All pics are of the actual car!
In the summer of 2011, we were doing quite a bit of camping. The CR-V was too small to haul the camper, so I’d bought a Dakota for that purpose. I’d had the CR-V for a few years, and had grown tired of it. Combine that with some annoying repairs I’d had to do and it was time to sell it and get something else.
I hate to admit it, but I get tired of cars very easily, and aside from a few “classic” cars, usually sell them after a year or so. I wish I knew why. I’m sure I’m not alone, though. I’d watched Kijiji looking for something, and this Subaru came up. All wheel drive, good tires and body, for $4000. I decided to buy it.
Love the beige/brown combo with the woodgrain. One of the nicest cars I’ve had.
It was a 2.5 litre, 4-speed automatic car. It was a mostly impressive drivetrain, with its flat-four being butter-smooth and torquey all through its rev range. The transmission did its job unobtrusively, and the locking rear differential made the wagon a ball to drive in the snow. It used no oil, nor did it leak antifreeze. It was well-optioned, too, with heated seats, heated mirrors, and a special heated strip under the windshield wipers to help keep them slush-and snow free. I haven’t seen it before or since in a car. It also had the usual cruise, air conditioning, and power windows and locks. The biggest impression I was left with driving the car is that this is what a well-made GM car should be made like. The inside wasn’t like any other Japanese or European car I’d been in – soft, textured dash and door panels, the beige, brown, and woodgrain with no major swaths of grey or black plastic, and solid-feeling controls.
There was an outside thermometer on the right hand side when the key was on.
The gauges and controls were also mostly great. As you can see above, the gauges were clear and well laid out. Everything else was sensible, with the exception of the headlight control. I think there was a switch on the dash for the main lights, and you can see in the picture above the rocker switch on the column for the park lights. I think I just left the headlights on all the time as they went on and off with the key.
Still a great looking wagon. I still love the look of it.
I had the opportunity to put a lot of kilometers on the Subaru in the time I had it. At work, the management at head office in Montreal had decided to replace our old AS/400 text-based business system with a flashy new system from SAP. I’d interviewed and gotten to be a chance to be on the training team. I’d be helping develop and edit training materials, provide classroom support, and provide on-the-job training. As part of this, lots of travel between our branches in Maritime Canada would be required, and the Outback was my chariot.
It was a good performer on the highway, never short of power. It wasn’t good on fuel, either, only being able to net about 23 miles per gallon on most trips. A 4-hour trip in the car was OK, but the 8-hour trip to Fredericton was a bit long – being a big guy, there wasn’t much shoulder or arm room between me and the door of the car. I had some stormy trips in the winter, but the car never failed me. As for the SAP implementation, the less said about that, the better.
The less said about that Mazda 5, the better.
One day, while filling the car full of gas, the gas started running out of it underneath. I got it home, and put it up on ramps to have a look. I suspected something on top of the fuel tank was not right. It looked like they installed the tank, and then the rear suspension and driveline, and finally, the exhaust. It wasn’t rotten underneath – but a lot of the fasteners were really crusty, and I didn’t feel like tackling that repair. I didn’t want to sell it outright, so I went to see what I could get on trade. It looked and drove pretty well, and I got what I paid for it on trade. Has anyone else had a car addiction like this?
Not a car addiction but a similar thing with a similar Subaru.
bout 14 years ago I wanted to have a”modern” car alongside the classics. It should have everything the classics do not have: air bag, towing bracket, air conditioning, good heater and ventilation system, station wagon, maybe a bit of luxury and speed. Maybe 4WD, good for the winter drives and the occasional ski trip. A little quirkiness would be good too as I do not like to drive a too common car.
I found a 1992 Subaru Legacy 2.2 auto estate. It even had air suspension. From the second owner with low mileage. I loved that car and thought I would keep it forever. It also was used as a loan vehicle for the small classic car business I had. One day about four years later, the person who had loaned the car phoned and said he had written off the car!
I could never find a similar car again. Did not want the smaller engined versions and also not the Mk2 versions as these were more ugly. So I got something completely different (old Range Rover) but grew a bit tired of using that every day.
Then I found an Outback like you had, except it had the 3 litre 6 cylinder engine. Leather interior, electric everything. From the first owner, low mileage again. That owner was an older gentleman who had to give up driving. It was visible on the car: scrapes and little dents everywhere. So I used that car for 2 years but strangely enough never got as much attachment with it I had with that first Legacy. When the auto transmission began to have some problems I waited no longer and sold it.
Fast forward another few years (Citroen BX in the mean time) and again I wanted a car as described in the beginning. Somewhere I read the Jaguar X-type had 4WD on its 6 cylinder models and also had been sold as an estate! So the search began for the ultimate: a 3 litre auto estate, with as many goodies as possible and low mileage. After a few months I found one, unmarked black leather interior, very good exterior. Installed a towing bracket myself and now have almost the perfect car for my needs. Two years on and it still is very good. Maybe this one will be a keeper.
That said, I have a stronger connection with older classics!
Obviously you are a busy man. But I need to ask: when are you going to write your COALs?
“As for the SAP implementation, the less said about that, the better.” Great post, this literally made me “LOL”. I can only imagine the stories behind that!
I’ve worked with SAP at Agfa and now Bosch. It’s not a bad system when you’re used to it, but we had to implement it with two different set ups for two different parts of the system at Agfa…… talk about a nightmare 😖
I have yet to hear of a “smooth” SAP implementation, but I never heard it wasn’t worth the pain and effort either.
The styling of this generation of Outback was just – right.
I wish that Subaru still sold a non-Outback station wagon version in the United States.
Agreed. I always thought the non-Outback Legacy wagon was just as good as the Outback version, only at a lower cost. But, then, someone at Subaru figured out that the profit margin wasn’t as large with the not-as-flashy Legacy, so that was that.
Likewise, Subaru seems to be taking something of a hit on reliability with their latest products. A real shame because an AWD Legacy wagon would seem one of the better, more practical choices for transportation in those 4-season locales.
That’s why I’m keeping my eye on the Regal TourX, yes it is a “wanna be” Outback but it has less than 6 in ground clearance so it is more like the old Legacy wagon.
Now if Subaru wants to drop it’s new turbo in the top trim Outback for some sort of “R” model, they’ll be tempting me again.
I don’t know how well they’re selling but, despite being a GM product, I’d love for the Regal TourX to take a bite out of SUV sales. The TourX has future CC written all over it.
I totally agree. One of my neighbours has what I think is a 2002 Legacy GT Wagon, sort of beige on black, if I am recalling correctly. It is in very good shape, and it looks wonderful. (I mean, I know it is a Legacy GT Wagon, I just don’t know the year.). A few people in my family have Subarus, namely a 2014 Outback 2.5 and a 2014 Forester 2.5. When my parents bought our 1999 A6 2.8 Avant Quattro in 2001 (because I had been born, and my mom didn’t want to squeeze me into her Civic Si), they actually looked at just about everything that was a wagon, and the Subaru Outback H6 VDC (With Macintosh stereo) came up very high on the list, although they didn’t like the wind noise from the pillarless doors, apparently. So, since it made it high up the list compared to the A6, which was a wonderful car, as well as the other top competition (incl. BMW 5er Touring, Saab 9-5 Aero, Volvo V70), I can only assume they were excellent cars! But apparently they also preferred the Legacy GT Limited to the Outback, but it wasn’t as powerful, or something to that effect. But regardless, they still look attractive to me today! And one that isn’t rusting here in Canada, even more so!
The following generation was the first where the Legacy wagon was launched a few months after the Outback; the lower ride height and cleaner body trim gave it a sleek, tastefully customized look.
I am with you Principal Dan. If they still made the Legacy wagon. I would have bought it in a heartbeat over our Outback. Heck, if they made a Camry wagon, I would have bought that over the Outback too. Unfortunately when we bought our car in 2016, there were very few wagons to choose from, so the Outback best checked all our boxes.
The Regal TourX is a nice looking car, but it has a few major drawbacks for me. First it has less cargo room than an Outback with the middle seat up. The fuel economy is worse and having Opel involved in the design worries me for both reliability and parts cost. Car and Drivers recent review was pretty scathing too. I will pass.
I had three Outbacks, a ’95, an ’03, and an ’05. The ’95 was my favorite, but like the author’s, the ’03 was the plushiest and was a joy of car. Learning from my first one, I bought the ’03 only after the owner coughed up a receipt that the head gasket had been done. I sold it off when it needed a new catalytic converter. When the same problems arose with the ’05 (head gasket and cats), I decided to move on from Subaru. Great cars, but those two expensive flaws were enough for me.
Pretty much why we got rid of our Forester when we did. The cats were in need of replacement. Check engine light was constantly on, state inspection was coming up. The head gasket was still ok but we figured it was only a matter of time.
From what I understand the flaws are related: the beginnings of leaking headgasjets contaminate the cats over time.
I’m still driving this 2002 (M/T) which now has 280K miles. I did rebuild the engine at 260K. It ran OK but was burning oil at a prodigious rate. I wasn’t too keen on the raised up body vs. the Legacy and so when needing new struts I swapped in the shorter Legacy struts. Brings it down around 1.25 – 1.5 inches whit no other changes needed (except alignment). I agree that this is the ‘Goldilocks’ generation for the OB/Legacy.
I always loved the styling and the stance on these. And I like frameless glass. But wow are used Subarus expensive in my area. They are to be congratulated on finding and then owning their niche.
I used to suffer from your frequent car change syndrome, but as I have gotten older I have gone to the other extreme and tend to keep them longer than perhaps is prudent.
But wow are used Subarus expensive in my area.
And built in Indiana (but then so are a few Toyota models).
” Has anyone else had a car addiction like this?”
Another year-another car – that makes for a great COAL series!
My approach is to keep our cars for a long time mostly for expense reasons. However, your approach has advantages as well. Step by step you get into better cars while trade-in value remains good, really good in this case. Well done.
I’m glad to find that others liked the interior fit, finish and design of the mid-2000’s Subaru’s. I thought the interior layout, appearance and finish of our 2004 Forester was excellent. And it basically looked the same after nine years as when new. But most professional reviewers complained that it was basic and lacked those desirable soft-touch plastics. By the way, not sure about the Outback, but our Forester XT had heated landing zones for both front and rear wipers. Brilliant!
“I hate to admit it, but I get tired of cars very easily, and aside from a few “classic” cars, usually sell them after a year or so. I wish I knew why. I’m sure I’m not alone, though.”
Believe me, you’re not alone. I’m similarly afflicted with automotive ADD. I stick to the fully depreciated stuff and generally do a bit of wrenching and polishing up and am able to turn a minor profit when I cycle through so my better half doesn’t mind too much.
Marc what are you referring to when you mention the “locking rear diff?” I wasn’t aware of Subarus having that option in the US (or anywhere else).
Yes, I noticed that too. I suspect he means that the rear diff is LSD (limited slip), but that’s not exactly “locking”.
Our 2000 Forester had the same drive train and needless to say, it was superb in the snow.
I did mean that. I got confused between the two.
Brings back memories of our 2000 Forester, which we had for 15 years/170k miles. Our head gaskets lasted right to the end. Never had an issue wit the cat either. Only problem whatsoever was a couple of rear wheel bearings, a notorious weak spot. Otherwise no repairs; just a bit of maintenance (not very much, in the usual Niedermeyer fashion).
And yes, the fuel economy is not very good on these; we averaged about 23 mpg too.
Evidently wheel bearings, head gaskets and cats are very common issues for certain Subaru years/engines. 3 family members with Subies have had varieties of these issues, as have many folks I’ve spoken with with post ’90s models. Too bad as I believe word is getting around and it’s hurting their reputation.
It’s obliviously not hurting their sales, as Subaru has had an unbroken string of sales increases for over ten years, and has been the fastest growing brand in the US after Tesla.
I assume these issues have been fixed or improved in more recent years. I certainly hope so.
The FB series engines seem to have fixed the historic head gasket issues, but have picked up oil burning problems with the switch to low tension rings and 0w-20. Not sure about wheel bearings. My brothers friends ‘09 forester has been an absolute shop queen at 110k miles: 3 of 4 wheel bearings replaced, head gaskets, a water leak into the cowl, AC compressor.
There has been a lot of changes at Subaru over the years. The old EJ engine, in particular the 2.5, had head gaskets they are failure prone. This engine has since been replaced with the FB engine. The 2.5 L version has a smaller bore to help have more material for headgasket sealing. So far it seems to have a good reputation other than some reports of oil consumption.
If you look at recent Consumer Reports and TrueDelta data, Subarus reliability is pretty good overall. If anything it seems to have improved over the last decade. I have been watching them for sometime since I was leaning towards buying a Subaru but reliability is one of my top requirements.
As for fuel economy, it has increased significantly as well with the new FB engines and CVT transmissions. Our 2016 Outback has averaged 30 MPG US since new in mixed driving. Getting mid 30s on the highway in summer isn’t hard. And it has also had essentially zero oil consumption using Mobil 1 0W20 with 10K km (6k miles) intervals
Ugh, SAP stands for Slow And Painful.
When we replaced our ERP with SAP I volunteered to be on the transition and key user team. It was a soul crushing experience and a step backwards for our company in functionality.
Nice car. I have the opposite problem as you, I keep vehicles forever, and probably longer than I should.
It was gross. Doing a parts invoice went from a 30 second process once the parts were entered to a 30 minute process, initially. They got it down to 5 minutes with a lot of customization. Service invoices were even worse. Our system was designed by management, with no concept of how things worked on the front line.
The main reason for transferring from DBS to SAP was, in my opinion, for the accountants and managers. The reports you could generate were amazing.
I have been told over the decades that when you go with SAP you adapt to their processes. I have been involved in many source selection processes and transitional meetings with users when it was decided to go with SAP. During all of these “reality checks” when SAP reiterated that the processes and work flows would be “their way or nothing” (typically German, right?), management and users would nod in agreement. That is, until it actually effected them and it interrupted “the way we always did it.”
Your work in IT (traveling around to different locations, no less) gives you something in common with COALer R. L. Plaut.
We recently sold our 2003 Indiana-made Legacy SE 5-speed wagon that we’d purchased new. (We still have three other Subarus of the “frameless” era.) With the stick we did somewhat better with fuel economy than the numbers reported above.
In the close-up photo of the main instrument panel above, see the little piles of dust inside the speedometer/tach enclosure? That was a minor design flaw; the wands to set the clock and the trip odometer had no gaskets as they passed through the clear plastic, so dust always got in and made the little piles. That was, I suppose, one of the trade-offs for Subaru placing its resources into making a very crashworthy car, as we found out in 2009 when someone ran a red light and hit the right rear of the Legacy just south of Lancaster, PA, hard enough to spin us around 180 degrees.
Count me as a fan if not an owner of this generation as well, Subarus have always either gotten the styling just right or just wrong. This one is on the positive side of the ledger.
So far I’ve had two Subarus and a Saabaru, all three were good (great?) but like you I can’t seem to hold on to a car, although lately that seems to be changing a bit…So there is hope.
I’ve gotten better. I had one more year-only car, and then bought and held onto something for 4 years…a new record!
Subarus in general, and Outbacks in particular are extremely popular in New England. I currently have a 2007 model, and it is common on highways and parking lots to see several Subarus in a row. My current one has over 250K miles on it, and replaced a 1996 that had about that many. My wife had a 2002 that we got rid of when its transmission went out at 250K. It also suffered from significant oxidative damage.
Outbacks of this vintage are becoming less common around here, which makes them stand out among the parade of newer ones. The most recent spotting for me was earlier tonight at a gas station. They suffered from the infamous head gasket issues, and I rebuilt the one in the wife’s car as a result. Except for the head gaskets, the 2002 was a very reliable car. She really liked the heated seats.
Because we kept it for so long this car made me a better mechanic. Because my 2007 is very similar, many repairs go much easier now because of my experience with the older one.
Count me as a big Subie fan – my last one was over 30 years ago but it was unstoppable in upstate NY winters. Jim.
My friend change the car very frequently, every 3-6 months he have something else. Going from Ford Explorer to Mini, one of the last ever produced first generation model in 1999? He went with it even over the Alps to summer holiday in Italy. Anyway, he enjoy the car and then shortly after buy something totally different. And sometimes its motorcycle, rather then car. I think in past 10 years he had like easily 20 vehicles. Currently is behind the wheel of BMW 118d convertible, swapped for yet another Ford Explorer he got tired of.
This is his Mini with a big tent on the top, quite a contrast. But it worked for him well 🙂
When you said “Mini”, I didn’t realize you meant a real Mini. I’ve seen a new-style (BMW) Mini with a rooftop tent, but this is pretty special.
Our one and only Subaru was a ’98 Forester 5 speed into which I transplanted a 2.2 from a ’93 Legacy wagon. The 2.2 had no chronic head gasket problems and, being a freewheeling design, was immune to self-destruction from timing belt failure. Despite the disparity in ages, the engine could be adapted from OBD I to OBD II by swapping components — hooray for a straightforward design that lasted so many years with that degree of parts interchangeability. The engine was still running strong at 240,000+/- miles with no oil added between changes (3-4K miles) when the structure of the car succumbed to New England body and frame rust. I don’t think I’ll ever find a vehicle better suited to my use and preferences than My Forester. It would go anywhere, had excellent visibility, could be loaded like a truck, and had the disposition of a good friend. If I could buy one just like it new today (even though Subaru never marketed one just like it in the USA), I’d do so in a heartbeat.