The Truth About Cars » Outback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:24:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Outback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:10:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902858 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 […]

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2015 Subaru OutbackOf 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.

True, you could argue that most modern crossovers have stolen their offense from the Outback’s playbook. But driving the Outback is different, and it continues to be perceived by the vast majority of actual Outback buyers as different, as a true crossover; a true mid-point, between car and SUV.

Audi’s A6 and A4 Allroads are all good and well, but they’re very rare cars. Volvo’s XC70 has lingered, but it too has become very uncommon in terms of new car sales. Don’t even say the words, “Honda Crosstour,” within range of my ears.

One then wonders what’s always been so different about the Outback.

To answer that question, we would need to examine multiple products from multiple periods over the the last two decades. So what about this new car? What makes this 2015 model great; what ensures further success for the fifth Outback?

2015 Subaru OutbackSubjectively speaking, it looks better than the outgoing car. Though strikingly similar in most ways, perhaps too similar from some angles, its face is cleaner and classier. Unfortunately, this specific tester, a 2.5i Touring version on loan from Subaru Canada, features alloy wheels that do a really good impression of cheap wheel covers.

It’s better built than previous Outbacks were. There’s no hint of fragility to this car, no after-bump jiggles and rattles, no door-closing thwacks where there ought to be, and are, thunks. It is more than vaguely Toyota-like, and given the relationship between the two companies, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Interior quality and workmanship has taken a big leap forward, particularly where it matters around the driver. The infotainment unit is now modern, which is to say it meets our low expectations for in-car systems but doesn’t rise to the level of convenience you’d find in the new Mazda 3 or the depth of services in Chrysler’s UConnect.

With each new Outback iteration, there’s been a moderate increase in space and comfort, progressively less of the knees-to-chest awkwardness for rear passengers and arguably better seats for front passengers. This remains true, but I’d like the front seats to feature side bolstering that wasn’t quite so far away from my sides. The headrests feature a welcome range of adjustability.

Cargo capacity is up slightly from 34.3 cubic feet to 35.3; from 71.3 to 73.3 cubic feet with the seats folded as overall length grew by six-tenths of an inch.

The Outback is still a smart car. The roof crossbars are embedded in the flush-mounted side rails until you need them. Combined city/highway fuel efficiency has increased from 26 mpg to 28, three miles more per gallon than the 2014 Honda CR-V, America’s best-selling SUV/crossover, is rated to achieve, and on par with the 2014 four-cylinder Toyota Camry, America’s most popular car. Pressing Subaru’s X-Mode button turns the Outback, already a tall-riding car with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, into a very capable mud-runner by remapping the transmission and all-wheel-drive system and traction control. It’s not a joke.

2015 Subaru Outback rearThe 2015 Outback’s on-road behaviour produces what may be the most convincing argument that the Outback has improved. Ride quality is superb, as the Outback isolates occupants from road imperfections while maintaining a nice amount of firmness. The Outback has become a very quiet highway cruiser, no vibration seeps through the pedals or wheel or shifter, and the boxer four-cylinder has been further refined to reduce unwanted boxer noises.

Say what you will about the character of older H-4 Subarus, they weren’t the engines you strapped on if you were going to meet the queen. This 2.5L is now smoother, and there is still a hint of flat-four warble if you call upon it.

Subaru has also made a slight return to its more enjoyable driving roots after a fourth-gen car that was all too boring to drive. This new Outback doesn’t have the the same amount of athleticism enjoyed by the third-generation Outback; nor is there any real interactivity here. But body roll is kept to a minimum in comparison with most small crossovers and the steering is sufficiently quick to make me think I’d hustle this car whenever the opportunity presented itself. I wouldn’t have said that about the last Outback, and I certainly wouldn’t say the same for the Toyota RAV4 or Nissan Rogue.

Hustling is perhaps a stretch for the overburdened 175-horsepower powerplant, of course. There’s a great deal more cooperation now between the engine and the continuously variable transmission, so much so that the car no longer feels slow unless you’re accelerating from rest up a steep hill. The CVT is rarely annoying, offering a distinct stepping sensation and paddles if you want to exert some control. In the Canadian market, consumers are still given the option of selecting a manual transmission. Oh joy, oh delight.

2015 Subaru Outback InteriorYes, you’ll want the 256-horsepower six-cylinder, but you might not want its fuel bill, 22 mpg overall, or the $3000 premium you’ll pay on top-trim Limited models to get that boxer six. (Limiteds start at $30,845 including destination, $3000 more than the Outback Premium, which is $2100 more than the base Outback. We averaged a somewhat disappointing 24 mpg in mostly urban driving in the four-cylinder.) And you won’t need the six-cylinder – base four-cylinder Outbacks weigh less than 3600 pounds. They can make do.

Positivity aside, I’ll admit I grew somewhat bored of the Outback before the week was up. I blame the black paint for masking the more stylish look of the cladding – it looks great in lighter shades. We also have frequent access to more thrilling machines on a regular basis. The Outback doesn’t thrill, nor does it aim to.

No, the Outback really is just a new take on the old-fashioned station wagon. Rather, a 20-year-old take. But I realized when the Outback left our driveway that a rugged, roomy, affordable, surprisingly efficient, all-weather midsize wagon is basically the perfect car for almost everybody I know, in the same way flimsy, massive, affordable, inefficient, rear-wheel-drive full-size wagons were basically the perfect car for almost everybody I never knew 35 or 40 years ago.

There are things Subaru could do better, from re-injecting more fun back into the chassis, crafting less American-waistline-oriented seats, designing a faster power liftgate that doesn’t leave me standing impatiently in a parking lot with a 30-pound bag of dog food, reining in the aggressive throttle tip-in, and providing 200 standard horsepower.

Yet the 2015 version makes the Outback a better car than it’s ever been. Subaru has worked to make it better despite the lack of pressure from rival automakers; despite the security of Subaru’s steadily growing North American sales volume.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. These Outback images were supplied by frequent GCBC photographer Steffani Cain.

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Piston Slap: New CV Boots? A Split Decision! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-new-cv-boots-a-split-decision/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-new-cv-boots-a-split-decision/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:53:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860313 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.  […]

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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?

Sajeev answers:

The split boots are probably a great idea, Dorman makes good stuff for old cars when the OEMs can or will not. That said, I’ve never used split boots on my rides as I roll RWD only.  But here’s the real problem: armchair analysis.

  • Do you think road dirt/debris lodged inside the boot will eventually eat the axle bearings?
  • Do you have any doubts to that question?
  • Is that your final answer?

Only you can answer that and decide what’s worth your time/money.  The $20-something for split boots is a cheap fix that’ll probably work, as you mentioned the axles are neither clunking nor popping: now try it from a standstill with the steering wheel turned at full lock (i.e. full left AND full right) and listen for the clunk.

If that test works out, well, go ahead and use the split boots.  They will probably extend the life of the axle long enough to justify their expense.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New York 2014: 2015 Subaru Outback Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-subaru-outback-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-subaru-outback-revealed/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:21:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803114 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. Under the bonnet, a choice of either a 2.5-liter flat-4 or 3.6-liter flat-6 will send 175 to 256 horsepower through a standard CVT to all four corners. The […]

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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.

Under the bonnet, a choice of either a 2.5-liter flat-4 or 3.6-liter flat-6 will send 175 to 256 horsepower through a standard CVT to all four corners. The Legacy-esque Outback should average 28 mpg from the flat-4, 22 with the flat-6.

As for safety, rearview camera, pre-collision braking and adaptive cruise control make up part of the overall driver-protection package on-offer from Subaru.

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Subaru to Unveil Levorg Concept at Tokyo Motor Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/subaru-to-unveil-levorg-concept-at-tokyo-motor-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/subaru-to-unveil-levorg-concept-at-tokyo-motor-show/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 14:14:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=639041 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. The sport tourer concept — whose name is derived from legacy, revolution and touring — comes equipped with Subaru’s […]

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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.

The sport tourer concept — whose name is derived from legacy, revolution and touring — comes equipped with Subaru’s next-gen EyeSight pre-crash braking system, wraparound LED headlamps, a turbocharged 1.6-liter direct-injection boxer, and other wonderful, ephemeral goodies concept cars usually receive.

The tourer (don’t call it a wagon around the hipsters lest their stretched earlobes snap) has a bit of muscle in its appearance, as well, with sculpted fender flares, a slanted backside, and a round nose with an air scoop ready to direct cold air through the engine for more power.

Subaru will also unveil the Cross Sport Design Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show, a concept with a small body for better seat access and maneuvering through the tight streets of Tokyo and, perhaps in the future, a street near you.

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Piston Slap: Time to take the Outback, Out Back? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/piston-slap-time-to-take-the-outback-out-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/piston-slap-time-to-take-the-outback-out-back/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495126 TTAC commentator markholli writes: Hi Sajeev, 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 […]

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TTAC commentator markholli writes:

Hi Sajeev,

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)

It is paid for (no loan) and has 108,000 miles. We planned to keep it at least 3 more years until we have a third child, then “upgrade” to a minivan. Because we thought we’d hang on to it for a while we just dumped about 1000 bucks into a timing belt, water pump, new belts and pulleys, and a new front wheel hub assembly. Good to go, right? Wrong.

A few days ago I noticed that the car had been quietly weeping black tears onto the garage floor. After determining that it was not a loose oil filter or drain plug, I took it in to a mechanic to have it checked out. The astute among you (and Subaru owners) have already figured it out and will not be surprised by this: head gasket failure ($1700). Oh, and while they were under there they noticed a bad axle with a torn boot ($300).

One more thing, that annoying torque binding at low speeds: transfer case clutch pack ($650). And because it is a material matter to this discussion, the car will also need new tires this year, which will be another $600, at least. Almost forgot: the cruise control doesn’t work, and I have no idea what that will cost to repair.

So here’s the question: trade, sell, or fix?

Option A: Trade. Clean trade-in according to NADA is $7000. This car has some issues, so they’d probably only give us $4500…if that. I suppose if I didn’t disclose the issues they may give me closer to $6000. A good CPO Outback (yes, we’re looking at another Outback…my wife loves the car and is not ready for a minivan yet) can be had for $21-26k. We would have a warranty, a more powerful flat-six, new-car smell, and be problem free for a few years until we need a bigger car. But then again, we’d have a payment.

Option B: Sell. List it locally as a “mechanic’s special.” Clean, problem free cars like mine with similar mileage are selling for about $9k. Maybe I could get $7000 from somebody who is willing to do the work on their own and save some money? Then I would use that cash as a down payment on the new car.

Option C: Fix. Let’s assume I deplete my savings account to the tune of $3250 to keep this thing: do I have any guarantee that another expensive problem won’t emerge 5,000 miles later? No. And experience has taught me that Subarus are, unfortunately, not on par with Toyotas and Hondas for reliability. Although the car has never left us stranded, it seems like it always needs something. Death by a thousand paper cuts.

I’m turning it over to you, best and brightest. What would a smart person do in my situation? We need to figure it out relatively soon because the car is leaving big oil stains wherever we go, and we don’t feel comfortable taking it too far from home, which limits our summer plans.

Sajeev answers:

It’s not every day you hear about an 8-year-old car with 108,000 miles falling apart like this. In the words of the Great Ron Burgundy, “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast!”

Option A or B are the most logical, since you can afford a monthly payment and probably want another car.  Plus, your household cash flow sounds like it could be a concern, if something else happens with this car. Or anything else, like an unplanned family expense: option C is a non starter for me, literally.

So do you trade it in or sell private party?  Poking around Edmunds.com for a Subie like yours needing significant repair, I seriously doubt you’ll get $7000 if you go at it alone. Unless you don’t tell anyone about the problems, at the risk of detriment to your karma. The cosmos prefers truthful acts, and if you get lucky those will net about $4500.

Which could be an easy $1000 more than you’ll get on trade, unless you somehow manage to get a great deal on your replacement vehicle and then hammer them on the trade.  And not get hosed on your financing, depending on your credit rating.  Good luck with all that.

So my advice is simple: buy another Subie** and sell this one by yourself…honestly!

 Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

**Obviously not another Subie, but since you are adamant about burning money when you could save so much coin with a normal family sedan from Honda, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, GM, etc…who am I to judge after all the Panther Chassis talk?

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New or Used: Perception vs. Reality, Wagon Lament http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-or-used-perception-vs-reality-wagon-lament/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/new-or-used-perception-vs-reality-wagon-lament/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2011 14:22:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409546     Chris writes: 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 […]

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Chris writes:

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.

While not the ideal vehicle for long distance driving, the X-Terra does a perfectly fine job of carting all of us around in relative comfort as well as through the Northeast’s recent winter from Hell. We think this will also do fine when junior arrives this summer, so that car is staying. The Insight will also stay as we think it is too cool to get rid of and in a pinch will work to transport one of us and a child (we had an airbag cut-off switch installed for the passenger seat to make it baby seat safe), or both of us on the rare night out. But we know we will need two cars which will seat four people and their stuff. We tend to make fairly regular 3 – 5 hour road trips to visit family, so something a little less truck like would be nice for the highway and we have capped our car spending budget at about $20k.

Before being baby bound, the requirements for my next car were that it had to have a manual transmission and a sunroof, pretty simple. But now that we are leaning towards a station wagon (don’t want another SUV), it seems the choices are quite limited, particularly new cars, and has us looking in the used market. VWs are out of the question, new or used, as my experience with the Jetta was one I don’t care to remember. I think I am one of the few that like the look of Saab 9-5 wagons, but I know their reliability under GM is crap, so that is also off the list. The BMW 3-series wagons are a little two small and the 5-series are a little too ugly. An S4 Avant would be great, but other than also being a little small, they don’t come around too often and that choice might be getting a little too close to VW for my comfort. A Subaru wagon would be fine also, but I hate the Outback models and honestly can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Subaru in the town we live.

All that being said, we seem to be leaning in the direction of one of two cars: a Volvo V70R or a Mercedes E320, which are almost polar opposites. Volvos under Ford ownership scare me a little, but it seems Volvo owners are pretty hard-core and love their cars. It meets both requirements and everyone might be happy, especially the driver. While in the Mercedes, I would be sacrificing my manual transmission, which I can learn to be OK with, but I would be gaining a car with rock solid history on the reliability side as well as once of the safest cars on the road (which you can see is important by the two top choices). As different as both cars are from each other, they do have good similarities like lots of room and all wheel drive.

Steve answers:

Most of what you said is based on perception instead of reality.

“Volvos under Ford ownership scare me a little…”

As a long-time Volvo enthusiast, I can tell you that this is a myth par excellence. Volvo BEFORE Ford had horrific reliability issues with the Volvo S80 and Volvo 960/V90. These vehicles were maintenance nightmares that would almost make a late-90′s Jetta blush.

Then you had the Electronic Throttle Module issue debacle which Ford inherited and paid for over the years. Along with the lackluster S40/V50 and transmission hungry V70/XC70 and XC60/XC90.

Ford pretty much cleaned up some of the mess they inherited, mis-marketed the brand as a Lexus/BMW wanna be, and sold the rest.

“I think I am one of the few that like the look of Saab 9-5 wagons, but I know their reliability under GM is crap, so that is also off the list.”

One of my favorite buys for the money if you want a stick for the family. Given that your throwaway budget is $20k (more on that later), I would buy a late model 9-5 and just have it covered under a CPO warranty if you’re that concerned.

The Mercedes E320 I wouldn’t touch with a 47 foot pole. There is zero sport within that model, abysmal reliability, and the cost of maintaining the beast goes far beyond your other two cars. For all that money and hassle you may as well keep the Xterra and enjoy the savings.

Which just happens to be exactly what I recommend. You already have a vehicle that can handle the travels along with the gas sipper (great choice by the way!). I would just upgrade the Xterra instead of dumping a trailer load of cash in a crappy used car market. Leather seats. Better stereo. A bit more noise insulation. For about a thousand or fifteen hundred you can both be perfectly happy for many years to come.

Sajeev Answers:

While I understand everyone’s love for wagons,  agreeing with everyone and giving the standard answer must be getting trite for some folks: every wagon on the market is generally ham-stringed by their manufacturer’s quirks, mostly the European ones that everyone loves. No way in hell would I consider a Mercedes wagon in your price range: complicated diagnostics, questionable electro-hydro brakes, and other electro-mechanical “quirks” that will drive you mad. And while a great wagon for wagon-ly duties, some Subies aren’t a good long term value: depends on the year, motor and service records. Especially that last part.

My next standard response: look at the Acura TSX sport wagon if you are looking for new, or a last-gen Mazda 6 wagon on the used side. So yes, the “6″ should be on your short list.

So yeah, that’s the current crop of wagons out there in the market. It could be worse, but while I know you want a wagon, I question your resolve. If I’m wrong, get the Volvo or Mazda 6 of your dreams. If not, drive the plethora of family sedans from Japan and the US that offer more content, more value and far less stress in the long term. Or CUVs, that offer cool stuff like panoramic roofs, electronic gadgets to keep kids quiet (DVD player FTW) and still have some amount of wagon utility.

Just more food for thought, especially since you’ll have kids, car seats and the resulting bad back or two in your household after it all.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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New or Used: MAXX-ing out Mom’s Next Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-maxx-ing-out-moms-next-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-maxx-ing-out-moms-next-wagon/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2011 16:52:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396296 Michael writes: 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 […]

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Michael writes:

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?

Steve Answers:

This is a very tough call. On the used side I tend to encourage folks to keep their vehicles. Your post doesn’t mention anything about where the coolant is leaking. I would like to know about what the mechanics did find and whether there are any rust or powertrain issues.

A new low mileage engine would cost perhaps $1500 at most if or when it’s needed. Throw in some new shocks, a detail, and any other minor issues and she may need only about $3000 at most to keep it for another five years. If it’s been garaged and diligently maintained, it’s definitely a consideration.
A good wagon replacement for a Volvo V70?  A Ford Freestyle Limited loaded up with perhaps 50k miles on it. You have the exact same underpinnings as the far pricier Volvo XC90 with plenty of interior space and excellent fuel economy. If she likes a more enclosed feel like her old Volvo she may also go for the Ford Flex. It’s a bit pricier than the Freestyle. But it has a very high level of features (just like Volvo’s had in days of yore) and has a stellar reliability record.
Sajeev Answers:
Steve, as per usual, is right.  The Volvo is probably just a few weeks and a couple grand away from being a nice and reliable driver for your mom. Think of that trip to the mechanic as a spa vacation for your ride!  Too bad that doesn’t work for most people.
That said, the Freestyle (or Taurus X) is a good alternative.  The Outback is a good choice, but they aren’t a homogenous grouping like said Ford.  Some need timing belt replacements, some get really upset if you don’t follow oil changes to the letter of the owner’s manual.  And some require premium fuel, which is a concern to some.  It is hard to know which one you will recommend to your Mom, make sure to Google up the goods before pulling away from the seller’s lot.
My choice? None of the above.  The Chevy Malibu MAXX does it all: wagon, leather and heated seats in LT trim.  Unlike the sedan, the outside styling has gotten better with age. While the interior is pretty terrible for the OCD car nut, every non-Volvo discussed here isn’t exactly inspiring in that arena.  And if anyone in the family has a penchant for performance motoring, get the SS model. Like many half-baked treats from GM (from the Corvair to the G8) the MAXX deserved a better fate.  That baby had some legs to it.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Subaru Sales Stay Strong; Suzuki Going, Going, Gone http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/subaru-sales-stay-strong-suzuki-going-going-gone/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/subaru-sales-stay-strong-suzuki-going-going-gone/#comments Tue, 02 Mar 2010 21:33:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=347230 Subaru crushed it again this month [via PRNewswire], with the Outback and Forester both breaking 6,000 units of sale and overall sales up 38 percent. Suzuki, not so much [full release here]. Despite a recently-launched (and relatively well-received) C-segment sedan, the Japanese brand managed to sell only 1,375 cars last month. That’s fewer units than […]

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Subaru crushed it again this month [via PRNewswire], with the Outback and Forester both breaking 6,000 units of sale and overall sales up 38 percent. Suzuki, not so much [full release here]. Despite a recently-launched (and relatively well-received) C-segment sedan, the Japanese brand managed to sell only 1,375 cars last month. That’s fewer units than the Jeep Compass, and only slightly better than the Dodge Nitro and Buick Lucerne. On their own. Suzuki’s one sick puppy! Details after the jump.

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Capsule Review: 2010 Subaru Outback 2.5 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/capsule-review-2010-subaru-outback-2-5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/capsule-review-2010-subaru-outback-2-5/#comments Mon, 14 Dec 2009 19:21:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=339075 Here in the Pacific Northwest, the Subaru Outback has long been one of the most ubiquitous cars on the road. From soccer moms to weed dealers to weed-dealing soccer moms, drizzle-belt car buyers bought the jacked-up AWD wagons in droves, presaging the modern mass-market craze for all things crossover. But in the transition from rough-and-ready […]

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(courtesy:canadiandriver.com)

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the Subaru Outback has long been one of the most ubiquitous cars on the road. From soccer moms to weed dealers to weed-dealing soccer moms, drizzle-belt car buyers bought the jacked-up AWD wagons in droves, presaging the modern mass-market craze for all things crossover. But in the transition from rough-and-ready station wagon to mainstream crossover, the latest Outback seems to have lost the magic that made it the vehicle of choice for Northwest families looking to retire the old Volvo wagon.

The Outback’s transformation is immediately obvious: its rounded, swollen shape marks it as something distinctly different than a station wagon, looking more like a slimmed-down Tribeca than anything previously carrying the Outback name. For the mainstream market, this only serves to broaden the Outback’s appeal, lending it an upmarket appeal that has nothing to do with the brand’s utilitarian roots. Awkward styling, long a well-established Subaru trait, is well represented in the Outback’s odd proportions and fussy front-end treatment. In this iteration though, Subaru’s odd lines fit well in its new CUV segment, making it just another odd shape in an evolving vehicle category.

Inside, the Outback makes the strongest case to date for its upmarket pretensions. Our full-length Outback review takes the interior to task, but compared to Subaru’s other newly-restyled interiors (the Impreza leaps to mind), even the stripper Outback I tested was a paragon of subtle good taste. Though the dash design echoes the new Subaru theme, with overstyled “wings” flying off the center console, where these elements were finished in cheap Toyota-like silver plastic in the Impreza, the Outback executes the styling cue in a far more subtle and pleasing manner by sculpting the black plastic dashboard material. The use of faux-brushed-aluminum is tasteful and well-executed for the price-point, and the overall impression seems very appropriate for Subaru’s new Audi-junior positioning. The only major disturbance comes from the cheap-and-cheesy gauge face panel, which sabotages the Outback’s appeal by looking like it came from an the least inspired of Daewoo’s suppliers.

Unfortunately, the mainstream-upscale trend means more weight. Sure, the Outback offers isolation and refinement that its predecessors never even aspired to, but it pays the price every step of the way. The 2.5-liter boxer-four engine is wheezy and unremarkable in this application, struggling hard against the Outback’s near 3,500 lb weight. And the CVT automatic doesn’t do any favors either, constantly bouncing the engine from reluctant lug to unproductive thrash. Worse still, the warble of horizontally-opposed cylinders is stifled, making the Outback sound and feel as homogenized as it looks. Paddle shifters help keep the pace up and the engine frantic, but never inject even an iota of fun into the experience.

But even if the engine were up for a lark, the Outback still wouldn’t be. Aimed directly at a segment defined by consumers who need, but don’t want, a minivan, the Outback delivers the snoozy ride and handling its new target audience will never object to. Though the chassis feels solid, the high seating, soft springs and anesthetized steering lends itself to lobotomized cruising and little else. Outbacks have never been performance machines, perennially held back by weight and softness, but the older models were car-like enough to be enjoyable on a back road. The new model loses this versatility, never feeling less than its swollen size.

And this lack of versatility is what defines the new Outback. Extra interior room and interior-design ambition do little to further the Outback’s original role of a car that could jump from commuting to camping without ever feeling like the compromise it always was. The new model might carry its passengers through the snow in more refined comfort, the trashable, thrashable appeal that made the old models a default choice for the Pacific Northwest’s single-car-families is dead and buried.

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