Reader Question: Which Soobie Engine?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Matthew asks: I have a question for you about the Subaru Outback since you reviewed a 2020 recently. I’m looking at used 2017 models and am on the fence about the 2.5 vs. 3.6 engines. I’m guessing if its within the budget, just go with the 3.6? A no brainer?  Wondering what your thoughts might be.

My reply: The answer comes down to . . . it depends. The base 2.5 liter engine hasn’t got power to spare, but it’s a simpler and likely less-costly-to-maintain engine vs. the 3.6 liter six. How fast do you want to go? How much do you want to pay?

I personally prefer the 3.6 because I value the extra margin of power – and because the power it produces is produced without a turbocharger (as in the new Outback, which no longer offers a six).

That said, I’d also factor in the particulars of the particular used Outback you’re shopping. Unlike shopping for a new one, where things like mileage and condition are irrelevances – they are very relevant when it comes to a used Outback. I’d take a low-miles/excellent condition 2.5 Outback over a higher-miles, not-as-nice Outback with the six.

Of course, your mileage may vary!

. . .

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  1. I had a 2010 Legacy with the CVT transmission. At around 110,000 miles, final drive solenoid (or something like that) failed, lighting up my whole dash. I had to replace a solenoid bank as a set. Cost me $1800 a the dealer.

    I had multiple problems with the car throughout it’s 14x,xxx mile life. I don’t remember how many miles it had when I sold it.

    I had to replace the Alternator, the Transmission module and struts. The struts and the sway bar links were a constant source of problems and aggravation driving this car. It always sounded like somehting was coming apart underneath. If I remember correctly, I also had to do a repair to the AC system. Maybe it was a pressure switch? I don’t remember.

    Comparing this car with my 2001 Saturn L100, this car was a lemon. The only repairs in 200,000 miles I had to do with it was the starter, the ignition switch, the clutch and the struts. It needed an alternator at 198,000 miles. The car ran like new from the time I bought it till the day it was stolen. It was one ugly car, but the reliability was unmatched. It had manual windows and a 5 speed manual transmission.

    I miss that car. But not the Subaru. Glad it’s gone.

    • I changed a flat tire on a friend’s Lesbaru. When I saw the rear suspension, that ruined me on them forever. It’s just another front end (probably the exact same parts) with the tie rods anchored to the frame instead of a steering rack.

  2. Ha! This question was great! Okay, I have two Subaru’s (95 Legacy 2.2L 5sp, 05 Outback 2.5L SOHC, 4sp auto) and will likely be buying a replacement. I’m always scoping info on Subaru’s and here is a summary of that. (I keep these notes to myself for when *eventually* the car purchase happens!)

    Subaru Notes:
    2011-up Forester comes with timing chain vs belt. Forester went to CVT in model year 2014
    CVT installed in 2.5L Outback starting in 2010. Installed in 3.6L Outback in 2014
    2013 first year for timing chain and 2nd gen CVT in Outback
    2014 is last year for manual transmission in Outback, but also has timing chain
    Some mechanics say that 2011 was the year they got the head gasket issues resolved.
    2018 was last year for no “eye-sight” on the base model (but base model has no seat warmers…)

    Based on this, rankings of Subarus for wifey are:
    1) 2005-2013 Outback 3.6L (timing chain, regular automatic transmission)
    2) 2011-2013 Forester 2.5L (for same reasons as above)
    3) 2013+ Outback 2.5L (timing chain, 2nd gen CVT transmission)
    4) 2014 Outback 2.5L (timing chain, last year of manual transmission)

    • Back in 2011 people said the head gasket issues were solved in 05+ models. And before that, they solved it in 2000, only the 96-99 2.5’s had the problem. Now it’s 2011. Maybe in 2020 they’ll finally get it right. Or maybe it’s just part of the ownership experience. Shame. I like Subis but I don’t have the money to fuck around.


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