The Outback was my first Subaru purchase; had Hondas and Toyotas previously. With the manual tranny, I achieve 26 mpg - not bad for a 4wd station wagon. Two recalls, both for the ECU and both were fast fixes and covered by Subaru. No major issues with anything. Headlights do burn out fast (once a year or so). Some minor rattles from the dash, depending on the temperature. Bad wheel alignment from the factory and wore out the tires in less than 28,000 miles. Dealer refused to do anything about it - told me it was my fault which is totally untrue.
I have owned many Subaru's and really loved them all except for this problem. Catalytic converter is bad and estimated replacement is $2,000 to $3,000. I have spoken to some Subaru and non Subaru mechanics and all have said this is a common problem. I am not getting any satisfaction from Subaru USA and this has turned a loyal customer into a doubter. They tried a computer fix that did not work. They blame problem on hills and high speeds. The car also had bad rear bearing that were replaced as a recall.
The first year I owned it - had to get new brakes, and new tires. Headlights burned out twice. Headlights are terrible - almost ran into the back of a tractor hauling a wagon because I was coming down hill and the lights don't shine upwards at all. 2nd year, had to get new Rotors, Brakes and tires (I made the mistake of buying the same Bridgestone tires). Terrible in the snow - Rear end constantly fishtails - even with new tires. Car sways as if the chassis is going to fall off the frame. I am so disappointed. This is my third Subaru, but will not buy one again.
Get better tires, put decent rotors on the car, fix the sway and improve the all wheel drive. Worst car I ever owned and priciest.
The first 4 years car was alright, just don't expect much in the way of gas mileage. Had to replace rear wheel bearings under the special extended warrentee. Car was so loud that I could not hear the people in the back seat at over 25 mph. Have kept all the service intervals. Dealer says the head gasket is shot and needs to be replaced, estimate $2000.00. Only 71,000 mile on the car. I've had cars with 150K+ miles with fewer major problems. Headlights burn out about 2 months. Car has a higher than average cost of ownership, intervals for regular service items seem more frequent than other manufacturers. I don't think I'll be getting another Subaru. Not the quality I expected.
AWD is great in the snow. heated seats and front windshield defroster are great features.
Head gasket, wheel bearings, better headlight design, better fuel mileage, longer standard warrentee.
North western PA winters were no match for the Sube. Foot of snow; no problem. Need lots of ground clearance, fine. Need service...good luck. Yes you WILL need service. We bought ours new and sold it after 4 years. Had numorous problems with the cruise control operation. Replaced the timing belt tensioner TWICE! On the way to the dealer when we were trading it in we were having second thoughts till the check engine light came on!!
Go anywhere ability. Fun to drive. Towing capacity. Good mileage for AWD.
Our experience with service was poor. Reliability was awfull. When the car worked it was great but it wasn't working often enough to be unacceptable. Unless you know the car and the dealer I would not buy one if you want to use it to get to work everyday. You will get to know the bus schedual.