Since its introduction, the Subaru Outback has become a popular SUV among car owners worldwide. Subaru has enjoyed a good reputation for building dependable vehicles. It is a proven name due to its rallying pedigree. The brand has been synonymous with performance and reliability.
The Subaru Outback, as a model, is considered a truly solid crossover. It is a top choice for those in the market for such a vehicle. However, despite the reputation, the Outback does have a history of complaints hurled at it over the years. If you’re in the market for an Outback, you should take note of these model years as they are the ones you should probably avoid.
2011 to 2013 Model Year Subaru Outback (4th Generation)
The most notorious among the Subaru Outback model years are 2011 to 2013. They’re from the fourth generation of the Outback.
These model years are known for engine problems. Drivers can experience issues like delayed acceleration, engine noises, cruise control faults, and high oil consumption. These often stem from head gasket leaks and faulty electronics (blown fuse and cracked oxygen sensor). They’re also known for transmission issues like severe jerking, vibration, missed shifting, and overall transmission failure.
These problems often plague vehicles that have clocked more than 90,000 miles. So, you might want to avoid any well-driven used Subaru Outback especially from these model years.
Of all the 4th generation models, it’s the 2013 Subaru Outback that has had the most troubling of issues. Judging from comments and complaints by Outback owners alone, it can be called the worst Outback ever. Right after its release, a class-action suit was filed against the manufacturer because the vehicles had defective piston rings. This defect caused vehicles to consume excess oil, which led to engine failure if left unchecked.
2015 to 2018 Model Year Subaru Outback (5th Generation)
You might expect that the relatively newer 2015 to 2018 model years wouldn’t have too many issues and avoid being in this list of Subaru Outback years to avoid. Unfortunately, the 5th generation does have its fair share of complaints.
While there were still complaints concerning engine and transmission problems, they weren’t as rampant as with the 4th generation. One could even chalk them up as isolated issues that are to be expected from any mass-produced vehicle.
However, the faults that stand out concerning the 5th generation are mostly electronic. Many owners complained of batteries going dead all of a sudden. The cause of the unwanted drain is often varied but are most likely due to faulty control modules and faulty light switches.
The infotainment system also drew a lot of flak. Some complaints say that the radio can have a life of its own, where its volume and station can change without any external input. Smartphone users also reported having trouble pairing their devices with the car’s head unit.
Some also complained about the windshield from these model years as prone to cracking.
Other Common Problems
Many Subaru Outback owners have complained about battery drain issues. This has even made it a norm for Outback drivers to carry battery chargers and jumper cables with them. Faulty control modules can cause components to draw power excessively from the battery even when the vehicle is not running.
Hundreds of Subaru Outback owners have also reported vibration issues in their vehicles. The issue often arises during acceleration, and drivers experience a sudden, intense shudder immediately after they increase their speeds. For most owners, their vehicles started this problem after driving over 100,000 miles. While the leading cause is yet to be determined, some experts believe this is due to torque converter problems.
Air Conditioning System
Another commonly reported Subaru Outback issue is with the aircon system. Various components can fail in aging vehicles, requiring a replacement or even a comprehensive check of the system. This is often a costly maintenance task to perform. This problem typically affects vehicles that have more than 100,000 miles.
Outback owners have also bemoaned the vehicle’s weak windshield, especially those in cars from the 5th generation. The windshields and windows are prone to cracking and breaking, even from impact from small debris. Small cracks can get progressively worse. This problem is a significant safety hazard as it can impair visibility.
Consider These Years Instead
Most Subaru Outback models are excellent performers. Many model years have received few complaints and have high-reliability ratings. These include the 2001 to 2004, the 2005, the 2012, and the 2019 to present model years.
Even the older first generation models from 1994 to 1998 are very solid picks if you don’t mind driving a model from the 90s. The third generation (2003 to 2009) is an excellent option for those who want an Outback model with excellent power and performance. Used Outbacks from these model years can be had for a bargain considering their age.
Still a Solid Pick
One can argue that creating this list is quite a stretch. The Subaru Outback generally is a very solid car. The 2013 model may be considered an aberration since it’s the only Subaru Outback to be involved in a massive recall. Still, Subaru did things right by compensating affected owners. The fifth generation issues can be considered minor, all things considered.
So, this list of Subaru Outback years to avoid is partly nitpicking. As with any vehicle purchase, you should perform your due diligence and have it inspected by a qualified mechanic or expert. But any other Outback model year should be a great pick for you to buy and own.