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I bought my Subaru Outback in March 1998. All good things must come to an end and this is my retrospective of those three years of ownership. I have to admit that I am a dedicated Subaru owner (but I guess you either are or you aren’t). I had two Legacy estates and two GX estates prior to this – some 20 years with the same marque overall.
The Outback was introduced into the UK a year or so before it arrived in the US. This is the Japanese built right hand drive model and is imported on a very strict quota system. Consequently the Outback has always been in limited supply and is something of a curiosity on the road. I chose the automatic transmission option.
So, why did I buy it? I have loved both previous Legacy Estates. The Outback just added a certain ‘something’. The styling is bold, manly and distinctive with its upright posture, two tone body work (in my case blue and grey), ski racks on the roof and grill stone protectors over the fog lamps.
It has a sporty 2.5 litre horizontally opposed engine and runs on urban trips at 13.9 litres per 100 kilometres. It is a reassuring car to drive in all weathers. With power steering, anti-lock brakes, all wheel drive it safely holds the road in all conditions. The transmission has a power setting for quick acceleration and a snow hold position for help in icy weather.
A six monthly or 6000 mile service interval is recommended. The car comes complete with a three year get-you-home warranty in case of break down.
The trim is a little more than ordinary with wood veneer internally. There is no air conditioning (not an absolute necessity in the UK) but there are two sun roofs. The front one, over the driver and passenger tilts; the rear one slides open. Each can be masked with an inner shell to cut out sunlight. The passenger’s visor has a vanity mirror within it. There are full electric windows and electrically operated mirrors. There is a rear screen wiper with washers.
It has a factory fitted engine immobiliser system. I also had a Tracker monitor installed (not, fortunately that I have had to use it). I installed a six disk CD player as an optional extra. With its in built speaker system this car has one of the better travelling sound systems that I have heard to date.
I don’t intend to recite the full specifications of this car in this review (that’s what the showroom and the brochure are for). However with an overall length of 185.8 inches, width of 67.5 inches and height 61.2 inches it looks and feels a large car. It has a spacious feel in the driver’s cockpit and has comfortable enough leg room for four other adult passengers. With the rear seats down its carrying capacity is formidable – we have easily managed a two seater bed settee on one trip and a 10 foot Christmas tree on another. There are rumours of local farmers ferrying sheep up the hillside!! (and then taking the missus to the dance at the weekend!!!)
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY NIGGLES?
Well, yes. As a potential off road vehicle it does ride somewhat higher from the road and the suspension is somewhat harder than the standard Legacy model. Although the car is quite quiet at speed it does give a slightly harsher ride which is more noticeable to the front passenger than the driver.
SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
About a month before I traded the car in the battery in the key fob went flat. I then had to open the car by putting the key in the lock (!). Two weeks before trade in during an icy spell of weather, the driver’s wiper blade split and had to be replaced.
This is nothing unusual though. Overall with the Subarus that I have owned one snapped a timing chain, one snapped an odometer cable, one blew a tail brake light.
Put this into context this brand is just a superbly engineered and reliable make of car. The Americans call it the poor man's Mercedes.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THE OUTBACK?
Yes of course I would. I am glad that I have had these three years. I have enjoyed this car and it has served me well. It has always started first time regardless of weather conditions (heat, cold, rain, fog) or if it has been left standing for up to six weeks during a vacation. It has perhaps been a little overkill for my needs. Most of my driving now is limited to short journeys in the urban environment. I may require to drive onto a grassy field to park for a school football match but that is the limit of my off-road experience. The requirement for bulk carriage is also reducing.
I probably would not buy an Outback again for those very reasons. Indeed I have downsized for my next car (still Subaru though – an Impreza GX: the 2001 replacement for the Sport). This does have a very efficient air conditioning unit in it but no sun roof. I have a sneaking feeling that I will be back to the larger car again for the one after next – the slightly softer ride of the Legacy GX Estate.
Prices of course don't bear talking about here in the UK. For what its worth the price new 3 years ago was £23,600 That said, it is highly sought after in the countryside. In fact there are no city centre Subaru dealerships in the North East of England. It has held its second hand value extremely well (My dealer had already sold it for me by the time I took it in!!)
Subaru is a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan. The badge represents the star constellation of the Plaiedies
A good well, written piece on the car, and I hope that I get as much satifaction from this car as the author obviously had.
Connoisseur_Haggler1 16.11.2002 23:58
Always the way isn't it with batteries they end just as you're about to get rid of it! same thing happened to teh key fob on my Alfa! I think battery life in these key fobs are actually getiing worse now my 2nd Alfa its already going! You mentioned servicing at 6K miles, wasthis expensive? approx. idea of costs? and what is the next major service and some idea of cost, thanks this will give some idea on costs of ownership after initial purchase. Well, enjoyed your Subaru opinion, can see you are quite a fan!-CH
Bigbaz 14.11.2002 22:55
I never really thought to much of this car, but you have given me a totally new insight..Baz