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What makes a Subaru a Subaru? Smoke

August 1, 2009 |  5:44 pm


Subaru owners are a fiercely loyal bunch, but for sharply different reasons. The company's broad base is a sensible, outdoorsy set in love with the safety and durability of its Foresters and Outbacks.

They're the ones more likely to eat up the company's new  "Love" advertising campaign, which claims that Love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru.

There's also a subculture of Subaru that just loves smoking. They love smoking tires while powersliding all four wheels, and smoking pricier sports cars at the track. The smokers don't want to quit.

That's OK, because Subaru loves the smokers too.

On Saturday, the company showed it by staging the WRX Games at the Pomona Fairgrounds. At the all-day event, Subaru enthusiasts could ride shotgun as a rally car driver ripped around a "Gymkhana" course, burning rubber around corners, spinning out from reverse and sideswiping giant beach balls. This was done in bone-stock Impreza WRXs, showing off the incredible capabilities of these low-priced compacts.  

The WRX Games showed that Subaru is a company comfortable in its skin. Its focus was tight on driving performance. There were no women in bikinis or any other common car-event distractions to insult anyone's intelligence. This was all about the driving. The air was full of the sweet sounds and smells of smoking tires and whirring turbochargers.

Subaru knows that all it has to do to impress is let the cars run.
There were drifting and road-racing exhibitions by pro racers and an autocross (obstacle) course on which anyone could drive a new 2010 Legacy GT. Driver Ken Block, whose Gymkhana videos are a YouTube sensation, was on hand to toast some tires.

The new Legacy is roomier and a bit more powerful than its predecessor, but also a little heavier. Through the cones, it also felt a tad softer. I guess you could say there's more of it to love. The model may now be more attractive to the Lovers than the Smokers in the Subaru family, but it does feel like it could be easily set up to handle more sharply with some aftermarket suspension upgrades to offset the body roll and understeer.

The one crossover element in the WRX Games was its dog-friendly emphasis, something more associated with the Outback/Forester set of Subaru people. Still, many Subie speedsters brought their pooches along. My dog Hazel dug it:


—Peter Y. Hong

Top photo: Stephan Verdier drifts a Subaru at the WRX Games in Pomona.

Photos by Peter Y. Hong / Los Angeles Times