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When most people think of Japanese automotive manufacturers, they probably picture well-known brands like Toyota, Honda or Nissan. These are some of the most popular brands, especially in the modding community.
There’s a select group, however, that’ll immediately answer “Subaru” when asked about Japanese automakers. The Subaru brand has developed an almost fanatical following in the years since its inception.
When I bought my first one, I found myself deeply immersed in the Cult of Subaru — and it’s been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Here’s an inside look.
A Bit of Subaru History
The name Subaru comes from the Japanese word for the Pleiades star cluster. It’s the Seven Sisters, but one is usually invisible to the naked eye, so you’ll only see six stars on the Subaru logo.
It’s also a nod to all the companies that created Fuji Heavy Industries, known as the Subaru Corporation. The company started in 1953 and focuses primarily on small and mid-sized cars and SUVs.
Despite not being one of the mainstream Japanese companies bringing cars and SUVS to the western marketplace, it still has a devoted following in the states. The most popular models are the SUVs with all-wheel drive — and that’s where our story begins.
Buying My First Subaru
Utah isn’t known for much. We’ve got Salt Lake City, Mormons and lots of open space. We’ve also got some of the best bouldering and rock climbing locales in the country, and I’ve got more than a few friends that love heading out on the trails.
While tagging along with them was fun, there’s nothing more exhilarating than being behind the wheel. Once I tasted that, it was all over for me — and my wallet. I went looking for a bouldering SUV to replace the Toyota sedan that I’d been driving for the better part of 15 years.
What I ended up with was a 2015 Subaru Outback. That one decision led me down a rabbit hole that I never could have imagined.
A Man on the Inside
The first Subaru Impreza made its way to western markets in 1999. Owens and drivers looking for like-minded individuals started forming clubs, groups and forums to give them a place to share their love for the brand.
The North American Subaru Impreza Owner’s Club started that year to give Imprezas and 2.5 RS owners a place to talk about their favorite cars. Today, it has more than 125,000 members. The thing with Subarus is that once you pick up one of these cars or SUVs, you’re often hooked for life.
The communities are always welcoming — minus the occasional trolls — and they’re happy to share what they’ve learned along the way, whether you’re looking for mod suggestions or advice on getting those scratches and dents out of your quarter panels.
Unsurprisingly, I met my first Subaru loyalists out on the trails the first time I took my Outback bouldering in Indian Creek, Utah. As soon as I pulled up, it was like I’d always been a part of this exclusive club. Once we got the introductions out of the way, I had a whole group of old friends to head out on the trail with.
They were happy to help me figure out the best way to set up my Outback, coax me over difficult obstacles and even drag me out of a ravine when I got stuck.
Final Assessment — I’d Do It Again
I’ve owned a lot of cars from a lot of manufacturers over the years. The Subaru Outback may have been something that I only bought for bouldering with my friends, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite cars of all time.
Part of that is the fact that it handles like a dream both on and off-road and is probably the toughest car I’ve ever had the pleasure to drive. The other part stems from the amazing community of Subaru owners that basically adopted me as their own as soon as I showed up behind the wheel of one.
If my Outback ever bites the dust, I’ll likely stick with Subaru for my next car. And the next one after that. I think I’ve found my niche when it comes to car ownership and I can’t see myself ever going back. If that makes me a Subaru cultist, I’m proud to wave that weird little flag earnestly.