Weekends with the Intern: College Cars part 1, The Subaru [Op/Ed]

College Cars - Subaru main

I am the intern, it is the weekend. Welcome to Weekends with the Intern.

From reading my bio at the bottom of the page, you will gather that I am a communications student at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Since I write for an automotive website, you can probably gather that I am also quite interested in cars. Naturally, as a college student, I have roommates. Also quite naturally, I have managed to find a group of people who share my interest in cars. So it may come as no surprise that we have each ended up driving cars that are relatively inexpensive, fun to drive, and practical. However, we have all prioritized these things in slightly different ways.

The two goofballs that are my roommates do in fact have names. Spencer and Jack, to be precise. They both grew up in California together and wound up going to Boulder, which is where they found me. Jack has a 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, Spencer drives a 2014 Subaru WRX Hatchback, and I of of course have a 2015 Volkswagen GTI. I will do a total of four articles on these cars, with one focusing on each vehicle, and a final article summing up what we have learned. Today, I will start with Spencer’s car.

Spencer's Subaru front 3/4

As I mentioned, Spencer drives a 2014 Subaru WRX. Like many college-aged Subaru owners, Spencer has done quite a bit of modifying to his robust 2.5L flat-four turbo. Most importantly, he has replaced the exhaust (cat-less downpipe and cat-back), added a performance cold air intake, upgraded fuel pump and fuel lines, transmission and motor mounts, and slapped a tune on the engine (including manual boost control) to bring the car close to 300 horsepower at the wheels. Additionally, he has modified the suspension and steering, including new bushings on the suspension and steering rack, plus upgraded sway bars to help keep the Subaru nice and flat in the corners. The only exterior modification (if you can call it that) is the roof rack.

Spencer's Subaru - GTI butt

The results are honestly quite impressive. It may not seem like much, but 300 HP on a car that weighs 3,200 ponds is more than enough to get into some serious trouble on the right mountain road. We haven’t measured the 0-60 but I would guess it is somewhere just below 5 seconds up here at altitude. All that power is of course mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, sending power to all four wheels. Honestly the car is absurdly fun to drive. The exhaust is loud, seriously loud. It pops and crackles, spits flames and does everything you would expect from a modified Subaru. It throws you in your seat and makes you giggle like a child. It truly is a blast.

Spencer's Subaru Front

However, there are some downsides. First of all, the interior is nothing special. It isn’t bad, but you can definitely see the economy car come through a little bit. Because of the use of cheaper materials, there is a good bit of road noise, and the exhaust does drone a fair amount on the highway. Since the car has a 5-speed, and the driver has a lead foot, gas mileage isn’t fantastic. Generally the car is a little more intrusive to the senses. It can be difficult to tune out all the noise and just cruise down the highway, given that the car sits at 3,000 rpm going 70 mph. Additionally, all the modifications did come at a price, making this car by far the most expensive of the three. The exact number is not really relevant, but the fact that it is well north of $30,000 (for car and mods) says plenty.

Spencer's Subaru Back 3/4

All said though, we three roommates do love this car. It is by far the fastest, putting a smile on our face anytime Spencer gets near the accelerator pedal, and it sounds like a samurai about to chop your head off. The hatchback and AWD mean we can take it to the slopes with all our gear, and the tune makes it a blast on the back roads. This car does everything a college car should, however brash it may be.

This marks the beginning of a once-weekly series, published every weekend. Be sure to come back next week while we discuss Jack’s 2010 Mazdaspeed 3.

Until then, why not see what happens when you spend a little more on these cars as Roman and Nathan drive and compare the VW Golf R and the Subaru WRX STi: