still do exactly what it says on the tin (rather than just for posing up the Kings Road), this is a very good place to start…

Subaru WRX tweaks for 2016. New audio system but comedy spoiler stays


If you’re stashing cash to buy a WRX STI the good news is that 2016 model will feature an all-new audio system, just like the one fitted in the brilliant Outback.

It has to be a massive improvement on the current unit which sounds only slightly better than my iPhone. It really doesn’t match the snorting performance of the car and leaves a lot to be desired.

Unfortunately, that whopping spoiler will remain standard fit and not an option. Subaru has pointed out that in Japan, there is an S4 version which is joyfully wingless. For some reason, you can’t but it here. Hmmm…

I truly wish the WRX had moved me like the original, way back in the last century. Perhaps I was looking forward to driving it a little too much, perhaps I should be more careful about what I wish for.

Another reason might be that I’m an old git now. I like my fixtures and fittings, I don’t just want to go fast, I want to enjoy the journey too…

The Subaru WRX has an old school charisma but has been left behind by better rivals


If you want to drive back to the future, the WRX is waiting for you at your nearest Subaru dealership. However, that also means living with a poor quality interior, seriously harsh ride and that ridiculous spoiler.

The WRX is great fun to drive, although you need to concentrate to get the best from that flat four 2.5-litre engine. It’s a dog around town but is a load more fun on the open road, with four-wheel drive and a manually adjustable diff lock.

But there is certain old school, charismatic charm about the Scooby, for all its faults. Just like the Morgan Plus 8 we tested in the summer, you can forgive some of the bad stuff because the car is entertaining to drive.

Perhaps more so than the more refined Golf R, or the BMW 135, simply because it will take many of us back to an era when you actually had to ‘drive’ a car, rather than be driven by gizmos and gadgets.

Would I buy one? No, not unless I had my own rally stage or owned half of Wales.



The WRX is a great car stuck in the bad hair days of the 1990s…


I’d hate you to think that with the passage of years I’d fallen out of love with the Subaru WRX. The car that won everything in rallying during the 1990s was the motor every journalist wanted to test.

But that was in the last century and we all grow up. Our lives change, we ask more of our cars and the things that mattered then – performance, outspoken looks, spoilers – don’t matter quite so much now.

We’ve all seen the years pass but the WRX doesn’t seem to have kept pace. It’s still stuck in the 1990s with bad music, funny haircuts and a pre Internet outlook on life.

Of course, if you want a full-on, balls out ride down memory lane, the Subaru can really turn up the heat. It’s just that the rest of us might prefer something a little more civilised, like a Golf R or BMW 135…

Spoiler alert – one whopping reason you might not like the Subaru WRX


Now you can’t really road test a WRX without mentioning that luggage rack on the back. While Porsche, Audi and others try to discreetly hide their downforce bits, Subaru seem hell-bent on rubbing that whopping wing in your face.

It looks very silly indeed and I can’t honestly believe there wasn’t another way to keep the back wheels firmly planted on the road at high speed. So, we can safely assume people who buy the WRX actually like the thing – or they’d buy a Golf R wouldn’t they?

Hmmm… What does that say about WRX drivers I wonder? It’s really the gold medallion of spoilers. Something akin to turning up at a formal dinner party with your shirt open and a hairy chest on display.

I can almost hear the giggles as I drive the Subaru. Combined with the wide-mouthed frog air intake on the bonnet, I’ve now taken to wearing sunglasses at all times for fear of recognition.

There is nothing cool about the WRX. It may corner on rails and have a racing pedigree but as an everyday vehicle it does nothing to increase the size of your penis…

Anyone got a metal coat hanger? The radio in the Subaru WRX needs a proper aerial


Anyone got a metal coat hanger? No, seriously, the WRX is famous for being an out-and-out driver’s car but I can only assume that such folk have no interest in the interior or the quality of the entertainment system.

The Subaru has a radio that receives the signal so badly that I actually stopped, got out and walked around to see if there was an old fashioned aerial that wasn’t fully extended. Coat hangers were always a good replacement.

There wasn’t – which means the WRX can really only entertain you on a twisty road. The rest of the time, you will be fiddling with a rather over-complicated media unit that appears to have more buttons than the Space Shuttle.

Obviously, no DAB and I still haven’t worked out how to connect by iPhone by Bluetooth. The dashboard display is messy and far from being a budget Nissan GT-R in disguise it all just looks and feels a bit 20 years ago…