2003 Chevrolet Tahoe

Those of you who follow TTAC regularly and with some interest (so, 100 percent of you) are no doubt aware of a high-level used car search I’ve been conducting as of late. A rather unexpected purchase occurred this past Saturday while everyong was enjoying their long Labor Day weekend.

Come and have a look.

My search involves finding a suitable replacement for the giant beige Tahoe (pictured above) that’s occupied my driveway for the past year. Somewhere around month eight of ownership, it became clear the excess utility the excellent General Motors product provided was a bit wasted on me, a single person.

Without towing, child, or ornery pet responsibilities, it became a shuttle up and down the highway for family visits or regional travel, occasionally providing a ride to work (where it did not fit in part of the parking garage — too tall). It also carried items home from Lowe’s or wherever with aplomb. Still, ponderous handling and 14 mpg in town wears after a while. Time to hit the internet used car listings.

A few weeks ago I determined my price range and narrowed down my options. I wanted something well-equipped, comfortable, all-wheel drive, decently commodious for cargo, and something with a good reputation for reliability. Seven seats were not important, nor was a V8. This is all a part of the greater Corey’s Cars Plan, which sees a primary car in the garage (sporting rear-wheel drive and six or eight cylinders) while a practical all-weather vehicle sits outside.

Image: 2007 Lexus RX350, via Toyota

This criteria led me down the path to two vehicles; both different, and yet the same. The first one being a 2004-2006 Lexus RX330, and the second being a 2007-2009 RX350. The main difference between those is an engine with a timing chain rather than a belt, and a few interior and exterior details. It suited all the requirements I’d listed in my head (notice “cool” wasn’t one of them), and on paper was a safe choice.

Image, 2007 Lexus RX350, via Toyota

Until I got to the used listings, that is. There is a noticeable lack of second-generation RX models these days that are in good or better cosmetic and mechanical condition, haven’t done 175,000 miles, and are reasonable in asking price.

People (and dealers) with clean ones seem to want all the money, pricing them even above the fictional KBB asking prices. Irritating! I’d looked at three or four already, and none of them were even in good enough cosmetic condition to warrant a test drive. I just kept walking away.

Image: 2012 Subaru Key, image via eBay

However, an ad caught my eye on Friday, this one for a green wagon located about a half hour away from me, at a dealer. I’d done research on the model already, but dismissed it after I saw a couple for sale at lower trims or in poor condition. “Not my thing,” I said. But this example seemed a little different. It was clean, and the CarFax showed a history of regular servicing. So, Saturday afternoon I drove over through the humid, cool drizzle of  hurricane Harvey’s leftovers. A couple hours later, I had keys in my hand.


It’s a 2012 Subaru Outback, in Cypress Green Pearl with an ivory leather interior. It has the 2.5-liter engine (3.6R models are scarce on the ground) and a CVT. While that’s the wrong cylinder count and the wrong sort of transmission for most of you, just hear me out.


The Outback impressed me for what it did not do. It did not purport to be a Big Tough Truck like many CUVs out there. It did not have sporting pretensions about it that ruin the ride quality. It did not have low profile tires. There isn’t a big engine I won’t utilize which gulps down fuel. Practical.


This particular example is a Limited trim, and had most every box checked with exception to navigation. Yes, the wood trim is of course artificial.


Throughout the car, little touches err on the side of practicality and usefulness. Water bottle storage in every door, seats which fold down at the pull of a lever, a large cargo area. The middle seat belt strap goes up into the ceiling for storage when not in use, so it’s out of sight and out of mind.


The materials throughout seem like they’ll wear nicely (they are certainly not all premium, mind you), and there’s a feeling of solidity. The doors make a particularly nice, solid sound upon opening and closure.


It’s worth noting my dealership experience at Beechmont Subaru was quick and pleasant. No hard sell, no hours of negotiation, no pressuring. I came back an hour after signing on my offer, and my new ride was cleaned, vacuumed, filled with fuel, and the paperwork was ready for signature. This Outback is actually the first vehicle I’ve ever purchased from a dealer.


It rides nicely, is decently quiet (boxer engine noise is still there), and I’ve already been doing 28 miles to the gallon without trying. Count me as a satisfied wagon/CUV customer. The rest of the post-cleaning photos are found below.

[Images: Toyota, eBay, Corey Lewis]

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis

Image: 2012 Subaru Outback, image © Corey Lewis