2008 Subaru Outback Review
2008 Subaru Outback Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Fine ride and handling balance, enjoyable power delivery from XT Limited's turbocharged engine, excellent build and materials quality, sure-footed in snowy or light off-roading conditions, outstanding crash test scores.
- Tight backseat for a midsize car, automatic transmissions sap performance, stability control not available on lower trim levels.
For the 2008 Subaru Outback, the sedan version is dropped, a few new standard features (including tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel and an auxiliary audio jack) and updated instrument panel debut and a minor face-lift updates the front and rear ends.
Although still a good choice for smaller families seeking an all-weather wagon with strong crash test scores and polished performance, the 2008 Subaru Outback loses ground to roomier crossovers that offer better overall value.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2008 Subaru Outback 4dr Wagon AWD (2.5L 4cyl 5M) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.12 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$176/mo for Outback Base
Avg. Midsize Car
With its too-cute commercials featuring Paul Hogan a distant memory, the Subaru Outback is left to get by on its own merits. But not to worry, mate, this old gal has been holding up much better than Mr. Crocodile Dundee's acting career.
Starting out in the mid-'90s as a interim measure for Subaru to grab some of the then-rapidly growing SUV segment, the early Outback was essentially a toughened-up version of the Legacy wagon. Two-tone paint, a raised suspension, all-wheel drive and beefy tires gave the proper "go-anywhere" look.
TV commercials showed the Subaru Outback deftly zipping through twisty, muddy trails, with midsize SUVs left struggling in its wake. This "stopgap" vehicle carved out a niche of its own, serving those who wanted a measure of all-terrain capacity without the needless bulk, clumsy handling and dismal fuel mileage of a traditional SUV.
Today's Subaru Outback has dropped the awkward SUV styling cues of yesteryear and now embraces its midsize wagon body. In fact, for 2008, Subaru has discontinued the Outback sedan. As the Legacy and Outback are essentially the same car, it simplifies things. Want a sedan? Look at the Legacy line. Looking for a wagon? Then consider the Outback offerings.
Although there are three available engines, our favorite is the powerful yet smooth turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-4, which is available only on the XT Limited trim. Standard on this trim is Subaru's SI-Drive system, which allows the driver to tailor engine performance for economy or performance by choosing from three modes -- Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp. We've found that the Intelligent mode makes for sluggish response, while the Sport Sharp mode provides rapid yet smooth response to throttle inputs.
Firm suspension tuning along with responsive steering and the grip afforded by the all-wheel-drive system give the Outback a nimble feel through the turns while still providing a comfy highway ride. On the downside, rear-seat room is tight compared to those of rival wagons and crossover SUVs.
We still like the idea of the Outback, as it does indeed offer a likable compromise of wagon and SUV attributes. However, with crossovers such as the Mazda CX-7 or Toyota Highlander offering more room and power, the 2008 Subaru Outback just isn't the value it once was. And if you don't need the Outback's nearly 9 inches of ground clearance, you might also consider other wagons, namely the all-wheel-drive versions of the Volkswagen Passat and Dodge Magnum.
Performance & mpg
Every 2008 Subaru Outback trim features all-wheel drive. All the 2.5i models are powered by a 2.5-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine rated for 175 hp and 169 pound-feet of torque. Base and 2.5i models can be equipped with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic; 2.5i Limited and L.L. Bean models are automatic only.
The Outback XT Limited boasts a potent turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter engine good for 243 hp and 241 lb-ft of torque. It's available with the five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. The luxury-themed 3.0 R L.L. Bean features a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. Known as the H6, this engine is capable of 245 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque, and is matched solely to the automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and anti-whiplash front head restraints are standard on every 2008 Subaru Outback. Stability control is available on all trims except the base and 2.5i. In NHTSA crash tests, the Outback earned a perfect five stars across the board for its protection in frontal- and side-impact collisions.
Something of a cross between a billy goat and a luxury sedan, the 2008 Subaru Outback provides sure-footed composure on trails and snowy roads while keeping its occupants comfy. The base engine is just adequate while the turbo four and H6 provide rapid acceleration and stronger passing and merging performance. Unfortunately, the Outback's automatic transmissions still leave much to be desired, as they sap power by upshifting too early. Automatic-equipped XT Limited and 3.0 R L.L. Bean models fare a little better in this regard, as their SI-Drive system offers the Sport Sharp mode that quickens throttle response and delays upshifts.
The Outback's cabin has an uncluttered and classy ambience thanks to simple controls, tasteful faux wood and aluminum accents and high build quality. Seat comfort is generally good, though adults may find the backseat tight on legroom and shoulder room compared to roomier wagons and crossovers. Car seats are easy to install, as that rear seat is broad and flat. With the rear seats up there is 33.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity, flip them down and 66 cubic feet are available.
2008 Subaru Outback models
The 2008 Subaru Outback comes only in a midsize wagon body style with increased ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive. Instead of offering a dizzying amount of option packages like some other carmakers, Subaru offers a dizzying amount of trim levels. For the 2008 Outback, there are no less than seven trims: base, 2.5i, 2.5i L.L. Bean, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Limited L.L. Bean, XT Limited and 3.0 R L.L. Bean.
Standard equipment on the base trim includes 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, a satellite radio-ready audio system with CD player and an MP3 player jack, keyless entry, an outside temperature display, and full power accessories. The 2.5i adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, roof-rail crossbars, heated exterior mirrors, deicing wipers, a power driver seat and front-seat heaters. The 2.5 L.L. Bean is a little more upscale and features dual-zone automatic climate control, an in-dash CD changer, a navigation system and specialized floor mats. The 2.5i Limited drops the nav system, but adds a double-panel sunroof and leather upholstery. Spring for the 2.5i Limited L.L. Bean, and, as you'd guess, you get all of the above features as standard.
The Subaru Outback XT Limited and 3.0 R L.L. Bean models feature more powerful engines, but are equipped basically the same, meaning loaded, with the exception of a navigation system, which is optional. The XT Limited has a dark interior with faux aluminum interior trim and red electroluminescent gauges, while the 3.0 R has faux wood accents complemented by a real mahogany/leather steering wheel.
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
3.38 out of 5 stars
jim n., 03/16/2008
2008 Subaru Outback 3.0 R L.L.Bean Edition 4dr Wagon AWD w/VDC (3.0L 6cyl 5A)
Traded our 2002 Bean Outback. This one is a much better performer but the interior has been redesigned for the worse. Controls were moved around to accomodate the opt. Nav. screen (which should be mounted on the dash). Climate controls placed low behind gearshift, audio controls lowered. You used to be able to adjust with a glance, now you have to take your eyes off the road. No storage … for cds or loose change. The ashtray barely holds a chapstick. Rear seats no longer fold truly flat. Parking brake lever intrudes on drivers right leg. Odometer/temp/etc multigauge is useless and annoying.
2 out of 5 stars
My first and last Subaru.
Alan Christenson, 10/27/2015
2008 Subaru Outback 2.5I Limited 4dr Wagon AWD w/VDC (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
We bought this car used in 2010 with 17,000 miles on it. It was a great car until it hit about 70,000 when it started having regular repair issues that really shouldn't happen. I fully expect to do maintenance on any vehicle for parts that wear out, but these problems are something different entirely. First it was the head gasket problem that most of these have, that came to just … under $2,000 for repair (known issue that should have been covered by Subaru). Over the last three years I had problems with the ground wire in the radio that I had "fixed" three different times until it went out entirely and I had to have the radio head unit replaced for $500. The wires in the rear lift gate began breaking about a year ago causing my tail lights to go out. This is apparently a common issue as well and is very dangerous (no tail lights at night) and should have been recalled. That was $400 to replace. My catalytic converter is going out now and apparently it has been recalled in some states, but not in mine so it's going to cost me another $1,000. I also have problems in the passenger airbag light/switch that the dealership is telling me will be another $350 to fix. A little research on the internet tells me that it is bad soldering on a circuit board (another common enough problem that it can be found on youtube). Like I said, I gladly pay for regular maintenance and parts on a vehicle but these things are not "normal" problems and seem to be regular occurrences on Subarus. Tack on to this substantially decreased winter mileage (I expect some, but not 15%-18%), and I can't see myself purchasing another Subaru. Sure, you can probably pass them on to your children when you upgrade to a new one (just like the commercials show), but you're going to spend a lot of money to keep it that long and you'll be saddling them with something that appears to require regular, expensive repairs.
4.38 out of 5 stars
2008 Subaru Outback 4dr Wagon AWD (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
After getting tired of my '99 Legacy Outback and it's constant overheating, (to be fair it has 256k miles on it) I decided I wanted a new car. I researched a lot in the 10-15k range. I chose the Outback again for the awd/mpg/style/room/reliability. It has everything you need. It is more comfortable than my '99 even though it's a base model. (Even comes with seat heaters!) I was able to … get this car with 41,000 miles on it back in November. So far I've put 11,000 on it and it still runs excellent! I've taken it on dirt, up steep roads and gravel and it does it all. Last time I recorded just highway miles I got 28mpg! However, I usually average 24.
3 out of 5 stars
We Questioned next purchase and Now have another.
2008 Subaru Outback 2.5I Limited 4dr Wagon AWD (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
This 2008 subie is my 3rd subaru experience. I was reluctant to leave a review because I have been told I am too critical so you be the judge. 1998 subaru was very noisy engine wise other than that a head gasket failure at 135000 miles 2001 subaru brakes once every other year at the dealer. Coolent leaks at the heads of the engine maintained by conditioner. 2008 Head gasket leaks at … 68000 miles needed replacing. wire harness broke to tail lights. Noisy catalytic converters replaced but they left off the shielding. replaced under recall which is good. 75000 miles has a skip. plugs and wires. 7/30/16 96000-113000 owner replaced timing belt and tension pulleys, coolant water pump and timing belt, oil pump seals , cam shaft seals as normal maintenance items. valve cover gaskets Wheel bearings x3 as they were noisy. dealer replaced one air bag and another takata air bag is due under warranty control arm bushings and front and rear sway bar links. intermediate pipe and resonator with seals (noisy) Still drives and handles great. has not left us stranded yet. that is good. brakes hold up well. 1/31/17 120000 update. wire harness at rear gate wire broke again (first time was at 70000 and just ordered a new harness (rear gate Cord) from subaru lost back up lights and antenna wires the remaining wires insulation is cracking and just opted for new. Drives and runs great 23 mpg normal city milage. Just purchased new 2017 Outback Limited My wife drove most everything in this price range and insisted on a Subaru.
2008 Outback Highlights
|Combined MPG||22 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$176/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||all wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated