In which your Race Organizer has his snow-hoonage hopes dashed by summer tires
When I review a new car, most of the time I get it dropped off at an airport near a venue at which I will be helping to organize a 24 Hours of LeMons race, and then I spend a few days driving it between the hotel and the track, hauling weird gear and seeing what the racers think of my latest ride.
However, Denver in the wintertime means one thing: wanting a car with the Pleiades on the grille and boost under the hood, kicking up a lot of the white stuff with all four tires. I live in Denver, I have a battered, naturally aspirated Outback with a five-speed, and the WRX seemed like just the thing here in the heart of Subaru-Land.
Mere hours after the car was dropped off, and before I got around to driving it, this happened. Denver gets all-or-nothing snow during the winter, usually without much warning, and — as Rory Carroll points out — the empty streets after a big snowstorm offer the perfect conditions for everything good about driving a car. I figured I’d find a nice big empty parking lot and practice my snow hoonage, in proper WRX fashion.
I thought about swapping wheels with my Outback, which would have given me some winter rubber, but that would have involved getting cold and wet and probably crunching a few frozen knuckles. Instead, I endured the agony of not enjoying all-wheel drive, countersteering-and-yeehawing snow madness on the invitingly deserted streets for the day or two after the snowstorm, then gingerly drove the car on ordinary errands on fully plowed streets. My wife had broken her leg in an unfortunate recycle-bin-rolling incident, so I had the opportunity to hang her temporary handicapped placard in the car and drive her to doctor appointments with crutches in the back seat. It’s good to make a car do things other than the tasks for which it was intended (say, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in an Alfa Romeo 4C), and I can report that the WRX does just fine with parallel parking, and, uh, glovebox capacity. Sensible stuff, not like what I really had in mind for it.
I really wanted to get a Subaru compass-equipped auto-dim mirror for my winter-beater ’92 Civic hatchback, so I decided to risk the 10-mile drive on not-completely-ice-free roads to the wrecking yard with the most late-model iron. On the rare patches of dry pavement I encountered, I was able to enjoy a few hard shifts in the WRX without hitting any ice and stuffing it into a concrete abutment.
What I learned from all this was that the WRX can behave just like a regular, sensible Impreza, if that’s what you need it to do. Next winter, though, I’m going to make a special request to get this car back with some serious snow tires, and then I’m going straight to the mountains.