You've Let Yourself Go


My, how you have grown.

[The idea for this post came to me last night when I was running errands. In the span of a light cycle, I saw two sets of Subaru triplets pass through the intersection, followed by a Tribeca on my tail. I couldn’t help but notice how big and ungainly they looked.]

When I was a kid, Subaru made small, practical, and largely innocuous cars. They were a little quirky and unique. They were utilitarian vehicles; you saw them delivering the mail, hauling kids to school – heck, even hauling lumber on occasion.

That was then; this is now. Something happened to Subaru several years ago. Subarus are no longer small.


Large wagon or mid-size SUV?

What went wrong for Subaru? Like so many other cars, they’ve been afflicted with the bloat. You know the kind – I imagine many of us suffered bloat last weekend after the game was over. Unfortunately, model bloat in cars doesn’t go away after 12 hours.

Subaru must see some benefit in making cars bigger, because they keeping making them, and I see them everywhere. I counted about a dozen Outbacks, Imprezas, Tribecas, Foresters, and Legacies in a 5-minute span while driving around the upper Eastside yesterday. Of the dozen, not one was a sedan – all were wagons or Tribecas. My wife got so tired of me pointing all the Subarus that I figured I should shut up and write a post about it. So I did. 

Granted, model bloat affects all cars these days – I think specifically about Honda and how the Accord has seemingly grown in proportion to the girth of its passengers.

I leave you with this question – do you like the look of the new Subaru lineup? Do you think model bloat is such a bad thing? OK, that was two questions.

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56 responses to “You've Let Yourself Go”

  1. Spring-heeled Jack Avatar
    Spring-heeled Jack

    Never mind all the regulations that add size and weight to a car, I think there must be some point where the manufacturer can keep adding features/size at a relatively small cost, while profitability goes up higher. That might explain why a current pick-up truck is a big as yesterday's school-bus.

  2. danleym Avatar

    Yeah, Subaru doesn't have much that interests me nowadays. Back in the day rabble rabble rabble…
    Ah what the hell, I'll shut up and save you guys the rant.

  3. marmer01 Avatar

    No, Subaru has found its niche as the low-to-medium-priced AWD provider. The poor man's reliable Audi, if you will. And they've managed to grab onto that outdoor, snowy winter ethos and milk it for all it's worth. Good for them for finding their brand identity and sticking to it. I for one don't miss the days of Subaru just being another cheap Japanese econobox indistinguishable in any real way from the Toyotas and Nissans of the period.
    For better or worse, the days of the cheap, small, tin-can car of the late '70's through about 1990 are done thanks to air bags and crash regulations.

    1. scroggzilla Avatar

      Good analogy…..though Subaru's styling (or anti-styling, if you prefer) always make me think "Saab".

    2. rkw Avatar

      There is no part of me that longs for the Subaru nameplate prior to about 1999. In my experience they were total shitheaps.
      I guess if the only thing you care about is cheap and simple, you might miss those days.

      1. Alcology Avatar

        I drive a 1997 legacy wagon that is the Brighton version. Cheap and simple. It works and doesn't give me any gripes. Plus it's surprisingly fun to drive. Seats need to be a little bit more comfortable, but I'll change that eventually. So yes, I do miss those days 🙂

  4. mappo Avatar

    It happened when they realized they could game the CAFE standards by jacking their wagons up a few inches and call them light trucks.

    1. Alcology Avatar

      Stealing a lot of tricks from AMC!

  5. Kamil_K Avatar

    I beg to differ. Coming soon, review of Subary XV Crosstrek… it's what Subarus used to be:
    -Smaller than most
    -fuel efficient

    1. Alcology Avatar

      Still too big! It looks like a jacked up and rebranded caliber. Not a bad thing to me as I thought the caliber looked OK, but this is not so new to most.

      1. Kamil_K Avatar

        Agreed. While it looks like a Caliber (not a good thing), I look at it as a much improved Vibe/Matrix… or better yet, what Vibe/matrix should have been but got shittier instead.
        Also, I keep thinking of it with a turbo and engine and a 6-spd trans…

        1. Alcology Avatar

          It would be pretty fun with some upgrades, but then nearly everything is! I've only been in the older vibe/matrix and I really did not enjoy them. Uncomfortable, weird shifting, horrible views. Not my bag.

    2. MVEilenstein Avatar

      Looking forward to it!

  6. dculberson Avatar

    You say "utilitarian," I say sh**y. Old Subarus were pieces of crap that only the cheapest or funkiest people bothered to drive. They're cool in a classic car sense but if the new Subarus were anything like the old ones then Subaru would be out of business.
    The modern ones are blander, but they're also a lot more competitive with their peers. Too bad about the bloat, but the improvements in power, fit and finish, features, and comfort are all very welcome.

    1. Alff Avatar

      Cheap and funky … I think you've nailed a large part of the Hooniverse demographic. I loved the old Subies – in their day they were one of the best choices for those of us who spent a lot of time traversing mountain passes and fire roads.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        I'm not cheap! I'm just… uh… hmm. "Cheap" actually covers it pretty well.

      2. wunno sev Avatar
        wunno sev

        i've been told i'm olfactorily funky

  7. Synchromesh Avatar

    I dislike the new Legacy/Outback. It's just way too large (and ugly). Imho, the previous version (04-09) looked good and was the right size all around. But for some reason the new one sells like hotcakes in New England. I see tons of them around. I guess Toyotizing the Subaru proved to be a success. But it makes me sad since there is less and less Subaru in these cars and more Toyota.

  8. ash78 Avatar

    Unrelated: What in the holy hell has Jalopnik done this time? I can't even post to Oppo…apparently everything is layered and confusing and completely non-intuitive. Way to go, Gawker.
    Related: I saw a Legacy wagon the other day (non-Outback) which is probably a once-a-year occurrence for me. Why aren't they making these again, or something similar? It's down right beautiful and appropriate for the current market.

    1. Alff Avatar

      Come to the dark side.

      1. ash78 Avatar

        Oh, I'm here. This is 100x better interface than what they have now. Plus, half the people I've met there over the years are here already 😀

        1. Devin Avatar

          One of us! One of us!

    2. ThirdPedalGirl Avatar

      Nice to see you here, Ash.
      I'm getting my toes into the Hooniverse water myself. Done with Gawker for good, I think.

    3. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

      I was waiting for someone to say that. I wonder if they really will roll that out to the rest of Gawker-dom.

    4. TrueBlue315 Avatar

      "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" has been modified to "if it is broke, continue breaking it." They lost me with most of the OMG HEADLINES they've become partial to. Hooniverse all the way!

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Jwhatnik? Eh? Like, that's so 2006….

    5. engineerd Avatar

      It's about time you came over here!
      Oh, and sign up for an IntenseDebate account so we can give you points. There's no COTD here. Instead, we give each other the thumb and artificially inflate each other's egos with these nifty points. Once you get over 100 you get special prizes and 24/7 access to the Century Club known for loose morals and scotch.

      1. Alff Avatar

        WHAT?! I've been cheated!!!

        1. engineerd Avatar

          I keep getting told my special prizes are in the mail. All I seem to get from Tim is a bill for Hooniverse hosting fees.
          Get yourself over to the Century Club. Just ignore the giant blood stain on the floor. We had a little "incident" a while back with one of the "ladies".

    6. racer139 Avatar

      Yep if you use a phone or tablet it is impossible. Cant post cant read other peoples posts. But you can vote on np/cp. Still hope they get it figured out cause this time I think kinja went to far…
      Imma be looking for a 04/05 legacy, like sombody else said, the new ones have too much toyota in them. And they are huge.

  9. TurboBrick Avatar

    Is anything small anymore? 2013 Fiesta and 1983 Fiesta are still in the same segment but they're not the same size.

  10. Devin Avatar

    I actually understand model bloat and that scares me.
    It's kind of a way to trick people into brand loyalty. Each generation the model gets a little big bigger, a little bit cushier, a little bit more expensive. So people who liked their old, say, Honda Civic, might make an upgrade to the new, larger Honda Civic. So they get a car that's a tiny bit upmarket than before, but it's still pretty similar to what they had. So eventually they have to introduce a smaller model that fits in the segment they've left. Like right now, at Honda, I believe the Fit is bigger than an '80s Civic. The Civic is bigger than an '80s Accord, and the Accord is just plain big. At some point in the future we'll see some sort of sub-Fit and the cycle will continue.
    I kind of prefer smaller, but I also know there are people who consider the average mid-size sedan small so it's a losing battle.

    1. HSA Avatar

      The problem is that the model bloat only affects the outer dimensions of the car, and the weight. The interiors of small to mid-size cars got substantially larger and the seats better up to something like 1985, but after that they've remained the same or got worse again. A 6 ft tall person may basically be able to sit in today's mid-size car, but there's no forward visibility because of the low roof, thick pillars and the rear-view mirror glued right in the middle of the windshield (for some unknown reason). Plus that the trunk is barely large enough for groceries. I just realized my current car weights more than twice as much as my first car but has no more carrying capacity. Actually less because the back seat does not fold.

  11. quattrovalvole Avatar

    I've lost interest in Subaru since they stopped making this
    <img src="; width=640 />

      1. thepeopleswheels Avatar

        You have the car I really wanted. It is a stick? Finding a well cared for LGT Wagon with a stick, is well, damned near impossible. Looks great!

        1. Alff Avatar

          Unfortunately, not a stick. When I bought it, I could only find two within a reasonable distance. I took the babied 23K mile auto over the 70K mile stick. Plus, my wife doesn't drive a stick and I have never had the patience to teach her in the Alfa – I tried and could hear the syncros wearing down.

          1. thepeopleswheels Avatar

            Yeah, the 5spd has rarity going for it. Future classic potential? I got an Outback with the H6 and sadly the auto and i try and justify my choice because I live in Boston and the traffic sucks. I like the power of the H6, but I miss rowing my own. Guess its time for a project car!

  12. CherokeeOwner Avatar

    I do like the current Subaru line-up, particularly the upcoming Forrester and Impreza; they don't look as bland as the previous generation.
    As far as model bloat, I don't really think much of it.

  13. thepeopleswheels Avatar

    As an owner of an 05 Outback H6, I've got a dog in this fight. The 10+ Legacy/Outback line have completely lose the plot – bland, bloated and ungainly. But considering Subaru's styling track record (buyeye, blobeye, flying Vagina, et al) I think we have to view the pretty cars of the 05-09 Legacy/Outback-era as the aberration, and not the rule. That said, the Toyotafication of Subaru continues apace with the current Leggy/Outbacks. I shudder for the day when Subaru announces they'll be sourcing engines from Toyota. I think the flat-four/six is really the only thing that makes a Subaru a Subaru these days.

  14. mdharrell Avatar

    <img src="; width="500">
    Yes, the newer Subarus are too big. Don't even get me started on that enormous 2CV looming in the background….

    1. Kris_01 Avatar

      The little SuBAru! Wow!

    2. Alff Avatar

      The one in the foreground is more powerful.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Of course. The one in the foreground has more racing stripes.

        1. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

          They've gone plaid!

      2. Vavon Avatar

        But the one in the foreground has no wheels…

  15. I_Borgward Avatar

    Improvements in efficiency have largely (cough) gone toward comfort and power rather than improved gas mileage.
    Getting 40 mpg used to mean driving a tiny, slow, underpowered tin can death trap weighing less than 2,000 pounds. Now you can get the same 40 mpg in a safer, much larger and more comfortable car that can zip to 60 MPH in under 10 seconds. But it will probably tip the scales at well over 3,000 pounds.
    Now, imagine modern engine management and aerodynamics in a small car weighing less than 2,000 pounds and tuned for maximum MPG. It wouldn't be unrealistic to expect 50 to 60 MPG or more out of such a beast, and advanced materials could make it reasonably safe to drive. Someday, we may have that choice in North America, but I'm not holding my breath.
    As far as aesthetics go, most modern cars look too much like rolling fat suits for my taste. They can festoon them with stylish compound curve mu-mus, LED-encrusted Dame Edna headlights and shiny bits of costume jewelry all they want, but they can't hide the bloat. A pig in a track suit is still a pig.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      "Getting 40 mpg used to mean driving a tiny, slow, underpowered tin can death trap weighing less than 2,000 pounds."
      I'm prepared to do that for far less than 40 mpg.

    2. marmer01 Avatar

      Yes. I have a friend who put 300,000 miles on an '87 Civic HF, which was their two-door hatch with a crazy tall sixth gear. Took forever to get to speed but once there it was good for a cool 40+ mpg with an '80's engine design. My one-year-older Civic Wagon, on the other hand, was geared for cargo and people carrying and the 55 mph speed limit. I was never happy with that little box's gas mileage. Rarely got better than 25, even on the highway, and city hooning kept it around 20. I kept dreaming of swapping in a six-speed, but hey, dreams rarely come true, right?

  16. joshuman Avatar

    My family has had Subarus since Dad sold the 2-stroke Saab to a friend in the mid 1970s. That white one up top in the picture was just like my first car. Cheap it was at $500. Bulletproof as well. Slow is good when you are 16 and stupid. Dad replaces his top-trim wagon with another newer version every 5 to 10 years. He went to central Oregon to buy one of the last of the (2005?) Legacy GTs with a manual transmission. I imagine they will keep that one on the road forever. When it was time to say goodbye to the 1995 Legacy GT, he got an A4 Avant instead. Mom had a 4WD Justy, Impreza, SVX, and then got a Prius for some reason. Yes, Subaru has gotten too bloated.

  17. papamarc Avatar

    Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster (M45, or "The Seven Sisters"), which in turn inspires the Subaru logo.
    The logo only has 6 stars.
    I am confused.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      So they even have model bloat in their constellations?

  18. Maymar Avatar

    Except the idea of model bloat is slightly overblown here – compare the specs on a current Impreza 5-Door against the Loyale. They're within inches of each other (the Loyale's actually slightly longer). Yes, the older car is about 400lbs lighter, but in the newer car, you might walk away from an accident.
    The Legacy's a little worse, but it's in line with every other mid-sized sedan.

  19. Felis_Concolor Avatar

    I believe the Viper is the only automobile in recent history to have lost weight (50 lbs, but still a loss) and gained power between generations (1 and 2). It is definitely the only performance car to do so.
    I hope this is legible; I'm on phone input while visiting TX this week.

  20. mallthus Avatar

    I think this graphic sums it up…
    <img src="×349.jpg&quot; width=600>

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