Piston Slap: One Website for Year-by-Year Changes?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap one website for year by year changes

Citizen Kanine writes:

Is there a good (single?) place to search and discover what year car models updated their drivetrain or added some feature I might want?

I’m looking at a couple of used car options, probably recent cars coming off leases, and am wondering if model year 2016 or 2017 (for example) are significantly different for a Subaru Outback or a Mazda CX-5. All cars change a bit, every year but some stuff I care about (the Skyactiv suspension) and others (new paint colors or the move from 8 speakers to 10) not as much.

I know this information is not impossible to find, but the flood of info and changes for the most recent year can bury the details on models just a few years old. Or maybe I am just using weak GoogleFu.

Sajeev answers:

I often use three sources ( here, here, here) for make/model research here at TTAC. After randomly poking around for changes on Kia’s Optima, all three did good.

Shockingly, regarding your potential Subaru Outback, only one resource has pertinent information. And now I am terrified to look up the Mazda CX-5!

From what I’ve seen with print materials via Automotive Literary Mecca, the most granular, year-by-year information lives within dealer training manuals. Not easy to acquire if you live outside of Metro Detroit, I know. Who knows, sometimes dealerships have this stuff lying around for years: never hurts to ask!

So check out my three sources, dig into model-specific forums and — wait for it — ask the Best and Brightest for their opinion!

[Image: Subaru]

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.

Join the conversation
12 of 14 comments
  • NTGD NTGD on Nov 29, 2019

    One source - Wikipedia! No seriously, combined with an O.E. media or newsrooom site. Some of the model pages are very detailed with year to year and some wiki editor really likes cars because a fair amount is pretty accurate. The media sites for make have a good archived of press kits that detail what is new from year to year (Mazda US & Canada and Subaru USA both have good archives). Wikipedia can give a year or two to zone in on and you can use the media sites to confirm. You could go year by year on the media site but unless you already have an idea of when the type of change you are looking for took place that can get tedious.

    • See 5 previous
    • Lie2me Lie2me on Nov 29, 2019

      Dan, I'm sorry your search results are different then mine, really I am. I do have a solution for you, try modifying your search like this "2016 Subaru Outback Wikipedia” I GUARANTEE your results will put Wikipedia really close to the very top, if not then you probably need to adjust your search filters

  • Mmreeses Mmreeses on Nov 29, 2019

    try the press websites maintained by the carmakers. Ex. kiamedia.com media.ford.com press.bmwgroup.com/usa Almost always they have an archive of specs and news releases from prior years (up to a certain point)

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Nov 29, 2019

    nhtsa.gov/vehicle/2016/MAZDA/CX-5/SUV/FWD#manufacturerCommunications 397 factory communications, 293 complaints and 4 recall. Great fun for the entire family, but the LED running lights seem go out about the time the warranty expires and if so, $1,200 per side. It's unclear if it's a forced option, but sometimes it's good to get the base model and upgrade with aftermarket accessories, such as BlueTooth, Nav, etc.

    • See 1 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Nov 29, 2019

      @ravenuer I sorta understand the Subaru thing, but Mazda? I meant "daytime" running lights, but aside from the Miata, what's the attraction? Cheap leases? Do any of them last past 300K miles? Would you recommend one? They do OK as far as "complaints" go, but you should see 2016 4wd crew cab F-150 complaints. Oh boy. I guess my over all gripe is against most new vehicles, especially hard loaded, vs extended ownership. It's becoming clear the best time buy them is a decade old or more, sticking to the extremely mainstream.

  • Kyree Kyree on Nov 29, 2019

    All the advice here is good. I myself write articles for CarGurus.com, and we pretty much do every car model, every year, highlighting those changes (or pointing out when there are none, really). But it's in paragraph format, so you'll have to read the whole thing, rather than getting a concise list. Also, beware of running mid-year changes, which some automakers (ahem, BMW) love to do. They may not be conveyed online very well, but the people in the forums usually know what's what.