Weekly Motor Fix: Samoasuras Rex

Posted in Cars
When embarking on a journey away from home to a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific, you don’t expect to stumble upon a rental-car company packing more Subarus than a seasoned World Rally team. However, it seems like René has a nose for sniffing out such vehicles, and after refusing to drive around in the proverbial rental car fare, he managed to score a Subaru WRX wagon

Some of you may know what I’ve been up to over the last month, but for those who don’t, I’ve been in Samoa getting married. Two weeks on a tropical island sounds like paradise for most, but to be honest I was missing the ability to bury my jandals into some serious horsepower. Week one — or wedding week — was full of excitement as you can imagine, and out of our own pure laziness, rental cars were hired directly from our resort. The result was nothing exciting; a string of Hyundais, followed by a mid-’90s Toyota RAV4.

Initially, I thought the RAV4 would be fantastic. It had ground clearance, it was easy to spot in a car park thanks to the luscious orange paint job, and it somehow had enough room for six people. But after travelling away from the resort with six people packed in like sardines, it was instantly evident that the RAV4 was seriously lacking mumbo. A faulty temperature gauge, which had me pulling over at every incline, cooking my occupants with the heater in a bid to cool the thing down, also added to its character.

At one stage during our climb to the top of one of Samoa’s largest mountains, I pulled over and completely removed the intake pipe in a hope to free up a few kWs.  But it didn’t work ... I don’t even think the fuel is 91 octane — it just says ‘unleaded’.

In my first week touring the island I noticed that the locals like to drive at least half the speed limit. They also like to drive on the wrong side of the road over blind crests, and, even worse, around blind corners. I soon felt a bit ill driving around in my RAV4, as it wasn’t capable of passing safely, turning safely, or stopping safely. So the hunt began for something better.

The RAV4 was dropped back to the rental company in Apia — Samoa’s main town. And, as I didn’t pick up the RAV4 initially, I was unaware that there was another rental company just two doors down, sporting cars better suited to my needs — time to investigate. I’ll just have a quick wee look, I told my wife, Tammy. And as I caught my first glimpse at their supply, my heart skipped a beat, and I experienced joy similar to that felt a few days before during my wedding day.

I. Had. Found. Turbochargers.

Not just one or two, but around 10 turbocharged Subarus. From late-model Subaru Legacy GTBs, to turbocharged Forester XTs, and WRXs. I thought to myself surely these are double the price of the held-together-with-duct-tape RAV4?  They weren’t, but were still around NZ$12 more a day for the cheapest one, which was what I ended up choosing. Samoa was ready to meet my right foot, and my newly acquired hawk-eye WRX wagon.

It had everything you could possibly need for a pothole-ridden, dog-dodging, pig-avoiding island commute. Four-pot calipers up front provided the braking force to left-foot brake. The interior had air con, steering wheel–mounted shifters, and a grouse stereo. It had 17-inch alloys with low-profile tyres to aid in the agility required to avoid bumps in the road. But best of all, it had the mumbo that the RAV4 was missing.

The WRX produces around 170kW at the flywheel from the factory with high-octane fuel. However in Samoa, the fuel is hardly even 91. What this meant was that the poor WRX suffered from serious detonation at full throttle, preventing my jandal from ever reaching the floor. However, using a gear lower than usual and bringing it on boost with half throttle provided more than enough torque to pass whatever was meandering in front of the WRX’s hood scoop. And, surprisingly, it did around 300km to half a tank — not bad at all.

If you’re heading to Samoa, make sure you track down a vehicle like this. It truly made my trip much more exciting. The WRX was the perfect car for the island, as they’re robust, they run on the lower-octane fuel, and they have the extra traction when you need it, which you do — trust me.

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.