Subaru Crosstrek: 'Love' is the right word, with one exception (CNET On Cars, Episode 99)
Super new cross trip.
Cool compact crossover with a [UNKNOWN].
Feeling your car without touching a thing except your phone, and the top five car tech upgrades for the thing you already drive.
It's time to check the tech.
[SOUND] Easy cars differently.
We love them on the road.
And under the hood.
But also check the tech and are known for telling it like it is.
Ugly is included at no extra cost.
The good, the bad, the bottom line.
This is c net ONCARS.
Welcome to c net ONCARS, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving.
I'm Brian [UNKNOWN].
You may have noticed, Subaru's been on fire the last handful of years and we've sampled their DNA recently with the WRX and the BRZ of course, but one of the more interesting vehicles that they field is in the quirky compact crossover category.
The Crosstrek, one that we haven't had our hands on yet, now we're gonna rectify that.
Let's drive the 16 Crosstrek, surfboard not included, and Check the Tech.
[SOUND] Now, Subie's Crosstrek goes right down the smokestack of the biggest trend in automotive right now, compact crossovers.
They are stealing share from all kinds of more prosaic passenger cars, yet they have to have utility cred.
And this guy would seem to have it all day long.
It's compact on the outside, yet spacious on the inside, with a very configurable usable rear cargo area.
It's got all-wheel drive, but doesn't kill you with all-wheel driveness.
You don't need to be a four-wheel drive wonk to get the most out of it.
And unlike some Subarus it doesn't look too much like [UNKNOWN] This has got a nice crisp urban flair.
Now, aside from this revised face, slightly freshened from the 16 model year, this car hasn't really changed since its inception.
You know the look and it's kind of a jaunty compact upright little thing with some nice sharp creases around it.
Honestly, it's about the coolest looking thing in the Subaru line up this side of the BRZ.
Now of course, if you've seen a Subaru t.v.
commercial you know what they do.
They beat you over the head with two things.
One, love, okay, we'll leave that aside.
The other one is superlative safety.
And you know what?
They've earned that one.
If you look at IIHS safety ratings.
The Crosstrek gets close to a perfect score in a virtual tie with the Mazda CX3, which also earned the top safety pick badge.
These are good little cars to be in When a big car veers your way.
I like that bolt like sound that Subaru doors make.
They don't weight a damn thing, but they sure sound good.
Now part of that really high safety rating I just talked about, comes right up here.
These are the dual stereo.
Colored camera's that make up one of the key components of the EyeSight system.
What this camera system see's helps power really good adaptive cruise control, lane departure detection, as well as forward collision warning and braking.
And not only is it one of the best systems in the business, it's really a good value as we're going to learn.
In the pricing segment later.
All around you, you've got very sharp displays.
A really crisp, very well laid out instrument panel.
Nothing fancy, except for that silly little MPG gauge that tells you pretty close to nothing.
You've got very rapid tough response, which I really appreciate.
When I'm on the road, I don't want to be fussing around, looking down twice.
To see if it understood what I touched.
Just do it.
Subaru's used to be known for very small, grainy, crunchy displays.
This is a nice spacious, very beautifully rendered map interface.
It still is automotive navigation.
Please say a command.
The voice command is usually frustrating.
You're just going to want to use your phone on a windshield mount.
Notice there's no "Android Auto" or "Car Play".
There's a 2017 "Impreza" that has those but not here in the "Crosstrek" yet.
Starlink is gonna bring you their telematic system.
Aha of course, brings together all kinds of different services, from podcasts, to Facebook updates, to streaming radio.
And up here is one that will just about always grayed out for most of you, MirrorLink, which in another technology To project your phone on this screen.
It supports more phones now than it used to, but not my Nexus 6p and not any iPhone.
And where I would normally give you a tour of the various drive controls in this car, there's not much to talk about.
You have a steering wheel, two pedals.
And a gear selector.
There is no sport mode button.
There is no economy mode button.
There is no fiddly doohickeys for off-road terrain mode.
There is no indication at all that this car is all wheel drive.
Subaru has admirable restraint for people who just want to get in the car, and have it figure things out.
Classic Subi story in here.
A two liter flat four, no turbo.
Look how low and flat that guy is.
I mean this isn't even engine, this is just plastic intake.
You gotta go another six inches to get to some metal, that's where the amazing things about the box, our engine upfront here.
And the flatness of symmetrical all wheel drive carries that theme on to the rest of the Car as well.
148 horsepower and 145 foot pounds of torque.
This is pretty modest stuff, to be honest.
And in this trim level, they can only get a continuously variable transmission, there is a five speed on other cross track trims.
Look at that oil filter.
Does anybody make an oil filter easier to get to?
I just want to change the oil, just because it's there One of the first delightful things about this car is you notice right away is really good ride quality, especially for something that doesn't weigh a whole lot and has high ground clearance, 8.7 inches or so.
But it never feels tippy.
Nothing harsh or cheap about it, I like that.
The next thing you notice about this car is unfortunately This transmission, this continuously variable transmission that is just too variable.
There are better ones on the market, let's put it that way.
This is like, an early one.
It feels like it's slippery and vague and revving up and down in only partial relationship to vehicle speed.
It takes what is already a pretty modest engine And makes it feel modester.
That's never good.
As I mentioned a minute ago, there are no controls, or buttons, or switches, or anything for the all-wheel drive.
It just kicks in when it needs to.
Now, note there are two different versions of the all-wheel drive.
In a manual transmission version, all it will do is buy us power between the front and rear steps of wheel, so front to back.
Starting with the default of 50/50.
In an automatic transmission car or CVT like we have, it'll also do torque splitting.
So front to back can also be varied by left and right to more intelligently put the torque where it belongs.
So it is a better, more sophisticated powertrain overall since this transmission sucks Okay now pricing our Cross Trek (this is the top of the line, the Limited) we're at about $26,000 delivered.
One option, package 23 they call it.
A little under three grand, but it's a good deal.
A moonroof comes with that, navigation is added to the seven inch screen, three year updates to the map, by the way.
Keyless access, pushbutton start, and that excellent EyeSight driver assist technology.
So all in, we're pushing about $29,000 on this guy, but I'm not gonna buy unlimited anyway [INAUDIBLE].
There is automotive history, at least since the recession Subaru isn't one of the
And check the deck.
Find more on the SUV cross-trek from the road show team over at TheRoadShow.com.
Now the trend these days is to create an app and a service to get just about anything you used to do, done by someone else.
And it's happening also to one of the most common things you can do with your car.
When cnet on cars returns.
Let's face it, it's not difficult, it's just a pain in the ****.
Always fueling up your car, five or ten minutes you could probably spend doing something better.
What wouldn't be better than gassing up?
It's out of your way, almost always as common as gas stations are.
And sometimes it's just damn cold standing out here, depending where you live.
So now there's a startup out there that says they'll fill up your car, not by taking it somewhere but by coming to it with the gas.
Enroll, install the app and live in the Bay area, for now, and you're set to go.
When you need gas, it's kind of like ordering an Uber car.
The current quoted price is displayed and there's either a zero $3 or $5 fueling charge added on top of that before you click yes.
Now, some are gonna blanch at that price.
Others are gonna say, hell yeah, sign me up.
I think if you drive one of these you're in the latter group.
Now, you have to remember to leave your fuel door unlatched, which I can see being forgotten often and wasting everybody's time.
Now, Filld currently works From 9A to 5P, and then from 9P to 5A.
In other words, 24 hours, except for afternoon and morning drive.
Now, if you're wondering about the efficiency of putting in one more fleet of vehicles on the road to do something we didn't need vehicles for in the past, [INAUDIBLE] said this way.
It's a lot better to have a relatively few trucks bringing gas to thousands of cars And thousands of cars running around to try to find the gas.
Now they setting around this battery as their demo car because it has something pretty rare.
The ability for the field personnel using a telematics app to open just a few door on this car.
Most other vehicles tie the entire lock system together so that the fuel door are locked to other doors and well You gotta leave your door open manually.
That's pretty 20th century.
If something like this were to take off, you could see auto makers adding what I imagine is just a few lines of code to make the fuel door a separately accessible lock.
The big upside to all this whether it's Field or anyone else who does mobile fueling Is that this plays into what they call mobility services.
The automakers interest in saying we don't just sell you a car we sell you all the services that go around what you need to get where you have to go.
Fueling can certainly be part of that.
And you can see where it's a natural part of perhaps an automaker or your selling dealers.
Service offerings, as much as it might be from a third party.
Okay, let's get to some of your emails now.
This first one comes in from Charles M., who has a question about the ethics of self-driving cars.
He says in episode 98, you mentioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [INAUDIBLE] reviewing effects.
And their certification of self-driving vehicles.
Doe the industry have a common code, he asks, of robotic car behaviour.
Is there currently anything like Asimov's famous three laws of robotics for self driving?
And is the industry working on protecting against tampering with the brains of these cars?
This is like I can only imagine what it would be like when kick turns into car.
Interesting [UNKNOWN] there.
Well Charles, let's take a look at the ethics of Self-driving Cars.
If you happen to be a guy who reads the C/net magazine, the actual magazine that we print, before Issue from last year had an article I did about the ethics of self-driving cars.
You get your hands on that, and you get a nice deep dive.
The bottom line is these NHTSA guidelines on self-driving cars, which include ethics as one of the dozen or more components.
Are very important, they put ethics on the map.
Something you've never seen in car engineering or regulation before.
Now, exactly what that means and what the test will be is still TBD.
We're just in a public comment period right now about the entire guideline set.
But can tell you this, the ethical framework of cars will not be putting ethics in the vehicle and it's processing, It will not make ethical decisions.
It will follow a rote Set of rules the ethical decision process.
The values will be imbued in the software obviously by the developers who create it.
And that's where the real ethical discussion will happen.
The car will be a relatively rote executor of what is in its code base obviously.
We don't want cars out there making decisions willy-nilly that's a lot of years away.
Advanced centers and vehicle to vehicle will also be a fairly important part of this further down the road.
Because right now for a car to decide if I have to hit something, who gets hit?
Is pretty crude logic, compared to the future where the car may know who is in given car based on sensors or vehicle to vehicle signaling.
If a school bus can let other self driving cars around it know that it's a school bus, the vehicle can do a better job of saying "that is my least favorite target if I have to hit something" for example.
The over arching principle here though is that we're going to see hard decisions.
coded in cars.
That doesn't happen now.
The hard decisions are made by us with all of our human foibles.
We're either distracted, drowsy, drunk, or just no good at driving, and we end up having accidents, as we call them.
In the future, there won't be accidents in that sense.
Everything, in theory Will be calculable and forseeable, with a software based decision on what should hit what if there's no other outcome.
And that leads to a new and awkward era of awesome responsibility.
Okay, our next email comes in from Jake C.
He's writing in from Cambridge Mass.
He says, I've got a question on the depreciation of used cars that do not have Some of more advanced autonomous features that we're seeing, like lane departure warning, automatic cruise control, blind spot detection.
He says, I'm assuming there's gonna be big depreciation on these not so smart cars?
Okay Jake, this is a really interesting question, because we're in historically unusual time of technological foment in cars.
We've rarely seen them advance as fast as we do right now.
So you have some real risk of being caught with a car that feels really old in just a few years from now.
Let me give you just a few pointers that come to mind.
First of all, take a look at the recent history of electric cars.
Some electric cars came out, even as recently as five years ago, with short-range long, charge times.
And older nickel and metal hydride batteries.
Very soon thereafter you had lithium ion batteries that weighed less, took the car a lot further and they had higher speed chargers built in.
Night and day in just a few model years.
You can't give away some of the earliest electric cars, So there's a very clear roadmap to look at from the recent past.
Also take a look at a technology in a car, whether it's mature and/or required by law or not Because the ones that are mature and regulated tend to evolve much more slow and our last risk of major depreciation compared to the ones that are moving fast in a part of mobile wild west of technology.
Also take a look at whether or not the technology in your car s stand alone.
A system system that works on its own like rain departure Or one where you have a car maker stitching systems together.
Look what Tesla does with autopilot.
Or what Mercedes or Volvo do.
Taking what last year were a couple of independent assist technologies.
And now they also have to work together to create some partial self-driving.
That's gonna have more legs than the stand alone technologies of just a model year or two ago.
And the biggest theme overall is consumer interest.
JD Power looks at this stuff all the time, and they constantly find that consumers, even of really high end cars, are very excited about all the new tech in them.
And then if they've had the care for awhile, they get down to really being delighted by two or three basic features.
And a lot of the other stuff ends up just being bell and whistles they don't value.
Which is also gonna trickle down to those options being of less value in the resale market.
The resale markets not stupid it knows where the pricing ought to be on these features.
So make sure you're focused most on the features in a new car that are going to have real durable appeal.
Based on where real human appetite's are among car buyers.
Don't get too caught up in something being cool, necessarily supporting better value later.
Okay, our last email for this episode comes in from Ryan L in Toronto who says, I was recently looking to upgrade my 2004 Acura TL, base trim with an automatic to something newer.
But he says, I changed my mind because I felt like I was downgrading it In class unless I spent more than $50K on a new car.
Is there any way, he says, I can add tech to my car and bring it up to date?
Like an Android auto head unit or just adding bluetooth without using one of those [UNKNOWN] FM bluetooth transmitter add on.
So I'm totally with you.
Add on, tech on stuff does not make a car feel more modern Or more advanced, does it?
It just, it's more clutter in the cabin.
Here's a couple of pointers, I know this question is so good.
I'm actually going to do a top five coming up, in just a few moments, of the five best upgrades you can do to your car and rank them.
But, in big picture terms, I can tell you right now the number one thing to do is to add a. A new head unit.
The whole infotainment radio navigation main unit in your dash.
Now the problem on your 04 TL, from what I can tell in a quick glance, is you've got the infotainment system from the factory spread across two different locations in the center console.
That is a very proprietary layout.
You can't just go buy some aftermarket head unit and drop it in there.
Normally you go by what's called the dash kit, its a new vessel basically that allows you to put a standard double dim nice large after mark head unit in there.
I can't find one for you car, now it could be missing it but the big maker like Scosche and Metra were best known for this kind of thing, I'm not seeing one.
But you wanna call one or both of them and say what have you got?
To retrofit a double din head unit into my O4TLs center stack.
Now another interesting bucket of innovation here are some new add-ons you couldn't have done a couple years ago.
Including blind spot detection technology, forward collision warning.
These are areas you couldn't add to your own car until very recently.
So be aware that there is that additional bucket.
On top of things like infotainment that is very well known.
And one that always comes to mind when I get this question is cameras, cameras, cameras.
If your car doesn't have a rear view camera, I don't think it would, that 04 TL.
What a great addition.
And you can do that without changing your center dash by getting a new kind of a mirror that has a video screen built in.
This can be a really satisfying one-day project if you are at all handy working on cars and for very little money.
And many of these also have a forward-looking dash cam.
It looks out your windshield.
Really handy for capturing the madness on our roads can either make you a very popular YouTube publisher or more seriously can be very handy when it's time to fill out an insurance claim or a police report.
Those are some good On line there.
But sit tight I got a top five that lists them in a little bit more specific order and depth, good question.
When I come back we'll continue along the lines of Ryan's e-mail with a look at the top five car tech upgrades to consider for your current car, when cnet on cars returns.
Welcome back to CNet on cars coming to you from our home at the mount tan motor club just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Okay I'm gonna rank these top five car tech upgrades, largely based In the kind of volume of request we've received from you via email over the last couple of years as well as what I know about how well this technologies work and don't cuz you just you can do something, doesn't mean you to be satisfied with it after you do it.
Let's get started.
Number 5 is a HUD, or a Head Up Display.
It's Head Up by the way not heads up just for you grammar geeks.
This is still rare even in new cars and such a cool idea.
I know that it's gonna be big with us one day for now though there are a number of manufactures most of them startups actually who make some interesting units that kind of mount on top of your dash.
What they can project is speed, traffic conditions, navigation instructions, hands free messaging assist, just a whole basket of really useful prompts and information.
I keep this down at number five because I think this category could use a little bit more maturation in terms of the quality of the devices as well as how well they integrate with cars.
Okay, number four-
I get a lot of requests about this one.
is Remote Start.
Now in the old days you could add a kit that would give you a key fob to remote start, nowadays it's all about doing it From a phone app or a smart watch app.
I put this at number 4 though, because it is very dependant on where you live.
If you're in a climate, especially cold climate folks, write in and ask about this, and how sensitive you are to cold climate.
Now, know that todays system can work over the cloud.
So, your car doesn't need to be near the key fob or your phone in this case.
It goes over the cloud to be remote started from just about anywhere.
And that means it can also roll in some nice sort of OnStar like features to locate the car, operate the lights, check the locks, etcetera.
Number three is blind spot warning technology.
Now this is actually very new in the after market.
Hasn't been around that.
And the latest wrinkle is you can add a kit in your rear bumper that will actually use the same kind of radar technology that the factory systems use.
It can be pricey, pushing $700 or so.
But you end up with a very OEM style indication of who's back there in your blind spot.
I ranked this relatively high also because JD Power finds that among all the different with the car tech we have these days, this one is a home run.
69% of people say they love it and use it everyday.
One of number 2 is the one im most excited about we show you a couple of tips on this one and the is a video mirror rearview mirror.
A rearview mirror.
It's got a video screen in it, and also video input, so it can bring in the image from a rear cam that you might add, as well as the mirror having a forward viewing cam integrated in it, a so called dash cam.
Now, on top of all that, almost all of these have a little sold Say TiVo, a DVR built in to record what's happening as you drive in front of your car.
These are also typically very inexpensive, maybe $200 and one afternoon to put them in if you know what you're doing at all.
The down side is it's mostly third party or off brand so shop carefully but everyone loves cameras in their
Before I get to the number one, I made a spot her for a special honorary mention and that is this enormous class of what are called OBD2 devices or tools.
It's a [UNKNOWN] you put up underneath your dash and the OBD2 port that can do almost anything.
I can do a top five of these alone.
You've got Verizon's Hum.
You've go auto insurance companies offering these.
You've got Automatic.
You've got many others that can give you either prompts on how to drive better.
They tell you the vehicle health of your car when it needs service.
It helps you diagnose and clear those trouble codes that are behind the check engine light.
Or, be great for recording your performance at the track.
I put these in a special mention because they do so many different things.
They kind of could take over the whole list and because they can very quickly become automotive TMI if you don't wanna dig this deep.
Number one is literally your number one this is the most requested email topic I get, and that is how can I change the screen in my dash to just be like my smartphone.
And now a days you can do it.
The number one upgrade is to put in a new Android Auto or CarPlay head unit.
Pioneer, Alpine, Sony, these are some of the guys that make them.
For about $700 to $1000, you can get a really nice unit that gives you all the functions of your smart phone, like your smartphone because the software was designed by the folks that engineered your smartphone Can go and should go.
The only downside here is these are double DIN standard size units.
They can be a lot of work to fit into some of the customized dashboards of many cars today.
But, if you can find a dash kit that allows you to do that, this is your number one upgrade, to make you feel like your driving a 2017.
Thanks for watching.
Hope you enjoyed this episode.
As usual, keep the comments coming.
I read every single one.
If you do send me a question, include the city you're writing from, and it it's about your car, attach a couple photos of it, as well.
We'll try and get it in the show.
And I'll see you the next time we Check the Tech.