Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Enough Wheel Time with the WRX Wasn't an Issue as We Motored from Napa to the Coast

Uncharacteristically moderate temperatures and lots of sunshine have made my week with a Boxster S a winner.
In the future, I will think of this December as the “month of the performance car.” It began with the Chevrolet performance-car drive in Palm Springs, Calif. where I drove the all-new Chevrolet SS sedan, the redesigned Corvette Convertible and the Camaro SS Convertible. Currently one of the cars in my driveway is a Porsche Boxster S Cabrio. And just a few days ago, I drove the redesigned 2015 Subaru WRX around Northern California.

There are times when it's actually good to be me.

If you are going to visit a place, Napa is as good as almost any. The only issue worth bellyaching about is the slog from anywhere in Napa to the San Francisco Airport. It's 60 to 90 minutes in the best of conditions. Time it wrong, and it can surge into a couple of hours or more. This travel time is compounded for those of us going to the east coast on the return by the T.F.E. departure time of our flights. To arrive home at any sort of sensible hour means an oh-dark-thirty flight and a 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. shuttle to the airport.

This pain in the keister, though, is a small price to pay to one: spend some time in Napa; and two: drive the WRX. But, as an auto journalist a certain amount of whining is expected; so, I can now check off that box.

The one half-way decent shot of the exterior of The Caneros Inn that I managed to get as we mounted up for our ride and drive.
 You will find this post woefully lacking in photos of The Caneros Inn, where Subaru put us up. That's because most of my time there was in the dark. I arrived after dark on the first day. I was so late, as a matter of fact, that rather than go to my room when I checked in, I immediately joined the rest of the group at dinner.

The drive Subaru mapped out for us the second day was one of the longest I've been on in years. My driving buddy and I didn't get back to the hotel until after dark. And, we weren't even close to being the last in. More stragglers dragged in after us. By my comments regarding shuttles to the airport for east coast flights, you should be able to surmise that day three – our head-for-home day – offered no opportunities for resort photos either.

So, other than an hour or so around breakfast on day two, I had no light with which to work. I squandered that light believing that I could shoot my usual battery of lodging photos after the day's driving. Silly me.

My room: Behind those closed doors lies the heated tile floor.
I do like The Caneros Inn, though. My room was spacious, my bed was comfy and it was quiet. It was mighty chilly while we were there. The thermometer on the thermostat in my room never rose above 64 degrees, regardless of how high I turned up the heat. This isn't a whole lot lower than the 67 degrees I keep my thermostat at home turned to. On a positive note: It did afford me the opportunity to appreciate the bathroom's heated tile floor. I had heard of such things, but never walked around on one. I was amazed at what a difference it makes. The bottoms of your feet feeling toasty while the rest of you is covered in goose bumps is quite the sensation.

Dinner that first night was terrific. The resort is owned by the Plumpjack Winery. Among the wines we were served with the different dinner courses were Plumpjack Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2012, and Plumpjack Syrah, Napa Valley 2011. Both were outstanding.

The next day we had a chance to challenge the WRX with some outrageously twisty roads. I have clocked a lot of miles on California roads, but one 25-mile-or-so segment on this route was one of the twistiest I've ever driven. The WRX really hunkered down and handled it.

Although WRX is a member of the Impreza family, it shares very little in the way of exterior parts or interior surfaces with the more tame Impreza. 

Yes, I know; this looks more like the coast than Napa, but you got the part about this being a longer-than-usual ride and drive, right?
Here's the 4-1-1 on the next WRX that's due in showrooms in the spring: The turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine is new, generating 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Subaru offers either a six-speed manual tranny or a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) to hustle engine output to all four wheels. A stiffer chassis and new Active Torque Vectoring greatly enhance handling, allowing for higher speeds in the corners. Bigger front brakes help reel in this kick-ass sedan.

Subaru says WRX can make the sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds with the manual tranny and in 5.9 seconds with the CVT.

Outside, most of the sheetmetal is all-new, as are the head and tail lights. Subaru increased the rake of the windshield, pulling the A-pillars forward almost eight inches for better visibility.

Inside, rear-seat legroom is up by nearly two inches; while the trunk went from just over 11 cu.ft. to 12 cu.ft. The flat-bottomed steering wheel tilts and telescopes. For the first time Harmon Kardon supplies the audio upgrade, which has nine speakers and a navigation unit.

We drove both transmissions. As you might expect, the manual was more engaging. The WRX's CVT, however, is certainly at the head of the class for this type tranny. Subaru has engineered in gear-like steps in the CVT, which uses steering wheel-mounted paddles when opting for manual control. Both transmissions are a blast to drive!

The Napa Smith Brewery had the tasters all lined up and ready to go for us.
For dinner that night, Subaru transported us to the Napa Smith Brewery, where we were treated to a tasting of all of its brews. Although there were a few I liked, I was immediately drawn to the Bonfire Imperial Porter. Jumping from the little tasters to a pint in about 60 seconds. A seasonal, it is a wonderful blend of coffee, chocolate and caramel flavors. Good stuff!

Enough screwing around with the little tasters; just give me a pint of the Bonfire Imperial Porter!
Rather than taking me home, my flights the next day deposited me in South Florida for a long-anticipated, five-day visit. It made the early-morning trek to San Francisco Airport worth it.

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