By Kent Shocknek

This is mostly for car guys (and remember, “car guys” is a gender-neutral term). Yesterday, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the front grill of a nicely styled car keeping pace with me. “What a nicely styled car,” said I. “I wonder what it is.” Turns out it was not what I would have expected. It was this year’s Subaru  Outback.  It reminded me how styling can change one’s impression of an entire car.  Only a few years ago, the grills on some Subi models  looked like the face of a surprised man who got stuck from behind with a hot poker. It’s curious, but I can’t even find an illustration online to prove my point– as if all visual references have been removed so the company can deny all. I am certain the grill alone turned off some buyers from a perfectly competent car. (Go up to Big Bear some weekend, and you’ll think the Outback is the Official Car of the mountains.)

Subaru is taming its polarizing  designs. I love the old WRX STi, but admit it’s an acquired taste. More mainstream is the new BRZ (below), unveiled in almost-production form at the L. A. Auto Show last November.  subaru brz concept sti 01 Something That Looks so Much Better in the Rear View Mirror

Really sculpted, with an integrated look. The car is mechanically identical to a new Toyota model: it’ll be interesting to see which version sells better.

Back to the new Outback. the stylists have worked overtime to make the car acceptable to more drivers, and they started right at the front (where it needed it most). Subaru now has a car that can come off of the mountain, and into the city without being afraid to show its face. (Subaru Outback MSRP, $31,495: monroof/navigation/audio package, $2995. 3.6L 6-cyl. AWD)  


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