For such a heavy car, it is underpowered. However, for such a large vehicle, it drives wonderfully, handling like a sports car around turns with minimal understeer. At 76K miles, my head gaskets began to leak despite the fact that the car was always well cared for. Other than that, no mechanical problems. For 6'+, however, the car is cramped and overall interior design isn't as good as it could be. The stance is great for getting around in the snow or driving over small obstacles. For the price, the car has been great, but look into the H6 engine.
AWD, heated seats
Performance, legroom, longevity of essential parts
This is a totally honest car, anything essential is generously equipped in the base modal. Those not found, they are bells and whistles. The roof rail has 4 bars (most others just have 2 bars, you will know the difference when you carry a bag or mattress on top). My wife feels fully confident and safe in it. Very stable on all kinds of road, no matter in snow, sleet, icy or wet. We enjoyed engine's humming sound on the high way when passing big trucks with speed well over 70mph. Thoughtful console design,leaving ample space for all the odds and ends. Downside is battery leak in the 3rd year. In its 5th year there is some wind noise developing at driver side.
Unblocked rear view with large side mirrors and rear window (I believe getting a clear back view is crucial to safety). Spacious trunk, easily hold 2 bicycles. Heated mirror, heated seat. Windshield wiper deicer. Nice wood-like interior trim. Even the base model's stereo is decent.
No side/head airbag. Slow acceleration, especially when climbing slopes. Make the button for heating mirror auto reset to non-heat mode after engine stops. So is the fog light button. The button for real window heater works this way.
I have test driven this car many times and when I finally moved north I bought a certified used one. I don't drive off road, so I just love this car so much that I'm going to buy a new one, the Legacy Wagon which is set up a little more for street driving. I used to have a Mercedes C230 Sport, and this car drives just like that. Can't wait for the new one, but at 43,000 miles, heated seats, and all the comforts I need, I can wait happily for a fair price before making the change. Kind of a cargo hauling-sports car- family-suv and more all purpose comfort car without the SUV pickup truck mileage. I get 25- 29mpg. I'll miss it, but not much has changed with the new ones.
I never knew what it was like to LOVE a car until I got my wagon. I will probably never own another type of car but a Subaru Outback. It is the perfect size for about ANYTHING. It is reliable, is great for short or long trips. The gas mileage is good even with the rising costs. This is coming from someone that drives an hour each way to work everyday. So I spend TONS of time in my wagon.
The flexibility of the design and the comfort. I can use it for hauling kayaks, but also tone it down and use it for work. And for my hour commute to work, my back never hurts.
After four years with a Saturn LW2/300, I decided to get back to Subaru for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is the reliability of the car. I had a '92 Loyale that I couldn't kill, but traded in for the Saturn. After various "issues" with that car, I decided to come back to Subaru. I bought the standard Outback Wagon with a 5 speed, my first! and just love it. Here in NH you need a good snow car. The Outback continually impresses my wife and I, not only in the foul weather, but on our short and long trips. Very little stops the car or us. It goes through every where we want to go. It loads up and cruises down the highway well. Being 6 foot 1 inch, I find I have just enough room behind the wheel.
All wheel drive, comfort, can pack a ton of stuff and head to ME at 75 mph. Heated seat, mirrors, and wiper rest. The grunt of the engine, especially with a K&N air filter in it. I surprise people when I gain on them on uphills :). Very good gas mileage with a big right foot; 25 - 27 around town and highway.
A little more pep from the engine, though this has been taken care of with the 05's. Even the non-turbo Outback moves with an automatic, but it's more fun to shift for yourself. Poor headlights on the 03; if it wasn't for the foglights, it would be hard to drive in the dark / inclement weather.