Prologue: Welcome to the first in what could easily be a lifelong series of short, sober road tests. Why? Perspective. Did you know most cars spend just 95% of their lives parked? Moreover, they’re not waiting to be driven to the mountains of Patagonia or local race track during their precious remaining 5%, but workaday destinations like the veterinarian, your kids’ school or our local liquor store.
OK, but perspective? Like liquor, a car can be regarded as a mere conveyance from one state to another: A to B. End of story. However, a drive could also be the destination, an activity to be savoured like a dram of unadulterated highland whisky in a crystal tumbler over a couple of hours.
Mind, no one I asked in my downtown dog park can remember the last time they took a two-hour drive for the sheer pleasure of it. That’s the purview of auto writers.
Nonetheless, like liquor, a car can be both marvellously enjoyable and useful conveyance. Good cars are enjoyable during that 5% of the time we’re in them. Great cars also enhance the other 95%.
Savour today’s trip: The 2019 Subaru Forester Premier.
Subaru has built a reputation as the choice of outdoorsmen and women. Consider names like Outback and our Forester, which evokes a piney retreat like the first whiff of a newly cracked handcrafted gin. Can you sense the forest? The title of the tester’s colour, no doubt sweated over by the marketing department for months, completes your coniferous picture: Jasper green.
Okay, Jasper green metallic. But give them full marks for honesty.
This trim, Premier, is like the top shelf at your favourite gin mill. It includes the comprehensive Eyesight safety package with pre-collision braking, brake assist, and throttle management; adaptive cruise control; lane departure warning; lane sway warning, lead vehicle start alert and lane keep assist.
Wow! All of that may seem a bit of overkill for a six-block roll to the nearest boozemonger, but not this fucking winter. The city simply hasn’t bothered to remove the multiple layers of ice that bred unabated over our roads for over two months. (On the bright side, the ice did temporarily fill our ubiquitous potholes.)
Nor is the Eyesight package overkill when employed amid this city’s ubiquitous idiot drivers.
Technically a compact SUV, the Forester is still pretty big for downtown streets that are chock-a-ice-block with parked hulks pushed three feet into the road by slow-melting curbside glaciers, and populated with distracted drivers collecting wedding dress ideas on Pinterest while maintaining 30km above-posted limits. Eyesight’s litany of interventionist techs gets a decent workout given the 3.6km roundtrip. Keep in mind over 50% of ‘accidents’ happen within five miles of drivers’ homes.
Incidentally, if you’d been reading this while driving, the Forester DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System would call you out with beeping and flashing alert to get your eyes back on the road where someone is likely hurtling towards you, liking cat videos or shaving.
All cars come with superb safety profiles these days. Last month, for instance, over 70 vehicles piled into and atop each other on Ontario’s favourite deathtrap, Highway 400, yet NO ONE was seriously hurt! Impressive.
But, even then, Subaru proves exceptional, its EyeSighted vehicles like this one earning the 2018 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety(the Harvard of insurance institutes).
‘X-mode’ probably sounds more salacious than the all-wheel-drive system that it is, but comes in handy for getting started without burning rubber, or depending on the interventionist kindness of strangers to give you a push from a frozen solid plinth.
We’re off! Slowly progressing down the icy lane to the twice-as-icy street.
The 2019 Forester boasts 76.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity. That’s over 2,000 litres… a devastating amount of piney gin! But despite its size, we heat up before the second block. Better still, upon ignition, aching fingers warm with the heated steering wheel. So, we can say two thumbs up without worrying they’ll turn blue. Meanwhile, cold backsides nestle into heated seats [front and back].
By block three, we’re onto a main city artery and the ice sheet is gone, replaced by tarmac linked with holes, and populated with drivers who think it’s now safe to drive even faster beyond the limit. Though the Forester is designed for rough off-roading, it’s not advisable to test the suspension by ripping across gaping craters. Besides, there’s a traffic light in 30 metres.
We don’t make the light. So, our trip from home to liquor store tallies over five minutes we’ll never get back. But the excitement’s not done.
Parking in the city is always a thrill. When the parking lot’s decorated like the last shot of the Game of Thrones’ Season 8 (minus an undead dragon) it’s especially diverting. Like heated steering wheels, rearview parking cameras are luxurious baubles that become necessities once enjoyed.
And when the camera’s gummed up with frozen brown sludge worthy of Passchendaele? That heated steering wheel’s twice the necessity (is that technically possible? It should be) after you’ve chipped the filth away.
But the Forester’s rearview camera comes with a washing system! It’s not perfect but no safety feature or driver convenience is ever idiot-proof. The better that manufacturers make cars, the worse that society makes drivers.
Identifying and filling spaces is easy, as is identifying and avoiding overly aggressive other drivers in a hurry to park in our chosen one.
We back in, turn off the engine, lock the Forester, and enter the liquor store. Ah, it’s the urban dweller’s answer to the great and piney outdoors. We consider an elegant locally crafted gin but collect the usual light wine before
venturing home a similar, as challenging route (our one-way roads mean greater variety in your car reviews). An idiot driving a rented cube van transgresses the red light 300 metres from our house, nearly colliding with the car in front of us.
Epilogue: Two minutes later, we’re home and need a drink.