2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0L Sport Limited Long-Term Update 3
Going to the Mountain
Little-known fact: I drove Formula 1 in the early 1990s for the very obscure Honda Hatchback Racing Team. My gold 1984 Honda Civic hatch tore up the road circuits around Richmond, Kentucky, when I was going to school there. Unfortunately, due to some poor record-keeping my driving exploits never made the official books, but I assure you I gave Nigel Mansell and his mustache a run for their money.
A few Sundays back I got the idea to dust off my racing shoes and tear up the nearby mountain roads in the Subaru Impreza. It’s by no means a performance vehicle, but why should the expensive sports cars have all the fun? I'm not trying to set any records. As long as I push a little harder than I usually do it should be entertaining. I suspect a lot of car owners shed their car's labels and just open them up and imagine they have a hotter ride than they do. What if the young man in the Rush song “Red Barchetta” actually had a Geo Metro? I bet he'd still take it out. I also bet he'd get caught and spend time in a weird, futuristic totalitarian Canadian gulag. But I digress.
The Sunday I chose was one of the coldest I’ve ever felt here in L.A., so I figured only the hardy and silly would be patrolling the mountain roads on their human- and gas-powered two-wheeled vehicles, always obstacles when tearing up a twisty road.
That road is the fabled Angeles Crest Highway and Angeles Forest Highway, just north of my location in Pasadena in the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s a favorite route of auto pros and amateurs straining the limits of machine and man.
I start in La Canada Flintridge and head up the hill into the Angeles National Forest. The Subaru has no problem making the steep initial climb into the twisty parts of the road. The hatchback feels light during the ascent and I don't get the sense it’s huffing and puffing. Good. Let's do a little more. The twists get a little tighter while the elevation increases. I start accelerating more and more and soon I’m shifting left and right in my seat as I work the wheel. I accelerate through the curves and try to hit the apex. I consciously back off after feel like I’m getting a little out of my comfort zone. I'd feel pretty dumb if I had an off within the first few miles.
I back off and work on getting into a nice rhythm and as I steadily increase the speed. Left, right…..punch it in the small straightaways. I'm giving it hell and the car is responding well. Not like a rocket, but it’s not dragging ass, either.
Well, well, well. What's this? A backmarker. Nice. I don't ride their tail, but I give off all the signs of someone wanting to get by. At the first turn-out the Camry (you were expecting a Porsche?) pulls off. I give a gracious wave and set about regaining my uphill rhythm.
This being winter, a large portion of the highway is closed because of snowcover. After reaching Clear Creek Ranger station I decide to take a hard left and head down the mountains via Angeles Forest Road. The road lesser traveled proves to be less crowded and more relaxing, yet still challenging and scenic. A pack of motorcycles buzz by, heading to Big Tajunga Canyon Road. I continue to cruise, minding my downhill speed and keeping an eye out for brake trouble that never arrives. When I arrive in Lancaster on the other side of the mountain range I reward myself with a trip to In-N-Out Burger, and after lunch I head to the home of the Lancaster SkyHawks to scope out a future visit to watch California League baseball.
After the brief tour of Lancaster I head back to Angeles Forest Highway Road and back the way I came. This time I'm more familiar with the course and press a little harder going uphill. The tires handle the job well. Good grip and only a hint of rubber smell. My field of vision out the front window is excellent. I stop occasionally to admire the views.
At the intersection at Clear Creek Ranger Station I turn back onto Angeles Crest Highway toward La Canada. By now the traffic in the area has picked up and I'm passed by some old pros in sportier rides. "Team orders," I tell myself, and become a master of the turnouts. A small police presence in the area has also tempered my lust for speed, but I still work up a sweat by the time I reach the bottom of the hill onto the boring highway and back to my couch. Look out, Sebastien Loeb, I've got a call into Subaru and a taste for mountain racing.