Subaru Outback Research & Reviews

Overview & Reviews

Average Score

4.35/5 Average
2,094 Total Reviews
Model Overview:

Designed with the North American market in mind, the Subaru Outback wagon provides many popular SUV traits without the associated drawbacks. Based on Subaru's midsize Legacy, the Outback comes standard with all-wheel drive, a raised suspension for better ground clearance, and special interior and exterior styling details.

There have been four Outback generations. At its debut, the original Subaru Outback was pretty much the only vehicle of its type and was an instant hit with consumers. More recent iterations lost a bit of an edge as other automakers came up with similar crossover wagons and SUVs at the start of the new millennium, but the latest fourth-generation Outback is more like a crossover SUV than ever. New or used, the Outback is a strong contender for shoppers interested in a car that provides plenty of everyday versatility with the type of all-season capability needed for frosty climes.

Current Subaru Outback
The five-passenger Subaru Outback is a tall wagon available in a number of trim levels -- 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R, 3.6R Premium and 3.6R Limited -- distinguished by powertrain. The base engine is a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Also available is 3.6-liter six-cylinder boxer engine good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, with a five-speed conventional automatic as the only available transmission.

Even the base Outback comes with roof rails, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-telescoping steering column, a height-adjustable driver seat and a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. Higher trims add niceties like alloy wheels, foglights, powered and heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, iPod/USB inputs, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity and a Harman Kardon sound system. There's also an optional voice-activated navigation system.

More so than previous Outbacks, the new model is meant to appeal to more mainstream buyers by being larger on the inside. To this end, while bumper-to-bumper length has shrunk by almost 1 inch, the wheelbase has grown by nearly 3 inches, width by 2 inches and height by 4 inches, enlarging interior space considerably and putting the Outback on par with other midsize crossovers. With the rear seats folded, there are an impressive 71 cubic feet of cargo space available.

In reviews, we've commented favorably about the current Outback's roomier interior. Performance with the base four-cylinder is unremarkable, however; if you want some zip, you'll need to ante up for the 3.6-liter engine. We miss the previous Outback's turbocharged boxer-4, a boon for owners living in mountainous areas. Handling is also unimpressive, as the Outback's elevated ride height and soft suspension tuning do their best to obscure the vehicle's sedan roots. Overall, the latest Outback is a solid choice for utility-minded families, but it's not as enjoyable to drive as previous models.

Used Subaru Outback Models
The current, fourth-generation Subaru Outback was introduced for 2010. There have been no significant changes since then.

The third-generation Outback was produced from 2005-'09. There were several trim levels: base 2.5i, 2.5i Special Edition, 2.5i Limited, 2.5 XT Limited, 3.0 R, 3.0R Limited and 3.0R L.L. Bean Edition.

For power, 2.5i trim levels had a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that made 170 hp. The XT level upgraded to a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine with 243 hp. The 3.0 R model came with a 3.0-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder (H6) good for 245 hp. All-wheel drive was standard across the board.

Models with either of the 2.5-liter engines could be equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic was available on 2.5i models, while 2.5 XT models got an optional five-speed auto. The 2.5i Limited models were four-speed automatics only, and the H6 came only with the five-speed automatic.

If you're shopping for a used model of this generation, there are a few items to note. An Outback sedan was offered from 2005-'07. Additionally, all Outbacks prior to the 2008 model year lacked a telescoping steering wheel and auxiliary audio jack. Horsepower figures were lowered for 2007 due to revised SAE standards, but actual performance was not affected. The luxurious L.L. Bean trim levels were discontinued after 2008, replaced by a single 3.0 R Limited model, and stability control also became standard.

In reviews, this third-generation Subaru Outback received praise for its standard all-wheel drive, long list of features, strong turbocharged engine, above-average build quality and balanced ride and handling dynamics. While it didn't quite have the off-road capabilities of a true SUV, it could take on light-duty terrain without complaint. Negatives brought up in reviews typically centered on the vehicle's smallish backseat and the sluggish response from the automatic transmissions.

The second-generation Subaru Outback (2000-'04) was also available as either a sedan or a wagon. In its first year, this model was available in base and Limited trims, and had a 165-hp, 2.5-liter engine. The following year, Subaru introduced the L.L. Bean Edition and the VDC trim levels. These featured the more powerful 212-hp six-cylinder engine.

Compared to the current car, the second-generation Outback is a bit smaller and not quite as refined or capable. Subaru made minor improvements to this generation during the years, but none are significant enough to make any particular model year stand out. In Edmunds.com road tests, reviewers liked its standard all-wheel drive and car-based comfort. Some felt that the four-cylinder models were underpowered, however, and that it was eclipsed by newer competition in its later years.

When the original Subaru Outback model debuted in 1995, it was little more than a trim package on the Legacy wagon. In 1996, the Outback (officially known as the Legacy Outback for this generation) gained its raised suspension, large foglights, SUV design cues and optional 155-hp 2.5-liter engine. Further improvements during successive years included the addition of a leather-lined Limited model, dual sunroofs and powertrain refinements. As the Outback was one of the first crossover wagons to be designed, consumers interested in this type of vehicle from the late 1990s will likely find it to be quite suitable, especially compared to SUVs from the same period.

User Reviews:

Showing 1 through 10 of 2,094.00
  • Question next purchase - 2008 Subaru Outback
    By -

    This 2008 subie is my 3rd subaru experience. I was reluctant to leave a review because I have been told I am too critical so you be the judge. 1998 subaru was very noisy engine wise other than that a head gasket failure at 135000 miles 2001 subaru brakes once every other year at the dealer. Coolent leaks at the heads of the engine maintained by conditioner. 2008 Head gasket leaks at 68000 miles needed replacing. wire harness broke to tail lights. Noisy catalytic converters sheilding replaced under recall which is good. 75000 miles has a skip plugs and wires. ok

  • Highly recommended - 2004 Subaru Outback
    By -

    I am extremely pleased with my Outback. Even with 4 cylinders, it gets me up some pretty steep roads. Handling the mountain highways is a delight.. Ride is smooth yet firm.

  • So far, so good - 2002 Subaru Outback
    By -

    I've had this car for three years - no problems yet. Performs well in snow/wet weather. AWD is idiot-proof. Hauls a ton of stuff with seats folded down. Decent gas mileage -- 30+mpg on one recent long trip. Comfortable for longer trips. Adequate power for freeway; not too zippy around town. Short enough so that roof rack is easily accessible. I wish I would have got all-weather package w/ heated mirrors. Car has survived two minor accidents fairly well. This is the "Swiss army knife" of cars.

  • Best value in its class. - 2016 Subaru Outback
    By -

    After 2 years of researching the Outback and its competition, I concluded: You simply can not buy another vehicle with a 6 cylinder engine, AWD, and the safety features for less money. I now have 2,000 miles on my 3.6 R Limited and can say the handling is above average, the engine is smooth with plenty of power and the CVT (tranny) flawlessly transfers the power to the wheels. I have not had any problems so far. I saved $3,000 by not getting the "eye-site" package. Really, as long as I have half a brain, I don't need it - especially at that price. You can get a very good Garmin for about $200 if you really need one and I live in the dessert so a sun roof would just bake me. In today's ugly car world, the Outback also looks great next to its competitors. I expect to get at least 200,000 miles out of this car. CONS?: Doors should auto-lock and an extra cup holder that pops out of the dash would be a good idea.

  • BEST CAR I've EVER OWNED! - 2016 Subaru Outback
    By -

    This is the second 3.6r that I've owned. Love the 6 cylinder, the pick up is quick and efficient. Comfortable, loaded with lots of technology, fun to drive. Comfortable for long rides, plenty of room and very stylish. You can't go wrong buying this car. They keep their value. I just sold my 2010 with 60,000 miles on it for 15,000.00. Happy driving.

  • reminds me of my Audi - 2005 Subaru Outback
    By -

    Four days now with new OBXT LTD (silver). Lovely car. No chance to push it yet - supposed to wait 'til after 1,000 miles. Very comfortable, very stable. Tank-like even (this is a good thing on ice and snow). Excellent interior - simple and functional - and a very nice looking vehicle as well. I looked at everything in the <$35k range, and this was an easy pick. VDC might have been nice - I did demo the 6cyl. model - but it is not an option with the turbo.....and I did have to have the turbo. The 6 cyl. is a slug in comparison. No available MP3 on the XT either. But I suppose if Subaru had made both VDC and MP3 optional on the turbo, no-one would bother with the 6.

  • Subie Newbie & loving it - 2010 Subaru Outback
    By -

    Requirements for my next car included versatility, build quality, mileage and a clean, responsible engine/transmission. I wanted something that didn’t suffer from “me too”, and it had to be comfortable for me (6’3”) and my wife (5’2”). The 2010 Subaru Outback does all of this and more. Even with me driving, there’s plenty of room in the back seat for another 6-footer. Coming from a V6 Highlander I was worried the Outback’s 4-cylinder would feel underpowered – but the 350lb lighter Subie scoots along just fine… with 20% better fuel economy. Looked at RAV4/CRV/Santa Fe and there was no comparison. The closest runner up was actually the Subaru Forrester.

  • Leaking oil but hasnt let me down (yet!) - 2001 Subaru Outback
    By -

    Bought my car at 139,000. Pretty much right after it was delivered to me I found out it had an oil leak. I found out its leaking from multiple places and a mechanic won't even touch it out of fear that I'll complain that they didn't fix it correctly the first time. The check engine light has since come on I've gotten oil changes every 3000 miles and the check engine light has been on for about 12 thousand miles now. It still runs! I'm not gonna fix the oil leaks or the check engine light. 155,000 miles on it now. Still running like a champ tho I'm a little worried. I still love it!

  • Needs redesign of back end - 2010 Subaru Outback
    By -

    Within a month of owning this car, the thin piece of trim above the rear hatch release snapped in half. To fix, the entire rear panel (with multiple parts, like the logo, lights, etc.) has to be bought: $400+. Thanks, Subaru. Why isn't this a large, solid panel? And why can't individual parts be purchased? Also, the hatch door can be difficult to close, making me repeatedly get out of the car to close the door. You have to slam it. Otherwise have loved the car. Road trip mileage of 34 mpg/500 miles on that tank! Previous car was 01 Forester with 180K.

  • Great car - 2003 Subaru Outback
    By -

    I bought a LLBean for $27100 from Stevens Creek Subaru (San Jose, CA). After driving the car for about 1000 miles, I can say there is nothing comparable in this price range. The car feels rock solid, has a very smooth Lexus-like drive, first class suspension, excellent visibility, a lot of cargo space. The sound system is very good. However, the car has 3 major inconveniences: 1) the seats do not offer enough leg support, (the lumbar support is great.) 2) Wind noise coming from the roof rails at higher speeds. 3)the engine is powerful, but the slow transmission, makes it less responsive, it will not let you drive the car as an Acura TL-type S or a BMW.

Subaru Outback Reviews By Year:
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