2014 Subaru Forester and 2013 Mini Cooper Countryman S All4


The 2014 Subaru Forester and 2013 Mini Cooper Countryman S All4. (Photo courtesy of Ford and MINI)
Warren Brown
Columnist February 22, 2013

There is no apparent end to the spousal debate over replacing one of two aging workhorses in our family fleet.

But a freak snowstorm and a rash act of fiscal austerity may have tipped the argument in my favor.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

Mary Anne, my wife, is a romantic. She wants another Mini Cooper—“something cute and fun,” albeit a larger model than the front-wheel-drive, two-door 2001 hatchback we now use at the house in Northern Virginia. She has her eyes, and seemingly her heart, set on an all-wheel-drive, four-door 2013 Mini Cooper Countryman S All4 wagon.

I want another Subaru, something along the lines of the Outback Limited wagon that got us through several rough winters in New York’s Hudson Valley. I’m hot for the 2014 edition of the Subaru Forester wagon that goes on sale late this spring.

I find my logic sterling and view hers as faulty. And a bad decision on fiscal austerity, now owned by no one, may have tipped the argument in my favor.

We somehow arrived at the conclusion that it made no sense to pay an annual fee of nearly $1,000 to have the large circular driveway at our New York home plowed after snowfalls. We figured we could do it ourselves — until a freak winter storm left nearly four inches of wet, heavy snow packed in the driveway.

Luckily, well before the storm, we chose to move the Outback wagon to Virginia for the winter. On returning here for a “house check,” we drove up clean, well-plowed local roads to turn into a driveway that resembled a wild winter wonderland. But the Outback, equipped with a 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine (165 horsepower, 166 foot-pounds of torque) and a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, got us in and out of the driveway easily.

That performance greatly impressed Mary Anne, so I pressed what appeared to be my lobbying advantage.

“The new Forester wagon does even better,” I said. “They’ve fixed the rear suspension and everything. The ride is more comfortable. You’ll love it.”

She retorted:

“That All-Four Countryman comes with all-wheel drive. It moves better on the highway. And it’s a lot prettier.”

Subaru, unfortunately, routinely leaves me defenseless in the matter of automotive styling. The company’s design and engineering mind-set is practicality. It has no concept of “pretty” or “cute.” But I told Mary Anne that the new Forester has “some” style to it, including a surprisingly attractive and comfortable interior.

She knocked that one back across the table with a dismissive, derisive “Some?”

I retreated to hard points, mentioning that the new Forester came with an improved 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine — gasoline direct injection (that always sounds knowledgeable), 170 horsepower, 174 foot-pounds of torque, a bit more horsepower and torque than our Outback. “And it gets better fuel economy,” I said (24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway).

Not to be outflanked with “facts,” she went to her iPad and pulled up numbers for the 2013 Mini Countryman S All4 —1.6-liter in-line four-cylinder engine, 181 horsepower, 177 foot-pounds of torque, 25 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway.

“But it requires premium gasoline and the new Forester doesn’t,” I said. “And don’t forget how much money we spent fixing your Mini [nearly $6,000 in “routine” repairs in the past three years] compared with what we spent on the Outback [barely $2,000 in the same period].”

She replied: “We really only use the Outback when we’re in Cornwall.” I couldn’t let that one go.

“It snows all the time in Cornwall,” I said. “It hardly snows at all in Northern Virginia.”

Which gave her an opportunity to pounce:

“Is that why you canceled the plowing contract here?”

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