And then there's my grandma, who probably never exceeds 3000RPM on her Civic. (Those cruise around 2000 in the city, 3000 on the highway.) The last time that car went on the freeway was probably when she let me borrow it (several months back) and I had some fun with the gas pedal.
And Ned - wait, so your Subie's ECU pays attention to the manual gearing? I thought my car ('05 Civic) pays no attention whatsoever to the MT gearbox; it's totally a mechanical deal. And personally, being a college student, I'd almost be a bit afraid to have a new car (especially an automatic) while living here (if I could afford it in the first place). Other students don't seem to respect your car, having a manual wards off friends/roommates who want to borrow it (one of my friends doesn't understand gear shifting at all... that's probably why he's studying EE rather than ME
), etc. There's a nice feeling of not giving a crap when your reliable 10 year old car gets dinged (again). Grandma's car is definitely at that point. But at the same time, I occasionally see nice features on new cars, and find myself wanting to get one once I'm out of college and can afford it... (Meanwhile, there's the other side of me that wants to drop a grand or so on a 20 year old piece of crap, beat it up, try my hand at all kinds of DIY maintenance, etc, just because I can and not much is at stake. Totally affordable, but having a garage and not moving every several months would help first...)
Edit: Apparently I have a picture of the Grandma's car next to mine (I still think the lighter color looks better, mine's blue, but meh):