[Reader Andrew Simmons sent us this great tale of what happens when someone lets a total hoonmobile onto a Lexus lot – Ed]
Just visible above a stone wall, it caught my attention from the road below. A delicate arch of blue, darker than the autumn sky above it and more menacing than anything so graceful should be. The sign ahead said Lexus, but the wing proclaimed Subaru.
On impulse, I turned into the lot. I’d just come from the Aston Martin dealer down the road, who had, quite rightly but somewhat surprisingly, refused me a test drive in a V8 Vantage. I was on a supercar kick, having scored seat time in a pair of Ferraris and a highly modified 996 Turbo earlier in the month, but the siren song of Fuji Heavy Industry’s finest called out and drew me in.
It sat in the last row, impossibly wide and low, all gaping front-mount intercooler and flared arches, not remotely stock. Surrounded by ES350s it was evil, alien; a hammerhead shark in the kiddie pool. The cars on either side seemed to lean away from it, straining on their springs and parking brakes to escape.
I went inside to find a salesman, hoping they hadn’t seen me stash my beater Saturn behind a row of SUVs. I paused for a moment in the doorway as a gorgeous girl climbed out of an IS-F; my momentary and instant infatuation spoiled when she shook her head and pointed toward an RX400 hybrid.
Sometimes the briefest of hesitations makes all the difference.
The salesman who was headed toward me like a grinning piranha abruptly changed course, spotting an elderly man fascinated by a glorified Camry in a truly abysmal shade of tan pearl effect. A few minutes of aimless wandering located a dour-looking man in a dealership polo, who inquired as to what I was interested in.
“You have an STI.” Puzzled look.
“A Subaru. A blue one, used.”
The salesman confessed he was unaware of any such car in the inventory, but went to take a look in the records. A key was eventually located, and we proceeded back outside, where I pointed out the car.
“That looks… fast,” he said, skepticism immediately apparent in his face as he turned to me. “How did you find it?”
It was time for the clueless routine.
“I was looking for Subarus on Autotrader. I need something small, efficient, reliable, and four-wheel-drive.” This came out of my mouth as we rounded the back of the car, the artillery-piece exhaust clearly visible.
“This wasn’t what I was thinking of at first, but it’s cool-looking and the price is right.” I clasped my hand behind my back to hide their shaking. At that moment I wanted to drive this STI more than any Aston.
Several minutes of flagrant prevarication later, I was strapping myself into the driver’s seat. And I do mean strapping; the front seats were fixed-back Recaro buckets with four-point harnesses. The look on the salesman’s face as he clambered into the seat next to me was rapidly progressing from skepticism to outright alarm; I strapped faster, determined to be out of the lot and moving before he could change his mind.
When I twisted the key, car alarms went off. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a Subaru silenced only by its own turbo and a muffler the size of an Australian beer can. It’s primal, offbeat; gravel roads change course in a vain attempt to flee and snow prays for sun to return it to the safety of the skies.
As we rumbled out of the lot, I asked the salesman what the quickest car he’d been out in was.
“An IS350, I think,” he replied.
“This is going to be a little different.”
“Go right, and get on the freeway. We’ll take it down to the first exit and loop back.” I tried not to let my disappointment show. This car was the ultimate rally rocket, meant for assaulting back roads and terrorizing tracks, not the freeway cruise. Then we got to the ramp, and all hell broke loose.
I put my foot down in second, and instantly had to change up, the deafening warble interrupted by the simultaneous mad-kettle whistle of the blowoff valve and the howitzer thud of fuel dumping into the exhaust. Fire flickered in the mirror, then we were off again, two more gears gone instantly, into fifth as the ramp leveled out. The rush slacked enough to look at the speedometer- and then look again. One hundred and thirty-five. I eased off the gas and prayed the witness seated next to me wasn’t about to call every cop in western Pennsylvania. In the sudden quiet, I heard… laughter. It was tinged with hysteria, certainly, but laughter nonetheless.
That exit was coming up fast. I started to brake, and my passenger waved me on.
“We’ll get off at the next exit and go back through the hills. I know a road…”
He didn’t know the road. That much became apparent as we spent the next hour trying to find our way back. Not that it worried me- I was having the time of my life, blasting through a seemingly endless tree-lined rollercoaster, trailing a vortex of leaves and road debris, the absurd power and miraculous AWD system flinging the car from corner to corner and yanking it around. The salesman was, strangely, completely relaxed, chatting intermittently over the bellow of the exhaust.
Suddenly the journey was over, a blind downhill right spilling out onto the parkway the dealership was on. As I parked the Subaru with a final angry crackle and puff of smoke, my passenger exhaled audibly and, with total sincerity, uttered the strangest sentence I’ve ever heard.
“I had no idea cars could do that.”
I went back the next day, totally hooked, despite the fact that it’s almost impossible to get two drives in the same car. The receptionist, informed me, with total disinterest, that the salesman had returned his ES350 that morning in exchange for the STI, and was currently taking the rest of the day off to enjoy his new car.