These cars are starting to be classics and are somewhat complex for their day. I bought my 2001 VDC with the H6 engine to replace a gas guzzling GMC pickup that I use for adventure travel and getting to my camper, which requires offroad capability to get to. I saw videos on Youtube of these Outbacks doing some incredible things offroad so I decided to take a chance. My impressions: It has great road driving dynamics and the interior is much nicer than you would expect. The sound system is more than powerful for a stock system. Storage space is great and the seats roll forward and fold flat. You can sleep in the back for camping if needed. There's nice bins below the floor and above the spare tire- a nice touch. The engine's power is adequate under normal driving with the transmission keeping the revs down to heep fuel economy up. When pushed, it will make good power in the upper rev range. Being a flat six engine, it's near vibration free. So when I purchased mine earlier this gear with 65000 miles it still needed some mechanical love. Since it was used in the north some underbody corrosion has made the job harder as well. Having said that, I'm able to do the work myself and had to address the CV axles in the front (torn boots), front bearings, knuckles (were rusted), new calipers (rusted), rotors, and steering tie rods. These repairs would have been very expensive in a shop, but I was able to do it myself for just the cost of the parts and my time. The shocks were blown as well and abrupt bumps would cause a bottom out. So after 17 years with the OEM struts this is to be expected. Taking it offroad showed loss of paint on the front bumper from minor stream crossings so when I did the struts, I added a 1" lift suspension lift using strut spacers. So at this point I have it sorted out with maintenance and new parts. My benefit is a more comfortable and efficient ride than my old truck with better passenger comfort and interior storage. The roof rack helps too with a cargo carrier. I lost my heavy towing capacity, but that's OK. As a side bonus the Outback fits in my garage as well. At this point I have a slight oil leak from a valve cover gasket, but otherwise works like a new car after some love was shown to it. And comparing the Outback to any of my other trucks past and present, the offroad ability through deep sand is the most effortless of any of them. Subaru's are just that good and makes the work totally worth it for this level of capability combined with efficiency.
I suppose that every car is different, some have problems, but my 2001 L.L. Bean Outback has been as good as it gets. Almost no repairs except routine maintenance which I observe religiously. Runs like new. I keep trying to persuade myself to get a new car but when I get in and drive it, I just don't see why. I bought it for $22,000 when it was one year old with 25,000 miles on it so someone really used it but didn't hurt it. Must have been a lease car. It is so well made; the fit and finish are outstanding. I'm afraid to buy a new car!
Update with 215,000 miles. Still love the car but it's beginning to show its age. There was rust around the moon roofs that I spent $1,500 fixing and it's perfect...amazing. The rubber boots around the axels (something like that) had to be replaced twice, now, in the past 15 years. I think a motor mount is going to need replacement. The leather driver's seat has cracked and replacement material is not available. The motor is perfect and burns no oil, whatsoever. Still reluctant to get a new car.
I am almost 5'2" and my husband is 6'6". We both fit fine as driver and passenger - a big challenge to find something that works for both of us. I only wish this vehicle had seat memory (a button to push to say it's me or him). The only drawback to this car design inside is between seat and center console is a black hole of lost things. I saw something I can buy to block that slot so I won't have to get a stick, a hairbrush, or whatever, to reach between there and retrieve keys, money, and pens. It's like a magnet for dropping things into there. Currently, I see a french fry and an M&M, and for the life of me, cannot get it out! We bought this car used (2001) and took it to the NC mountains, where it drove around sharp mountain curves like a champ, hanging on tight and not making the passengers feel like they're going to be thrown out. Our other car is a 2001 GMC Jimmy 4WD, which is a tough old car, but you have to nearly come to a stop to turn a corner and it's a big time gas hog.