A solid performer in snow and enough backseat room for child seats, the 2 main reasons we bought this. We bought private party, single owner with receipts. The previous owners had to buy head gaskets (80k) and a 5 spd transmission overhaul at 110k; shortly after purchase (at 114k) I had to replace front wheel bearings, and shortly after that the clutch started to chatter (had been replaced at 80k). High wind noise at highway speeds. The car is too heavy and the engine works too hard most of the time. With the exception of excellent traction control, this is a very average car in all other respects. I wish Subie would build small light AWD cars again, that's what they do best.
Lighten the car up 500 pounds, stronger clutch, smoother 5 speed, fix the head gaskets, this should have been a recall!
This car handles well, is fun to drive, and I feel it is safe to drive with the family aboard. But after three, yes THREE radiator replacements, 2 head gaskets and several costly sensor replacements, I'm ready to be rid of this car. It has a computer "sensor" for seemingly everything, and I've had to replace them all more than once, and of course, these sensors are never in easy-to-reach places in the engine compartment, so every time, I've been totally reamed in the wallet. I just had the catalytic converter replaced as well, and like the other repairs for this car, it was very expensive. Seriously, I owned a Toyota for 10 years, and spent less than 1/4 the cost of repairs to it.
AWD is nice, and I will miss it. The seat warmers, side mirror defrost, and fold-down rear seats are nice as well.
For crying out loud, make the sensors accessible and affordable.
We spent $15k on a used Outback two years ago. The thought was to pay more up front and spend less on maintenance. Wrong! We just spent $4k in the last two weeks on repairs: $1500 for a new clutch and $2400 to replace the head gaskets (the car has 88,000 miles). As well as $300 in towing fees because it died in a remote spot. The car is now worth about $7k according to KBB, so all in all we've probably spent $20k on a car that didn't even make it to a 100,000 miles without over $5k in maintenance costs. I've owned many other, lower-cost vehicles that ran much stronger and longer than the Outback. I would not recommend Subaru products to anyone.
I bought my Outback Wagon new and after 90,000 miles I can say it is the most reliable car I've ever owned. I replaced the clutch at 80,000 miles and apart from routine maintenance (oil changes, wiper blades, headlight bulb, tire rotation, new battery at around 60,000 miles) that has been it. Even the original Wilderness tires did not need replacing until 75,000 miles.
AWD!! I live up a steep ridge in a snowy area and have never worry about getting stuck.
The only problem has been that the weatherstripping around the doors has come loose several times, and the windows don't seal as well as they should (one window seems to slip imperceptibly - it doesn't seem to be open but you can hear wind whistling through it.)
Hidden recalls of clutch and head gaskets. (Done on warranty.) Second clutch and flywheel replacement after only another 30,000 miles. Independent mechanic thinks the clutch flywheel fittings and housing are not meant for this engine. Catalytic converter needed replacement. Oxygen sensor and idle needed replacement. Brake rotors needed work early on. Front bushing replacements. Maybe I just got a lemon.
Plows through 6-8 inches of snow with no problem. Hauls any size load. Heated windshield wiper area on dash helpful in winter.
Don't hide the recalls until the problem occurs (we were stranded with the blown head gasket, when it could have been replaced beforehand). Redesign the clutch and flywheel assembly. Fix the engine idle and lack of engine smoothness problem.