2017 Subaru Outback

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All-wheel-drive is very popular. But all-wheel-drive-equipped wagons are fairly hard to find.

They are harder to find for about $25k to start.17-outback-interior

Impossible to find with AWD standard for about $25k to start – and a lightweight (and long-lived) flat-four “boxer” engine under the hood.

With more ground clearance (almost 9 inches) than most crossovers (and even some 4×4 SUVs) give you.

But without being a crossover.

It’s amazing no else has copied this concept yet.

VW’s new Golf Alltrack comes kinda-sorta closest , but it’s smaller (more in the Impeza’s class), hasn’t got nearly as much ground clearance (not quite 7 inches) and less back seat room (just 35 inches vs. 38.1 in the Subaru) costs more (almost $27k to start) and does not come with a boxer engine, either.

There’s also the Volvo XC70 – but it’s almost $40k to start.

And the Audi Allroad – but it’s $44k to start.

Which leaves… .

WHAT IT IS17-outback-canoe

The Outback is a mid-sized hatchback wagon with standard AWD and additional ground clearance relative to the Legacy sedan on which it’s based.

It’s also a wagon.

The Legacy it’s based on comes only as a sedan. Which means it comes with a trunk. And so has just 15 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

The Outback’s hatchback layout gives you more than twice that (35.5 cubic feet) and that’s before you fold the second row seats flat. When you do, the available space expands to 73.3 cubic feet.

Base price is $25,645 for the 2.5i trim.17-outback-instruments

There are also Premium, Limited and (new for 2017) a Touring trim, which adds a heated steering wheel, low profile roof racks and a special 18-inch wheel/tire package. With the optional 3.6 liter six-cylinder engine (also available with the Limited trim) this new version of the Outback stickers for $38,195.

The new (2017) VW Golf-based AllTrack starts at $26,950 and runs to $32,980 for a top-of-the-line SEL trim. The VW comes standard with AWD, but only offers one engine (a 1.8 liter in-line four cylinder).

If you don’t need the additional ground clearance (or the hatchback’s extra cargo capacity) you might also cross-shop the Legacy sedan – which is basically the same package but stickers for just $21,995 to start.

WHAT’S NEW17-outback-composite

In addition to the Touring trim, Subaru has added alloy wheels to the base 2.5i trim’s list of standard equipment and upgraded the EyeSight safety suite (ugsome details follow) to include automated reverse braking.

WHAT’S GOOD

The 2.5i is a deal – and pretty much the only deal of its kind out there.

Other than another Subaru.17-outback-rear-seats

Flat-four (and six) engines sit low in the car, a boon for handling. They are also naturally balanced and so don’t need heavy counterweights to tamp down the vibrations that other engines naturally have.

Much more room for legs and cargo than the new VW AllTrack.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD17-touring-detail

Outbacks with the standard 2.5 liter engine get pretty good gas mileage but take almost 10 seconds to reach 60 – about two seconds behind the pace for mid-sized family/sedans with four cylinder engines.

Touring trim is swanky – but pricey. $38k-plus price is higher than the base price of a Volvo XC70 ($37,100 to start) and not too far away from the price of an Audi AllRoad wagon ($44,000 to start).

That’s a lot of shekels for a Subaru.

Over-the-top “safety” nannies – including an obnoxious buzzer that comes on (and stays on) if you try to drive with the liftgate even partially open.

UNDER THE HOOD17-outback-2-5-engine

There’s so much sameness out there it’s a happy thing to find something different. Especially when those differences are good ones.

Subarus are powered by a type of engine – the “boxer” – that’s more compact, sits lower in the chassis and is lighter than others of the same displacement because they don’t need heavy counterweights to balance their reciprocating assembly (the pistons, connecting rods and the crankshaft). Instead of four in line (or six in a V) Subaru’s engines are flat – with the pistons “boxing” each other from opposite sides of the crankshaft. The back-and-forth movements of each set of opposing pistons equalizes the forces applied to the crankshaft.17-subaru-boxer-engin

It’s also a flat – rather than upright – layout. The engine’s weight is divided equally along the axis of the vehicle’s centerline (this is what Subaru means by symmetric all-wheel-drive). This is a kind of engineering Viagra for both traction and handling. It’s a big part of the reason why Subarus are particularly tenacious in snow – even when stacked up against 4WD trucks and SUVs.

And handle much better than they do when it’s not snowing (note that Porsche also uses the horizontally-opposed engine layout).17-subaru-symmetric-awd

But neither of the Outback’s two engines are particularly powerful – relative to the weight of the Outback itself, anyhow.

The standard 2.5 liter four makes 175 hp and 174 ft.-lbs. of torque, which is right there with (as an example) the standard four cylinder powerplant you’d find in an otherwise similar (but FWD) mid-size family sedan like the Toyota Camry (2.5 liters, in-line four, 178 hp and 170 ft.-lbs. of torque).

But, the AWD Soobie is several hundred pounds heavier – about 3,600 lbs. vs. 3,240 for the Camry. Which is why the Camry (and other FWD sedans, including the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata) are as much as two full seconds quicker getting to 60.

Of course, they are not nearly as adroit when it snows.17-outback-3-6-engine

Mileage with the 2.5 liter engine and AWD is very good: 25 city, 32 on the highway – which is very close to what you’d get in the FWD Camry – 25 city, 35 highway.

Subarus used to be known for their not-great mileage but that issue has been addressed via the new continuously variable (CVT) automatic that’s paired with both engines.

The downside is you can’t get a manual-equipped Outback anymore – and while it might use more fuel, the stickshift version was more fun to drive.17-subaru-boxer-2

For more power you can upgrade to a 3.6 liter flat six (available in the Limited and Touring trims). It makes 256 hp (and 247 ft.-lbs. f torque) but the weight prevents the car from matching the zero-to-60 runs of V6-powered version of family sedans like the Camry and Accord – which get there in about six seconds vs. just over seven for the six-cylinder Soobie.

Mileage with the larger engine dips to 20 city, 27 highway.

But – again – the V6 versions of FWD-only family cars like Camry and Accord are not the hot ticket for snow days .17-outback-hdc

You also get a larger-than-typical (for the class) 18.5 gallon gas tank – which increases the car’s range.

With either engine, you get a grunty 4.11 final drive ratio – another Big Help in snow (and mud/grass) and the AWD system, it should be mentioned, is more sophisticated than most. Instead of just sloshing the engine’s power front-to-back, the Subaru’s system has torque vectoring capability that routes power to (and away from) individual wheels, as traction is gained (and lost). This not only helps in snow, it helps when you’re hauling ass.

Though the Outback isn’t speedy, it shares kinship in the corners with the WRX.

Which ought to tell you something about how well it corners.

ON THE ROAD83-brat-ad

Where I live – out in the Woods of rural SW Virginia – Outbacks (and Subarus generally) are very popular. Because when it snows, Subarus can be counted on to get you “down the mountain” … and back up again.

For decades.

I still see ancient (early ‘80s-era) Brats running around as daily drivers.

Subarus (WRX excepted) aren’t speedy but they are mules and will stick with you for about as long (an actual mules lives 20-plus years without needing much from you except some water and straw every now and then).17-outback-in-snow

The Outback’s higher skirts (8.7 inches vs. 5.9 for the Legacy) are its secret advantage, though.

AWD (symmetric or otherwise) helps but clearance is critical. No matter which wheels are powered, whether two or four, front or rear, if the car rides up on top of the snow pack, your traction will be nil and you will be stuck.

The Outback, almost uniquely, has 4×4 truck/SUV clearance without being a Tall Boy like a 4×4 truck or SUV.

So it’s not top-heavy.17-outbackroad-1

It’s 66.5 inches tall – which is short for a vehicle with almost nine inches of ground clearance. As a counterpoint, a crossover SUV like the Toyota RAV4 stands 72.6 inches high and only has 6.3 inches of ground clearance.

The new VW AllTrack sits lower overall (59.7 inches) but has much less  ground clearance (just 6.9 inches) than the Soobie.

I find no fault with the way the Outback drives.17outback-starlink

It’s a bit under-engined vs. other mid-sized family sedans in the same price ballpark (e.g., Camry, Accord) but it makes up for that with its Puma-like surefootedness no matter the weather – and its easygoing nature when the weather’s not a factor. It’s as no-fuss to drive (and live with) as a Camry or similar but with the all-weather safety net those cars don’t offer.

This is the car’s unique appeal (VW’s AllTrack notwithstanding). It’s still basically a car – as opposed to a crossover. So you just get in – as opposed to climbing in. Once in, you don’t feel you’re wheeling a Hummer around. And it’s different, by god. Not another crossover – and not another FWD car, either.17-outback-road-3

It is an Outback – and no one else makes anything quite like it.

The AllTrack is sportier, no doubt. But which would you rather be in during a blizzard? How about 16 years from now, with 235,000 miles on the clock?

Yeah, me too.

With a caveat:

Subaru is a bit heavy with the “safety” stuff.

For example, the liftgate buzzer. I had to cart a cat tree down to my ex-wife’s apartment. It almost fit inside the car – testimony to the fabulousness of the hatchback vs. sedan layout – but not quite. Had to leave the liftgate open a crack. This triggered a buzzer. Which would not go off. Not for several minutes. Hard to concentrate on driving with a loud buzzer hassling you.17-subaru-eyesight

Eventually, it does turn off – but if you stop the car for any reason (red light, etc.) it will start buzzing again.

Uber annoying – and for that reason arguably not safe, either. It literally drives you to distraction.

The Lane Departure Warning and Automated Braking systems are also extremely peremptory.

The Lane Departure system beeps at you – and blinks at you – if the tires touch either the yellow center line or the white shoulder line. Well, ok – that’s what it is supposed to do. But it will also do it even when you are deliberately crossing the yellow line – as to turn left or pass a car ahead – unless you turn on your blinker. Which is kind of parenty. Especially if there’s no reason to signal – for example, when you’re the only car on the road.17-outback-lane-keep

The Automated Braking, in similar fashion, gets huffy if you don’t at least feather the brake pedal when another car ahead of you is slowing to turn off if – in the judgment of the computer – you are “too close.”

Which is Cloverifically far away.

Luckily, most of this stuff can be turned off. And it’s all mostly optional – part of the EyeSight system that’s available in the Premium and Limited Trims.

Eyesight comes standard, however, on the new/top-of-the-line Touring trim.

AT THE CURB17-outback-curb-1

The current Outback is based on the mid-sized Legacy; originally, the Outback was based on the smaller (compact-sized) Impreza.

In contrast, the new VW AllTrack is based on the compact-sized Golf – a  strange decison, given VW’s clear intent to pirate away Outback sales.

Because the VW is a tighter squeeze – for people and for stuff.17-outback-rear-seats

The Subaru has 42.9 inches of front seat legroom and 38.1 inches of backseat legroom – vs. 35.6 inches of legroom in the more truncated VW.

Speaking of which: The VW’s cargo capacity behind the second row is 30.4 cubic feet and 66.5 cubic feet with the second row folded – vs. 35.5 behind the second row and 73.3 with the second row folded flat in the Outback.

VW would have done better to base the Alltrack on the larger Passat – if the object of the exercise was to directly compete with the Outback.17-outback-cargo

One thing that’s missing, though, are tie-down hooks in the cargo area to let you secure the open tailgate with bungee cords or similar. Subaru – obsessed with “safety,” remember, doesn’t want you to do that.

The electric-automatic opening tailgate (higher trims) is arthritically slow-opening (and closing). In the time it takes for the thing to raise itself open, ever-so-cautiously (might be kids around! safety!) you could have hand-opened it, put your stuff in and hand-closed it.17-outback-gate

This is not exclusively a Subaru Thing. Every vehicle I have test-driven with an automatic-opening tailgate is set up this way. For Safety. The new Cult of our time. I recommend skipping this “feature” unless you are arthritic and need the assist.  If not, the liftgate isn’t heavy – and because the Outback isn’t a jacked-up SUV, it’s easy enough to reach the handle and work the thing by hand.

THE REST17-outback-lcd

The lower trims (2.5i, 2.5i Premium) make the most sense to me. Both are very well-equipped (even the base 2.5i includes a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, most power accessories – including a 6.2 inch LCD touchscreen with Subaru’s Starlink and an app package/Bluetooth connectivity – a 17-inch wheel tire package and the adjustable roof racks (you can move the inner bars aside to cut down on wind noise) that Outback pioneered.

That plus the AWD system – and the ground clearance that’s standard with every Outback – for just over $25k is a sweet deal.17-outback-headlight-detail

The 2.5i Premium is well within reason, too. You get a power sunroof, a larger (7 inch) touchscreen and a better (six speaker) audio rig, dual-zone climate control (vs. plain ol’ manual AC in the base trim) heated outside mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers, leather trim, heated seats and an eight-way power driver’s seat.

The 3.6R Limited (and the new Touring 3.6R) are harder to make the case for. They are very swank, but it’s not as though the 2.5i (much less the 2.5i Premium) are metal-floorboarded strippers.17-outback-last

And while the 3.6 liter engine does give you more underhood action, you’ll have to balance that against the bigger engine’s heartier appetite and the 3.6R and 3.6R Touring’s much higher sticker prices.

The 2.5i and 2.5i Premium (and even the 2.5i Limited) are priced thousands less than cars like the Volvo XC70 and Audi AllRoad. But the 3.6R Touring’s price is higher than the MSRP of the XC70 – and not too far behind the price of the Allroad.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s still the only thing like it… .

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48 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Eric,
    Thoughts about Subaru oil consumption?
    At 45,000 miles, My 2014 Forester 2.5 4 cylinder uses 3 qts of Mobil 1 between oil changes.
    No blue smoke out the exhaust.
    Car was EPA rated for 32 highway but the best I ever get is 26 (flat highway, 70mph, cruise on, driver only)
    Is piston blow-by the cause of consumption and poor highway milage?
    Is this going to get worse?
    Can I safely trade it for a 2016 or 2017 or are they the same?
    I’m new to your site and like it a lot !

    • Hi Tom,

      How long (and how many miles) are you driving in between oil changes? Is there are any chance the engine has a leak?

      The oil consumption you mention may or may not be excessive, depending on the interval – and could be the result of a leak/seep rather than consumption.

      Either way, it’s really important to find out why. And to check your oil level more often. I’m assuming/hoping you aren’t running the engine three quarts low… rather, that you’ve had to add a quart here and there?

      The mileage is not surprising. Older Subarus are notorious gas pigs (given their size and the size of their engines). Current models are much better; they switched over to CVT automatics, which have helped a great deal.

      Looking forward to your answers!

        • I had one vehicle use a quart of Amsoil after it had been changed to it’s first Mobil 1. They guy didn’t try another round or two of Amsoil because he won’t use the net and there were no retailers selling it back then in his area(he know of).

          I don’t think there is any oil that’s going to cure 3 quarts use in that period of time Tom is experiencing. It has to be rings if it’s not a trubo motor.
          Few people know that a bad seal on a turbo can cause excessive(really excessive)oil consumption. Older Ford diesels were bad about this.

  2. It is amazing that all the manufacturers, including VW, have abandoned the medium-sized wagon segment now occupied solely by the Outback. If you want cargo & performance in a car, then the buying options just keep getting more limited as time goes on. The only real replacement for my 3.6l VW Passat wagon with 4motion is a used 3.6l VW Passat wagon with 4motion and a significant rehabilitation budget. Even pushing $40k new, I doubt the driving dynamics of the large engine Outback can hold a candle to my daily driver that is now 10 years since it came off the line. In Germany. This is progress?

    • Hi Konig,

      I’m startled by this also. It has to do with the mania for “crossovers.” These, everyone wants. So, all the car companies now make them.

      For whatever reason, wagons are not popular with American buyers.

      • #Sigh.. totally agree says this former ’98 Volvo XC70, ’01 Audi S4 Avant, and now current owner of a ’15 Subaru Outback 2.5 prem. model. I ‘spreadsheeted’ my way into my OB via a checklist
        1. wagon, check
        2. high ground clearance, check
        3. diesel, uncheck, move to Germany
        4. max, in class, cargo room, w rear seats folded, check
        and the list went on. The Subbie OB was the only car to ‘tick’ most of the boxes.

      • It probably has at least something to do with ingress and egress. It’s much easier to get in and out of a taller vehicle. My wife with a bad knee, a bad ankle/foot(fused)and now a bad back is hard pressed to get in and out of a car but doesn’t have that problem nearly so badly on taller vehicles. My new “demotion derby” Z 71 is easy to get in and out of but the new ones are way up there and still easier to get in than a low car.

  3. I like Subarus (mom has a Forester), and the Outback concept in particular. But for them to get me in one, they’ll have to drop a turbo under the hood (like the Forester XT) and lose the EyeSight system (if I drift out of a lane, it’s intentional, like when passing a cyclist).

    Chip H.

  4. I just got rid of my Subaru Legacy. I have anticipated about $2k-3k in repairs over the next year or two, so I decided to cut. I replaced it with a very quiet, very lightly used Lexus ES 300. I never though in a million years that I would ever drive one of those sleds, but I need a break from the constant droning, banging and constant niggling problems that I have experienced with this car.

    Over the next year or two, I expect the following to go wrong with that car:

    1. Hubs.
    2. AC blend door actuator
    3. Suspension noise – strut mount, strut spacer?
    4. AC compressor

    I can do some of these repairs myself to save money, but frankly, I grew tired enough of this car that it was time to send it to another unsuspecting owner.

    • Hi Swamp,

      You’ve probably already noticed the yuge difference.The ES is an oasis of quiet and softness; it’s one of the few luxury (as opposed to “luxury=sport”) cars still being made.

      Plus they are rightly known for being really good (dependable) cars.

  5. Did you get a chance to drive the current 3.6? I’ve only driven the Legacy R (I think it was) which was kind of dog and not “pretty” sounding or pleasant as a powerplant, and it’s always turned me off of flat 6 Subies. Wondering if they’ve gotten any better/smoother/punchier.

    • I own a 2016 3.6R, it’s the same as the 2017. The engine doesn’t sound very smooth, but it has plenty of power for this sort of car. There aren’t any vibrations or anything, it just sounds “rough”.

      It’s also very strange to drive a CVT. Up until now, all my cars were manuals. It’s so odd to see the engine RPM fixed as you accelerate. Based on the amount of throttle input, the car will pick an RPM that trades off power vs efficiency and stays there. You’d think that if you floor it, it would pick the horsepower peak and stay there, but when you do that, it keeps going towards redline and backing off a bit to make it seem like it’s upshifting.

  6. My reply to a Jalopnik article on the VW Alltrack posted on VW Vortex forums on 9/24/16

    “Interesting read.. About 18 mos ago I sold my ‘01 Audi B5 S4 Avant due to age, mileage and needed budget to keep it going. I was only looking at wagons, only interested wagons.

    At that time, this Alltrack model was being bantered about in the auto journo press. I was hoping for a TDI spec’ed model as I really enjoy my ‘12 B7 Passat SEL TDI. (#dieselgate is a whole other story regarding the EPA)

    But after looking at the Alltrack specs and the one model-year delay, I punted and bought a ‘15 2.5 Premium Subaru Outback. No frills model; no leather, no Nav, no sunroof, just 8.7″ of ground clearance, 73 cubic feet of storage (rear seats down) 33-34 mpg on interstates, I have never looked back. I’ve put nearly 20k on the ODO in 12-14 months going fun places w seasonal outdoor gear in/on the car.

    Upon reading your review above, you just confirm my decision of 12-15 months ago.

    Now, if we could talk B8 Passat Alltrack BiTDI, then I might be interested in the VW Brand again.

    I paid mid-20’s for the OB, and after subtracting the sale of the Avant, this Subbie is a lot of car for that amount.”

  7. RE: Subaru reliability

    Subaru had a recent major engine oil consumption issue and was refusing
    to take corrective action. A class action lawsuit developed.

  8. I just love, love, love my 2012 Outback Limited 3.6R! It doesn’t have all the nanny gear, except the backup camera, thankfully. I bought a WRX in 2001, an Outback in 2010, and never looked back.

      • You guys know I am not a CVT guy. Much rather a manual – or a conventional automatic. But I will say that Subaru programs their CVTs pretty well. Even though the 2.5 engine is under-gunned for the tonnage, the thing doesn’t squeal like a stuck pig unless you’re balls to the wall and even then it is much, much better than some I’ve driven.

        PS: GM and I are totally on the Outs.

        Feed them fish heads

        • After reading your review this morning, I did a comp between the Outback and the XC70. They match up surprisingly well, but Volvo doesn’t use CVTs. I’m curious why not, because the mileage on theirs is nothing special. Do they just suck it up and pay the fines?

        • My new to me 2012 still has a conventional 5 speed auto. In the city-suburban driving with stop and go traffic I do in a work week, I get 275 miles of range out of a tank of gas that’s about 15 gallons. On the highway, I can go almost 400 miles. But the reason I bought this car is because I take several road trips every year and the space and comfort is well worth it.

          Which brings me to this: All of the cars that TPTB are foisting on us, like electric driverless shoeboxes, may be OK for city commuting, but I’ll-suited for road trips of any length. Maybe that’s a coincidence…but maybe not.

  9. When you were driving it did you feel the need to pull on the interstate without looking? How about cruising at 70 in the left lane?

  10. I would never buy one of these cars again. It’s back in the shop. 152,000 miles and I have done the following on my 2010 Legacy:

    Changed sway bar links and Strut mounts 3x.
    Transmission repair – replaced valve body for a bad lockup solenoid.

    The following things on this car need repair:

    Air Conditioning Compressor – bearing making loud noise on acceleration
    Alternator – just being replaced now
    Front suspension – noise coming from driver side strut (has been for 76,000 miles)

    This has been the most problematic car I have ever owned.

    I will never own another one of these.

    They have a lot to recommend them. They have great interior volume. They have near perfect dimensions for carrying things. They are great on gas. Mine gets 28-33 on the freeway depending on my speed. Acceleration is slow, but once going, it isn’t bad. I can punch it and the needle steadily climbs. Thanks to my modding the sway bars to a 2013 model and placing 2013 springs in it, the handling is well above average for a midsize sedan. The steering is precise.

    But the reliability? I am repairing it more than my 2003 Jaguar S-type which I sold to buy this hunk of shit. I should have soldiered on with the Jaguar. It would have delivered a much better ride. I always had a smile on my face driving it. I regret selling it.

    • With the stock sway bars on the 2010, it was unsafe. the back end shimmied like Hillary Clinton in the first debate. Replacing the back with a 18 mm unit got rid of that, and replacing the front with a 26 mm unit made it handle like a BMW. Otherwise, the car handled like a 1972 Buick.

    • I also forgot to mention that I also replaced the front lower control arms and that the car also will be needing hubs. In addition, on the heater/ac controls, you can hear a faint noise, sounding like the blend door actuator. I don’t know which one yet, as there isn’t a hard failure yet. I just hear these things coming.

      I am so sick of this car.

      • swamprat, don’t keep pulling those big goosenecks around. Seriously though, lower control arms and hubs? Like…..not with twice that mileage. After all the problems, expensive ones you’ve had, I would try to remove Subaru from my memory. I had a lemon Chevy. It had a shitty rear-end……and that was it. It was a cheap fix with a one ton rear-end out of a crewcab but it still galled me. Nothing else broke on it except the tie road that got bent when I ran it into a stump. I don’t fault GM for that. Oh wait, it needed an output seal on the steering gearbox at about 200K, a real deal breaker since you had to remove the nut and drag link, crank it up and turn it full left lock at which point it spit out the oil seal, knock the new one in and replace the drag link and nut. It cost me about 30 minutes and parts, a few dollars.

        • Hi Eight,

          I think Swamp got one of the rare bad ones – or maybe a used one that had been badly treated before he got it. All I can say is that here in the Woods, Subarus are as popular as Sigs. Both for good reason.

          • “Rare” ???
            My mom’s 2004 Forester lost the head gasket at 70K which was going to cost almost the value of the car to fix. OTOH, my POS little Chevy just turned over 100K and the only “breakdown” (still made it home) has been a $50 valve timing solenoid (which did piss me off at the time because I’d never heard of such a thing).
            A friend’s 2010 (before Subaru supposedly re-plumbed the cooling system in 2011) randomly disappears all of its oil without any external leak.
            My mom’s new 2016 with the CVT drives like an old 60s slushbox that is low on fluid or just about to give up.
            Sorry – I just don’t get the Subaru “thing” at all ???

            • Hi Tall,

              I’ve heard such reports, but – locally – I know literally close to a dozen people who own Subarus and they love ’em. My mechanic friend (owns his own shop) says he rarely sees big issues – so I dunno!

            • Subaru went through a period of time when they had a defective head gasket design and just about all of them would blow gaskets at the 70K-100K mark. After quite a few years of this they supposedly redesigned the gasket. (I think at the same time they went to timing chains instead of belts.)

              The problem is if one or both head gaskets go bad you have to pull the engine to replace them so it’s an even more expensive job than it would be otherwise.

              The cars also had a penchant for eating front drive axles, though compared to engine problems that’s almost a minor thing.

              I had a 1970s-vintage Subaru for a while way back during the late ’70s gas crisis. It was reliable as an anvil and great on gas but very slow. That was with their old pushrod engine. After the fuel crisis abated I wound up selling it off to a friend who ran it for years without issues aside from creeping rust.

              When I drove my neighbor’s new Outback the CVT seemed pretty unobtrusive, I really could not tell there was anything unusual. Of course I’m used to driving a car with a 3-speed Torqueflite so I have no idea how the CVT compares to a modern multi-speed transmission. (My experience with vehicles built in the 21st century is very limited, to say the least.)

      • High oil consumption on the following Subaru engines:

        “According to Torque News, the affected FB engines are the 2.5-liter engines in the 2011-2014 Forester, 2013 Legacy and 2013 Outback and the 2.0-liter engines in the 2012-2013 Impreza and 2013 XV Crosstrek.”

  11. A neighbor of mine just bought one of these. Seems for all the world like an updated version of my AMC Eagle wagon. 🙂 This guy is always looking at me weird due to my decades-old rides, so for grins he let me take him and his new Outback around the neighborhood for a quick spin. So here’s a short critique from the perspective of an old fart who spends most of his seat time in a 45-year-old sedan.

    It seemed to me the Outback has good pickup with the 4-banger, though I have not driven many late-model cars to compare it to. I’m surprised it has a 4.11 axle but that probably helps the small engine move it out. The motor did not seem to be racing but I didn’t have it up to freeway speeds either. The car is pretty quiet overall. The engine does get a bit buzzy when you hit the gas.

    This car has a touch screen television set in the middle of the dashboard that works the radio. I found it impossible to figure out so just left the radio off. (It does have a slot for CDs and real knobs for volume control and tuning if you can figure out how to work the rest of it.) The screen also shows the view aft when you back up, which was distracting but I suppose it could be helpful once you get used to it. Other than that the car was pleasant enough to drive. Seats are comfortable and there is lots of room. This is one of the few cars I’ve been in where the seat can actually go back too far for me to comfortably reach the pedals. Rear seat room looks good but I didn’t try sitting back there. There is no ashtray or cigarette lighter!
    Noise level is pretty low. Suspension is firm, you definitely feel the bumps, but it’s well-controlled. No bump steer that I could notice. The steering is very quick and took a little getting used to, the least little input and the car moves in that direction. I’d say overall handling ease is pretty good.

    The floor shifter works in a more-or-less normal manner except for manual selection of gears. That’s done with some switches behind the steering wheel operated via plastic blades. Seemed odd, never driven anything like that. At least the heater/ac controls have real dedicated buttons that are pretty logical to operate rather than relying on the TV screen. (I do prefer the old-style two-lever system though.) The car also uses a real key for starting and there’s a keyhole for unlocking the driver’s door if the power locks don’t work. (I’ve read some new cars don’t have keys any more, everything is electronic.) Didn’t care much for the electric parking brake, found it confusing to use but I guess it’s something you could get used to. I’d much prefer a handle or foot operated parking brake.

    Fortunately his car doesn’t have the extra automated “safety” crap but I still shudder to think what it will cost to repair this thing once the warranty is up. For an oldster like myself who is accustomed to 1970s and 1980s iron there’s a certain amount of future shock involved in getting behind the wheel but it seemed manageable. I guess in time you’d get used to the electronic crap. Until you had to pay to repair it.

    Speaking of age, another nice thing is that, like the Eagle, the Outback is just about the right height to easily swing your butt in and out without stress or strain. When your knees start going bad this is a very nice feature.

    Any new car is out of my price range, so I’ll be sticking with my ancient beaters. I’d consider one of these if I ever hit the lottery. (I don’t play it though, so that is not very likely. The lottery is essentially a tax on stupidity; people line up to pay it even though they have a better chance of being hit by a meteor and struck by lightning all in the same day.)

  12. Nice review, eric. It sounds like an almost ideal MN vehicle and it’s really good looking. A couple questions: you indicate that some of the nanny shit can be turned off – what cannot? Also, the towing capacity seems a little anemic – is that related to the CVT?

    I am the former owner of an XC70. I love the AWD wagon setup, but fixing the Volvo got pricy. Also, the newer ones got too nice to actually want to haul any stuff in!

    • Thanks, Yeti!

      On the Nanny Stuff: The seatbelt buzzer (of course) and (unfortunately) the liftgate buzzer – though I suspect it would not be hard to just de-wire (or smash) the buzzer!

      I think the tow rating (2,700 lbs.) is low because with either engine, there’s not much reserve – although the CVT could also be a factor.

      But, overall, I like this one.

      Long-time Subaru Geek here, full disclosure.

      • Ha! Yeah, I got the sneaking suspicion that you were partial to them. I know that the older ones were notorious for head gasket and turbo issues (although I suspect that was as much neglect as design). Are the new ones generally reliable?

      • The collision avoidance system in the Cherokee freaks out if someone cuts me off. Alarms, warnings in the dashboard, hard braking, the works. Takes a “WTF a**hole!” moment and turns into a terrifying event. Really no need for it either, since all the guy did was invade my space cushion, at the same speed as the rest of us.

        • That’s what I feared about such systems, that they allow the a**hole to control your car. In my driving environment pretending you don’t see what the a**hole wants to do is key. If he thinks you’re going to hit him because you aren’t reacting to his tells he won’t do it much of the time. The moment you react to him he knows he has you and will take advantage. Now many do it anyway but at least it cuts down on the numbers.

          If the cars’ computers start automatically giving way to them guess what they are going to do? Every time they’ll just do what they want because the computers will force the other car into a panic stop. Then morons will just assume every vehicle on the road has that system.

          • Brent, You’re exactly right. Just keep rolling up on the a-holes and they won’t try to bully you but give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile or everything you have. I deal with countless clovers every day. When they see that big chrome horn with a big radiator above it not slowing they change their minds. Too many times they start around another vehicle and then slow. I keep my same speed and you can see them freaking out when you don’t slow too. Fishheads to all those stupid a-holes.

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