Overall, a nice wagon in the Subaru Legacy L tradition. BUT, I have had very BAD STARTER issues, every 6 months to a year, of owning the car. The car suddenly WON'T START, & why? Most mechanics can't figure it out. Once, I had to tow it over 100 miles, used my AAA card, to a mechanic I found in my hometown, that knows how to get it running. What did he do? Change the radiator, water pump, & a couple other items, and voila, it ran again! At least 2 times, for a $1000 each time, he did that, once every 2 years. Other times, it was some other repaOnce he did the repairs, it ran fine for another few months or a year. No other mechanics could even figure out what to do about that problem, so at least his garage knew how to "fix it". That included a Subaru specialist I used that couldn't fix the starter issues, so I finally found the other mechanic that did. Don't you love a Lemon Car like that? Simply not reliable, when your car can't start, suddenly! Or a few times, it would just give out, while driving on a local highway, & I had to pull over, & luckily never had an accident. Once the power (not a lack of gas or oil or fluids, at all) went out, I couldn't restart it, so I think it's the same starter problem. At that point, I had the mechanic who knew how to get it running again, so towed it there. What I did learn from my own research, is that from 1996 to 2004, Subaru made a lot of bad cars, all their models had either starter issues, and head gasket problems-expensive. (I was told when I bought the car that the gaskets had been replaced & were new. The Carfax & repair records verified that. So, I don't know if the starting problems are related to that, just a mystery.) They also had defective exhaust systems requiring repairs, & a few other repair items that are chronic. I've experienced almost all of those while owning this car. I had to replace a couple hundred dollar exhaust system items, including 1 that finally stopped the steady yellow light on the dashboard. The light coming on happened 1 week after I bought the car from a sleazy dealership! Oh, joy! I hated that yellow light, but in reality, it wasn't much trouble, except for I had to fix it every time I smogged the car every 2 years. So, it cost me extra. Finally, I got it permanently fixed 3 years ago. The door locks and keys are poorly made, so that my keys broke off in both door locks, and rendered the car doors unopenable from the outside, if locked from the inside, and you can't unlock nor lock them from the outside. Really ridiculous. Have to enter or leave from the hatch door, if one is locking the car doors to prevent theft. There's only 2 outside door locks, on the 2 front doors, the 2 back doors, strangely, have no outside locking mechanism, you only lock them from inside. Crazy! I will still have to find a cheap locksmith, and spend $100-200 fixing the door locks. Many locksmiths charge outrageous sums, so you have to shop around. If the hatch door isn't properly closed, the electrical system will cause the car not to start also! Think that's all the problems I've had. 1 more, the engine overheats, w/ white steam, going up very steep hills. Moderate inclines are fine, & don't cause that, so it can be avoided. I live in the SF Bay Area, full of steep hills, but once I realized what was going on, I stopped driving on the steepest ones. Moderate inclines like highway 101 going to San Francisco from Sausalito, is pretty steep, but it's gradual, so no problems there. It's only the steepest hills in San Francisco & the Bay that trigger the overheating, but if it's a slow drive, sometimes it won't overheat, but if it's very steep, here comes the white smoke! Then I have to stop the car for a while, and let the engine cool down. Never had it meltdown, or cause any damage, but it does cause stress, & it is dangerous. I wonder if that's the head gaskets, since I've read they do that when defective, I don't know. Well, I've told you of all the problems I've experienced with this defective model. From now on, I'm never buying Subarus made from 1996-2004. If you research it, there are a few models where problems begin in 1997 or 1998, but most of them start with 1996. I've poured more money into repairs for this car than any other car I've ever owned, & I've always owned old used cars, not new ones. I've had other Subarus, before 1996, & most of those were great, & didn't require much repair other than normal things for that age (hoses, belts, brakes, and sometimes a clutch in the clutch era). I've had Honda hatchbacks (great cars, but unsafe, not good in accidents, while the Subarus are outsanding in safety). I do like this car though, I feel an affection for it, despite all the money drain, and the horrible stress of a sudden starter problem. What I like is the roomy hatch for storing, & moving items, it's great. The maneuverability is outstanding. I love the safety of Subarus, traction control is great in storms, and the hill stopper is amazing.
It's strange... Looks like a Jeep Cherokee on the outside, feels like Honda on the inside, & drives like a Sherman Tank. The Pros outweigh the Cons, as this is one of the most reliable, safest, & unstoppable vehicles ever made. (Just youtube the words "Outback/Snow/Ice")
The AWD (All Wheel Drive) is an experience in itself. You may wonder why all cars aren't AWD after owning one. It does take a slight knock on the MPG's - but just in case you ever have to pull a Bison up a mountain that has ball bearings rolling down it...except no substitutes.
The boxer engine makes some maintenance challenging. - Overall it's a great value car. It helps that 97% of Subaru cars made 15 years ago are still on the road today. 97%...think about that. Subaru has a reputation for durability. The guy I bought mine from had another with half a million miles. Literally 550,000+ They have a cult-like following, & most people refuse to buy anything else after owning one.
Purchased 2.5L Legacy Outback 10/09 - 156k - w/o inspection. W/in a week $1400 transfer case repair...had no AWD. Wonderful AWD now, BUT has cost $4500 past 2 yrs incl transfer case, timing belt, radiator + bi-mo. repairs. A/C has never worked. Ck eng light on constantly altho turns off by itself several days later. Recently a long-standing misfire issue became full blown problem. Car barely started making noises like a starter problem, shook horribly, probably only running on 1 cylinder. Today, it does start, runs somewhat smoothly, engine sounds odd. Blown engine? Will miss my beloved Outback. R.I.P. Now allocating my Suby repair budget to buy new car.
Such a champ in bad weather! Extremely dependable til recently.
Lived in Colorado mntns. Used studded snows.
Job required driving on treacherous, icy mountain back roads.
Sure footed car never failed me. Co-workers driving 4WD pickups did not fare so well.
Several slipped off the road...although they were very experienced 4WD folks.
I like how the car is solid and suspension isn't "mushy".
Yet the ride is good.
Comfortable car and seats. Interior in perfect cond, no rips, tears.
Dark green paint still glossy.
For a 4 cyl, zippy on major mountain highways, even passing.
Very dependable car til the misfire issue went downhill into a probable blown engine.
Since this was the first year for the Outback, it has many mechanical issues with the 2.5L engine.
My car has had just about all of them, although didn't need to replace head gasket.
It may have already been done since purchased at 156K.
Too bad first year models always seem to be a guinea pig and aren't such reliable cars.
The only improvement I'd suggest is that the mechanical issues be resolved.
I believe Subaru has proven they have with subsequent years.
I have been very satisfied with the performance of this car, even with all the problems it's had in past 2 years.
I live in Maine and needed a car that could withstand our weather. I bought my '96 in December because I had heard good reviews about Subaru's. My dad was unsure about it because he had never worked on a Subaru before, but quickly changed his mind when he drove it in the snow. It doesn't shift very smoothly (for an automatic) anymore and the 2.5 likes the liquids a little more than I prefer. The check engine light has been on since I got the car (the previous owner said it was because of an oil leak) and the gas mileage is comparable to a half ton Dodge pick-up truck, but I still love this car.
Heated seats, mirrors, cruise control, upgraded stereo, and block heater. Subaru dependability with 196,000 miles and no sign of stopping anytime soon. Great in all weather conditions.