By on September 18, 2015

2015 Subaru Outback

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.

But before I hit Pebble, I did a little tour of Northern California with my girlfriend’s family and we went to a national park, and a big reservoir, and a couple of cities — and so basically I just drove around for two long weeks in a Subaru Outback. I think I added about 500 miles to the odometer.

Then, two weeks ago, I went to Portland for the launch of the new Lexus RX, which is a luxurious new crossover that looks angry. For this event, I flew out a few days early and I rented my own car. But when you are in Portland, apparently you don’t get a Chrysler 200 or a Dodge Grand Caravan when you rent a car. You get a Subaru Forester. Then I visited Salem, and Corvallis, and Eugene, and basically all of Portland over a span of approximately four days. I think I put about 300 miles on that thing.

Now, at no time during either event was I really impressed with the on-road performance of my Subaru. The Outback has something like 173 horsepower, which really isn’t enough for a car of its ever-increasing size. The Forester has about the same engine, but it’s an SUV, and that much power isn’t exactly doing it any favors, either. So there was no point during either trip when I really felt exhilarated by these vehicles.

It’s the same story around corners. Yeah, sure, the Outback and the Forester handle a little better than their dullest rivals, but these things aren’t roller coasters. You aren’t going around turns and screaming for joy at just how well these cars hold the road and how much fun you’re having.

So these cars aren’t that exciting. Yet, here’s the thing: When you’re driving around Northern California and Northwest Oregon, all you see is Subaru. Everyone has a Subaru. Old Imprezas. New Outbacks. Modified WRXs. Foresters with kayaks on top. Every single person in this area is driving around in a Subaru. But why?

I started to understand it after only a couple of days in the Outback. It wasn’t about driving pleasure. It also wasn’t about style, or luxury, or power. It’s about the fact that Subaru makes good, solid cars that are tremendously easy to own.

I’ll give you a few examples. You get in most Subarus today and you turn a key. A honest-to-goodness, legitimate, automotive key. Just like in the old days. No trickery. No keyless stuff. No buttons. You just do what you’ve always done and you don’t have to figure out anything new.

Inside, the center control stack is so simple it’s amazing. All the buttons are big. They’re well marked. They’re well arranged. You don’t have to go searching for anything. You don’t have some weird gear lever with a strange shift pattern. There’s no style for the sake of style. Everything is simple, logical, and well placed. It might not be the highest quality, and it might not be beautiful, but it works — and this is how Subaru drivers want it.

Then there’s the whole “standard all-wheel drive” thing. Now, we car enthusiasts know that all-wheel drive isn’t necessarily the savior that much of the public makes it out to be. But to most people, the feeling of driving a car with the reassuring feeling of all-wheel drive is exactly what they want from their vehicle. For proof, all you have to do is consider the popularity of Subaru vehicles in Northern California and Northwest Oregon, where it never really even snows.

And so, I’ve started to understand the appeal of Subarus. No, most of their models aren’t driver’s cars. They don’t have the most stylish interior or the most beautiful exterior. They aren’t class leaders in technology, or equipment, or gadgets, but these cars are sold to people who want a car they can trust, a car that won’t give them any crap, and a car that makes them feel safe.

All those commercials with the dogs help, too.

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152 Comments on “I Think I Finally Get Subarus...”


  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Subaru: Huge seller in my area and the nearest dealer is >90 miles away.

  • avatar

    #1 BIG SPACIOUS CAR
    #2 INEXPENSIVE
    #3 Automatic transmission with AWD

    Why is this so complicated?

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      I would also add:
      #4 Open greenhouse with great visability

      I think this is one of those intangibles that gets overlooked a lot in car reviews but still is important to a lot of people. My kids would always want to take the Sienna because they could see better out of it. I 5’9″ but every Subaru I was ever in seemed to have a ton of headroom and excellent visability, for driver and passenger alike. With “coupe styling” all the rage, it’s hard to find a car with good visability. I think this, combined with easy entry/exit access, is also helping drive CUV/SUV sales.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Hit the nail on the head. It’s a lot of function and utility for not much money. If you want something with AWD and decent cargo space below $30k, a Forester or Outback are going to be big blips on the radar.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        High beltlines and slot windows really are unpleasant from the inside.

        • 0 avatar
          CRConrad

          One of the reasons I didn’t by an Opel Insignia. Or a Peugeot 508, which I would have got new in stead of used for not much more money. Or even a Ford Mondeo, though that one was closer.

      • 0 avatar
        Phil in Englewood

        +11 (it’s as far as the knob on my amplifier goes)

        The ability to see out of a car in all directions is a critical safety issue. This trend to beltlines at about chin level and tiny slit windows that make cars look like the offspring of a
        Cylon and a Star Wars storm trooper are just awful. I guess the designers think it looks cool, and maybe there’s more room for side impact protection in a door with no window, but I hate it.

        Being able to see out of the car will be a major factor in the purchase of my next car. I have avoided accidents because I was able to see them coming. The best impact protection is not to be hit in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        Absolutely, the open greenhouse is a big selling feature for many. So many smaller suv’s and cars have this sunken in feeling almost claustrophobic. Ex: gla, mx-5, 2016 tucson, and many other suv’s . If you think I am full of it. Try sitting in the back of one of those vehicles. They all suck for visibility. And prices are great compared to other brands. A loaded awd Tucson limited is over $35,000. And it gets less mpg over a Forester Touring 2.5i. Then comes the resale value. Not to many brands have a better resale value over Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      Pretty much this. In some parts of the country this is the minimum barrier to ownership.

      Also, here in the PNW? Good luck getting a FWD version of *any* Forester competitor. CR-V, RAV4 – dealers will *only* stock AWD versions because customers are all cross-shopping Subaru.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “people who want a car they can trust, a car that won’t give them any crap, and a car that makes them feel safe.”

    In other words, the market Toyota got in 1988 and lost around 2009 when they stopped caring about interior quality or design appearance and wouldn’t offer AWD.

    Volvo had this market as well, but more well-heeled. Until they switched to FWD architecture and their models became pretty unreliable.

    Saab had this market too, but lost it earlier than Volvo or Toyota, under the direction of GM.

    Basically an amalgamation of people who would rather have something else, but those something else’s disappointed them and let them down.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Saab lost it a lot earlier when they priced themselves out of their natural (96 and 99) market with the 900 and 9000 series. It worked for a while but the brand couldn’t really compete with Audi and BMW, and the 9000 was something of a sales flop in the all-important US market. It’s not really a surprise that Saab was all but dead by 1990.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “It’s not really a surprise that Saab was all but dead by 1990.”

        When GM bought the other 50% and took full ownership!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think the 900 was alright, and they seem to have sold enough of them. But by the time the 9000 came around, other manufacturers were branching out into big luxury brands and SUV items – and Saab had two empty hands. You can’t live on two FWD small-medium car models in modern manufacturing times.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Saab also had a Chevy and Subaru for sale.

          • 0 avatar
            Bokonon

            Yup – the notorious “Trollblazer” and the “Saabaru”.

            They were nice rebadges of the underlying Trailblazer and Subaru Impreza – with nicer interiors and all. But they were still very obvious rebadges.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            No no, I mean early 90’s when the 9000 came around. They only had two cars. 900 and 9000.

        • 0 avatar
          VW16v

          I think single Saab 900 had a fuel an interior fuel leak. Almost impossible to find. Yes, the fuel lines went inside the cabin of Saab’s. Good for very cold climates. But, very poor for most of the USA.

          • 0 avatar
            kosmo

            Believe it or not, GM actually fixed this. The fuel lines on my GM 900 ran under the exterior of the car. I know because I pinched one off at the put-in of a kayaking run in the middle of nowhere.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Pre-GM Saabs were completely hit or miss, and even then the hits may just have been people with no frame of reference as to what should be expected from a car. I sold Saabs in 1989, so I am comfortable telling you that they needed to be saved by GM for sound reasons. We never wanted to touch them, because chances are something would break or we’d discover some massive assembly error that the mechanics would then resent us for. Our dealership sold something like 70 Oldsmobiles, 70 Hondas, and 7 Saabs a month. The service department was split in half, with Hondas and Oldsmobiles on one side and Saabs on the other. Our town also supported two independent Saab repair shops. They were the worst.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        What was the Saab customer like in 1989? Also, what part of the country are we talking here?

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I was in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is a college town. New Saab customers were typically college faculty, with the unfortunate addition of a doctor whose daughter fell victim to his ignorance about cars. Used Saab customers were people who knew not what hygiene is.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            So college faculty *then* were just a combination of ignorant and stupid? Thank heavens they are not like that today!

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            For every member of the faculty that bought a Saab, there were five that bought a Honda from us, three that bought a Subaru from our other store, probably two or three that bought Volvos, BMWs, VWs, and Toyotas. They weren’t all imbeciles. My parents were both college professors, just not in the humanities.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            At my college it was a mix of Volvo and Subaru for the faculty, with Volvo coming out in the lead. There was one Alfa Spider, and one Yukon Denali. The president (in 2005/6) drove a LeSabre.

          • 0 avatar

            At the college I work at, the Prius seems to be the popular car for faculty, although there are a fair number of Subarus and a few Obama-sticker covered Volvo wagons still around.

        • 0 avatar
          tophatt

          I remember as a kid carpooling with a family who had a Saab. Dad was a professor, even as an 11 year old I thought why does this guy have a Saab 9000. I dreaded his weeks as our driver in this embarrassing lump and couldn’t wait to get back in my dad’s 1989 Legend or my mom’s gutless 89 S10 blazer.

          This video is spot on though, you can swap out architect and professor as needed (if the link doesn’t show just google Top Gear Saab Owners)…

        • 0 avatar
          cimarron typeR

          according to Top Gear, architects and professors. They were right- most of my dad’s colleagues drove Swedes- lots of beat up 900s (not event the S, definitely couldn’t afford Turbo).Of course my dad drove an 81 Corolla wagon w/ wood paneling.:)
          Intelligent advertising, touting safety , loyalty . Subaru has locked this demo for life.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        My brother bought a new 900 Turbo 5-speed sedan in 1981. While it was very entertaining to drive, he had a fair amount of trouble with it even though the car was meticulously maintained. Two years later a fuel injection line cracked and sprayed gasoline on the exhaust manifold – the car caught fire and burnt to the ground (fortunately no-one was injured).

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          This is consistent with how I remember the Saabs of the ’80s. They were the Neons of their day: fun to drive, effective in showroom stock racing, but complete junk.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          My father had a 1979 turbo 900 in the rare 5 door body style. It may have been garbage, but it was unique garbage. The distinctive turbo whine was audible from half a block away as he accelerated away from the turn onto our street.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      “people who want a car they can trust, a car that won’t give them any crap, and a car that makes them feel safe.”

      Purely anecdotal, but I’ve owned 2 Subaru wagons over the years, and I had more problems with them than literally every other car I’ve owned, including a ’94 Tempo. And I mean real, leave you stranded kind of trouble.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    40 year history of head gasket failure. No thanks

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      It used to be head gasket failure plus CV-boot and CV-joint failure that would soak up all your money, at least in the High Country of New Mexico.

      But the newest models are holding up real good, according to the people in snow-country who swear by them (as opposed to swear at them).

      The most desired model in my area is the H6 Outback. Garcia Subaru in both Albuquerque, NM, and El Paso, TX, can’t hold on to them and sell them at a premium over MSRP. People travel from hundreds of miles around just to snag one.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        they are better but not up to point that you can drive 250K miles on same boot/shaft/gasket

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          No, not even close to 250K miles. A lot depends on the abuse the vehicle has to take during the winter season.

          Head Gaskets in Subies have been holding up pretty well ever since Subaru started using that Permatex-like sealant on all the gaskets. I believe it may be the same or very similar sealant to what Rolls-Royce developed for their engines in 1970s. Kinda became the standard of the industry.

          Boots are usually replaced as soon as they are cracked or torn because replacing a CV-joint is not only costly, but time consuming.

          • 0 avatar
            benders

            No one replaces boots anymore. Not when remanned replacement drive shafts are so cheap.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Denver

            The CV boots are not an issue. Entire new Chinese half shafts complete are under $100. They are crappy quality but for that price you can replace them at every oil change, just about.

            If you have to spend $1,000 every 100,000 miles to replace the head gaskets, that comes out to a penny a mile on a car that is otherwise cheap to buy and own. Not the end of the world. The newer ones (and the replacements) are multi-layer stainless steel and should be good for the remaining life of the car in most cases. Subaru did not take responsibility for the faulty gaskets in cars with expired warranties but they were not legally required to do so – if GM had to take responsibility for all the stuff that went wrong on their malaise cars they would have gone broke 30 years sooner than they did.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Yes, the head gasket thing got better a decade or so ago.

        CV boots are still an issue, but they’re cheap, predictable, and give plenty of warning.

        So far, the only work that’s been needed on my Subie is scheduled maintenance. But it’s only at 24,000 miles and not quite 3 years, so anything else would be a disappointment.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You realize, of course, that every make of car has an Achilles Heel in there somewhere. Which the Internet is more than happy to harp on ad infinitum.

      While for the average, non-enthusiast, owner said car is just fine and reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      I don’t know. I keep hearing about Subarus and head gaskets. I owned both a 2001 Impreza RT wagon and a 2010 Impreza Outback Sport – both with manual transmissions and lots of miles on them when I traded them in. Neither ever gave me head-gasket problems. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have such trouble – but that’s true with a lot of brands. I suspect the incidence of head-gasket issues was statistically higher with Subarus up to, say, 2011 or 2012. But the echo chamber that is the Internet made it seem a lot worse than it really was.

      I have a 2016 Forester now and I’m hoping that I’ll have good luck with this car as well. But I won’t try to hide it or make excuses if I do have trouble. Nonetheless, I have high hopes because I see a LOT of 10-and 15-year-old Foresters in my area. And they seem to be soldiering along just fine.

      BTW, I didn’t expect to buy a Forester. But, as the article says about others, I found it to be a roomy, comfortable, competent, useful, no-B.S. vehicle. That’s saying a lot these days. It might not be all that exciting but it seems to suit this ex-racer quite well.

      • 0 avatar
        RustyShitboxIsTheNewFast

        Goddamn it, head gaskets were a grounding issue. A weak ground to the block through the head caused the coolant to carry extra potential and electrolitically eat the head or block material. If you re-ground your engine block or park in a garage you will be fine. Around the late 00’s Subaru started putting bigger and better grounds in their cars. Cars have constant HG problems because you have to block sand the mating surfaces to get rid of the pock marks and dimples left by the corrosion, not many repair shops know this so they throw it back together and the same spot leaks.
        In Japan, the first mod most people do to their cars is called the Big 3, grounding the chassis, block, and transmission with large guage wire, because in a wet or corrosive costal climate the factory stuff will simply deteriorate.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      At least in the south. Almost every Saab had an interior fuel leak. Yes, the fuel lines went inside the cabin and would crack and leak.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I agree with CoreyDL, Subaru has replaced Volvo in many respects. I live in MA, which has many Subarus, but we have a place in Vermont, where they are often 40% or more of the cars in any given parking lot. Pickups and Subarus must have 75% of the market in VT.

    I nearly bought a Forester XT opting for the Mazda CX-5 instead, but there are some things I loved about the Subaru. Door sills are well below shoulder height…Subarus are never claustrophobic. The moonroof is massive. The interior quality is much improved, with soft touch stuff…rugged soft touch stuff, where needed. They are just solid, dependable vehicles, with just enough charm.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I would argue with you that until 2012 Subaru interiors were horrible. Now it is much better. Another thing, interior related, rear sit of Outback was a torture chamber for years. The only thing I used to like about Subaru is how easy was to change oil in it

      • 0 avatar
        wolfinator

        I’m surprised to hear it said that Subaru oil changes are easy. At least on my wife’s ’08 Impreza, oil changes annoyed me. The boxer’s exhaust routed tightly around the filter on all sides – a real PITA to fit a filter wrench up in there if it got on too tight. And if the car wasn’t cold, I’d inevitably burn myself on the exhaust. Of the cars I’ve had, liked oil changes on that one the _least_.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve Biro

          Oil filters are now located at the top of the engine bay on most Subarus. You still have to get under the vehicle to drain the pan. But after replacing the plug, you just unscrew the filter up top, screw a new one on and then pour in the oil.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        My 2013 Forester’s interior is horrible, but they improved it a bit for 2014. It’s still no great shakes.

        But that’s actually OK, because I don’t worry about getting mud or snow in the car. I just clean it as best I can and don’t really care if it’s not show-car quality.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      My brother lives in Boston (moved from IN recently), and every time he leaves the city center he’s telling me about how many Subarus he sees everywhere. Especially when he goes on little trips to Maine or VT or CT.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Boston people are special. I hate their guts, seriously. they see cars on weekends and when they drive, they drive like there is no tomorrow. I go there often. You know what they do there? – police dresses a young woman as a runner. She comes to the pedestrian crossing and if you don’t stop, she walkie-talkie you up the road… Anyways… these people out there are born with 2 left hands. I saw how did plumbing in my relative’s house. In my area it wouldn’t even pass inspection. I has to cut everything off and redo… They are so infantile. And besides, damn socialists.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Yup.

      If I hadn’t loved the aesthetics and interior of the XC70 so much, I’d have gotten an Outback.

      They’re pretty much interchangeable, in terms of capabilities and dimensions, and the top-trim Outback is competitive in power [especially against the new XC70, without the T6 motor] and interior quality … hell, even the current Subaru infotainment system is at least close to comparable*.

      (* And I say this as someone who’s picky about them and really loves the Sensus system in the Volvo.

      But the Subaru one trashes the cost-competitive Toyota and Honda systems, dead in the water, and holds up well against the Volvo.)

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        XC70 is a “destination” vehicle. One doesn’t buy one because it’s a good value or utility for the money, one buys one because one specifically WANTS one. They get the same fuel economy as a Tahoe and have a similar price, probably about the same if you include all the cash on the Tahoe’s hood.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      This. In Vermont. I was just up there about a month ago visiting my sister. When we pulled out of the Burlington airport parking lot, it seemed every second car was a Subie. Of course, my sister also owns one. I kind of dig the fact that wagons are so abundant up there, as opposed to the acres and acres of SUVs everywhere else. In many ways, reminded me of Europe.

      Given my needs for a vehicle, I could see seriously considering one. They are big enough without being huge, are reasonably well screwed together, can haul dogs and with a hitch, the small motorcycle-camper we want to buy. So yeah, Subaru seems to have figured out there target market pretty well.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “…that Subaru makes good, solid cars that are tremendously easy to own…”

    This is not entirely truth. I saw a video on youtube another day – removing axle from Subaru. The mechanic said, “well engineered car but where it comes short – quality of steel used”. He sad that with Subarus, often, mechanics have to cut off parts and can’t reuse them, which brings cost of repair up. Of course, if you lease for 3 years – this is not an issue.

    Another thing, up until 2015 Subaru still had issues with gaskets, etc. They say, they fixed it now, but it is to see later.

    But the main point is, Subarus are not really all that solit as author of this makes us believe. They do give you good set of options for a decent price though

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      exactly.

      IF it was all that well made and bullet proof, why is it mainly the greenie hipsters and tree huggin drivers of the northwest that get it? Can it be the rest of the world is not that intelligent and car savvy? They are far and few elsewhere. This is not exactly like the quality reputation Toyota or Honda built…and still own.

      Nobody considers a Subaru bullet proof.

      And I have spent a lot of time in the Forester. There is no excuse for the plastic.

      Well, I guess if you want a car that just looks forward to the shoe markings, that’s cool. OK, maybe the marks and crap interior all fit together for the weekend warriors.
      The markings are a kind of badge of courage…a right of passage into the outdoor explorer club.

      Getting a solid, fun ride along with your partially suitable off-road car should not be that difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Only when I post on a DeMuro article, does TTAC think Im a bot.

      With Subarus it is true that theyre built from awful steel, yea their 4wd is good for winter but they rust like Mazdas when the salts out. They dent if you lean on them, and a single hail storm will make your Imprezza look as deformed as a Juke.

      I never did get how Subaru stole Volvos market. The 850 was a very iffy car, but at least the steel was top quality.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “…that Subaru makes good, solid cars that are tremendously easy to own…”

    This is not entirely truth. I saw a video on youtube another day – removing axle from Subaru. The mechanic said, “well engineered car but where it comes short – quality of steel used”. He sad that with Subarus, often, mechanics have to cut off parts and can’t reuse them, which brings cost of repair up. Of course, if you lease for 3 years – this is not an issue.

    Another thing, up until 2015 Subaru still had issues with gaskets, etc. They say, they fixed it now, but it is to see later.

    But the main point is, Subarus are not really all that solid as author of this makes us believe. They do give you good set of options for a decent price though

    • 0 avatar
      RustyShitboxIsTheNewFast

      I have wrenched on pretty much everything made in the last 30 years. Subaru is as good of quality as you can get without going German. The skin may be weak but putting a Subaru on the table for frame straightening and the folds and frame are some of the toughest made. Everything comes off with 4 bolts, 4 bolts that were placed in a position to limit the corrosion it receives. They are incredibly simple and well designed. Older (pre-99) Mercedes and BMW’s are the only brands that can hold a candle design wise.

      Now American cars, those are made of shitty products. Coils and injectors the don’t last 100,000 kms (motorcraft), idler pullys known to fall off (Ford)(its a pully with a bearing, how do you fuck that up and never update it?), engines that skip timing and are impossible to get set back thanks to a retarded designed timing case (GM EcoTec), electrical harnesses pinned wrong from the factory (Chrysler/Dodge through the 00’s) glass transmissions (Chrysler/Dodge), steel pins in aluminum door hinges (Jeep), and fucking PUSHRODS!!!!! (All of them).

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Youtube mechanic? Very reliable source of information indeed.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    They are the automotive equivalent of the Jitterbug cell phone: extremely popular with the over-60 crowd. Where I live, these things make up every third vehicle you see on the road. Sensible seniors want Japanese reliability, simple controls, and the safe feeling that comes with the marketing magic of “full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive”. Subaru is making a killing in this market segment.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Around here the majority of non-American cars driven by the elderly are Toyotas and Hyundais. Maybe Hyundai really is the Korean Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      1/3 of the drivers where you live are seniors?

      No, the Subaru demographic is decidedly not seniors. Their target market is those who consider themselves active outdoor enthusiasts.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        You miss the point: seniors are flocking to them. They also appeal to other demographics particularly at elevation or in the snow belt.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          I think a lot of this is simply that they are the only maker to keep a real view.
          I take a lot away from Subaru on interior and power…but it is still my very favorite for a cat that gives me windows.
          I love how the Forester and Outback still look wagon…ish. Their cargo areas still hold boxes and are not measured by water volume.

          And maybe it is cause I am old I think I am agreeing with you?
          And maybe this is why the Volvo CX70 still attracts me.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Seniors are a big market for them. Though besides the safety marketing aspect of it, Subarus tend to have fewer bells and whistles in terms of tech. The seniors who get intimidated or turned off by all the new tech in cars these days find comfort in the relatively pedestrian Subaru interfaces for climate and radio.

  • avatar
    ldl20

    I love seeing my exact car whenever you guys post a Subaru article (I get many compliments on the color). Look, you nailed it…..no drama, comfortable for my 6’3″ frame, big enough for my family of 4, utility when I need it, extra reassurance in inclement weather, and I’ve always liked wagons. So, there you go.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I rode a co-workers 2004 Impreza the other day, it was buzzy, rough around the edges, rode a lot worse than my older Corolla, yet he loves the thing and would not buy another Japanese brand again.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Subaru fanboy is willing to give up quite a lot to mount a bike rack on their car, talk about AWD, and feel like an explorer when they go to gravel parking lots at the local county park.

      I rode in a 2014 WRX and came away thoroughly unimpressed.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      My co-worker took me for lunch in something like 2008 Outback. No wonder it is called Outback. Like in, “take him outback… and shoot… to stop his suffering in this car”. Crapwagon.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You know I was shopping Outbacks as a winter car at one point when I still had a GS430, and I went and checked out an 03 Outback Limited, the one with dual sunroofs.

        I will say the interior on that thing felt very solid, and the leather had held up just fine for being 10+ years old and 120K or something on the odo. He lied about the exterior condition so I didn’t drive it, but the interior was fine! It had that special radio which IIRC was created by Apple for Subaru.

        EDIT: Of course I told the guy I wasn’t interested in it because of the condition (it was a 5/10 and he had it priced like an 8.5). He actually called me four or five days later to tell me he sold it. “You know, I sold my Subaru today for what I was asking.” I said, “That’s nice for you.” He replied, “Alright, bye.”

        Something wrong with that dude.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          What a weirdo, you must have really dented his ego.

          “Yeah, you see? Yeah! I sold my overpriced, misrepresented trendmobile to some idiot for my asking price! YOU could have been that idiot. Don’t you feel sorry now?”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It was IMO, even the most desirable color. Black cherry metallic over that light almond gold color. Black interior.

            But man when you lie about rust, I’m walkin.

        • 0 avatar
          56BelAire

          They do command silly money on the used market Corey. My wife drives a 2008 Forester Sports 5-speed, red, 90,000 miles, original owner, mint condition. I am getting ready to put it on the private market and will asking $12,500. I’ve seen some 2008’s as high as $14,000 at dealers recently. We bought the car for about $20,600 new as I recall. Crazy.

          • 0 avatar
            gottacook

            Not surprising when you consider how much nicer an ’06-’08 Forester is than the ’09-’13 design. Some customers liked the increased size of the latter, but the trade-off was a sudden horrible decline in interior materials, an inelegant new dashboard (shared with the Impreza), and the loss of formerly standard features such as fog lights. We’d be considering a nice ’08 for ourselves right now, except that we already have an ’06 (X Premium 5-speed) and an ’07 (LL Bean auto).

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        slavuta, ditto the Forester. But that down-to-earth crapwagon approach appeals to buyers of the Subaru brand.

        They don’t mind spilling food and drink inside the vehicle, and often hose down the vehicle inside and out to clean it up.

        That’s what they do here are the local ski-lodges. Hose them down, inside and out to get rid of the salt, mud, muck and slush.

  • avatar
    wolfinator

    I’ve owned a Subaru (inherited through marriage). I still don’t ‘get’ them.

    But everything Mark says is true. PLUS:

    1) You can get a good-sized wagon at a non-luxury price. Furthermore, you can get a wagon without German non-reliability.

    2) Some people really seem to buy into the WRX halo.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      It’s not hard for me to understand the WRX love.

      AWD, tons of aftermarket support, decently quick, much easier to find than a Lancer Evo…there’s definitely good reasons to buy a WRX over, I dunno, a GTI or Honda Civic Si.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’d choose a GTI, but that’s just me. The GTI has taste and discretion, and is an “any time, any place” car like a Range Rover or an XC70.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          It could be a good time to buy a GTI. VW is going down.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/19/business/volkswagen-is-ordered-to-recall-nearly-500000-vehicles-over-emissions-software.html?emc=edit_na_20150918&nlid=59253522&ref=headline

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I’ve always thought the GTI was a bit too plain. A WRX with the small spoiler is much more my style.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          “The GTI has taste and discretion, and is an “any time, any place” car like a Range Rover or an XC70.”

          See, I won’t argue against the GTI as a fast car, or about it having taste and discretion.

          But with 5″ of ground clearance and FWD, it’s … not *quite* as “any time, any place” as an XC70 or Rover?

          It’ll compete there with any normal street car, for sure!

          But against a “light offroad” vehicle?

          I am baffled.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Just meaning for on-road purposes, in being appropriate at a grocery store, or a five-star hotel. Light offroad, you have to choose the R32, and even then it’s a bit of a fail.

            OMG I am commenting on a DDM article! I thought it said Mark S. on my email, so that’s why I even read it. It’s strictly against my policy to read/comment on DDM, so this will be my last venture to this page.

      • 0 avatar
        wolfinator

        I didn’t mean to slam the WRX. I mean a lot of people buy pedestrian Imprezas with the view that they’re basically the same.

  • avatar
    scdjng

    You talk about everything in the interior being simplistic and easy to use. In my engineering classes in college, I took a course on the Philosophy of Engineering (who would have thought that was required for my engineering degree?). One of the things we talked about is the aesthetics of any design. An aesthetically pleasing design is one in which the user does not have to think about the motions of using the product. An example would be when one gets in any car, they are able to drive it without having to ask “how do I drive this thing?” or “how do I make this thing move forward?” I personally think automakers in recent years are trying too hard on their designs and not making aesthetically pleasing designs. Look at Ford with MyFord touch. They take the simple tasks, like adjusting the temperature or fan speed, tasks one could do in older cars without looking, and make them complex. People complain Subaru’s interiors are not daring or modern (to today’s standards), but they are simple and are aesthetically pleasing.

  • avatar
    Bokonon

    Having owned a 2000 Subaru Outback … that car was NOT easy to own. It went through seven safety-related recalls in our first year of ownership … and was a maintenance hog the entire time we owned it. It had electrical problems, door gasket problems, and a never ending parade of other glitches.

    And then sure enough, at 74,000 miles, our car developed the dread head gasket problem. Plus an oil leak at the engine’s main seal. Plus the brakes needed a complete rebuild. Plus the electrical problems were rearing their head again. Plus the AWD system needed an expensive dealer maintenance.

    We got rid of it instead of making the repairs.

    People may say that this was 15 years ago, and that things are different now under Toyota’s ownership. We will see.

    But I rented a Legacy sedan recently, and was stunned at how cloddish and slow and unresponsive it felt. It was worse than our old 2000-model car (which wasn’t a rocket, but wasn’t a boat anchor either).

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      We’ve had 6 Subarus since 2006, no problems but then problems don’t usually show up in the first few years.

      The first was the best, by far. A black Outback XT MT. It was totaled in a wreck, which still breaks my heart. Since that one my wife has had two more Outbacks without any drama.

      I had an STi for a few years. I loved the car but hated the mileage. Also, it rattled. Then a stock Impreza. Not that bad once you learned how to get performance out of the CVT. Now a BRZ which is super-charged and just a track toy.

      We’re probably done with Subaru unless they make some changes. The WRX and STi are just out-classed performance-wise by the latest hot hatches, and with the CVTs and dropping the fun engines, enthusiasts won’t find anything worth buying in the Outback or Forester.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      Bokonon, your description sounds like a Nissan or toyota will all those recalls. But not those oil leaks. Everyone gets a lemon one day.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    Living in New England, the only thing surer to print money than a Dunkin’ Donuts is a Subaru dealer, and they know it.

    Subarus are a good cross of features and value. They don’t excel at any one thing, but they do so many things well that most are willing to compromise. They have turned their back against the Legacy wagon owners (of which there were many up here) but the Crosstrek, Outback, and Forester all serve their markets well.

    But the Subaru dealer experience leaves something to be desired, especially when it comes to service. None of the Subaru dealers in the Western Mass/Vermont/Upstate NY area were helpful when my brother’s in-warranty 2011 Forester was consuming oil at a voracious rate.

    • 0 avatar
      frozenman

      I had an oil consumption problem in my 2011 forester but after switching to 5w30 synthetic at 30k the oil loss slowed and eventually stopped after about 3 more oil change intervals. Currently have approx 60k miles and all is well, weird or what!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        The oil consumption is pretty common. I have been told by other Subie owners that they have experienced it as well. Their fix was Castrol HD30 in summer, Castrol 5W-30 in winter.

        In the H6 engine it can be as much as 1 or more quarts of oil between oil changes. It may be lower in the H4 engine.

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    In my state I see more Saabs and Volvos than Subarus. I guess people just don’t want four wheel drive. I personally wouldn’t pay anything extra for it, since I’ve seen snow approximately once in the last five years.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    We did a recent 600 mile road trip rotating drivers between our 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 and family member’s 2014 RAV4, and I also can understand why this class of lifted AWD 4-cylinder wagons are so popular.

    They are remarkably easy daily tools, especially if you have kids to put in carseats. Roomy, simple, ride height, reasonably efficient, affordable, well-packaged. Driving dynamics are close enough to a car for most people. They are just a no-brainer choice for a family vehicle, whether you go RAV4, CR-V, Equinox, or these Subarus.

    I also know that I still don’t want one.

    The 170ish 4-cylinder hp that effortlessly glides the low-profile Altima along at 80+mph in a 30 mph headwind at only 2000rpm or so is overmatched by the heavier, taller profile RAV4. The 6spd auto was constantly running up and down between 4th, 5th, and 6th, unable to settle down or easily keep up with the Altima. It felt winded and returned 22mpg to the sedan’s 30. The CUV still felt top-heavy in the twisting mountain roads later on. I really didn’t enjoy driving it compared to our rental-spec dime-a-dozen cheapo Nissan.

    These CUVs are compromised to provide that ride height and AWD at a reasonable price. Most buyers rightfully don’t mind those compromises, but I notice them and therefore still prefer sedans. So Subaru and their CUV clones from other manufacturers still don’t appeal much to me even if I understand why they are a hot commodity.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      My 2016 Forester with normally aspirated four-cylinder engine and CVT also turns about 2000rpm at 80mph on the highway… and returns well over 30mpg while doing it.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Some credit goes to CVTs in general, they can settle right on the needed engine speed rather than gear hunting. Some credit goes to the conditions; you wouldn’t be getting that mileage in the 30+ mph unceasing headwinds we were plowing into.

  • avatar
    jonnyanalog

    My aunt and uncle swear by Subarus. They’ve had them since the early 90s and have had good luck with them. They have 2 now, a Legacy Sedan and a manual tranny Outback wagon. Everything said in this article is true and the reason why they keep buying them.
    The wagon is my uncle’s and he will drive it until it dies. His last car was a 1994 base model Impreza wagon. The new Outback is a 2011 IIRC.

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    Minus the part about all wheel drive, all the subaru appealing items listed can equally be applied to Hyundai… or Toyota, or many other manufacturers. I fail to see the point here.

    Also, as someone living in the Bay Area, Subarus are NOT all over norcal. Yes to Tahoe, maybe other places like rural areas of wine country where dirt roads are common, but definitely not in the city areas. Gross and inaccurate generalization. Curious where Doug actually was.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “It wasn’t about driving pleasure. It also wasn’t about style, or luxury, or power. It’s about the fact that Subaru makes good, solid cars that are tremendously easy to own.”

    This is mostly true.

    But I’ve been in my parents’ brand new Outback 3.7, and … well, it’s nearly as powerful and luxury-feeling as my XC70 T6, which is *plenty* powerful and nice on the inside.

    Trim level matters a lot, kinda like a Ford XL vs. Titanium thing.

    (I’ve driven a friend’s base-model recent Outback, and what you say applies perfectly to *that* vehicle, though I didn’t find that it felt *particularly* under-powered even with the 4-cylinder.)

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      (Also: “For proof, all you have to do is consider the popularity of Subaru vehicles in Northern California and Northwest Oregon, where it never really even snows.”

      Well, yes, in Portland and the Willamette valley, you might see a trivial amount of snow, once, most years. Though in the years that we get real snow, the whole place shuts down until it’s gone.

      But we also get pretty regular ice, and it’s constantly raining outside of summer.

      AWD is real nice when you’re trying to do a turn from a stop on wet pavement; it’s not only useful In Heavy East-Coast-Or-Midwest Snow.

      And I’m sure people in Yreka want to hear about how it never snows – but I kid; to people outside of California, “Northern California” doesn’t say “Bay Area”. I’m personally of the opinion that it ought to start at Redding.)

  • avatar
    mattmacklind

    2015 Outback 3.6R driver here. Opted for the 3.6 as the 4 is a little under-powered, and once a 4 is optioned well, its in 3.6R territory cost wise anyway. There is a large mileage difference however. Hard to find in stock and picked up the only one. Good thing we both liked the color (Lapis Blue).

    My spouse loves Subarus and was comning out of a 2003 Outback LL Bean. I have always driven old cranky but reliable cars, think W123. I actually love this car, I think its perfect. The only thing I might add is cooled seats, and I don’t think any Subaru model offers those. This car is quiet enough, powerful enough, easy and friendly to use and not expensive to maintain. I’m looking for a used Legacy 3.6R myself now.

    Its a great argument, with some online evidence to support it, that RWD or FWD with snows is equal or better than AWD with all seasons. I don’t know. We drove between St. Louis and Kansas City a few years ago in horrible snow in the 2003. Probably shouldn’t have done it. Took 10 hours but it made the journey not only tolerable but kind of fun. That combined with a snow storm experience in town, and I was sold on the AWD of a Subaru having actually felt how it works, as in not a Haldex system. Anyway, my $0.02.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I’ve had my Outback 2.5 Limited for 2 years and 50k miles now here in hot, sunny Houston. Love it, especially during and after rain.

      Have thought about “upgrading” to the ’15 3.6….but you’re right, at that price point there should be cooled seats.

      And Doug, nothing wrong with push-button start. A gimmick I’ve grown to love.

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    As far as sixteen year old beater cars go, I totally get the Subaru. The flat four is smoother than any other econobox four, it also probably has few rivals as far as power band. Plus it’s all wheel drive and has a ridiculous parking light switch on the steering column, nevermind the regular one on the headlight switch.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    With the exception of a brief stint in an old Mazda 626, my friend has only driven Subarus in her life. First a ’94 Legacy wagon. Then a ’98 Legacy wagon. Now she has a ’07 Forester L.L.Bean. When that car was in the body shop to repair a bumper ding (other guy’s fault), she was given a rental Chrysler 200, essentially brand-new.

    She was handed a “fob” instead of a key, and inside, found a button instead of a keyhole for the ignition, and a little switch instead of a handbrake, and a knob instead of a shifter, and a little screen instead of a simple one-line LCD display with buttons.

    She had been spoiled by years of the Subaru AWD surefootedness, so the FWD 200 always felt slightly out of her control, a matter not made better by the fact none of the pedals or shifters seemed physically connected to anything, and the the fact the door sill were higher than her chin when her seat was adjusted, and the sideview mirrors were so tiny and useless she had to use the built-in backup camera. On top of it all, the car seemed horrifically sluggish to her (her 200 had the Tigershark 2.0).

    In short, she said it was the most discombobulating driving experience she’s ever had. The 200 just felt unintuitive and WRONG to her, in every way. It was like getting in a car and finding you’re sitting in front of a slot machine at Vegas.

    The car didn’t seem interested in being driven, so much as driving itself. She said she would have preferred one of her previous awful Mopar rentals, which consisted of a PT Cruiser and a Caliber.

    She couldn’t wait to get her Subaru back. The car with big mirrors and switches and levers and pedals and keys. A car that fits her like a glove, and WANTS to be driven by her.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      I’ve rented a 200 twice in the last six months and dislike it considerably. Pretty nice looking, but it’s the opposite of a Subaru, nothing functions easily or intuitively (or very well). The Fusion is a vastly better car if you’re in the rental lanes.

      I think the greenhouse you get in most Subarus contributes to their appeal. People want windows, and doorsills lower than their shoulders (in my case, I prefer more like elbow level). Range Rovers, the Lexus GX/4Runner and Subarus all do this well.

  • avatar
    watermeloncup

    Part of the reason these are so popular in California is because during snowy conditions in mountainous areas, Caltrans requires you to install tire chains unless you have an four wheel drive vehicle. Subarus are some of the cheapest cars you can buy with AWD, so they’re popular for people who like winter sports and get tired of spending 15 minutes on the side of the road installing chains.

    I think it’s a pretty stupid law, since they don’t differentiate between a FWD car with proper snow tires, and an AWD car with barely-legal all-seasons. It’s also pretty silly because stopping and turning are the most important parts of driving safely in the snow, and AWD doesn’t help much with this. I assume the law is left over from a time when the only four wheel drive vehicles were pretty serious off-road trucks, but now we’re stuck with it.

    • 0 avatar
      DuVoe

      This is spot on in explaining why Outbacks are so popular in well-heeled but snowless places like Marin County.

      Northern Californians of a certain persuasion tend to flock to Tahoe as often as schedules allow, thus AWD becomes a “requirement” among many in the region, since an AWD with all-seasons bypasses Caltrans’ chain requirements in the Sierras. It is indeed a silly rule, but it creates that feeling of need among many Bay Areans and Sacramentans.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    If you want to drive a Subaru, that’s fine with me, but please keep a stock sounding exhaust system on the car. The sound that an aftermarket equipped Subie makes is closer to flatulence than anything this side of a garden tractor.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I live in one of the towns you visited, and yes, it does snow here. Not often, but it happens. And there’s lots of mountains less than an hour away, which we like to visit in the winter. Sure, snows and FWD are good enough, but the AWD kool-aid is potent, and not just in the PNW.

    You pretty much nailed the secret of Subaru’s success. 90% of drivers could care less about driving dynamics, as long as handling is predictable and acceleration is adequate, they’re happy. And the controls the driver actually touches are well designed and easy to operate. My daughter recently cross shopped the Impreza against a Mazda 3, the Subaru won. Not how I’d have gone, but she loves it.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    They don’t get much snow in Portland, but what they do get is ice. AWD is very nice for getting started from a stop light when the road is covered in a sheet of ice.

  • avatar

    I guess I fit stereotype pretty well. Coming from a family of Volvo fans (myself having driven multiple 240s, a 740 and most recently an S70), and marrying into a family that also owns Volvos, Saabs, BMWs, Audis and a one time, a V12 E-Type. My finance tried the Volvo C30 but ended up buying the Subaru Crosstrek XV.

    Living and working downtown, it made sense to keep only one car between the two of us and the Subaru was much newer than the S70. Being a die-hard Volvo fan it was tough giving it up for a Subaru, and I hated the CVT at first, but the car grew on me after a while. It’s just like how Mark describes. It isn’t fast -but it’s a capable, durable vehicle. They make sense for outdoorsy types -the cars look the part carrying kayaks and canoes on the roof and a bike rack on the tow bar. I know others on this site have blasted the Crosstrek for its unjustified price premium over the Impreza that it’s based on, but we drive on unassumed gravel roads frequently and the extra ground clearance makes driving on them less worrysome (the Audi V6T cracked its oil pan on the same road). In snowy conditions, this car owns pretty much anything from a stoplight. It’s as sure-footed as a Sherman tank.

    So it’s easy to see why buyers that used to be loyal to brands like Volvo have found a home with Subaru -and it’s nice to see that the corporate mothership of Toyota is keeping them distinct, for now.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Toyota only owns a small minority of Subaru/Fuji Heavy Industries.

      From what I can tell the Toyota influence has mostly taken place in the on-board electronics, which has brought Subaru leaps forward.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    Our household has been through 4 Subarus, each purchased new: 2002 WRX, 2004 STi, 2007 Legacy Spec.B, 2010 WRX. My partner always liked the raw nature of the boxer engine thrum, and the notchy manual shifters. Meanwhile, I always thought the interiors were crapola and the mechanical noise (transmission whine and wind-up) was atrocious unless you blasted the AC fan or radio to mask it. Alas, the last Subie (2010 WRX) was replaced with a BMW X1, which offers similar utility, driving satisfaction – with a tuner on it – and an interior which has finer detailing and *fewer* plastic buzzing noises. I am a HUGE fan of the Subaru brand, however. Dealer experiences were pleasant, and we always felt a bond with other Subie owners on the road. I’d seriously consider a fully-loaded Outback with the 6-cylinder when car-shopping time comes around.

  • avatar
    TrenchFoot

    My wife wanted a new car and chose an Outback. I had to keep my mouth shut on this one, I’ve forced her into too many ‘compromise’ choices lately. She wanted an AWD wagon or SUV, without an SUV ride and ride height. She even resisted the Subaru because they’re so damn common in the PNW, but for good reason. There’s just nothing that rides like a car, is an AWD wagon with clearance enough to handle rough forest service roads and trailheads.

    In the end every choice out there was compared to the Outback and the Outback won out. “Why keep fighting it?” was the attitude. Sure they’re ubiquitous, a mommy car, and are no ‘driver’s car’. But they just do it all. So I kept my mouth shut and let her choose her Outback.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “Northern California and Northwest Oregon, where it never really even snows.”

    Lake Tahoe would be surprised to know that it never has snow.

    • 0 avatar
      DuVoe

      Right. One must remember how truly varied California is, and how even when one lives in a snowless region, the propensity to recreate in other regions is high, and have said recreation factor into carbuying choices. Tahoe is a great example of where seemingly every other car is a Subaru. It has been the epitome of the demographic that the post describes, where over the past 20 years, Volvos, Saabs, and other European vehicles have been overwhelmingly replaced with Subarus, among locals, and cabin owners that live down the hill alike.

  • avatar

    The ’92 Legacy wagon we inherited from my mom…from Vermont, was the best of the three Subies we owned. FWD only but it got around well, was zippy, handled well…overall, fun to drive. Big problem was leaky valve cover gaskets and a leaky trans seal. My oldest son learned to drive on it but would often forget to check fluid levels while away at college. When the tranny died from failure to check levels, it was scrapped. Otherwise 300,000-400,000 miles wasn’t out of the question as long as the body could hold up.

    My wife had a ’98 Legacy Outback after that, the leaky head gaskets were fixed under an extended warranty. Ran well for several years, it went anywhere, we ended up trading it on our final Outback, an ’05.

    The dealer assured us the head gasket issue “was fixed starting with the ’03’s” and so we bought it with no reservations…

    …until the following year when a head gasket leak was detected. They were replaced along with the timing belt as it was due (around 100,000 miles), plus while you’re in there for the timing belt, you automatically replace the water pump. So three repairs in one, had they been performed separately we could’ve been looking at $2500 or more, but we got away cheap – $1500. We hoped the extended warranty we’d purchased online would cover the head gaskets but no such luck.

    Since the dealer – Day West Liberty in the Dormont section of Pittsburgh – performed the repairs, we were confident this would be the end of the head gasket issues.

    Only it wasn’t.

    75,000 miles later, while at the dealer to track down a rear suspension issue, I saw a small leak coming from the passengers’ side head gasket. This wasn’t included in Day West Liberty’s $1300 estimate for rear suspension parts and brakes all around.

    While purchasing the dealer-only items – special cam bolts for the rear control arms – I learned that Subaru had FINALLY fixed its head gasket issues with its 2011 2.5 models. PLUS they were getting a timing CHAIN so no more belt replacement at 100,000 miles.

    So hopefully head gaskets are no longer an issue on the 2.5 models.

    We bought everything else the dealer recommended at AutoZone, took it all to a trusted mechanic and our $1300 repair came to less than half including parts. Of course we let the head gaskets go.

    The following winter, the Outback was traded for a 2011 Equinox LTZ with extended warranty. Two repairs so far (over 40,000 miles put on it since we bought it) – a cracked exhaust manifold and throttle control module (what we used to call a throttle body). Covered 100%.

    I’ve driven a couple newer Subies and were underimpressed. The 2.5 engine may have been all-new in 2011 but it still put the same 175HP in a heavier package, and gearing – their new CVT – only helps so much. So they went from being engaging and fun to being milquetoast on wheels.

    But what really makes me angry is Subaru’s total unwillingness to cover head gasket repairs, treating them instead like an unspoken maintenance item. I’d rather not spend $1500 every 100,000 miles on maintenance items.

    But to me, that’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Just my two cents. My wife owned a Subaru Brat which we purchased new. We owned that car for 8 years. First off it was cheap. Rust finished off the car after 8 years. This car was covered by Rusty Jones but was out of business by the time i tried to collect on the Guarantee. I was told they went bust covering their guarantees on Subaru’s. That plus drive shafts, head gaskets, oil leaks, electrical problems i could go on forever. The worst was the dealer. Subaru would not cover anything. At the time we purchased the Subaru i purchased a VW GTI for myself. After 8 years the Subaru was a basket case that i dumped on the first person to answer my ad. The VW went for 16 years & 187,000 miles with the usual brakes, struts & 1 clutch. The car was junked with the original starter and alternator. I love wagons but to this day i will never buy a Subaru again.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Among the people in Minneapolis who:

    – don’t eat “glutens”
    – buy colorful eyeglass frames
    – give their kids Fjallraven Kanken backpacks
    – know nothing about cars but are SURE domestic brands are junk…

    It goes like this:

    – If you have big money you buy a Tahoe.

    – If you have some money you buy an Audi.

    – If you have regular money you buy a Subaru.

    – If you have no money, you buy GMO foods and don’t matter (beyond needing to be saved).

  • avatar

    There’s a meta-point about the “success” of Subaru: master a relative niche, and be happy.

    Subie does not compete for Best Car, which is the blood-red sand that, say, the Toyota Camry fights for. But it focuses on being AWD-centric, having a lot of wagon-y things (there’s not much market for wagons, but there’s enough market for a wagon…), and (news to me) has a fairly simple interior setup when every other car company is competing on how big their centre-stack screen is, and how crappy their Bluetooth pair-up is.

    One more unsung hero in Subaru’s lineup: People talk about the “WRX halo,” but WRX/STi models constitute 1/3 of the Imprezas sold in the US. Every one of those hot rods represents a tasty high-margin, high-MSRP version of what’s supposed to be a pretty humble compact. I don’t know the economics of the business well, but it’s possible that the 2/3 of Imprezas that are not turbocharged are mostly useful as a source of production volume that holds down the cost of making those profitable turbo cars, roughly 30,000/year for the US.

    Understand the limit of this success: Subaru sells about 500,000 cars/year in the USA. That’s a lot, but it’s only a little larger than the number of Camrys sold in the USA. It’s quite a bit less than the number of F-150s sold in the USA. The Elantra and the Equinox, two who-dats of the car market, will combine to sell about as many units as Subaru will in the USA.

    What I don’t see is avenues for growth for Subaru. They’re a little ahead of their time in terms of semi-autonomous systems (EyeSight on the Legacy), but I’m not even aware of a compliance electric car in their lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Rcousine… everything you wrote is true. But Subaru’s growth, while a head-scratcher for many, is nonetheless real. They’re selling every car they can make. Only Fuji Heavy’s conservative nature and desire not to overextend themselves prevent the construction of more Subaru plants. They’re probably smart. I understand Subaru hybrids are on the way: 2017 or 2018.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      It’s true that the WRX and STi have a relatively well-amortised platform on which to build a performance-tuned car, but many of those performance parts required extensive engineering. This is one car that I would hesitate to call a “trim level” of the Impreza.

      Similarly, BMW’s M cars have quite a lot of differentiation from the standard models.

      Subaru occupies a niche, like Mazda. These companies know their place in the economy and don’t try to be everything that everyone else does. That is a recipe for long-term success.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        But two niches Subaru could fill that are under-represented are

        1. A medium size AWD minivan, ala Mercury Village/Nissan Quest size
        2. A small AWD pickup truck based off the Outback

  • avatar
    GST

    Here in Seattle they seem to make a political statement like Prius. Unlike Prius the get poor gas mileage and the engine reliability is poor. Here they are also nicknamed “Les-baRus”

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      I agree with your engine reliability rating of “poor.” My experience with repairing them has been the exact opposite of what has mostly been expressed in this thread. I could go on for days but refuse to type at length on my phone.

      I don’t understand those who choose the STI platform to seriously modify either. It completely kills whatever reliability they had and alternatives can make FAR more power with FAR less money invested.

      I’m about to change a catted up-pipe that has rusted through on a turbo WRX, the car has sub 40k miles. No idea how this could happen!

      Owners must define “reliable” differently than I do or they may have owned Volkswagen’s and Mini’s prior to their Subaru’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      It’s not a political statement. Subaru owners are mostly city dwellers who also like to go outdoors a lot. The subaru AWD system is lot better than most car and CUV-based AWD systems, because Subaru send power to all wheels the whole time. While being an acceptable city car, Subarus can climb up to the ski resorts better than any other car with AWD. Go up to any ski resort in the west coast in the winter, and it will look like a used Subaru dealership lot. About 1/3 will be subarus.

      • 0 avatar
        Bokonon

        Huh. I live in Colorado, and used to drive my wife’s Subaru Outback to the ski resorts. Our car had an automatic transmission, and sent most of the power to the front wheels, rather than the stick shift model with the symmetrical AWD power distribution (which was supposed to be superior in the snow).

        Our Subaru’s performance in the snow and ice really wasn’t that great. It didn’t match the hype. It even got stuck in an icy parking space up front of a ski lodge one time – unable to budge.

        Our AWD Hyundai Santa Fe is a much, much better snow car.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          There were a lot of 4-speed automatic Subies that distributed power 90/10 with a front bias. I expect your Outback was one. Those disappeared around the mid-2000s. The last of the 4-speed auto cars had 60/40 front bias, as do the CVT cars. It brings the auto systems much closer to the manual system.

          • 0 avatar
            wmba

            The ’99s were 60/40. I had a ’99 Impreza after getting rid of my ’88 GL Turbo wagon, which was 90/10. The difference was obvious in snow.

            Neither was anywhere near as good as my ’88 and ’94 Audis, not even close. Unfortunately, Subaru has pretty much standardized on this 60/40 system with clutchpack which they dub MPT. It’s been copied by the current BMW and run backwards to get 40/60. Almost no decent AWD with center differentials and auto trans left beyond pricier Mercedes and Audis. The rest are clutchpack specials or worse, and “refined” by using the brakes to apportion torque and the performance governed by marketing speak.

    • 0 avatar
      oldladycarnut

      I hardly consider 30mpg for an Outback poor gas mileage. Maybe Subaru is nicknamed “Les-baRus” by the insecure male population of Seattle (of which you seem to be a member of), but what an outdated cliche. I live in Puget Sound and a Subaru is the equivalent of the Ford F-150 in Texas.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    “For proof, all you have to do is consider the popularity of Subaru vehicles in Northern California and Northwest Oregon, where it never really even snows.”

    Doug, I am sorry, but you still didn’t get the whole point of driving a Subaru. Of course if you drive around in coastal areas you won’t see any snow. But, does Lake Tahoe qualify as NorCal? Yes. Does Truckee qualify as NorCal? Yes. I urge you to come to one of those places past mid-December or so. Park your car in a grocery store parking lot, and then before you go into the store just look around. Any grocery store parking lot in the Lake Tahoe area or in Colorado looks like a frigin Subaru dealership, used or new. The reason people like Subarus so much is that Subarus is an acceptable city car, while at the same time it will climb up to the ski slopes of California, Colorado, Oregon, etc. And there was an article here recently mentioning that the AWD system in most subarus is actually a lot better than what you get in most cars or CUVs. In Subarus the AWD system is full time. The rear wheels get the power all the time.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    I think 2drsedanman and ttacgreg are on to something here. My ex and I had a 1998 Subaru Forester for many years, and she still talks about how comfortable she felt driving that car. When her current car got totaled I took her to look at a few used foresters from two different body styles later and she didn’t like either. She is average height for a woman and she said she could see out of her old forester a lot better and that these felt closed in. She was worried about trying to park them also. I don’t know why we have the trend of ever-higher belt lines and massive C-pillars on cars and SUVs these days. Even though I’m an enthusiast and had all kinds of cool sports cars in the past, I drive a 2006 Scion xB (first generation toaster-style) because I’m raising three kids on my own, drive for work getting paid ,57.5 cents/mile government rate, I get 30mpg consistently, it has a huge interior volume (I’ve hauled cargo ranging from a 55-gallon water heater to yard aerator and detaching machines), and is easy to see out of and park. There isn’t much power left after the speed limit is reached, but who cares. It scoots easily to merge and maneuver in traffic. (And if you keep the windows rolled up to enjoy the ice-cold A/C in summer or nearly instant heat in winter, you can’t hear all the people laughing at you!) The second-gen xB is bigger outside, gets mid 20s gas mileage, and has enormous blind spots from its huge c-pillars. How is this an improvement?

  • avatar
    ktm

    I had a 2006 Subaru WRX Limited (leather, heated seats, etc.) wagon with the 2.5L engine. It was the tweener model when they bumped up the engine displacement from 2.0L to 2.5L and before the disastrous 2008 refresh.

    The car was flawless in over 130,000 miles of driving. I had a Cobb Accessport tune (Stage 1 for those familiar with it) at 20,000 miles and nary an issue since.

    I bought the car for $22,000 going through the internet sales manager at Irvine Subaru in January 2007. I loved that car. It was airy, a pleasure to drive, though my aftermarket exhaust (HKS Hi-power) droned at times, and simple…..that’s the key, simple.

    While I enjoy all of the model technological creature comforts, it does take a while to get used to them, and then you jump in your spouse’s car or a rental and it takes another period of time to get used to THOSE controls.

  • avatar
    kivis

    I own a 2013 BMW 328i, the “Ultimate Driving Machine”. My wife owns a 2013 Subaru Outback. BMW has been in the shop 7 times with one problem after another, mostly computer related. Subaru has been in for repair ZERO times. My next car will be a Subaru for sure. No fuss, no muss.

  • avatar
    amca

    My Mom’s busted its timing belt and bent the valves 5,000 miles before the recommended timing belt change interval. Far from bulletproof. I can understand a timing belt letting go 5,000 after the interval. but not before.

    But what’s really killing Subarus for me these days is their sappy “Love” advertising. Barf.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    I own a ’12 WRX hatch. Great car. With a couple of minor tweaks it’s on par with a 335i of the same year and with much more room in the back too. Quick, handles great, reliable if maintained and had a lot of utility. No wonder the prices are very solid on these. Now the question I cannot answer is what do I replace it with? There isn’t much out there that can match all of these qualities anymore.

  • avatar
    wannabe

    2014 Forrester XT Touring driver here. Never considered a Subaru before, and like every car that’s engineered to a price point, this one has it’s highs and low points. Pluses include great visibility and headroom, turbo provides better than decent motivation, FT AWD, a short wheelbase/length fits in the garage (plus a good turning radius) but it can carry a lot of stuff, it’s great for light-off road or gravel roads (or where I live, snow and unbelievably bad roads due to potholes that feels like you’re driving off road) and it offers excellent ground clearance for driving thru road flooding. Not so great are the very scuff-able interior plastics, cheap carpeting and cargo area material, questionable quality of the sheet metal, leather and paint. But, the price was reasonable. Driven conservatively the gas milage is good once the engine warms up, and I don’t feel bad about filling the back with bags of mulch or taking it camping. I didn’t buy it for it’s looks; it was all about utility.

  • avatar
    SCHONHAMMER

    They’re not perfect and they definitely have some quirks.
    With that said, they are safe and solid transportation especially during those winter months.
    Sure, plenty of vehicles offer better styling and interiors, but I can’t think of another turbocharged econobox that I’d personally want more than the WRX.
    Over 10 years and 224K out of my 2.0 have cemented my devotion to Subaru. It ain’t flashy but it sure is damn good.

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