American Driver: Mercedes-Benz and Subaru
By David E. Davis, Jr.
When I left Car and Driver in 1985 to launch Automobile Magazine, some of my former employees over there became sort of snarky and began taking shots at me from time to time. One of these, an itinerant copy editor whose personal hygiene was as bad as his attitude, was asked by an inquiring journalist what sort of magazine I might be expected to produce. He replied, "If his record here is anything to go by, it'll be all about Mercedes-Benz and Subaru," or words to that effect.
I'm not entirely sure that I could do twelve issues a year devoted exclusively to Mercedes-Benz and Subaru and keep it as lively and entertaining as I like my magazines to be, but there are now several tuner magazines dedicated almost entirely to the Subaru Impreza WRX, and there must be a half-dozen glossy Mercedes-Benz magazines, so I may be underestimating the power of those excellent automobiles with their respective constituencies. But that copy editor was right about one thing: I do love those cars, and I have recommended them to an awful lot of people over the years.
My own first car was a mid-'30s Mercedes roadster, purchased in 1951. I drove it with great pleasure for a couple of years before switching to a new MG TD, which I chose because I wanted to go road racing with the SCCA. My life and my travels have been studded with other Mercedes-Benzes, and I treasure a host of friends I've made among generations of Daimler-Benz management.
My love affair with Subarus began around the time they became real cars. They went to the four-cylinder boxer engine in the early '70s, and that engine was enlarged and steadily refined. Turbocharging helped Subaru's opposed four-cylinder engines perform like V-6s. It was my belief that if the original Henry Ford had lived to enjoy the Reagan years, his car of choice would have been a Subaru. It was a car so sensible, so useful, and so iconoclastic that Thomas Alva Edison would have wept because he hadn't thought of it. When the Outbacks arrived in 1995, and all Subarus got all-wheel drive, I was drawn more deeply into their thrall. And when the WRX at last became available to us deprived Americans, my joy knew no bounds.
About a month ago, I drove a Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT sedan. That car's engine, a detuned version of the engine in the WRX STi, features a smaller turbocharger and is wickedly quick. It reminded me rather forcefully that a Subaru doesn't have to be a WRC rally car to be fun to drive. It was smooth and torquey everywhere in the range, it was definitely fast, and it was a very comfortable sedan for a size 48-Long automotive journalist.
Mercedes-Benz recently has built a variety of delicious cars, many of them very-high-performance cars. In 2002, I enjoyed the best driving adventure in several years when I flew to Oaxaca and drove the 1952 Mexican Road Race 300SL Gullwing on Mexico's mountain roads. During that trip, we also drove the SL500 and AMG coupes from Oaxaca to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, in effect driving the first leg of the original Carrera Panamericana backward.
Since then, I was able to drive the S55 AMG on a little one-day rally organized by a group of car-guy pals. On a particularly nice section of rural road, I accelerated into a very fast left-hand corner at full throttle and simply left a Ferrari V-8 looking as though it were tied to something.
One hears daunting tales of electronic glitches and technological troubles with recent-vintage M-Bs, but I've driven a dozen or so in every size and price class during the past three years, and I have yet to experience a problem. A good friend, who drives an E320 4Matic station wagon on dirt roads in very harsh climatic conditions, has never experienced an electrical or electronic problem of any kind, but he has found that constant use on dirt roads dramatically shortens brake life.
It often has occurred to me that inasmuch as my first car was a perfectly lovely Mercedes-Benz, maybe my last car ought to be its modern Mercedes counterpart. Nobody else has ever made this claim for the Mercedes automobile, but it might actually extend my life. Add a new Subaru Legacy GT to the prescription, and I might live forever!
That being said, you'd think that all the new DCX cars w/AWD would be that which Subaru bargained with MB for. To think that that 300C that I and my father want is more than likely using an AWD system that is based off of that which Subaru provided for Mercedes. Ha! I'll have to call and tell him tonightwaynerd said:He told me Mercedes and Subaru did a "technology swap" a few years ago...Mercedes wanted AWD tech and Subaru wanted quality control. Nice match.