Last post on Nov 02, 2006 at 6:48 AM
You are in the Subaru Forester
What is this discussion about?
Subaru XT, Subaru Forester, SUV
Aug 04, 2003 (11:12 am)
Neither XS or XT was premium hence no moonroof to bias my test drives. I like moonroofs but at 6'4", they don't like me (reason I don't own an OB VDC, which is wonderful on ice and snow, is my head was just a millimeter away from the moonroof & kissing the OB's A-pillar).
You're probably right: small shifts in center of gravity may cause significant changes in handling. Perhap that happened with the XT. If so I'd expect Subaru could do a fix through their SOA dealers if it's a simple and "clean" fix (ie cure won't cause a problem elsewhere).
About my dealer. He opened his franchise in 1999 and I was one of his first customers. He's great.
And he has a very fine service department. I find his sales staff very accomodating. I do my routine service there, even oil changes. I do this for two reasons: first I'm mechanically inept; second, it provides a good way develop & cement relationships with sales and service. It's a quid pro quo.
I have driven every Forester & Outback model since 2000, usually while getting an oil change. Dealer knows I will buy when I find enough small changes (eg 2004 XS) or one big improvement (eg VDC OB or Forester XT), over my 2000S.
He also knows I'm careful. I'm mechanically inept but I'm a good driver and I am meticulous when it comes to vehicle care, or at least I try to be.
#604 of 6715 XT vs XS Handling: How much does it matter?
Aug 04, 2003 (11:16 am)
Your post prompted me to consider carefully the value of a vehicle's dry pavement handling (in summer) to it's handling in winter, on snow, slush, pack ice and glaze (assuming no changes in vehicle such as snow tires, studs, chains or traction/yaw control such as VDC delivers).
Couple of points: first, though I slolomed an XT and XS, it was at slow speeds due to requirements of safety. I'd like to see a more rigorous test of XT and XS, one with progressive increases at higher speeds around a slolom course as well as a timed test around a serpentine track.
Consumer Reports does that (& progressive speed obstacle avoidance: double lane change manuever) Unfortunately they don't test every vehicle every year, and to my knowledge they don't do winter driving tests per se (is there a CR in Canada?).
I mention CR not because the are perfect (they are not) or unbiased (who is?) but only because they do control for the obvious financial bias that may occur when the "testee" hires the "testor", either by advertising contracts, grants or directly.
WRT to winter handling, you are correct I believe in saying vehicle roll on dry pavement is probably not a big deal on ice (all else held constant). My concern is that all else isn't held constant.
My actual winter driving experience suggests (but does not prove) that how a vehicle handles on dry pavement in summer is predictive of how it handles in winter (assuming no changes in tires, traction/stability control gear). It goes without saying I am including a number of factors beside body roll in "handling".
If it were only body roll, I think your point is made. To repeat, my test drives of XS/XT raised a handling issue (for me). It would be nice if that issue proves minor wrt to winter driving.
You said in your post "now I'm confused" but maybe it's me who is confused. If handling differences between XT and XS are largely irrelevant to winter driving or collision avoidance in general, then I would go with the XT (higher price and operations costs are worth the added power and acceleration). I need to think more about this.
Thanks for your post-Jake
Aug 04, 2003 (11:18 am)
Len, thanks for the dipstick tip. I had begun wondering if the problem was that the tip was pulling oil up into the bottom of the tube, which then wetted the stick upon next insertion, giving a poor read. Your solution makes sense.
Aug 04, 2003 (11:37 am)
Congratulations on ordering a new XT! If it's anything like mine you are going to love it. I have to think there must be a significant difference in the smoothness of the drivetrain in some XTs. Mine is the only XT I have driven as I ordered it before they were available. The first thing I noticed when I test drove it before completing the purchase was how smooth it was. I honestly didn't even notice the gearing gap between 1st and 2nd until the first time I wound it up to 6000 (after about 800 miles) and shifted. That was a rough shift! I have since learned to expect the gap and am able to shift it much smoother. It's not as smooth as I would like it to be, but is certainly acceptable and the resulting acceleration is awesome! I don't even notice the gap in normal everyday driving. I just shift when it feels right. I'm sure you plan to drive your car before signing on the dotted line. If it does not shift as smoothly as the demo you drove I would certainly want to know why. Good luck with your new XT. Please let us know how it drives. I would love to hear from another MT XT owner that is satisfied with the gearing.
#607 of 6715 XT handling revisited...
Aug 04, 2003 (11:40 am)
Jake: I think we're on the same wavelength. I recognize that your evaluation covered more than just body lean, such as the improved suspension (and steering) locational precision that firmer bushings would provide (albeit at the expense of increased noise-vibration-harshness transmission).
There's one important point about body lean that many don't explicitly account for. Let's say you start with a stock (rather nose-heavy) XT and find that on dry pavement it understeers more than you like. The obvious solution is a stiffer rear swaybar, which can reduce or eliminate the understeer (by shifting the balance of roll stiffness rearward) while also beneficially reducing body lean. Voila!
However, on wet pavement (or even moreso on really slick stuff) you cannot possibly generate the same degree of lateral acceleration before breakaway as on dry. Therefore, the body 'by definition' rolls less, and so the sway bars (whose effect is directly proportional to roll) come 'into play' much less. This means that the same altered (i.e. stiffer rear bar) nose-heavy car that offered wonderfully neutral handling on dry pavement, often will still be an understeering slug on ice.
This is why it is typically difficult, perhaps impossible, to set up a car having a substantial front (or rear) weight bias (such as the Forester) so that its at-the-limit dry-road handling also provides a close approximation of its slick-road handling; the dynamics are simply quite different. Usually, the best that can be achieved is a compromise.
Again, this is just my .02 worth.
#608 of 6715 More on the XT MT...
Aug 04, 2003 (12:29 pm)
I'm sorry if my comments sounded like an "extreme characterization." I do appreciate the vast knowledge and experience that has been shared in these discussions. It was just distressing for me to continually read about the XT's gearing gap from 1st to 2nd rather than how much fun the MT is to drive! I was feeling as though I had purchased the wrong car, and that is a terrible way to feel! I guess all I have to remember is which car, the MT or AT, made me grin wider. For me, it was the MT.
Thanks for the congratulations and for your advice on "driving before signing." Again, it's nice to know that someone hasn't had a real noticeable experience of the gap between 1st & 2nd, though it obviously does exist. Hopefully, my XT will be a smooth shifter too. I'll keep you posted.
When are all these new XT owners going to post some photos??
Aug 04, 2003 (12:38 pm)
Do you think the 5-speed XT gearing was to maximize acceleration or to minimize turbo lag? I'd say it was the latter and the benefit being the former.
As for the dipstick, the most repeatable way to measure it is to pull it out after you park and leave it out until you're ready to measure.
Aug 04, 2003 (2:10 pm)
I don't think turbo lag minimization had much if anything to do with the 4.44 axle or with putting the wider-spaced (1st-to-5th) WRX ratios into the XT. XT turbo lag was already guaranteed to be substantially reduced (compared to the WRX) simply by putting the relatively small WRX turbo onto the 25%-larger-displacement STi-derived engine. An undersized turbo on a 'large' engine, other things being equal, will always have much less lag than the reverse. In addition, the STi's/XT's variable intake cam timing (absent from the WRX) also contributes to excellent and quick response to the throttle, across the rev range.
Another way to put this is that the XT can show positive boost 'right now', with hardly any lag, even at only 1,400-1,500 rpms! This contributes to quick power regardless of whether you're in 1st or 3rd or 5th (so long as you're at or above that modest engine speed). So, regardless of gearing, the lag has been carefully (and very effectively) designed out. 10% taller gearing wouldn't change that at all, any more than you experience significantly more turbo lag in an XT in 3rd gear than you do in 2nd. All you experience is a proportionately lower rate of acceleration, overall, reflecting the differing mechanical advantage inherent in the taller gears.
#611 of 6715 XT 1st-to-2nd gap
Aug 04, 2003 (3:17 pm)
Obviously some folks are tired of my harping on the huge 77% step between the XT's 1st and 2nd gears. At risk of inflaming, I'd like to provide some context.
With the advent of the XT, the Forester became (by just about any yardstick) a legitimate high-performance vehicle. Speaking generally, widely-spaced transmission ratios are not associated with high performance machines. I recognize that the WRX has the exact same gaps, but it's a special case to which I'll return.
In '56-57, GM introduced an all-synchro 4-speed. In the Corvette, it's 2nd gear was just 33% taller than 1st. Even in GM sedans, the gap was only about 40%. Same goes for the 4-speeds that Ford and Chrysler designed for their '50s and '60s musclecars. High-performance cars having a lot of power and torque per pound of car have (with a few exceptions) usually provided closer-ratio gearsets than their more-pedestrian brethren. It was a rare high-performance machine whose 2nd gear was more than 55-60% taller than 1st.
With its light weight, the XT has the power (and, equally important, the broad, flat powerband) to accelerate with nearly any of those cars. Yet the gap between 1st and 2nd in the XT is 77%. The rev drop going from 1st to 2nd is, comparatively speaking, huge. I've never said it's fatal, but it is at best awkward, and it's certainly unnecessary and sub-optimal. An owner of a turbocharged Forester in another forum described his experience after installing the transmission gearset from a (foreign-spec?) 5-speed STi, where the gap between 1st and 2nd is just under 50%. He raved about the improvement, both in daily street driving and on the strip.
You expect widely-spaced transmissions on underpowered econoboxes. You don't typically expect them on any car that has the power-to-weight to approach 100mph in the quarter. Even the plain-vanilla regular Forester's 67% 1st-to-2nd gap, together with 4.11 or 3.9 axles, would be a big improvement.
Back to the WRX: With it's comparatively small-displacement, highly-tuned engine and a turbo sized such that it doesn't start to kick in until you build some serious revs, the WRX is unarguably 'soft' on low-end torque. Add the fact that it has tenacious all-wheel-drive (hard to break loose to keep the revs up on launch to prevent bogging down), and you have a car that would be a slug off-the-line UNLESS it had a stump-pulling first gear. Ergo, even though I don't personally care for the WRX's wide ratios and low 1st gear, a case can be made that on that car, with that engine, it was necessary.
The XT is completely different! Thanks to more displacement, a relatively-smaller turbo, different tuning and ECU management priorities, variable valve timing, and so forth, the XT probably makes 50% to 70% more torque than the WRX at 1500-2500 rpms. That's a huge difference. With only a slight increase in weight, the XT flatly does not need such a low starting gear in order to deliver stunning first-gear launches off the line. Hitting the redline at barely over 30mph - in slightly over 1 second - is incompatible with top-caliber driveability in a car with this level of performance. Indeed, it might even be counterproductive. A properly-geared XT might actually beat ours to any speed above 30 or 40 mph. It also would be a lot more pleasant overall.
Everyone but me apparently loves the super-low first gear and doesn't seem to mind the giant step to 2nd at all. Or the 3100rpm at 70 cruise. I'm genuinely glad you're happy. As for me, I've driven a slew of fast cars with much better-chosen gearing, and I'm not thrilled. I think it was a major blunder that significantly impairs the experience of living with this car long term.
#612 of 6715 why the limited color palette?
Aug 04, 2003 (3:36 pm)
jb most cogently states: With the advent of the XT, the Forester became (by just about any yardstick) a legitimate high-performance vehicle .
I can only add, and most certainly deserves a coat of San Remo Red!
my 2¢: a Hot car deserves HOT paint!