Over the last month, I’ve spent more time driving Subarus than any other vehicle. This was not intentional.
It all got started in August, when I went to Pebble Beach and I asked Subaru for a press car. I don’t normally take press cars, but I decided that I wanted to continue my tradition of going to Pebble Beach in a station wagon, which now spans four years and four different wagons: a 1997 BMW 528i Touring, a 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, a 2000 Volvo V70 Cross Country, and now the Subaru.
Subaru has a problem, though it’s a problem many other automakers would love to have. The small Japanese automaker is growing at a rapid rate and it’s fully expected to run out of capacity to fulfill demand sooner rather than later. Most automakers would simply expand and flood the market with more units to feed the sales rush, but for Subaru it might mean becoming the opposite of the market position and perception they’ve taken years to cultivate.
As Bloomberg‘s Kyle Stock puts it, “Being small, though, is the reason Subaru has become such a big deal. With manufacturing capacity maxed out, it now has to decide what kind of company it wants to be.”
The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt. The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy wagon and lifted it, added some molding, big fog lights with mesh screens, and a roof rack. The marketing people ingeniously called it the Outback and hired the best known Aussie in America, Paul Hogan, to promote it.
The results of this marketing brilliance were sales that exceeded expectations, possibly saving the company. The Outback was such a huge hit Volvo and Audi followed suit and jacked up their own wagons, creating the Cross Country XC and the allroad quattro. At the 2014 New York International Auto Show, with yours truly in attendance, two models first dressed as vegan organic French-press coffee drinking hipster hikers, and later as that blissfully ignorant well-dressed couple that every thirty year old yuppie think they will always be, unveiled the fifth generation of the Outback.
Of all the things that struck me during my week with the 2015 Subaru Outback at the end of August, it was the realization that this nameplate has been around for two decades which shocked me most.
Is this because I’m getting old, that when I think something occurred recently, I find out it actually happened 20 years ago? Subaru first showed North Americans a Legacy Outback at the New York Auto Show in 1994. In other words, there are people who have been driving for four years who never knew a world without the Subaru Outback.
Yet during this long period in which the Outback, and Subaru as a whole, became increasingly successful, there have never been any properly direct Outback rivals, at least none that have made real hay off the Outback’s format. And yes, by the Outback’s format, I really mean the AMC Eagle’s format. (Read More…)
TTAC Commentator Detroit Iron writes:
Long time no talk (I sound like a native American an Indian). (Yeah, not so much. – SM)
I have an 09 Outback with ~65k miles. I had noticed a bit of a burning smell after running it for a while and it was pretty strong after a recent trip. I thought it smelled like a belt slipping but when I popped the hood the two belts looked fine. After looking around for a minute I realized that the passenger side CV boot had torn and was dripping grease on to the cat. Checking the other side revealed that the driver’s side boot was also torn. Apparently this is a pretty common failure for scoobies. The Internet says I should be concerned if I hear a “popping” sound or the clunk associated with failing bearings. Luckily I am hearing neither. The dealer had a set price of $370 per boot for replacing the boots that the service manager somewhat disconcertingly blurted out almost before I finished describing the problem. The independent shop thought they could do both for less than $500 if the axles weren’t bad, but if they were bad then it would be another $450 per.
My question is this: Can I just get split boots from JC Whitney and pack them with grease or do I really need to have the pros fix it? (Read More…)
The 2015 Subaru Outback made a stop at the 2014 New York Auto Show as the fifth-generation wagon makes its way to the showroom floor this summer.
A new gold dawn for touring cars is upon us if Subaru is to be believed. Come November, the automaker will unveil the future of the Legacy and Outback at the Tokyo Motor Show: The Levorg.
TTAC commentator markholli writes:
First, a big “thank you” to you and all of the contributors and commenters on TTAC for hours of free entertainment. Keep up the good work! Now that I’m done buttering everybody up I’ll get to the matter at-hand. I have a 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5i (base) which has been my wife’s daily driver. (pictured above, literally – SM) (Read More…)
For years, my wife and I have enjoyed the carefree enjoyment of running around without a care in the world. Then we had a baby, who is soon going to go from an only child to a big sister. The wife has owned the same car that she bought new when she graduated college: 2000 Honda Insight. Regardless of which side of the hybrid fence you are on, as a car guy, this car continues to amaze me with almost 230,000 miles and no major problems. I have on the other hand gone through a few more cars: Saab 9000, Saab SPG, Ford Bronco, VW Jetta, Nissan X-Terra. My current ride is the X-Terra chiefly bought so I could arrive on muddy construction sites and be taken a little more seriously than my European sports car driving bosses.
My mom’s 1998 V70 with 215k miles is starting to leak coolant, with no major puddles on the ground. I told them to look at the oil to see if there were any signs of the coolant in the oil. I personally think the time with the Volvo is almost over as the dealership (an independent dealership) said that its time was slowly approaching about a year ago, but they couldn’t promise how fast. My mom loves this car and my dad likes it too. Her requirements are preferably station wagon, heated leather seats, and automatic. They live in Michigan so it gets cold. AWD is not a necessity, and she knows that snow tires work just fine. She does haul a bike on occasion, so it must be easy for her to haul the bike without having my dad there at all times.
She loves her Volvo and would like another if she could find one that would be reliable. I recommended the Outback, especially the 2005 and later models. What are other possibilities? Their budget is around $15,000 or less. They tend to drive their cars into the ground, so reliability is more important than the badge. What should she look at?