Home » One Guy Is In Charge Of Forester, WRX, And BRZ For Subaru In America – The Autopian Podcast

One Guy Is In Charge Of Forester, WRX, And BRZ For Subaru In America – The Autopian Podcast

Stokes Subaru
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It’s the final in our series of podcasts we shot with designers and product experts at the LA Auto Show, and this time we’ve got Bill Stokes, who is the product line manager for Subaru of America who covers the Forester, BRZ, and WRX. That’s a super interesting mix of vehicles.

This podcast, presented by our friends at Marble, was shot a few weeks ago and features our own Beau Boeckmann, Stephen Walter Gossin, and David Tracy. There’s no Jason in this episode but that’s merely because he was off checking out the show when we recorded it (and, I guess, stretching out his aorta?)

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We opened up this podcast with a Jason update, mostly because we wanted everyone to know how he was doing. In the interim, he released his own information about what happened. So there’s a lot of that. If you’re not into it you can skip ahead to the end to hear from Bill.

There’s a lot of good stuff here and it’s interesting to hear from Bill about how he manages to represent both the new 2025 Subaru Forester crossover as well as the BRZ sports car and WRX rally-inspired sedan. While the customer bases aren’t entirely the same (his mom drives a WRX and his dad drives a Forester, for instance), maybe they aren’t as different as you’d think.

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“We find that often you’ll have a WRX owner that has a Forester or an Outback or a Crosstrek as a family car,” says Stokes. “The core technology is the same, from one to the other. The WRX has basically the same AWD system as the Forester does.”

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Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
3 months ago

Too bad there’s no more Forester XT, especially when turbos have gotten so popular now.

The WRX needs to be an Impreza again. The hatchback is more useful.

Small Fact0ry
Small Fact0ry
3 months ago

I got a kick out of this one and the discussion of the one-time Subaru owners: my wife purchased a new 2014 Impreza, and we kept have to replace wheel bearings, and other similar items. After all Hondas and Toyotas, I thought it was just us and some dumb luck. After all that, and then some crazy electrical gremlins, we dumped it and moved on. On the positive, between the stick shift and studded snow tires, it was amazing in the snow…

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
3 months ago

Jokes are a good way to cope with awful stuff! I can’t blame y’all for making some jokes about the heartsplosion. This is a hella stressful situation and we’re all glad Jason’s on the mend.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
3 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Also, those PITA owner complaints about Subarus are why I’m glad I ended up with a Mitsu, haha. I don’t have to have Stockholm Syndrome about it! It’s plasticky, but it’s honest and it works.

Andrew Pappas
Andrew Pappas
3 months ago

Ok, but not all Subaru people can have a wrx AND a Forester.

In 2005, when I got a wrx wagon, you could also get a legacy wagon with a turbo and a manual, and a Forester with a turbo and a manual. It allowed for more people to have more fun in more ways. I miss those days.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Pappas

The lack of a WRX wagon or a Forester w manual&turbo are the reason I don’t drive a Subaru. Hatches are useful, and manuals are engaging.

But I continue to hold out hope that the WRX will return with a hatch. One day.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
3 months ago

Must be easy to manage the new BRZ business in America as they are essentially nonexistent.

Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago

Fanboy here. Wheel bearings? Both my 1996 Legacy (Alaska car) and 2003 Legacy (was California car) wagons are on their original, smooth, quiet wheel bearings. Subaru wheel bearing failures are a salt belt issue. If the CV axle ends that fit against the rear hub bearings are rusty or missing a dust cap, the wheel bearings will fail again quickly. Here’s a discussion of the which ones had problems and why they sometimes fail multiple times and how you might avoid that:

Wheel Bearings – 1990 to Present Legacy, Impreza, Outback, Forester, Baja, WRX&WrxSTI, SVX – Ultimate Subaru Message Board

I’m a big fan of pre-2005 Subarus, primarily the Legacys that car nuts like to ignore. In the Legacys at least, the interior plastics were good up through the 3rd Gen — my 2003’s interior looks new after 20 years. 2005 and later, the plastics became cheaper feeling and the radio (switching away from double DIN)/climate control in the 4th Gen became failure prone.

My 1996 Legacy Brighton 5MT wagon is the holy grail of reliable Subarus with the legendary EJ22. At 219K miles, it’s on original head gaskets, original clutch, has never had a major repair despite me neglecting it as a shitbox for half the time I’ve owned it (before I bought a house with a garage). It has only cost me $4K total maintenance (about $160 per year) in the 24 years I’ve owned it including wear items like tires.

A ’97 Legacy Brighton 5MT wagon recently sold for $18K on Bring a Trailer, highlighting the desirability of that EJ22 packaged into a tidy medium-size wagon with a bigger cargo area than mid-size SUVs. (The Brighton is the stripper model with crank windows. . . mine doesn’t even have a right-side mirror). Changing the discussion, the Legacy 5MT Brighton wagons had a curb weight under 2,900 lbs. I love that it’s so lightweight for its size/cargo capacity. Lego some WRX parts in it and rallycross wagon (as Mercedes has seen at some of those events she goes to).

My 2003 had one major flaw compared to my 1996 — the head gasket. On mine, it was fixed before my ownership (for under $2000 per the service records). That’s a permanent fix if MLS head gaskets are used. The engine is otherwise reliable. The head gasket even fails “gracefully” with external oil leaks that you can nurse along for tens of thousands of miles, never mixing oil with coolant or overheating (unlike the worst EJ, the EJ25D in the late ’90s Subarus). If the rest of the car is in great shape like mine is (zero rust, zero leaks, mechanically 100% perfect), $2K to keep a car running another 15+ years is money well spent, and why you see so many old Subarus still on the road (at least in areas with less salt) as opposed to similar age BMWs, etc. In my case, I’m not treating my 2003 as a shitbox, so it will last me forever barring an accident. It’s a good 300lbs heavier than the Gen 2 though.

I’m such a fan of the old Legacys that my ultimate dream car wouldn’t be some exotic car but would be a Gen 2 Legacy wagon built like the $500K Prodrive P25 Impreza (or if Vermont Sports Car were commissioned to do such a wagon). Make the body in carbon fiber, turn it into a WRC wagon, but keep the full interior and set it up for usability in everyday driving. Style wise, the Gen 2 Legacy shares its looks with the GC8 Impreza, and those are my favorite Subarus. Something about the ’90s and big windows. That’s the era I’ll always like (Radwood, I guess). I know manufacturers like to make changes for sales reasons, but I like the idea of keeping car styles static when they are good, like VW Beetles for ages, Porsche 911s for a long time, Volvo 140/240 series. That’s even an aspect about Teslas that I like (though I don’t like Teslas), though it’s been a point of criticism for them. Legacys and Outbacks have been ugly since 2010.

Current Subarus? For me they are so-so compared to other manufacturer’s cars. I’m not a fan of new cars in general — I don’t want screens and driving nannies, I don’t like that they are all connected, and I’m anti-gadgets (most luxury features in cars) in general. But I like Subaru things that they still do/support like, uh. . . large windows, Travis Pastrana, Vermont Sports Car, the Family Huckster, Brandon Semenuk, the BRZ, WRX TR, and Levorg (which needs to come to the US in WRX TR form. . . give us back the non-lifted wagons).

Last edited 3 months ago by Lightning
Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago
Reply to  Lightning

Add: Between my two Legacys and a Loyale before that (that was unfortunately totaled), I’ve had 29 total years of reliable Subaru ownership with zero spent on head gaskets or wheel bearings, on cars I bought used, never had monthly car payment, and had super low cost of ownership, plus fun to drive in the snow (my 2003 is fun to drive on dry twisties too). Can’t ask for better. My girlfriend’s Toyota Sienna by itself has had a lot more problems in the past ten years, including wheel bearings now (which probably won’t be fixed because car is done in by rust). My 3-year 3rd Gen Toyota Prius ownership had me thinking I was lucky that I avoided needing a new head gasket before I totaled it in a caribou collision.

Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago
Reply to  Lightning

P.S. Consider doing a gavel gazing review of pre-2010 Legacy/Outback wagons. Between JDM twin turbos, H6 L.L. Beans, and Brighton strippers, good ones have held a surprising amount lot of value on BaT and Cars and Bids compared to similar vintage wagons from other manufacturers like Volvo or BMW.

Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

Here’s a Car and Driver wagon comparison in 2000, where the Outback finished last (partly due to it being an Outback instead of Legacy, Subaru better anticipating the lifted wagon trend) but, 23 years later, it’s the one that has the most still on the road (people think it’s worth it to keep them on the road) and is the most desirable used (assuming good condition). From the Archive: Finding the Best Station Wagon of 2000 (caranddriver.com)

It was interesting to see this 2003 Legacy (link below), which is the same color and spec as my 2003 except automatic transmission instead of manual, sell on BaT for $13,750. In 2003, all Legacy Ls were Special Editions with those classic, Subaru snowflake alloys, fog lights, and the dual moonroof—a very pretty wagon especially with those wheels if I do say so myself. I bought mine in 2019 for $2100 sight unseen off craigslist in a different state (CA, near my parents), thinking that at that price, I might have to do the head gaskets. But it had already been done. I spent money and wrenching time to make it perfect mechanically (new struts, new clutch and tires a year later, etc.), so all-in, it cost me about double the purchase price. I’m very pleased that the sight-unseen, calculated gamble worked out. I won’t ever sell it, but it’s worth at least $10K to me in terms of utility and what it would cost to get another one and make it nice. Considering that, I should really upgrade my insurance to an agreed-value plan, showing this auction as support.

At that time in 2019, after I bought mine, but while still looking for a car for my dad, I saw another 2003 low mile garage queen identical in every way to this BaT car for $6500 on craigslist. (My dad eventually got a not-as-clean 2005 Outback L.L. Bean with the H6 for $8K.) Now a clean one is going for more than double that with people knowing it will eventually need head gaskets (though probably $70K+ miles into the future).
No Reserve: 31k-Mile 2003 Subaru Legacy L Wagon for sale on BaT Auctions – sold for $13,750 on February 16, 2023 (Lot #98,589) | Bring a Trailer

Last edited 3 months ago by Lightning
Lightning
Lightning
3 months ago
Reply to  Lightning

I suppose the takeaway from that wheel bearing discussion on Ultimate Subaru is that you might be able to prevent wheel bearing failure from happening. When you’re doing the oiling/Krown/Fluid Filming to prepare the car for a rust belt winter, make sure to get the interface between the CVs and the wheel hubs—don’t let the CV ends get rusty.

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