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May
31

Subaru – The International Symbol for Slow Driving

I’m probably going to get myself in trouble here, but someone has to say something to get this out in the open. 

First let me say that I think that Subaru makes excellent cars.  In fact, they are some of the best engineered cars in the world and are sold at a terrific price point.  They’re not the best looking cars around – I think the common wisdom is that their exteriors are designed by the same engineers who develop the nuts and bolts of their all wheel drive system – but they are reasonable looking (OK, except for the B9 Tribeca), spacious and nicely appointed.  These cars are in no way, shape or form, crippled econo-boxes that can’t get out of their own way either.  When driven sedately, these cars can more than hold their own and when driven hard, like the way that valet who you turned your car over to last night did, they perform superbly.

I don’t have a single problem with Subarus.  It’s Subaru drivers that make me nuts (not you WRX drivers – you drive just fine and can stop reading here).  Inevitably, when I’m stuck behind a line of cars on a two-lane road (or a typical 1.5 lane road as we find often here in New England), there will be a Subaru at the front of the line.  And I don’t mean “once in a while” here.  A recent “scientific” study conducted by . . . me, shows that Subarus are responsible for holding up traffic a mind-boggling 56% of the time (number two on the list – Volvos – but that’s fodder for another post).  What makes this even more amazing is that this driving behavior appears to be consistent regardless of the age, race or sex of the driver.

Yes, I know. This is a broad generalization and you’re thinking that it’s wrong of me to attribute any one characteristic, especially a negative one, to what is probably a diverse group of people.  So PC of you.  But give me the chance to defend my position.

So, back to Subaru drivers.  Geez, they are slow.  Since these drivers have forced me to spend more time on the road, I’ve had more time to consider what Subaru owners have in common to create such a strong correlation between ownership and snail-like driving.  All I can assume is that the combination of the safety (zillion-star crash test ratings), all-wheel drive (good in bad conditions), economy (reasonable gas mileage) and relative low cost to acquire and own Subarus is what attracts a certain type of person that wants to drive like they’re in a funeral procession.  Thats’ right.  It appears that Subaru drivers are people who buy cars to get from point A to point B without any excitement; want to do it safely; and don’t want to spend an excess of money to do it.  Hmmm.  This is beginning to sound pretty reasonable.

Today, a Subaru cost me almost 5 minutes in a 30–minute commute.  I realize how stupid this sounds, but that’s almost a 17% increase in the amount of time it should have taken me to get where I was going.  It’s not like I’m an anxious, go-getting person who drives a car like I’m high on crystal meth or anything . . . well, OK, maybe I’m some of those things, but let’s be reasonable here, the roses exist for some weaker person to stop and smell.  Life’s too short to be spending time in the process of getting where we’re going, you gotta go-go-go until you get there.  After all, they wouldn’t call it “there” if you weren’t supposed to be at that place already!

[taking a break here to meditate and think about the journey – mmmmmmahhhhh, mmmmmmahhhh]

Maybe the problem is that when I’m in my car it is all about me.  I’ll make a deal with you, Subaru drivers.  I’m sure you’re a reasonable person.  Your choice of car is excellent and I’m sure you help bring down my insurance rates.  If you drive at least the speed limit, I’ll try not to have an ulcer while I’m tailgating within 12 inches of your bumper.  Does it sound like a plan?

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 May 31st, 2006  
 Will  
 Stuff with a Motor  
   
 50 Comments

50 Responses to Subaru – The International Symbol for Slow Driving

  1. So many things to say about this.  First, a haiku I wrote a couple of years ago: subaru ahead traffic up the mountain slows to a glacial crawl Second, I never understood why Subarus take off from traffic lights so slowly until I drove a friend’s car to go skiing.  The thing had no power at all.  Then, try to go over a mountain pass – sure, you get good traction, but it’s like the Little Engine that Could… eventually… get there. Third, I live in Boulder, where Subarus are about every third car.  I think that part of it is simply that the Subaru somehow has a reputation for being a politically correct car, thus the drivers: 1. Since they are politically correct, anything GOOD that happens for them must be BAD for someone else (zero sum worldview), so they feel guilty if they make it through a yellow, or for that matter even a green light. Consequently, they actually slow down for green lights. 2. Start like a tortoise – remember the “don’t be a leadfoot” commercials in the ’70s?  These are the people who actually followed that advice.  Of course, they’re not counting the extra gas burned up by all the people who end up sitting at the light for an extra cycle (or two). 3. Aren’t in any hurry to begin with – after all, it’s about the journey, right?   I read not too long ago that Subaru has among the WORST fleet fuel ratings.  A typical vehicle only gets about 15mpg.  I don’t really see how that’s politically correct.  

    •  Actually I think a better representation of subaru drivers is their motto, “I inconvenience others only to convenience myself.

    • “quieting” traffic
      nobel Subaru drivers
      banking frustration

    • Andrew Zimmerman

      Writing Haiku’s is a very politically correct way of expressing your irritation!

    • Not the Subaru again...

      Although this post is nearly 10 years old, it’s as true today as when it was first posted. Boulder is truly home to the slowest drivers in the world. If there is a Subaru in the left turn lane in front of you, you can rest assured you WILL NOT be making it through that light anytime soon.

      You are also correct that it does not matter the demographic of the driver, they are all equally, mind numbingly, infuriatingly s….l….o….w. Another common Subaru maneuver is to take all turns without their foot on the gas, sometimes pausing in the midst of the turn to look for squirrels. It may take them a full minute to make it around the curve whereas a normal driver will simply turn at a normal speed. They may think it is safer, but I’ve seen them almost get rear ended several times for coming to a stop in the middle of a right hand turn.

      Finally, they have NO CONCEPT of the purpose of the fast lane (left passing lane) on highways. I often drive the Diagonal Hwy, a two lane highway with signs posted “keep right except to pass”. The speed limit posted is 65 miles an hour. It never fails that I will have to slam on my breaks for dueling Subarus who are driving parallel to one another in both the right and left lane going 45 miles an hour. They do not respond to tailgating and will continue their slow crawl down the highway, smug that they are keeping others from being “too hurried”. They will never cede the left lane and instead make everyone drive at their miserable pace.

      So thanks for giving me a place to vent. There should be a special place in hell for slow Subaru drivers.

  2. So many things to say about this.  First, a haiku I wrote a couple of years ago:

    subaru ahead
    traffic up the mountain slows
    to a glacial crawl

    Second, I never understood why Subarus take off from traffic lights so slowly until I drove a friend’s car to go skiing.  The thing had no power at all.  Then, try to go over a mountain pass – sure, you get good traction, but it’s like the Little Engine that Could… eventually… get there.

    Third, I live in Boulder, where Subarus are about every third car.  I think that part of it is simply that the Subaru somehow has a reputation for being a politically correct car, thus the drivers:

    1. Since they are politically correct, anything GOOD that happens for them must be BAD for someone else (zero sum worldview), so they feel guilty if they make it through a yellow, or for that matter even a green light. Consequently, they actually slow down for green lights.
    2. Start like a tortoise – remember the “don’t be a leadfoot” commercials in the ’70s?  These are the people who actually followed that advice.  Of course, they’re not counting the extra gas burned up by all the people who end up sitting at the light for an extra cycle (or two).
    3. Aren’t in any hurry to begin with – after all, it’s about the journey, right?  

    I read not too long ago that Subaru has among the WORST fleet fuel ratings.  A typical vehicle only gets about 15mpg.  I don’t really see how that’s politically correct.  

  3. Like Dave, I too live in Boulder.  And Subarus (Will’s caveat about WRX driver’s applies here) are also the bane of my existence.  I think it’s not just the physical attributes of the Subaru that attract its drivers, but the sociopolitical leanings that come with a Subaru.

    I swear, a good portion of those Subaru drivers are driving the way they are to set an example and show the rest of us how to slow down and smell the roses.  And they choose the left lane at 10 mph below the speed limit to teach us that…

    And since Dave is contributing haiku, I feel a need to share a slogan I came up with to convince a friend (a single, straight guy) he really didn’t want to buy a Toyota RAV4:

    “The new 2006 Toyota RAV4:  It’s what Subaru owners buy when they want to look tough.”

    • I, too, have noticed Subaru drivers drive excessively slow. Research shows Subaru is the most popular vehicle for those with a Secular Humanist, Marxist, Environmentalist worldview. You know the marketing slogan, “Subaru loves the Earth.” Environmentalists worship the creation rather than the Creator. Therefore, driving intentionally slower than others is a way to push their morality because all evil humans are morally required to lessen their Earth-destroying carbon footprint, so believes the morally self-righteous Subaru driver.

  4. I have heard that the opposite phenomena exists for VW Jetta drivers. I’ve not noticed it myself. Out here in N. California there seems to be fewer Subarus, so I’ve not noticed this quite as much, besides there are very few major roads in CA that are 2 lanes. The probability of 2 Subarus being side by side on the freeway is very small. If it were to happen, I am confident that the highway patrol would be dispatched to determine the cause of the blockage. I do share the observation with regard to Volvos. I think it’s not quite as bad as it used to be because they don’t push the Donald Sutherland voice over “Volvo, please drive slowly.” On a somewhat different note, I clicked on the Subaru link above. For those of you that do not believe in vehicular reincarnation I give you the AMC Pacer and Subaru Ipreza. http://www.subaru.com/shop/configurator/step1.jsp?model=IMPREZA http://amcpacer.panhorst.net/images/archives/presby1.jpg

  5. I have heard that the opposite phenomena exists for VW Jetta drivers. I’ve not noticed it myself. Out here in N. California there seems to be fewer Subarus, so I’ve not noticed this quite as much, besides there are very few major roads in CA that are 2 lanes. The probability of 2 Subarus being side by side on the freeway is very small. If it were to happen, I am confident that the highway patrol would be dispatched to determine the cause of the blockage.

    I do share the observation with regard to Volvos. I think it’s not quite as bad as it used to be because they don’t push the Donald Sutherland voice over “Volvo, please drive slowly.”

    On a somewhat different note, I clicked on the Subaru link above. For those of you that do not believe in vehicular reincarnation I give you the AMC Pacer and Subaru Ipreza.

    http://www.subaru.com/shop/configurator/step1.jsp?model=IMPREZA
    http://amcpacer.panhorst.net/images/archives/presby1.jpg

  6. LOL!  Good call.  Maybe old AMC designers retire in Japan.

  7. LOL!  Good call.  Maybe old AMC designers retire in Japan.

  8. Thanks Will.  Now I see Subarus everywhere on the road.  Actually I think the reason you get stuck behind so many of them is that there are so many of them in New England, and Colorado for that matter.  Going home last night I got caught behind a Corolla doing 25 in 35 zone with a Subaru behind me, right my ass.  

  9. Thanks Will.  Now I see Subarus everywhere on the road.  Actually I think the reason you get stuck behind so many of them is that there are so many of them in New England, and Colorado for that matter.  Going home last night I got caught behind a Corolla doing 25 in 35 zone with a Subaru behind me, right my ass.  

  10. Yep. It is because 56% of people in your area drive Subies… Not because they are underpowered or the drivers drive slow. Look at any area that gets sleet and snow and you will find a large population of Subaru drivers. We leave the light slower because with an all wheel differential you destroy transmissions and diffs when you jump on it. By the time we hit second gear we are at speet limit..even with the 2.0 liter (smallest subaru motor) If you need to get there faster than that you are probably going to need blood pressure meds soon. Subarus get worse gas milage than alot of 2 wheel drive cars….guess why..AWD….no big secret. We sacrifice a little petrol to stay out of the snow banks and dodge your 2 wheel sardine cans as you try to slide into us in parking lots. Maybe you are jelous Dave….maybe you should go test drive a Subie…..It’ll change your life (wink)

  11. Yep. It is because 56% of people in your area drive Subies… Not because they are underpowered or the drivers drive slow. Look at any area that gets sleet and snow and you will find a large population of Subaru drivers. We leave the light slower because with an all wheel differential you destroy transmissions and diffs when you jump on it. By the time we hit second gear we are at speet limit..even with the 2.0 liter (smallest subaru motor) If you need to get there faster than that you are probably going to need blood pressure meds soon. Subarus get worse gas milage than alot of 2 wheel drive cars….guess why..AWD….no big secret. We sacrifice a little petrol to stay out of the snow banks and dodge your 2 wheel sardine cans as you try to slide into us in parking lots. Maybe you are jelous Dave….maybe you should go test drive a Subie…..It’ll change your life (wink)

  12. I have driven a Subaru Outback. Over Berthoud Pass. I have never driven such an underpowered vehicle.

    And I don’t care what gear they are in, by the time they reach the speed limit it is time to slow down for the next light.

    But I would rather these drivers stick with their Subarus than get Priuses. Those things have no control in snow.

  13. I have driven a Subaru Outback. Over Berthoud Pass. I have never driven such an underpowered vehicle.

    And I don’t care what gear they are in, by the time they reach the speed limit it is time to slow down for the next light.

    But I would rather these drivers stick with their Subarus than get Priuses. Those things have no control in snow.

  14. “But I would rather these drivers stick with their Subarus than get Priuses. Those things have no control in snow.”

    As if just being a Prius wasn’t a good enough reason to avoid them.

  15. “But I would rather these drivers stick with their Subarus than get Priuses. Those things have no control in snow.”

    As if just being a Prius wasn’t a good enough reason to avoid them.

  16. For what it’s worth, I’ve observed the same thing here in Seattle. Slow drivers are driving Subarus an inordinate percentage of the time.

  17. For what it’s worth, I’ve observed the same thing here in Seattle. Slow drivers are driving Subarus an inordinate percentage of the time.

  18. Seems to be a consistent market for Subaru. One would think you’d see more advertising from them on those lines. It would be fun to see auto ads targeted at slow drivers – sorta unique. “We have the lowest horsepower in the class . . . “

  19. Seems to be a consistent market for Subaru. One would think you’d see more advertising from them on those lines. It would be fun to see auto ads targeted at slow drivers – sorta unique. “We have the lowest horsepower in the class . . . “

  20. Funny you say subarus are slow. When a green light turns im gone like the wind and I’m not a slooow drive by a long shot!

  21. Funny you say subarus are slow. When a green light turns im gone like the wind and I’m not a slooow drive by a long shot!

  22. When one generalizes, they're in for all sorts of trouble 🙂 There are, of course, a minority of Subaru owners who are more than capable of taking full advantage of their cars and making them work at speed. I'm honored that Shay here, as one of the few, has joined the conversation. Subarus are great cars – even better when people use them as they should. Thanks for leading the pack, Shay.

  23. When one generalizes, they're in for all sorts of trouble 🙂 There are, of course, a minority of Subaru owners who are more than capable of taking full advantage of their cars and making them work at speed. I'm honored that Shay here, as one of the few, has joined the conversation. Subarus are great cars – even better when people use them as they should. Thanks for leading the pack, Shay.

  24. Thanks will your right. I do take advantage of what my subaru can do. I have to chuckle when we get bad snow storms an see fwd cars go no where. Me I sail on by but if you need a pull yes a pull I can do that to. Can yer fwd pull another car in snow? So for you folks in worcester, ma. We subaru wagons may look wimpy an not all that but we can go anywhere…

  25. Like Dave, I too live in Boulder.  And Subarus (Will's caveat about WRX driver's applies here) are also the bane of my existence.  I think it's not just the physical attributes of the Subaru that attract its drivers, but the sociopolitical leanings that come with a Subaru.

    I swear, a good portion of those Subaru drivers are driving the way they are to set an example and show the rest of us how to slow down and smell the roses.  And they choose the left lane at 10 mph below the speed limit to teach us that…

    And since Dave is contributing haiku, I feel a need to share a slogan I came up with to convince a friend (a single, straight guy) he really didn't want to buy a Toyota RAV4:

    “The new 2006 Toyota RAV4:  It's what Subaru owners buy when they want to look tough.”

  26. I have made similar observations myself with Subaru drivers in northeastern Ohio. It reminds me of a phenomenon I observed in the late 70s and early 80s that my friends and I called “Chevette Disease.” Regardless of how underpowered that vehicle really was, the folks that drove them became afflicted with a serious a lack of aggressiveness. I have driven under-powered cars before, but you could still stomp on it and get the heck out of the way–but not Chevette drivers. Once they became infected with Chevette Disease, it was as if they lost their will to drive. Flash forward to this morning. I pulled up behind a long line of cars at a stop light on a 2-lane road. Sure enough, the lead car was a Subaru (I am sure they were braking under green so they would hit the light red). The light turns green and my Mom could have pushed that darn car faster than the driver accelerated. After a long drive with nowhere to pass, we came upon a major intersection with some added lanes and other cars already stopped at a red light. After the light changed, I was easily able to get around the Subaru driver (there was a huge gap in front of him). The road quickly returned to 2 lanes and there were more traffic lights up ahead. By this time I had opened up a pretty good gap on the Subaru. After passing through a green light I glanced back at the slow-poke Subaru–sure enough, the light changed and they were once again responsible for stealing a few moments of the lives of all of those drivers unfortunate enough to have been trapped behind them.

  27. “Chevette Disease.” Perfect. What an excellent analogy. I totally agree with
    your thoughts about “you could still stomp on it and get the heck out of the
    way.” It's not the car, it's the driver.

    Thanks!

  28. Pingback: Another Possible Reason for Toyota’s Problems – The Rest of Us « 2-Speed

  29. Wow, I totally agree with you. Those BOOBaroos are going to cause me to see my therapist a few more times(at prime time), not to mention the extra ammo at the local shooting range.

    The car has always been great and reliable, but how did it attract the slowest drivers on the planet???

    ~M~ from Montana

  30. They *are* great cars. I think it's probably Subaru's schizophrenic
    nature. Earthy crunchy all-wheel drive sometimes, high-performance
    rally cars other times.

    A floor wax AND desert topping 🙂

  31. BTW, BOOBaroos is hilarious …

  32. John in Denver

    I googled slow subaru drivers just to see if others agreed with my personal observation.

    My take, they're just on average bad drivers. Even in Colorado, you don't need AWD. I shot around last winter in a Jetta and never got stuck, and never was late to work. But then again, I know how to drive in weather. Look at the post by SubaruDriver – you two wheelers in the ditch? I see Subarus in the ditch here all the time.

    So, here's my hypothesis – and yes, its a generalization. A Subaru is viewed as a great car for slow, cautious drivers who for whatever reason lack skills. They don't drive fast because they aren't comfortable doing it. They “need” AWD but can't handle even a crossover. They are very safe, again attracting the cautious, worried type.

    In short, the brand appeals to slow, cautious and unskilled drivers.

  33. I think you're right on, John. Sorta like the Volvo safety thing (although that seems to be less of an attraction than it used to be). The brand is sorta schizophrenic, though. I remember reading several years ago that the company is basically run by engineers who just get off on their own product (thus the butt-ugly cars they often come out with). They have created moderately priced, excellently engineered vehicles and have ended up in the market you suggest. The cars, however, remain excellent, especially at their price point. The weirdness can be seen in the WRX/STi models. None of those slow drivers buy those, of course, but they are huge among the tuner folks and low-cost performance guys. I'd love to find out if Subaru ever even tried to reach the slow, cautious driver market or if they just fell into it accidentally.

  34. I drive a Suby. The best car I have ever owned. I am 61 and have driven since 1965. My dad sold Pontiac and Gmc trucks from 46 to the 1970s. I have driven everything from the the goat to the desoto and the reo truck. My 2004 XT is by far the finest.

  35. I live in the Hudson Valley in NY and there is definitely Subaru disease here almost every time there is a problem with traffic there is a subaru to blame.,

  36. I just had a feeling if I googled “subaru owners are the worst drivers” that something would come up!  I live in New England and have to drive through Northampton every day to get home.  I believe: to live in Northampton you have to own a Subaru.  In order to own a Subaru,  you have to agree to: drive 10 miles BELOW the actual speed limit, leave 7 car spaces between you and the car in front of you in any kind of a jam, let any car that pulls up to a traffic jam–even if they’ve only been sitting there for seconds, into the traffic jam, and drive as if at any minute an accident could happen anywhere and you don’t want to be anywhere around it.  Volvo drivers are Subaru drivers who have just a little bit of a wilder streak and who feel as if they’ve “made” something of themselves!

    • Perfect! I love the Volvo characterization. As you say, Northampton is like Burlington, VT, Boulder, CO and many other places where Subaru driving is a way of life. Unfortunately, non-Subaru drivers often have to travel through these places and deal with the byproducts. Thanks for the comment!

  37. I could not agree with this more!  I live in upstate New York, and this happens to be on a daily basis. It’s ALWAYS a Subaru!

  38. Andrew Zimmerman

    I’m unsure why there is a wave of slow, cautious drivers in our generation, or if things have always been that way. But it is undeniable that the Suburu Outback is a major symbol of slow driver. Not always, but 95% of the time.
    With regards to driving in the winter, usually if you live in an environment like that you have studded tires, so it doesn’t matter.

  39. I’ve been noticing this for years and years, and I drive about 450 miles a week, I want to confirm that this is statistically correct. When I googled, “why do Subaru drivers drive so slow, this is the first link that came up, and I’m surprised this is a phenomenon that occurs, not only in the American northeast, but also in other parts of the country. Something must be done to stop this madness. They hinder traffic and are one of the leading causes of road rage!

    • Davis, I too continue to be puzzled. I think it’s the combination of low cost/4WD and image (earthy crunchy) that cause a certain type of person to buy the cars. They are, after all, excellent cars and aren’t particularly slow. It’s clearly the type of drivers that buy them. Strange. As you can see by the comments to this post (and my other Subaru posts), this is a regular/frequent occrence.

  40. This is very correct. Too many old bags behind the wheels of these things. Apparently they’ve all traded in their Buicks and Lincolns for these things.

  41. I resent this whole conversation. I very rarely run into subarus that are holding up traffic…in fact I always see them blowing past everyone else. When they are holding up traffic they are generally on the elderly side…which can you really blame them for going so slow??? Ever seen how fast their reflexes are?….not fast. I am a quite proud Subaru owner and drive 5-10 over the speed limit most of the time and I am usually the the first to pull away from a stoplight and hate it when I can blow by people with their ridiculously fast engines because they are being overly cautious. I don’t ever slide of the road and I have an awesome 300,000 + thousand miles on my original engine. How many of you all can say that? And I still blow by most everyone. Suckers!!! Think what you want…but I have had the opposite experience from all of you and it is the best car I have ever owned or will likely ever own. At least I don’t have to spend a down payment for a house to get me from point A to point B. Priorities people. I get where I need to go…and fast for that matter.

  42. I’ve had a Subaru Legacy for over a year now and can’t say I’ve been part of, or experienced this phenomenon. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just a happy exception to the rule or something. I like to keep up with faster traffic, which on Denver highways, means I’m going about 10-15 miles over the speed limit on average. On top of that, I’m never slow off the light, 95% of the time I’m already through the light by the time the driver in the other lane even starts accelerating. I’ve never slowed anyone (save impatient assholes who clock it at over 120mph) and tend to keep ahead of most traffic. As for mountain driving, my Legacy does just fine up the mountains, no acceleration issues whatsoever, it shifts just as smoothly going uphill as it does on regular roads. Even managed to go from my family’s mountain house in Loveland, to Pueblo, back to the mountain house without even the slightest issue.

    As already mentioned by another Subaru driver, I’ve also had no problems in the snow and my Legacy is only front wheel drive. We got a couple major snowstorms over this past year, one at around fifteen inches or so, and my Subaru, with its measly seven or so inches of clearance and its front wheel drive, had no trouble getting through the snow. Had a laugh too as I saw dozens of trucks and other 4x4s stuck on the side of the road. The only thing that outperformed my Subaru in the snow was my old Cherokee, everyone else I know had trouble on the snowier days and had to stay home. Like I said though, maybe I’m just the exception or something.

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