I bought a car!

So much room for activities!
Lots of room for activities!

A 2007 Subaru Outback 2.5i: it’s not diesel, but it’s all-wheel drive and it’s a wagon, so two out of three boxes ticked isn’t bad. Leather and sunroof for bonus, plus, it has a silly boxer engine!

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I up and moved cities. Now, moving from a densely-populated metropolis to a (by my opinion) sleepy, rural city has its plusses and minuses. The pluses include a feeling that everyone here seems happy, quick with a smile, and no one bats an eyes if you’re working on your car in a parking lot. The big minus is that public transit isn’t really a priority, with how sparsely populated it is here. For example, according to Google, to get to work from where I live it’s a six minute drive, a 15 minutes bike ride, a 30 minutes walk, or a 45 bus ride.

And what’s a subway?

For the last few years I’ve been lazily shopping for a car to import. Why would I import a car when there are plenty perfectly good ones here in Canada? My criteria for an ideal vehicle isn’t quite in-step with the North American market.

  1. All wheel drive (this is Canada, after all)
  2. A station wagon (SUVs are king)
  3. Diesel (ew, dirty!)

While now more and more automakers are bringing over or otherwise generating new vehicles for this market that use diesel fuel, it never used to be this way. When I told my family I was looking for a diesel vehicle, the first topic that came up was about how dirty and how loud they are. This unfortunate image of diesel vehicles I believe comes from the late ’70s and early ’80s, when fuel prices soared and automakers were scrambling to release vehicles that were tiny or used fuels other than gasoline, sometimes even taking a gas engine and changing a few parts out to work with diesel, keeping costs down on a total redesign.

There’s an excellent article on the Oldmobile 350 Diesel here.

North Americans I believe are still recovering from this period, choking on diesel fumes in their minds, while European automakers have been perfecting the use of diesel in their automobiles. Diesel itself is a wonderful–it requires less refinement and has a higher heat density; this translates into a fuel which is easier to pull out from crude and when ignited, releases more power per volume than gasoline. Additionally diesel requires a high-pressure (or very high temperature) environment for combustion, while gasoline fumes are perfectly happy alighting under STP conditions.

Cutting myself short on this rant, and getting to the point, all this means is that VW, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW don’t bring their cool diesel wagons over here. And thanks to Mercedes, we can’t import cars that weren’t built for the North American market until they’re more than 15 years old, which means the newest Euro-spec car I could import would be a 1999-built, 2000 model-year car.

I went so far as to be willing to try an engine swap on a Land Rover or a VW to curtail this rule.

(The way the story goes as I’ve heard and read it was that after WWII, soldiers were importing their inexpensive German cars back home. What was a luxury brand here was a common mule over in Europe. As a way to curtain this dilution of the brand, lawmakers were influenced by Mercedes-Benz to put in place this arbitrary 25-year ban, under the guise that it was to let ‘collector’ cars to come over.)

I was okay with that (and there is still a swapped Landie in my future), but my need to own a car in less than a month’s time disagreed with potentially-two-to-six-plus-months it would take to set up a deal and import a vehicle.

Wanting an odd car, I started my search for something I could find locally, and Subaru, with its horizontally-opposed engine, ticked the ‘odd’ checkbox. For two weeks I searched and test-drove Subarus; Imprezas, Legacies, and Outbacks. I wanted to avoid an SUV or a model with a turbo (because of the fuel mileage, and the fear of oil-starvation leading to engine destruction). And since I was settling, I wanted all the uppity options, too; sunroof + roof rack + leather interior.

To start, I didn’t quite fit in the Impreza, or I didn’t feel like it fit my lifestyle of hamfest hauls, hifi meets, and road trips. The Legacy is a nice car, but I feel like it could get high-centred on a snow bank, an obstacle that I have conquered easily in the past with an SUV. The Outback felt like it fit me, but at prices I knew would destroy me financially. I started to consider cutting my expectations…

Until one Friday afternoon while searching Kijiji, up popped a low-mileage 2007 Subaru Outback Limited in my price range! I was the first to get in touch with the buyer and three hours later I was test driving it. I made a mental note that the wheel wasn’t leather, the HVAC was for the whole car (the Limited has leather wheel + shifter knob, and dual-zone air), that the rear wiper would stop randomly around the rear window, and BONUS, it had the winter package (heated element under the wipers, heated seats, and heated rear-view mirrors)! The seller agreed to hold the car for me to take it to my mechanic the next day–as it turns out they were closed and the seller still held the car all the way to Monday for me, while deflecting other offers for the vehicle! That monday my mechanic noted a bad wheel bearing and the price of the repair was knocked off the price. We made the deal and the car was mine!

Cleaning and airing out my new purchase
Cleaning and airing out my new purchase

This happened so fast. After researching cars for a couple years while saving-up, I finally owned one. This thing is mine. I can do what I want with it. It’s there when I need to use it. I was excited! I still am excited!

Trunk liner? Score!
Trunk liner? Score!

Back to that mental note I made–as it turns out my car isn’t actually a Limited trim level. The person who originally bought this car (I’m the third owner) spec’d the car up with the fancy options. I’ve frequently read that the dual-zone air is horrible in these cars, with owners paying to have them changed back to single-zone. I also found a used leather wheel and shifter knob so I can rectify the all-leather issue, and the wheel has the radio controls! 2007 was the first year this model came pre-wired for remote start, an option I hope to install myself within the next month, and I may also try to retrofit some flappy-paddle shifters at some point in the future.

The first real issue I tackled was that rear wiper. It was a constant annoyance because it didn’t work right, but I’ll leave that fix to its own post.




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