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Introducing the Dad Wagon!

Rob April 25, 2018

The Dad Wagon

Over time, we have owned a lot of vehicles, and much to the chagrin of my beautiful wife, we still have quite a few. We have always had Jeeps, have built seven, they have been our daily drivers for a very long time. With our family recently expanding, I needed to move on from my 2008 Jeep JK Rubicon 2-door to something easier to get the kids in and out of the back. We still have my wife’s 4-door Jeep which is perfect for the kids, but my 2-door is not as cooperative for little ones. The 2-door can work, but with my daughter going to be rear facing for at least 2 years, it was time for me to look for a less expensive and 4-door option. We drive my wife’s Jeep more than my vehicles usually so I did a lot of research and figured out my criteria. I wanted something:

  • Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for our Indiana winters (if possible)
  • More power than my Jeep (which isn’t difficult to find when running on 35″ tires)
  • Fun
  • Reliable
  • 4-doors

Some of the vehicles I was looking at were Tahoes, Cadillac CTS-V’s, VW GTI’s, Trailblazer SS’s, and Subaru’s. 

Tahoe’s and Cadillac’s were out of my price range for what I wanted. The Volkswagen GTI is a great car and we have owned quite a few VW’s as well, but it was only 2-wheel drive and I wanted to do something different.

Then I started looking for Subaru Forester XT’s. If you are not familiar with the Forester XT, it is the turbo-charged version of the Forester. I had Forester’s from the mid-2000’s have the same engine as the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, but with a smaller turbo. I had also read reports of sub-six second 0 to 60 mph times and 13.9 quarter-mile times. I am not sure if this is true or not, but I was willing to find out. Once I had figured out a 2004 to 2008 Forester XT is what I was looking for, I found out the Forester XT is not easy to find. People who have them, seem to love them, do not necessarily want to sell them, or they have over 200k miles on them. The only ones I could find in my price range were quite a distance away. I found ones in Wisconsin, D.C., Boston, and a couple other places. I was actually preparing to fly to D.C. and purchase one I hadn’t even seen in person. I decided to search a little more and I also joined the forum SubaruForester.org to check out their classified section and read a ton of information. I found a listing for a 2007 Forester XT with quite a few upgrades at the top end of my price range. The only thing was the owner was going to be moving to Florida on Saturday and this was Monday. It was about a 2-hour drive but we decided to meet on Thursday.

This is the car when it was done by the original owner. Note the wheels were white.

Before we met, I thought I would do some research on the car and see what I could find out. I actually was able to find the original owner’s build thread on the website and read about every modification he had done to the car. He was a previous STI owner who wanted a family car like his STI, which somewhat described me. My mind was mostly made up before I had even seen the car unless I could find some flaws to break the deal. So we loaded up the whole family and we went south to check out this Subaru. The current owner wanted someone who would take care of the car and I assured him I would be good to it if the deal works out. The guy arrived at our meeting place, he was an older gentleman who obviously loved his car, and I could tell he was not even sure he wanted to get rid of it. He actually had a trailer ready to take the car with him to Florida. 

The first things I noticed as he was pulling up was how the original headlights had been replaced with stunningly bright Lightwerkz HID headlights and the awesome sound coming from the turbo-back Cobb Tuning exhaust. It was not too loud or too quiet, it was perfect. Then as he backed in to spot next to us, I could see the 18-inch Rota G-Force wheels (which were plasti-dipped black) wrapped in Hankook tires which looked great with the Swift lowering springs on KYB struts (no I couldn’t see the springs as he backed in, but I knew what was on there). The car does not sit super low, but it is lower for a Subaru Forester. 

Next it was time for the test drive. When I first sat down, the seat was comfortable and in great shape. It has lumbar adjustments, which is a nice feature for those long drives. We decided to go out and around the block. I was reserved on how hard I pushed the gas, but it was quite peppy with a slight touch to the accelerator. To my left was the Cobb Tuning Accessport showing the turbo PSI, and to my right was a Bluetooth enabled Pioneer double-din head unit. The suspension was a little hard over bumps, but not any worse than driving my lifted Jeep. The handling was exceptional! I couldn’t believe how steering reacted. Overall it was a great drive. We got back and I popped the hood. I could see the STI turbo intercooler in the spot where the original one would normally be. I checked the engine over for any leaks and didn’t find any. We decided to go through with the purchase and this is how we came to get our Subaru Forester XT known as “The Dad Wagon”. My son wanted to ride with me home, so I had brought his car seat to install. It installed quickly and easily using the latch system. We loaded up and we were on our way. I got on to it a few times on the way home and the car was a blast to drive and hit 80 mph like it were 30 mph. My 5-year old approved of the car and he was loving it. 

Our son was pretty excited about the new to us car.

Fast forward to today and I have been driving the car for couple of months and still love it. Our Spring and Summer plans for the car include doing Autocross, run it at a drag strip, and maybe do some Rallycross. As far as upgrades, I’m going to try to do some things under the hood to keep temperatures down. I’m not planning on making any drastic changes as it has a custom tune from P & L Motorsports out of Lisle, Illinois and I don’t want to upset the tune on the VF43 turbo. The car has dynoed at 245 horsepower at the wheels which means the engine is probably putting out around 295 to 300 horsepower at the crank (just guessing), which is good for the automatic transmission and daily driving. I would say The Dad Wagon is somewhat of a sleeper car. People do not expect it to be as quick as it is. I cannot wait to find out what kind of numbers it will do at the drag strip. I’m not expecting it to be really fast by any means, it will just be fun to get out on the track. Playing with the Cobb Tuning Accessport one day, I tried the 0 to 60 program on the tuner and I was able to hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Not too shabby for a little station wagon. So this has been the story of The Dad Wagon. You can follow The Dad Wagon on both Facebook and Instagram @TheDadWagon. Below are the current specs of the car. Feel free to e-mail me at rob@thedailydrivers.com if you have any questions. I have hit 19 pounds of boost when playing around in the car. Naturally aspirated vehicles are fun, but this little turbo is a blast.

  • VF43 Turbo 🐌 
  • STI Intercooler
  • Cobb Tuning Full Turbo Back
  • Cobb Tuning AccessPort
  • Samco Pipe
  • Swift Springs
  • KYB Struts
  • Rota 18″ Wheels
  • Custom Tune from P & L Motorsports

Outside the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway


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