Although I am not fan of Game of Thrones series, I really hope that (Subaru) winter is coming. Last time there was maybe three days when we had snow on the ground at area where I live. For a Subaru owner that is way too few days. As I don’t know full meaning of “winter is coming” expression, I would assume that it is something to do with villains and something “bad” is going to happen. If that is the case, then the whole title for a blog post is bit confusing. As there is nothing wrong in the winter, specially if you own a Subaru. But you have to admit it, title sounds fun! So let’s keep it.
This blog post is about how Subaru Forester e-Boxer performs at winter and what additional accessories you should carry, in case winter is really coming.
I got already my winter tires changed. Usually I let others to do this work for me. I don’t enjoy that work particularly and also I don’t have that much storage room to store other tires. So it is just easier to pay to tire shop. Price is 120€ for the job and price includes storing tires for the whole season. Way I see it, price is just part of the “fun” of owning a car. Maintenance costs in other words.
This time I survived without any TPMS errors. Either they knew what to do or car remembered previous tires. I suspect latter as it should remember paired tires. I was almost going to turn around and head back to the repair shop and complain that car does not show tire pressures on the dash but it took around 10 minutes of driving to get the readings. Usually readings comes in few minutes.
Winter tires I am using are Continental Viking Contact 7 (non-studded), specially designed to North European conditions. Surprisingly I find winter tires more pleasant to drive than the summer tires which came along with the car. Winter tires are much softer, absorbing road noise better. Which is a very important feature if road surface is rough. Typically roads are much smoother e.g. in Central Europe. Sometimes it feels that rough tarmac is “Finland only” type of problem.
Tires has also impact to the fuel consumption. Based on my experiences 17″ winter tires is better for fuel economy compared to 18″ tires I have as summer tires. But then again, there are some other attributes, which has a negative impact to fuel consumption. So overall figures should be somewhere under 9 liters per 100 km.
One important thing with tires, winter or summer, is to ensure that you have right pressure. Colder weather impacts to the tire pressures. So if the outside temperature drops rapidly before you start your journey, please make sure to visit fuel / service station where you can check the readings. Subaru recommendations are printed to the B pillar of the car. I.e. open driver’s door and you should be able to find correct settings from there. Little over pressure does not harm.
Subaru Forester headlights
As you can see from the featured photo, it is already darn dark. It gets dark already quite early during this time of year. Sunset is at 16.30 (4.30 pm). And darkest day of the year 2020 is 21st of December. We have sun light only for 5 hours 49 minutes. So good headlights are essential equipment of any car. Based on my experience Forester lights are not the best possible you can have but well above average still. Steering responsive headlights helps a lot! Funny fact is that I can speak of low beam performance so far. I have owned car soon almost for one year and never got in a situation where I would need high beams. If everything goes as planned, there will be one trip still during this month where I surely will use high beams as well.
E.g. German brands has matrix type of LED headlights, where array of led lights are emitted and dimmed depending of the situation. This type of system seems to work really well and you can almost drive high beams on all the time as it won’t blind oncoming traffic. Japanese manufacturers seems to be more conservative in this regard. Not sure does even Lexus have matrix led available? Please comment if you have insight.
Good headlights is one part of the story but then is overall outwards visibility. In good daylight or during night. Think about a car that does not have good headlights and then the outwards visibility is limited. I wouldn’t feel comfortable to drive that type of car. Forester excels in this regard. It has good lights and superb all-around-visibility.
My favorite feature has been heated steering wheel. Even last winter was like it did not exists at all, cold autumn days made me to put heating on the steering wheel. It is just that good. Living without it is like walking in a snow blizzard without gloves (I was almost comparing it like walking in a blizzard without pants but that does not make sense, does it?).
Forester does have also heated windshield under the wipers. Same feature was also available on previous generation Forester and generation before that one. However, this feature sounds nicer than actually it is. When there is thick ice on the windshield, it requires quite much heating before it has any use.
But what is equally good feature with the heated steering wheel, is heated front seats. Heating system has three levels, instead of two. Which is quite traditional way at least in Toyotas to have only low/hi options for front seats heating. I find this three level working quite well. Usually I start with highest setting and then drop it to level 1 and eventually power it off.
X-Mode at winter
This I really look forward to see how it works in my real world scenario. Home yard has 10 degree slope, which first requires reversing from the garage to middle of that ascent. Stop the car and change to Drive. I have eye witnessed many cars stuck on that hill. Lost people in wrong place, neighbors trying to climb icy hill with their FWD cars and even I have failed that hill with my previous car (Prius) few times .
So first time there is snow or ice, I will probably have urgent need to go to grocery store or make a Lottery coupon. Just to see how the X-Mode works. I doubt it works just fine, and I can go that hill up without any extra effort. After all it is already legendary Subaru Symmetrical All Wheel Drive. Even though current setup misses limited slip differential (LSD) locks but still car should be very capable in AWD performance. At least in it’s own SUV category. I would say Wrangler and similar are not in this category.
X-Mode features also hill descent control, which should come very handy in the situation I described above. Maybe not very often needed but I remember few times with Prius that it was some what difficult to descent steep hills. Although Toyota’s hybrid systems (at least that Prius) had very strange brake feel, which had a major impact to hill descent capabilities. Forester does have very natural brake feel.
Floor liners and mats
I reported at July on this blog that I bought Weathertech floorliners. Since then I have not hoovered under those mats, until yesterday when I went to wash my car. I knew those Weathertech products are good but that good. There was only few sand particles under the mats. That was a nice surprise for me. This is important specially during winter, when it is better to avoid all snow and dirt to go under mats. It’s simply very big difference when comparing Subaru’s original mats to these Weathertech products. So in other words it is not the same do you have floor mats or floor liners. Difference between these two are that mats are just name says they are. Mats. As floor liners does have a higher edges protecting dirt to go under “mat”.
Other useful stuff to carry in car during winter
Other miscellaneous stuff needed during winter is clothing. Sure Subaru has a good heating system for a whole cabin but as any car, there might be failures when you least expect. E.g. during longer trip and when waiting assistance to be arrived, it is better to have some warm clothing. Do not forget gloves and hat.
Flashlight is good tool also in the darkness. Specially if you have a car failure, this little gadget helps to investigate if there is any visible cause. Luckily all modern smartphones does have a flashlight capability, so light might be closer than you thought. Although smartphone does not hold battery very well in cold temperatures. So it is better to have a separate flashlight with the extra battery.
Snow brush is essential equipment to take extra snow off from top pf your car. However I like also to avoid scratching paintjob of the precious car. So make it gently. Other end of the brush is useful also to peel off frozen ice from the windshield.
To sum it up, a proper winter car has good headlights, you don’t need to freeze inside the cabin, you can see out from the cabin and snowy conditions just makes you more eager to drive your car. And you have prepared for some surprising events that might happen during journey with any car.
Subaru winter, you’re most welcome to come!