This is the worst car that we have ever owned. We have replaced the head gaskets, catalytic converters and constantly have brake problems - primarily warped rotors. They say we need new valves now. We have taken care of this car and we have 130,000 on it. Subaru obviously has problems which they refuse to stand behind. We would never buy another one and just hope we can sell this one.
I've had many Subarus, and this is my last one. After replacing the head gasket 4 times, I'm done. (The tranny went on another one I still own). These cars don't spend much time in the shop but when they do, it costs me 5-6 car payments. Also, after reviewing options now (in 2009), the OB has not kept pace with other maker's improvements. It's still the same car in 2009 as it was in 2002 with a few different options. Same engine, same power train, same reliability issues until someone proves otherwise. Also, the engine is underpowered for its size.
All wheel drive makes it seem like you are driving on rails. Very secure feeling.
Get rid of the flat four engine. It's outlived its usefulness, IMO.
I thought I'd provide a review after having the car 6+ years. I have the 2002 Base Model with the All Weather Package. I commute 25 miles to work along a treacherous 2 lane very windy and icy mountain road and so my main concerns when buying a car were safety and all wheel drive. I drove it for 4 years and it was great but I then also bought studded snow tires for the car and it's a tank. Downsides are right in the driver's side of the windshield there's always a streak, no matter which wipers I use. The headlights go out a lot and I've had to replace the brakes more than my past cars. I wish it was a hybrid too. I was getting 24 mpg but in the last year it's dropped to 22.
AWD, lots of cargo room, very comfortable seats in front and back, very practical. Downside is that it is practical and not very exciting.
Get rid of the streaking on the driver's side windshield. My mom bought a new 2007 Forester and it does the same thing. I even bought $50 Bosch windshield wipers and it didn't help, took it to the dealer, etc. Also secure the headlights so the bulbs don't go out so often. Make it a hybrid.
I have 122,000 on the car. I plan to keep it until 250,000 if it will last. I am on my 4th set of replacement head gaskets (5 sets total). After the dealer did the first 4 HG jobs, I found a mechanic who says "use the turbo head gasket, it will never leak again." Question: why doesn't the dealer do that? Also replaced the pistons at 122K because originals had seized rings and were so noisy I couldn't hear myself think on a cold day. Now using 3rd party pistons as well. Car handles great. Reset the "learning" engine computer for better performance. Wind noise in driver/pass. window can be fixed by squeezing molding together where side mirror is mounted. This will probably be my last Subie.
4WD. Handles well in all conditions, when you have the right tires.
Make the engine more reliable. The pancake design is lousy for reliability, but good for low center-of- gravity. There ought to be a way to get the best of both worlds.
Don't expect this vehicle to last and last. I've had two of these and the first the engine ate itself at 125K. Head gasket blew on the highway. I thought it was a fluke so I bought another. Replaced three head gaskets in this one and the engine ate itself because of a blown head gasket at 175K. Probably spent over $3K on this problem. They go through everything but this engine has a major design flaw with their head gaskets. If your leaking oil REPLACE THE HEAD GASKET! $700 plus repair.