2012 Subaru Outback Consumer Review: Who Needs A Minivan?

2012 Subaru Outback - Consumer Review

Average Consumer Rating

55 Total Reviews

2.5i Premium PZEV 4dr SUV (2.5L 4-cyl. AWD CVT Automatic)

Build Quality
Reliability Value
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
Who Needs A Minivan?
By dr_nano on


2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)


Our '04 Nissan Quest had reached the end of its wretched life (poor build quality & reliability) and we needed something to take the kids around, the trash to the transfer station, and the dog to the vet while dealing with the NH roads and weather.
Plus my wife has to park in muddy fields when she works at a local school and she has to get out of those fields.

The Outback does all of these very well.
It is smaller than her Quest but we found that we only need that extra space about 0.001% of the time and we can rent a proper van when we do.
We'll take the better fuel mileage, the solid feel, and the confidence we can go anywhere of the Outback over any minivan.

Best Features

We both like the solid construction - no rattles or tinny sounds even when going through the car wash's pressure sprays. The modest ground clearance is good enough to deal with limited off-road driving and gives a good view of the road. For a 4 cylinder the 2.5 L engine is very quiet. The CVT is a good match for it - you can be going 75 and the tach is only reading 2K (unlike my Passat V6 which would be at 3K). Very good brakes and body control during braking. The interior is cleanly functional and comfortable enough for my two adolescents. The Premium w/all-weather pkg comes with treats like heated seats, alloy wheels, and an improved stereo. Get the rubber floor mats.

Worst Features

The 2.5 L will not win any races and you can feel it struggle a bit on hills. Mileage is @ 22 and is going up but would like to see higher final figures than 22/29. The shift paddles for the CVT are annoying; the sales guy told me that 98% of the buyers never use them. As someone who has driven manual in his own cars for the last 20+ years I am in that 98%. If you have a CVT what's the point of them anyway? This is very minor, but there are punch-outs in the plastic where controls available on higher-end models will go. This makes me feel like a constant reminder of "Too cheap to buy the top model?"
Recommend (15) (0)

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Comments (9) Post a Comment
By dr_nano
on 04/01/12 19:47 PM (PDT)

Follow-up: The Outback is now averaging 26-27 mpg and has proven suitable and comfortable on several family highway trips, including one to Boston that required quickly navigating that city's unique and busy streets with a full load of passengers and luggage. There are some small quirks with some of the controls (you can't reset the mpg computer without resetting the trip computer) but the ride quality is good.

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By dr_nano
on 04/18/12 09:43 AM (PDT)

2nd Follow-up: Unexpectedly warm weather here in NH has shown us one drawback of the AC - it really eats gas. Mileage has dropped about 4-5 mpg (about 20%) in mixed driving. This is not the case with my VW (about 10% there). No discernible effect on power though. The Conti tires give good grip - these were also original issue on my Passat. I recently switched over to Bridgestone Ecopias on that car as they have a lower rolling resistance and that has paid back in better mileage. May do the the same with the Outback when it's time to change.

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By dr_nano
on 05/01/12 13:41 PM (PDT)

3rd Follow-up - the khaki interior is very pleasant to look at but smudges and stains are easy to spot. The Subaru dealer has helped us with removing things like blood and chocolate but other things like ink seem to be permanently attached. Also the doors are easy to scuff given there is no body side molding on this model and nearby cars in parking lots seem to be leaving their marks. No dents or dings - just a pain to buff out.

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By dr_nano
on 05/28/12 14:22 PM (PDT)

4th Follow-up - Just took it in for its 3,750 mile recommended oil change. Very nice dealership here in Manchester, NH - car was in and out in under an hour despite six other people getting served at the same time. Total cost - $33.95 Found that Armor-All interior wipes can get ink and other stains off the khaki surface so that's now looking good. Mileage at 24-26 mpg in mixed driving with AC on. Wife loves the fact that rocks in the schoolyard that scraped her minivan's bottom are no obstacle for the Outback. It either clears them or runs over them.

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By debbadoo2
on 06/12/12 19:50 PM (PDT)

Thank you for the continued updates. I just purchased the same model this week (2.5i Premium CVT in Cypress Green with Ivory Cloth) I am a bit worried about the cloth staining as you mentioned, but I treated with Scotchguard and we'll see how it goes. I may upgrade to leather if I'm not happy with the seats, but I didn't want black because I live in the South and it would be way too hot. I have averaged 25.5 mpg according to the computer on my daily suburban commute which is substantially better than I was getting with my 2007 Honda Element.

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By dr_nano
on 06/17/12 12:52 PM (PDT)

debbadoo2, you are quite welcome. Best of luck with your new Outback. Get used to getting a lot of social networking stuff from Subaru in the mail. We used to live in TX so we are quite aware what 110°F can do to an interior and even here in NH it gets hot enough such that a dark interior makes a car like an oven. Also, this is just a personal note, but I often get a sore spot in the small of my back from sitting at my computer all day and have found the firm cloth seats very comfortable in those instances.

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By dr_nano
on 07/05/12 07:48 AM (PDT)

5th Follow-up - We've stopped treating the car like it was brand new and are now using it as we intended. This means trips to the supermarket, mall, gardening center, transfer station, vet, hardware store, kids' parties, amusement parks, pools, state forests, farmer's markets, and furniture makers. The rubber mat in the back still looks good even after a load of two dozen bags of marble chips and the engine didn't complain at all while hauling them. Plus when other cars block our way on back roads we can easily go around them. The car is still making us happy.

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By dr_nano
on 08/17/12 17:08 PM (PDT)

6th Follow-up - OK, this one is about annoying little things and they involve the electronics. First, you cannot leave your phone in the car to charge as none of the power outlets work when the car is not running. This is not the way it is in my Passat and my wife gets frustrated as she can't recharge when she drives to the pool or the movies and leaves her phone in the Outback. Second, if you Bluetooth your phone to the stereo system when you turn the car off and start it back up (such as we do at the Transfer Station) it immediately forgets the connection and you have to pick up the phone and refresh the connection. Also when you first Bluetooth it the stereo system immediately starts playing any MP3s you have on the phone (such as your ring tone). Finally the USB port in the center console will not recharge your phone IF you select your phone as a mass storage device. You have to go to the stereo and select "USB" after which it immediately starts playing any MP3s it can find with no way of turning them off.

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By dr_nano
on 09/19/12 11:47 AM (PDT)

7th and Final Follow-up - The model year is coming to an end so the 2013s are on lots now. So I'd thought I'd close out with some cost-of-ownership calculations as we just did the $93 7,500 mile service as well as some fuel cost numbers. Gas is currently running $3.70/gallon here, we've maintenance bills totaling $126.95 for that period, and I figure the wear on the tires is about 25%. MY figure comes out to 17.1 cents/mile, which is lower than the 20.1 cents/mile average for this class of vehicle according to my local AAA office.

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