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I recently took a job as a travel nurse after working as a staff RN at a hospital in San Diego for the last three and a half years. I used to be a travel nurse years ago, and bought a brand new 2006 Forester X MT for that job and drove it cross country about three and a half times while traveling. Traded that car in for a '12 OB Premium 2.5i CVT earlier this year, and hit the road again.

I packed that car to the hilt, so much that the rear suspension was very bogged down, couldn't see out the rear window, and also had a Thule Atlantis 1600XT on the roof. I first drove from San Diego to Los Angeles, where I stayed with friends for a couple days before heading up the 1 to SF. Could definitely feel the added weight in handling, but not really in regards to torque/pickup, etc. (The car is slow to begin with, and didn't seem any slower once it was loaded down.) On the freeway it was fine, and I averaged around 26 mpg from SD to LA. Could definitely notice a difference in the braking though. Nothing to worry about, but just had to stop a little sooner than usual, and the handling was affected mostly noticeable around corners and curves, but again, expected for such a high-clearance vehicle, that already is known to not take corners at speed the best, coupled with a large load and loaded down suspension. Very pleased so far.

Next was the trip up Highway 1 though Big Sur, where I spent a few days. I had all of my camping stuff in the rooftop carrier, so I didn't have to dig and wade though all the stuff inside the car, except for a cooler of food I strategically placed in the back of the car's cargo area for easy access (I had a LOT of stuff in the car including all of my clothes, kitchen supplies, a banjo, one of my guitars, and three russian kettle bells weighing 44lbs x2, and one at 53lbs.

Again, I was very pleased with this car. Even with a loaded down suspension the ride on the highway was very comfortable and enjoyable. Much better than my old '06 Forester, which was a much firmer, noisier, harsher ride. I'm not knocking the Forester, it's just suited for a slightly different purpose in my opinion. I will gladly take the more highway friendly, larger cargo capacity and squishier suspension of the OB compared to the smaller, slightly more off-road capable Forester, at least for my intended purposes.

Where the OB fell short was obviously driving through Big Sur on Highway 1. Very curvy, windy road, moderate to slow speeds. My gas mileage took a dive here, averaging 20 mpg actually. I could have probably been a little more conscious about how I used my right foot, since I've noticed that with the OB's CVT you can be at a higher RPM range and burn more fuel, but not really be going any faster than you would if you were more conscious about lowering the RPM's and just cruising at the same speed, but that combined with the load the car was carrying and the Thule box on the roof, meant that the mileage really suffered here. Also, the OB did NOT like the curves in Big Sur, at least not with the load it was carrying. Body roll was VERY noticeable, and although the feedback from the car told me that I obviously couldn't take corners very fast, the car never felt unstable, per se, but was not going to win any races either. As long as I was aware of this, cruised at a respectable pace and kept in mind the load I was carrying, it was still a rather enjoyable, comfortable ride considering the stress on the suspension. Also, FWIW, my rear sway bar is stock. Braking was definitely compromised on steep hills and noticeable when compared to a near-empty vehicle. Even while empty I have always wished Subaru beefed up their brakes a bit on their cars, a sentiment I also shared with my '06 Forester, which wasn't as much of an issue, since I used to engine brake a lot with the MT. Using the paddles to engine break with the CVT is NOT the same, however. I found it less effective, and incredibly annoying trying to use the paddles to row through the gears on the windy Hwy 1 and trying to engine break. It's just not the same as a clutch, period. But with that said, I will till take the CVT over the MT any day of the week for convenience in every other aspect, especially now that I am in San Francisco with more stop and go traffic, hills, parallel parking, etc.

I actually live just south of SF, and have about a 20 minute, 12 mile commute on combined freeway and city driving. I have a lot more elevation gain than I did in San Diego on my commute to work (There is a pretty steep part of the freeway that I climb initially on my commute). In SD I would commute 35 miles each way to work, 95% freeway miles and would average 29-32 mpg. Here in SF I am ONLY averaging 20-22mpg. It seems like the driving here is much more demanding of the CVT, with more stop and go, and more need for stepping on the gas to maintain speed due to changes in elevation, driving conditions, etc. It seems like the CVT is MOST at home on the open road/freeway and really takes advantage of it's ability to cruise at higher speeds (65-80 mph), but I almost feel like it loses it's advantages at lower speeds, city driving, or situations where you have a lot of variance in your speed, rpm, etc.

So to wrap up, I was very pleased with the way the OB hauled all my crap from SD to SF. The changes in handling, braking, etc. were pretty much expected and anticipated and there really were no surprises in that department. I was very pleased with how much more comfortable and enjoyable the ride was compared to how I remember my old '06 Forester (which was also an awesome car). The added luxuries of the bluetooth (which I use all the time for my iPhone, iTunes, and having directions given to me through a GPS app on my phone), along with the heated seats and other small luxuries make this a really nice upgrade for me as a roadtrip vehicle. I can't say enough about how happy I am with it since purchasing it in March of this year, and have approx. 9,000 miles on it so far. Also, it really didn't burn any oil the entire trip, something my '06 Forester seemed to do a little from day one, as I would have to top it off ore often that I thought was normal. Initially I was a little remorseful about not gettign the leather, but while in LA I spent some time in a friends '12 Impreza Sport and though the leather was a bit cheap looking/feeling to be honest. The center of the seats was leather, but sides were an imitation leather, and actually prefer my black cloth interior over it. I scotchguarded the heck out every inch of my interior and have no problems with staining after a few water spills and one coffee spill. Still looks as good as new.

So far the only disappointment I have now is my current mileage, but I guess that's just the way it is. It makes me think that given the more demanding driving conditions with more hills and stop and go traffic and more demands for/variants in power demand, that the 6cyl may be more efficient?! But that is just speculation and a guess, and really don't want to put too much thought into that and am overall very happy with the car so far and still have no regrets about upgrading to the OB from the Forester. I see a ton more Suabru's (especially OB's, including a lot of Gen4 OB's) here in the bay area, but obviously not as many as Colorado, but it's still nice to see them in greater numbers as compared to San Diego, where people would look at me funny when I told them I drive a Subaru, being a younger guy, who is single with no kids or family.

I am going to be driving down to LA for the weekend, and then back up via Hwy 1 and camping for a couple nights again in Big Sur, but this time with just a friend and camping gear, so the car will not be weighted down like it was before. It will be nice to compare how the car handles differently on the windy coastal highway in it's normal state instead of being bogged down with such a heavy load. I will report back with the results. Maybe a stiffer RSB will be in order after that, otherwise the car has made me very happy so far!

(FWIW, I used to work for The North Face, hence all the TNF gear!)













 

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Sometime during my life, I would love to drive the PCH from end to end.

One question. What and where is the 4th picture that you posted?
 

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Sometime during my life, I would love to drive the PCH from end to end.

One question. What and where is the 4th picture that you posted?
The fourth picture is of a secret spot! actually it's not a secret and is a pretty well known destination, but I'm not telling!
 

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sbpark: Thanks for the report and the way cool pix. In my much younger life, I've been up and down CA 1 many times from SLO to Eureka. It is a demanding road, albeit exciting road to drive. Needs a very responsive vehicle to make it fun. The last time there were too many motorhomes to make it really enjoyable.
 

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hey scott,

good to hear from you again!

glad you are happy with the OB.

i had an '05 forester x w manual tranny and it was great when i had it.

but i have to say the OB is much better. maybe because i'm aging - ha!

i'm wondering if the imprezza's grade of leather is less then what would be found in the OB.

also, it seems that most, if not all, manufacturers are long putting in leather where the body touches so no leather on the sides and back.

joel
 

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Sometime during my life, I would love to drive the PCH from end to end.

One question. What and where is the 4th picture that you posted?

If I am not mistaken those are the lime kilns located in Julia Pfeiffer State park in Big Sur...
Camped there quite a few years ago. Beautiful place!
 

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If I am not mistaken those are the lime kilns located in Julia Pfeiffer State park in Big Sur...
Camped there quite a few years ago. Beautiful place!
(Shhhhhhh! don't tell anyone!) You are correct, they are the lime kilns where they used to produce lime, then ship it up the coast in boats to SF and was used to made concrete for the buildings in the early 1900's if I am correct. It's actually in Limekiln State Park.
 

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I did that trip with my Legacy GT Limited 5spd MT in one day mid week. Lets just say I got the worst mileage I EVER had with that car in the 11years I had it 16mpg. And I started out with tires that were nearly new. At the end of the day back in SF I had tires that looked as if they had gone 40,000 miles.

The switch backs were just way way too much fun drifting through with the go pedal mashed down and the tail hanging out. ;-)

For sure a very - VERY different trip experience than what I would have with our Current OB. LOL

Now that your in my neck of the woods - check out Old School Campground up near Gernville on the Russian River. Very small family run campground with hot showers right across the street from the River and about 2 minutes from down town. Cool place! Just discovered it last weekend and plan on trying to hit it before they shut down in October. Maybe 1hr 15 min from your place in Marin.
 

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sbpark: Are you sure that first picture isn't from a Subaru brochure?:p

Great pics and it was a good read! I wouldn't mind driving cross country and taking that drive. Some day...
 

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(Shhhhhhh! don't tell anyone!) You are correct, they are the lime kilns where they used to produce lime, then ship it up the coast in boats to SF and was used to made concrete for the buildings in the early 1900's if I am correct. It's actually in Limekiln State Park.
Great pics! Being a Bay Area resident I think I will hafta try my next camping trip there(any advice on camp sites?). Since I have a state parks annual pass I already wanted to visit Limekiln.

I do have to agree the CVT is best on the freeway, and not great on SF city driving. I do find the CVT to be great for higher speed mountain driving, such as over the Santa Cruz mountains, or on the Grapevine down in SoCal.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Great pics! Being a Bay Area resident I think I will hafta try my next camping trip there(any advice on camp sites?). Since I have a state parks annual pass I already wanted to visit Limekiln.

I do have to agree the CVT is best on the freeway, and not great on SF city driving. I do find the CVT to be great for higher speed mountain driving, such as over the Santa Cruz mountains, or on the Grapevine down in SoCal.
I am (sort of) relieved that it's not just me regarding the crappy mileage I am getting in, around and commuting to and from the city.

As far as where to camp in Big Sur, I have only camped in Limekiln SP, and if it means anything, I am heading back to Big Sur next Monday and Tuesday, and will be staying in Limekiln yet again, even though there were other vacancies in other more popular campgrounds. It was really that amazing there. Although you can make a reservation, you cannot pick a specific site, and they assign you a site when you arrive. There is both beach camping and woods camping there. I chose the woods for a couple reasons. The beach sites can also accomodate a large trailer or RV, where the woods sites cannot, and did not want to be camped next to one of those beasts. Also, the woods was much cooler and more scenic. I was assigned one of the sites in the back, and online read reviews where people did not like those sites because they were right next to where the hiking trails start, resulting in a lot of foot traffic past your camp site. Personally I could have cared less about this, and to be honest, those sites in the back were WAY more scenic and quiet than the lower woods sites. The lower woods sites were not as nice. You can see how amazing my site was from my pictures, and the first photo was taken from the bridge that crosses the stream leading to the hiking trails.
 
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