The new company that I joined after leaving GM decided that my prior experience working in China was useful, so they proceeded to send me and the family back to Shanghai for what would be a second expat assignment for us. After 3 short years back in Detroit we were about to move everything to China again, except our house and cars. Our vehicles at the time were my faithful Ford Fusion and my wife’s 2007 Chevy Trailblazer, whose lease was conveniently expiring close to moving day.
I don’t have much to say about that Trailblazer since I almost never drove it, but other than a superb 4.2L I-6 engine it was a pretty unremarkable vehicle. In order to keep the lease miles down we used the Fusion for almost everything except wife’s commuting. But oh boy was that engine sweet, and such a night and day difference from the roaring 4.3L V6 in my old Jimmy.
Anyway, we turned in the Trailblazer and parked the Fusion at my mother in law’s place as our house was going to be rented. Three years in China passed quickly and we came back to the USA, our former house, and my Fusion which was now looking for a garage companion. The Fusion was going to remain my car so the new addition would be for my wife. She only had two requirements, AWD and heated seats for getting to work in those brutal Michigan winters. I wasn’t keen on another lumbering SUV, looking for a more fuel-efficient crossover since her former Trailblazer was a real gas guzzler despite that silky engine.
After extensive research I narrowed down a long list of candidates to just two, a Honda CRV or Subaru Forester. I had a bias toward Honda (as readers of my previous COAL’s will know), but Subaru’s had a certain “cool” factor despite their dorky looks. In another blog I described a Subaru Forester as the “gangly, awkward, nerdy <high school> kid with a lot of endearing qualities and a few quirky flaws. Very likable personality and strangely popular with the girls.” https://thelifeofliu.wordpress.com/2021/03/27/if-cars-were-people/
It also didn’t hurt that Subaru’s advertising prominently featured love, puppies, and national parks. Whatever it was, the vote was overwhelmingly for the Subaru (kids: Honda CRV – eew, everybody’s got one!)
So I picked out a 2 year old light green low mileage Forester X Premium (again, a midlevel trim as it has become my pattern) with the cold weather package, which included not only heated seats, but also heated outside mirrors and heated windshield wipers. I gave it an extremely thorough test drive evaluation, having learned some hard lessons with the previous GMC Jimmy that I had. I noted that the Forester drove quite well, with a very agreeable ride with none of the SUV shakes, decent power despite only a 4 speed automatic, and agile and solid handling. The interior was spacious for its size and the huge greenhouse meant great visibility. It seemed that Subaru had nailed all the basics of building an excellent crossover, and injected it with enough personality to attract hordes of enthusiastic and loyal followers. There were, however, a few faults that I didn’t consider deal-breakers. One was the terrible audio system with its AM transistor sound quality, which could be rectified but I never got around to it. Another was the hair-trigger throttle response. Subaru took a page from the malaise-era GM playbook and calibrated the throttle to “leap” off the line, making the car feel much more powerful than it actually was.
But as long as my wife liked the car I was good with it. I brought it home and it was an instant hit. She loved the Forester, declaring it the best car she’s ever owned, wowed by the clean straightforward interior and expansive glass area providing panoramic views all around. The Subaru AWD system was unstoppable in the snow, proving far superior to any AWD vehicle we’ve owned in the past or since. The car’s longitudinal flat-four boxer engine afforded it a ridiculously small turning circle, making parking in tightest spots a breeze and allowing for u-turns on narrow two lane streets without the need to back up.
Soon after the warranty expired, however, did the troubles start. Loud rattles and a buzzing sound emanated from below the car, traced to a loose exhaust heat shield. Soon the exhaust itself developed a major leak, spewing noxious gasses and a loud hissing sound on acceleration. Then there were more mysterious banging noises from below. I tried unsuccessfully to deal with these annoying rattles and buzzes myself, but unfortunately they mostly involved broken parts that needed replacement. Trips to the dealership and 3 and 4 figure repair bills became a regular occurrence. On a car only 6 years old I ended up having to replace the entire exhaust system including catalytic converter, differential seals, and various other driveline components. Our first Japanese car was by far the costliest car to maintain that we’ve ever owned.
One trip to the dealer was an absolute disaster. The Forester was recalled for brake line corrosion and so I dutifully brought it in for a repair, this time at no cost. When the repair was completed, I drove the car off the lot and less than 1000 feet later felt a violent vibration, strong pull to the left (towards oncoming traffic), followed by a smell of burning rubber. Stopping in the middle of the road, I discovered that the left front wheel had come completely off and was now lodged deep inside the wheel well. There were no lug nuts on the wheel; apparently the service technician forgot to put them on. I walked back to the service department, coming in hot.
They found the lug nuts at the hoist where the car was serviced, and after a profuse apology from the service manager and a promise that the offending technician would be disciplined (or fired…) I was set up with a loaner Impreza while my car got a whole new front strut assembly, control arms, wheel, tire, brakes, steering tie rod ends, etc. etc., all at no charge of course. That took a couple of days and when I went to pick up the Subaru I found it had been washed, waxed and detailed to pristine condition.
After that brake line fiasco and thousands upon thousands of dollars in mid-life repairs, the Forester was finally ready to go to work. My wife took a job at Ford so I reluctantly gave her my Fusion as she didn’t want to be seen driving a Japanese competitor in to work. The Forester became my car which, after all of that investment, was finally running well. When son #1 got his license, we decided that he would drive the Forester to school and activities. Getting home from school would mean climbing a steep (for Michigan) hill which could be treacherous in winter without 4wd. My wife would get a new Ford product, taking advantage of her employee discount, and I would get my beloved Fusion back. That story will be the subject of a future COAL, but suffice to say it didn’t work out that way.
A fender bender in a parking lot caused our fragile Subaru to lose out out badly to a Jeep Grand Cherokee (Grand Cherokee $0: Forester $3500). My wife took the Subaru back after the repairs were completed. It broke her heart to see “the best car she’s ever owned” busted up like that, so she resigned herself to parking in the far corner of employee lot and enduring a long cold walk into the office. A year later, she leased a Ford Escape and son #2 took over the Forester while in high school and later took it to college with him. During one of his visits home, I evaluated the condition of the car and tallied up a long list of issues that needed attention. Given the shaky reliability of this car over the years, I decided it was time to retire the 11 year old Forester for good.
Subaru’s still had that puppy dog appeal in 2021, for as soon as my ad for the Forester went live, my phone started to ring. Compounded by the global chip crisis/car shortage, desperate buyers were willing to pay cash, sight unseen, for this car. Since there were some significant cosmetic blemishes as well as an A/C that only worked intermittently, I did not take any offers without buyers first test driving the car in person. So it was on a first come, first serve basis that I lined up the test drive appointments, and I would accept the first reasonable offer. In the end, I sold the car in 2 days and got full list price.
The Subaru was with us for a total of 9 years, the second longest time in our fleet after the Fusion. I’m still trying to figure out why our Forester was so well-liked despite the expensive repair bills. Maybe it was the unique throbbing hum of the flat-four boxer engine. Or perhaps the hair trigger throttle response reminded you of an eager puppy dog about to leap into your lap. Or the boxy, bolt-upright styling reminded you of that likable 13 year old neighbor kid in the throes of a growth spurt. Whatever it was, it cast its charm spell on us like it did millions of other fanatically loyal Subaru owners. So when it came time to replace our Forester, a new one was at the top of our consideration list. The 2021 Forester was as popular as ever and much more advanced than our 2010 model, but my left brain took over in this case. I wasn’t about to take any more chances on a car whose predecessor we had spent so much money on repairs through the years. We got a Honda CRV instead.
I have a 2012 Forester. Many of the same problems you described. One day I was driving the car and heard a strange ticking noise from the engine. My mechanic, Google, told me it was probably due to an excessive oil consumption problem noteworthy to Subarus of this era. I took it into Subaru and under warranty they did a partial rebuild of the engine, WHEW relief. A few months later, it returned. Another partial rebuild. About a year later, it returned and Subaru wasn’t immediately willing to be so cooperative. It was a busy service area and I with a slightly raised voice told them I have a Jaguar that is more reliable than my Subaru has been. I did get a 3rd partial rebuild after that. Was it my comment? I don’t know. But I have never actually owned a Jaguar, It was a creative lie I told to emphasize my displeasure with my Forester.
On one of my sister’s many trips to the dealer with her nearly-new Outback, she (with much frustration) pointed out her husband’s beat-up rusty 15-year old F-250 farm truck by the service entrance and said “what does it say when THAT is more reliable than my new Subaru!”
Jeff: Our daughter had a similar experience with the engine. Her car was a 2010, bought new after college. At about 80,000 miles the engine dropped dead on the highway. She was religious about maintenance, especially oil changes. The dealer, in looking back over the service history, noted that her oil consumption had been rising, but unlike in your case they didn’t suggest anything.
Result was a rebuilt engine for about $7,000. I chewed on Subaru hard for a reduction and got $2500 off, plus a credit for a future Subaru purchase. The car was just barely outside the serial number range for the problem engines so they wouldn’t stand behind it, despite identical symptoms.
She immediately replaced the car, with a CX-5… no way was she going to buy another Subaru when they failed to stand behind the product with a known defect.
I wrote the president of Subaru on the issue, including the info that our immediate family had bought five Subarus in the very recent past, and that including other close family we’d bought twelve. Based on Meg’s experience nobody was ever going to consider another. Response: Crickets.
There is a lot to like about Subaru products, but the company clearly doesn’t stand behind them.
Jeff, do you recall what year yours happened, because mine was 2019. They had told me they had extended the warranty (I think it was 100K miles but I don’t fully recall) this was due to so many of these problems coming through. My third partial rebuild was well past the mileage though (I’m currently at 160k)
You’ve read my account. Subaru made the repairs, but they didn’t help their reliability reputation with me. I have fun cars and a daily car that I rely on (laughably the Subaru) I won’t purchase another either nor would I recommend someone buying one either (unless it was a cheap low mileage one used as a beater) It’s sad really because they really had something in the past.
Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
You have reaffirmed the slo-mo bias I have been forming for awhile over Subaru. I love the way they look and present in showrooms, and love that they are built locally. And I love the way their owners bond with them and buy one after another. But I have never become convinced that they have reached that top-tier Japanese experience of Honda and Toyota. My sister bought a new Outback in maybe 2016 or so, and got rid of it after about a year and a half or two years (very uncharacteristically for her) because of a series of electrical gremlins that kept putting the car in the shop.
I have a 2010 Subaru Forester the only thing I had to replace was lower control arms and now the timing belt and water pump and I have over 230,000 Mi on it The only bad thing it’s a oil eater
I had an 02 Outback (LLBean edition with the 6), bought with 110k on the clock. Maybe because of the 6 it had a horrible turning radius. Whe I bought it I had to replace the passenger side CV boot (it was like 6″ from the catalytic converter); it tended to overheat sometimes; and the alternator was intermittent for 2 years (but never at the mechanic’s);until it died in the middle of the desert. A long tow (yay AAA) and it was better. Finally sold it when my youngest went to college, at 180k miles. But it didn’t use oil, and was comfortable and quick.
You could say that I loved it despite its problems (maybe true) but we have a 10 CRV bought new (only 125k miles now) that honestly hasn’t been much more reliable. A few weeks ago one of the front axles failed and the splines took out the seal; it burns a quart per 1000 miles or more, and the VVT system lises pressure overnight and makes an ungodly racket for 2-3 seconds every morning.
The Subaru lineup is attractive and they seem to be everywhere. In Vermont they really are everywhere.
Debbie’s son and daughter both bought Foresters when they each had their first child, and I must admit these cars seem very nice, almost luxurious.
And yet, in my mind, there’s a nagging thought of past stories from friends who loved their Subarus and almost apologized for the “issues” that occurred as their beloved cars aged.
Of course, no car is perfect, and trouble free operation can be a function of luck as much as all other carefully executed research efforts. But the reason some vehicle makes/models have better reputations than others is based on years of real -or- perceived experiences combined with family lore, and sometimes, the need to rationalize one’s own decisions.
Gene, what can you say about any cars you drove while living in China?
I drove very little in China, just the Buick GL8 minivan (i.e., rebadged Chevy Venture) on occasion. Not much chance to exercise a vehicle in Shanghai’s busy stop and go traffic. But I got to ride in a lot of VW Santana taxicabs, basically unremarkable, unrefined workhorses that pile up stunning amount of mileage and keep on going.
My mother and her husband were indoctrinated into the Cult of Subaru about 15 years ago and haven’t owned anything else since except a Tacoma. They currently have a ’21 Outback Onyx and a ’23 Legacy Sport. They had a Forester of this generation very briefly, only because the non-turbo engine didn’t have the juice to handle the Rockies when they travelled back and forth between their Florida and Colorado homes. Their current Outback has been back to the dealer several times for various issues, but when they decided they needed an additional car so they could fly from home to home, they looked at pretty much nothing but another Subaru. I must confess, I just don’t get it.
This article opens up several cans of fish or boxes of worms or what have you related to just what IS it that inspires or supports particular demographics or populations to become devoted to particular vehicles/models/brands. In the case of Subaru (and I’m not in this case referring to the WRX-loving crowd), the overall effect is as JP notes from their ad slogan. “Love”. And it seems about as explicable as love.
But of course, the Subaru (in this case) is a manufactured product designed and promoted by a corporation…so I don’t think, we can just pass off the existence of this love as being so easily inexplicable as is the case between humans. So, what is it?
I’ve observed – and Gene touches on this – that Outbacks, and Foresters in particular seem to be particularly loved by women owners. Maybe it’s the high visibility driving position? Compact size? Safety features? I don’t know, and these are things that I’d think men should be equally attracted to. But (again) in my own personal experience, 3/4 of the Forester and Outback owners I know are women. And they truly love these vehicles…which I often hear the most about as they are slogging through another mysterious early component failure (e.g., seized wheel bearings, rusted clean off lower spring perches, brake failures, etc.) that Subaru refuses to cover under warranty. As the repair bills add up, I ask “So, thinking about getting something else?”…and the answer is always “God no. I LOVE this car!”.
Plus, dogs love them. So there’s that. But really, dogs love any vehicle with windows where we’re driving. I’m just saying.
I know that I live in a part of the country that is thick with Subarus and the lore of the Outback that has 300,000 miles on it but soldiers on through hood-deep snow in Vermont is strong. But man, people do love these things and I just wonder what kind of marketing superpowers Subaru employs.
We have a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek with 35,000 miles. So far it has been absolutely trouble-free. No trips to the dealer for warranty work at all. It is driven mostly by my wife who is a very careful and cautious driver. No stresses on the car at all. I don’t know if it would be so trouble free with a more aggressive driver.
My wife had a Suburu Legacy when we met. IIRC it was a 1994 model. No issues that I recall. She was happy enough with it that I considered buying one when my 1984 Toyota pickup dropped a thrust washer at 187,000 miles just after we got engaged. We sold it (in 2001) just before our twins were born because we couldn’t get three car seats in the back.
I had three Subaru Outbacks before I soured on the brand and turned to a Honda Element, so I can sympathize with a lot of the article here.
Gene captured how the brand had a real anti-cool appeal that made it cool for awhile. In the 90s, Subaru created some really scrappy, niche vehicles that vaulted the brand leagues ahead and cemented its hippy, dog-loving, adventurist vibe. But by the aughts, when they migrated away from the wagon shape in the Outback and Forester and towards more of a SUV/crossover, the designs got a lot uglier and more generic. Today, I don’t even blink when I see one; I feel like they’ve lost that “it” factor entirely.
I finally soured on the brand after a number of catalytic converter woes. There were three of them, I think, on the last Outback I had, and I couldn’t get mine smogged. The third one I owned looked good cosmetically, but had a lot of deferred maintenance, that, coupled with the cat repair, spelled its end of the line.
I’ll be curious to see how things worked out with the Honda. The CRV is the same platform as the Element, which is what I succeeded my Subarus with and have held onto. It’s even more versatile than the best Subaru I had, and it’s got a cool factor that most SUVs (especially Hondas) don’t.
In Colorado, Subarus are plentiful and once upon a time, I had a Subaru as well. It was a quality product with more annoying characteristics than the high price paid for it. I’ve never looked at another since getting rid of it.
Subaru really hit a niche with their full time four wheel drive vehicles, and they seemed to be one of the most popular vehicle choices in my hometown of Kalispell, Montana. I’m speaking in past tense only because I haven’t lived there full time since 2008, and don’t pay very close attention to what people are driving when I visit. They seemed a very pragmatic choice for the people who wanted or needed 4wd, but didn’t want a body on frame SUV or pickup. The most popular model was the Legacy Outback wagon, though the Forester and Impreza were right up there too. The old Leone and pre-Outback era Legacy seemed to be quite durable and needed no apologies… they’d even have been on my short list to recommend or own if I were in the market.
It’s a bummer that Subaru is squandering the goodness that earned them their place and the level of respect afforded their cars. It’s pretty dicey relying on image and the perception of quality as opposed to actual quality, and especially so in a market where Subaru is no longer the only choice for economical vehicles with AWD. And no. I haven’t forgotten the smattering of other cars that offered 4wd variants at times during the 80’s and 90’s; it’s just that none of them really stuck with it.
We bought my wife two new Subaru’s. The first was a 2000 Impreza Outback Sport with a
manual transmission. From a driving perspective it was great, but service was expensive
and it did not meet our expectations for a Japanese vehicle.
In 2015 we leased a 2014 Subaru Crosstrek for her due largely to the massive incentives.it ended up being a fairly disappointing vehicle, as it did not display the driving dynamics of our previous Impreza, and started to show the same lack of mechanical integrity with low miles.
We bought a new 2014 Forester to be my wife’s daily driver. One of the primary selling points was that it was available with a 6 speed manual transmission. Remember that (as my wife puts it) “real chicks drive sticks”. She loved the Forester’s size, comfort, utility, and excellent visibility. What we didn’t love was the fact that it consumed oil from day 1.
The first replacement short block that the dealer installed under warranty burned oil even worse than the original engine. The second short block (engine #3) was much better, but we still never left home without a quart of oil safely stowed next to the spare tire.
I believe that Subaru’s dealer network is part of the problem. Our nearby Subaru dealer was kind of sketchy, and I caught them utilizing some unsavory business practices (intentionally over-filling the oil prior to running an oil consumption test). Subaru of America was helpful in finally resolving our issues, but only after I made repeated follow-ups.
Wow! We bought a new 2004 Forester, second year of the 2nd gen SG and first year for the XT turbo in the US, which is what I chose, with 5 speed. Strictly speaking, the most trouble-free car I’ve bought. 9 years, 80k miles and the only issue was a burned out dash bulb which was trivially easy to replace. One set of tires, oil and filter changes, maybe a coolant flush. After about 60k miles I bought brake pads and pulled the front wheels off; the original pads were less than half worn, so I didn’t replace them and gave the boxed pads to the new owner. Ours was Japanese-built. It too replaced a larger SUV. Oh, and it never saw the dealership after I drove it off the lot, but the sales experience was excellent. Took about 5 minutes to agree on price, and 15 minutes to do the paperwork; no extended warranty or other “finance” BS. Both sales guys were real car enthusiasts.
Subaru has obviously and admittedly struggled with maintaining quality during these past 15-20 or so years when their US sales exploded (top growing brand for just about every year). There was a huge scandal in Japan about Subaru employees hiding quality issues from official reports and such.
Our 2000 Forester ran 170k miles with only needing two rear wheel bearings and a water pump. But it did have piston slap and the head gaskets were leaking to the outside at the end. Other than that it was rock solid.
A very valid reflection. A close friend had a similar era Forrester and ditched it after 3 years due to reliability issues.
My ’13 Outback hasn’t been to Toyota-level reliability levels, but it’s been a great road partner for 200k miles. I feel some of their suppliers are lacking. The CVT ‘popped’ at 75k; Subaru covered it’s replacement. Catalytic converters seem to be an issue in the comments above; I replaced mine around 140k miles (and all the sensors) and still get an occasional CEL for left bank too lean. Thank God for the CEL reset tool I bought.
That said, I love this little beast – perfect size, very comfortable and fun to drive. It’s only played in snow once, but it’s a sure-footed maniac in our torrential downpours. I’m shopping for it’s replacement now and would certainly consider another Outback if they had a hybrid version. They don’t, so I’m looking elsewhere. I would have hoped their tie-in with Toyota and ‘hug the earth’ persona bore hybrid fruit across their lineup but it surprisingly hasn’t.
I still love my ’09 with its 5-speed, but it’s getting tired, and it’s hard to find a suitable 6-speed replacement that’s not hours away.
Subarus of this era confuse me because I’ve known folks who have had either positive, or terrible experiences with them.
A good friend of mine had a 2010 (or so) Legacy wagon that was a complete fiasco. His parents owned a similar Legacy that was fine. My parents have owned a succession of Subarus (basically because they like Subaru ads), and they all seem to be fine. My neighbor had a Forester that was always in the shop. And so on. But their reliability seems spotty enough that I stay far away.
Oh, and I love your “If Cars were People” blog post – all very accurate!
I like subarus designs but I go Honda because their reliability is superb and theyre not a bore to drive like toyotas. Everyones always saying subarus problems like head gasket are fixed and they just keep coming back. No thanks.
I like the idea of a Subaru. A nice practice reliable wagon. The reality doesn’t live up to the myth though. Subaru seems to have become something of a cult where owners just keep denying reality and raving about the love. A friend had one that made 300,000 miles. He told me that he should have dumped it at 175,000. The money that he poured into it to achieve 300,000 miles was staggering.
We had a 2011 forester with pzev engine. Was using a quart every 1500 with 0w20, then every 4000 with 5w20. Car lasted 180k with zero issues. Had it aligned at dealer a they left an upper control arm bolt off and the wheel fell out ripping the transaxle apart. They fixed it, but it was finished after that.
I can relate to this. My Mom and sister walked into a Subaru dealership back in (2007?) and bought an Outback and a Forester on the same day. Mom had to rebuild the engine at 70K—out of warranty, unfortunately, as it took her a long time to reach that mileage. My sister got 230K out of her Forester but it seemed like she was pouring money into it constantly. She bought another Forester after that one and had it until a deer blew up the front end. After some careful consideration and review of her maintenance bills she went with a new RAV4.
Between head gaskets and the premium on them used Subarus just aren’t worth it anymore except for older 2.2 liter cars as cheap beaters. Mazdas are cheaper used and for the most part stone reliable. When we bought our 2014 Mazda5 a 2014 Outback was going for 50% more.
This used to be a Subaru country, more per head than anywhere else but that seems to be changing, Legacys used to be every second car then it was Outback/Brightons now they seem scarce or am I not seeing them
They did gain a reputation of needing lots of parts to keep them going and good used transmissions are unobtanium so perhaps they just died out and only the late model sedans are left.
They seem to be more common in the West Island, correlating with cooler climates and progressive political views: very popular in the ACT. 😆
My aunt had an 87 Loyale. That thing barely made it to 100k over 10 years, with the right head gasket leaking oil and coolant.
She went to a 98 Civic. Over 10 years and 78K, the only repair was an O2 sensor.
In the spring of 2008, she said she wanted a new Subaru. I questioned it as I did not think she got good service from the Loyale. She persisted, so we headed over to the Sube dealer. She decided the Impreza hatch did not have enough room in back for her stuff. We went around to the storage lot and saw a row of newly arrived, next gen, 2009 Foresters. She decided the base trim Forester had everything she wanted, and she loved red cars. There in the lot, sat a red, base trim, Forester, so the deal was done. She loved the car, but her health failed a couple years later and she had to stop driving. Some years later, I looked up the CR dot chart on that 09 Forester. Pretty grim.
Looking at CR dot charts now, it seems that Sube has gotten it’s arms around some of it’s reliability issues. The Legacy/Outback look decent, and the Impreza has done better of late. Of course, I remember looking at VW dot charts years ago, and remember how VWs would look OK when only a year or two old, then deteriorated sharply in the out-years.
I will be watching the Impreza with interest. The Impreza RS ticks most boxes, and lacks the turbo characteristics, and premium gas that curse the A4 Allroad, and the RS costs 20 big ‘uns less.
After reading all the comments, I don’t feel so bad about my ’17 Forester bought new which has been such a disappointment. My previous car was a Toyota, a great car that went 300,000 miles without any major problems. The Subaru on the other hand burned oil from the start, using a quart every 5000 miles. The wheel studs kept breaking due to rusty lug nuts according to Subaru’s own TSB. Next both front axles needed to be changed, then both front lower control arms. I also had 2 cracked windshields around this time. Then the really expensive stuff stared happening. I thought I was being smart when I got the 6 speed manual instead of the CVT but no. The throwout bearing started squealing loudly so I had the dealer do a complete clutch change at high cost. Everything was fine for a few months until the clutch fork cracked! Back to the dealer and another costly repair.
I just got the car back and am kind of afraid to drive it. I’m thinking of selling it.
Wow, so many tales of woe here! When people ask me about purchasing a Subaru, I tell them about their reputation for head gasket and wheel bearing failures. Looks like I should also mention catalytic converters and front suspension parts. I try to steer them to Honda or Toyota.
Subaru’s advertising slogan used to be “inexpensive and built to stay that way.” Obviously no longer.
My direct supervisor’s 2016 XT recently suffered complete CVT failure just after the New Year, and apparently something unique to the XT transmission resulted in a rental for nearly a month while what was required to complete the repair was sourced. 102,000 miles when this happened. I haven’t inquired further details because there is a lot of frustration I am aware of surrounding the situation and how it (initially wasn’t) handled.
We have very different experiences here.
My first was a ’98 Legacy wagon with 2.2 liter and automatic. It is still running well except for the 3 transmissions replaced under warranty. It now has nearly 300,000 miles on it and the engine does not burn any oil, in fact has never been opened up. The new transmissions failed due to a certain group of serial numbers which had several faulty internal bits placed within them. Final trans has lasted well over 200,000 of those miles.
My second unit is a 2004 Forester with 2.5 liter. It now has over 155,000 miles with only one front axle shaft/cv unit replaced around 1,000 miles ago. For me the AWD feature is nearly as perfect in control on ice as my Quattros have been. Cars are built like a brick, have longlasting interiors and quality paint. They get used in winters as my go-to rig when weather becomes challenging. Electrical issues are non existant other than each getting an alternator and battery at 150,000 miles. Personally, I have not had enough of any problem with either (nor the rentals I have used at distant airports) to make a complaint. If you don’t overheat them or forget to change the oil, they should last many, many miles.
If this rather tiny sampling of the automotive spectrum has such a long list of miseries with these cars, I can’t imagine what the rest of the world knows.
None of what was shared here is news to me, as I know many folks who have or had Subarus and most of these issues sound familiar. Transmissions, head gaskets and other drivetrain maladies seem to be quite common.
I guess all of those ridiculous “love” commercials really keep them faithful…
Good comments on how Subaru may have experienced what a certain former (now dead) Secretary of Defense termed a relatively recent US invasion as a “catastrophic success”.
It’s similar to the problem Toyota (and any manufacturer, for that matter) has in maintaining quality when the demand substantially increases. How does the manufacturer increase supply yet still maintain the same level of quality? Toyota has been very good at keeping quality high while still trying to meet that increased demand.
Subaru, OTOH, seems to have fallen into the GM-like trap of dropping quality in lieu of increased quantity. It doesn’t help that, for decades now (starting with the first Outbacks), Subaru has had a remarkably effective marketing campaign, transitioning Subarus to something of a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle, not unlike Jeep or VW, meaning that many potential buyers fall in love with them, simply due to the perception owning such a vehicle seems to make.
IOW, as someone mentioned, owning a Subaru was (is?) something of an ‘anti-cool’ statement, not unlike back in the day when driving a VW was considered anti-establishment or counter-culture.
Unfortunately, making such a statement can also come with myriad quality issues. A real pity since an AWD Subaru does truly seem like a fine device for personal transportation in inhospitable places like the Rust Belt and Northeastern US during the winter.