Two questions come up when considering a Subaru Outback.
First, is it worth it?
Yes, it is, and we’ll tell you why as we look at the most reliable years like the 2005-2009 Outbacks.
Your second concern will be, are there Subaru Outback years to avoid?
Yes, because some of the models from these years are problematic. Some problems, such as a faulty head gasket, affect many Subaru models, and it’s all the more reason to know which years have this issue.
Let’s start with:
Common Subaru Outback Problems
Outbacks are spacious midsize SUVs with commendable storage space and all-wheel drive.
What’s the problem with some models, though?
Defects in the 2003 model highlighted the need to address problems associated with the Outback. These problems included a misfiring engine, a ticking sound heard in cold temperatures, and a blown head gasket. Head gasket failure happens due to problems in the cooling system, causing heat buildup in the engine.
A notable engine problem was a faulty piston ring, an issue that caused a class-action lawsuit in 2014. We’ll talk more about the lawsuit later when we look at the 2014 model. A defective piston ring leaks oil, which increases consumption because the car needs enough fuel to lubricate the engine.
When this leak reaches the internal combustion chamber, carbon deposits collect on the engine’s cylinder and piston rings.
Faulty AC System
Some car owners reported a fault in their cooling system after clocking over 100,000 miles.
It was a concern in the 2003 Outback as the body showed signs of rusting through the years.
Faulty Front Oxygen Sensor
It might not be an expensive repair job, but ignoring it may affect fuel economy and performance.
Though it’s not a major complaint among Outback owners, some have experienced it, so it’s worth noting. There are reports of increased vibration on acceleration from a stop, anywhere from 10 to 45 miles per hour.
But the shudder would die down when driving at a constant speed of about 60 miles per hour. One of the reasons given for such noise is torque converter failure leading to poor acceleration.
On top of that, the 2003 model had wind noise from the side mirrors when driving at over 60,000 miles.
A Faulty Clutch
It was the case in the 2005 model with the clutch failing when driving at low mileage. Additionally, the faulty clutch was making a latch noise.
Other problems in previous models were in the wheels and hubs, the warning lights going off, and malfunctioning door locks.
The Worst Years For Subaru Outback
We hope you don’t have one on your driveway already, as it may give you some trouble very soon. Of all the models in the market, 2013 is the most regrettable release for this car brand. There’s nothing to write home about at all.
Most of the complaints were about a faulty engine that’d double fuel consumption. A faulty piston ring was responsible for this increase in oil consumption. For some car owners, the leakage required an oil change after covering 2,000 miles.
It seems the problems plaguing the brand were on a roll because 2014 wasn’t a good year either. First, there was a lawsuit for faulty piston rings installed in Subarus as far back as 2011. It mentioned a few Subarus in particular, such as Outbacks, Foresters, and Impreza cars.
The faulty piston ring increased fuel consumption and sometimes caused engine failure. This class-action lawsuit mentioned a few faulty Outbacks, and the 2013 2.5 L engine was among them. For such car owners, a 2013 Outback had prompted several repairs in less than a year.
Car owners didn’t even know the piston rings were causing the problem because some dealerships had all manner of answers to questions about excessive oil consumption.
Subaru settled the lawsuits about two years later by reimbursing money spent on repairs because of the piston ring and gave a longer warranty period.
Also, check out the Toyota RAV4s to avoid.
The Most Reliable Subaru Outback
If you don’t have the faulty Outback years already, you can invest in:
It’s the first generation of this car, and it had some likable specs like a comfortable interior, powerful engine, and all-wheel drive. Initially, the Outback was a trim level for the Legacy.
It became a model in 1996, bringing better ground clearance than the trim level put together for the Legacy model. Therefore, the 1996 model is a better off-road car than the previous one because it brought a 7.5-inch ground clearance.
There were two options for the automatic transmission, a choice between a four and five-speed. Plus, if the 2.2 L four-cylinder engine wasn’t living up to the horsepower needed, there was the option of upgrading from 135 hp.
Further, this generation’s fuel efficiency is noteworthy, with 18.5 mpg in the city and 30 mpg when driving on a highway, thereby giving you a combined EPA of 24.7 mpg. It was an offroad model with a towing capacity of up to 2,000 pounds. The ease of repairs using parts from other Subaru models also made it a reliable car.
The ones in this range are in the third generation of the Subaru Outback, and an essential change was the introduction of an XT turbo engine that could yield 250 horsepower. This engine came with an auto five-speed transmission. It also saw a souped-up interior and some updates to its exterior, such as distinct fog lamps housing.
This period had more competitors eyeing the Subaru market share, and it prompted more updates to make the Outback bigger. Even the wheelbase increased by 1.3 inches. In 2008, the Outback was one of the top wagons in the US.
Now you know the ones to skip and the ones to get. Lastly:
Was 2011 a good year for the Subaru outback?
It wasn’t the best year as there were some complaints. The issue that stood out the most was transmission failure. It’s a concern because this problem can crop up at any time, whether the car shuts off while driving on the freeway or it starts slowly after a stoplight. The fact that it manifests in different situations also makes repairs expensive.
Other than such problems, the 2011 Subaru Outback stands out for its spacious interior, ride comfort, efficient ground clearance, and all-wheel drive. Its cargo space is 71.3 cubic feet with the rear row folded, which is more than you’d get in a Forester or Toyota Venza. Plus, the rear seats are passenger-friendly with increased legroom and a reclining backrest.
How many miles before Subaru head gaskets fail?
On a 2.5L engine, Subaru head gaskets become faulty from 100,000 miles because it overheats, loses coolant, and accumulates black coolant in its recovery chamber. Most of the time, it’s an experience with Outbacks from 2000 to 2011.
How many miles do Subaru Outbacks last?
With regular maintenance in a good model, it can attain 200,000 miles. Most don’t make it that far for several reasons, such as recalls. For example, there was a 2016 recall because of a secondary air injection pump relay that overheated the air pump. On top of that, there’s a trend towards leasing cars, which is also affecting mileage.
Why is the Subaru Outback so popular?
One of the reasons people prefer it for off-road trips is that it’s a model between a station wagon and an SUV. Plus, it’s sturdy, and its ground clearance matches that of the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. Its towing capacity of 2,700 pounds is as good as that of a station wagon.
Is a Subaru more reliable than a Toyota?
A Toyota can attain a mileage of 200,000, with some models going up to 300,000 miles. This brand’s pickup trucks are also reliable, with some like the Toyota Tundra providing a simple powertrain.
Subarus reach a mileage of 200,000 miles, even though some with the 2.5 L engine may disappoint. The previous generation Subarus may also exhibit some problems like head gasket and engine failures, which increases the cost of repairs.
Despite these inconveniences, Subarus have value because of their comprehensive safety features and all-wheel drive. For example, the Subaru Forester offers better ride quality and interior comfort than a Toyota RAV4.
You’d have to compare individual models to see the difference. For example, the 2020 Subaru Ascent has 8.7 inches ground clearance, while the 2020 Toyota Highlander has 8.0 inches. The Toyota Camry has better fuel economy and speed than Subaru Legacy, but its braking performance and interior comfort aren’t impressive.
Both brands have an array of specs, which means your choice depends on what you prefer. Plus, longevity and ride quality also depends on maintenance.
Outbacks rule the market, generating more sales than the Legacy model from which they originated. The problem, however, is that some years aren’t desirable. If you get one from 2013 to 2014, it’ll be trouble from the dealership until it’s time to write it off and get something else.
But that doesn’t mean all Outbacks cause never-ending headaches. There are reliable models like the first generation Outbacks and the third generation from 2005 to 2009.