Record-Setting Road Trip: Driving A Subaru Forester To Help Break A World Record

By Steven J. Ewing

July 13, 2009

—Itasca, Illinois

Up until this weekend, we had never heard of Itasca, Illinois, a small suburb located about thirty minutes northwest of downtown Chicago. But on Saturday morning, this town was offically christened into the Guinness world record books for hosting the longest parade of any one type of vehicle, as a grand total of 339 Subarus paraded around the city, horns honking, turbocharged 2.5-liter fours revving. Subaru owners love their cars, and some folks that we met pride themselves on being die-hard Scooby loyalists. All sorts of models showed up, too -- everything from Bajas to Tribecas, SVXs to XTs, Imprezas to STIs. This event wasn't only about setting a world record, however; it was about raising money for charity. Representatives from PAWS Chicago and Salute, Inc., were on hand and Subaru of America happily signed $3500 checks for each organization. A win-win situation, indeed.

But this weekend wasn't just about breaking records and raising money, it was about being able to spend some more time with Subaru's trusty Forester, a vehicle which the Winding Road staff has really grown to love. (Seyth Miersma, our managing editor, will have serious words for anyone who thinks otherwise.) Our test car, a fully loaded 2.5XT, was smooth, comfortable, and powerful for the long cruise down I-94, and even when we took the Subie off the highway onto more pleasing roads, the Symmetrical AWD and turbo kick allowed us to have some fun pushing the Forester around bends. It's no Legacy, and surely no WRX, but it's a good deal of fun. We can't help but feel shafted by the fact that the turbo Forester can't be had with a manual box, but it only makes our love for the base 2.5X Forester that much stronger. Put the new WRX's 265-horsepower engine and a proper stick-shift in this car and we'll be sold instantly.

Spending this much time with the Forester allowed us to note some small quirks, though. We like the touch-screen navigation/radio interface, and the navigation system itself was precise and accurate with instructions. Our nav woman (we named her Belinda) kept us informed and pointed in the right direction, especially through the busy streets of downtown Chicago, where sat-nav systems from Audi and BMW have failed us before. One big niggle, though, is the audio interface -- namely, tuning. There's no simple way to adjust the bass, treble, and mid-range, but instead you're faced with a seemingly impossible series of sound channels, reading in kilowatt levels. The pre-set settings (Rock, Jazz, Easy, etc.) don't sound particularly good, and we were seriously infuriated with trying to adjust the tone. Other serious audiophiles will agree that this needs to be addressed immediately.

As we drove through downtown Itasca in our slow-moving parade of Subarus, a strong feeling of glee came over us. We were doing something big here, and in a good way -- raising money, breaking a record, and generally spending quality time with a parking lot full of happy Subaru owners. And our Forester, while not the sexiest of Subies, still garnered the respect and praise of everyone on hand, even the meanest of STI tuners. Love was in the air.