I've owned 3 outbacks (1997, 2001 and currently, my 2006. The 2006 is superior to the 2nd generation outback. It's tighter in quality, with better handling and not as soft riding as the 2001. I don't know why some get such poor mpg, but I have kept the second trip odometer on actual mileage, and for 50k miles, I have averaged 26.8 mpg and, I drive lots in mtns, on any of the 4 mountain passes in the northern cascade mtn range. City mileage is about 24 - 25, but on long freeway hauls, driving 60 70 mph, I have hit 30 mpg, but usually get about 28 mpg. That said, if Subaru does not improve mpg levels (though they are far better than many USA all wheel drive cars), I might jump ship to Honda.
Love the firm, contoured front seats, better sound system and the all wheel drive is bullet proof.
Absolutely terrible factory tires - bridgestone, I think. Anyway, on my 1997, I ran the original michelins to 72,000 miles! I had to replace my 2006 tires at 40k! Subaru made a huge mistake on this. Also, rear cargo net should be standard....electric/semi auto transmission is so-so.