Commute / camping Subaru advice needed

BlkWgn

Adventurist
Senior Staff
Founding Member
#1
Looking for some Subaru advice. I currently, have a 2000 Outback (H4) and want something a little newer, most likely the 2005 to 2008 range. I had to move up a car seat size over the weekend and the 2000 model year does not have the latch system, making the install a serious test of my patience. Subaru added the latch system in 2001, so I am looking to go a few years newer.

It will mostly be for commuting but will be used for some camping trips when 37's and lockers are not needed. With the traffic that I sit in daily, it has to be an Auto.

Here are the questions:

Which one, Outback or Forester?

Which motor, 2.5 H4, 2.5H4 Turbo, 3.0 H6

Any specific problems to look for?

If they are the same price, what would be better, an older low mileage (2005 110k) or a newer high mileage (2008 190k)

I am not in a huge rush to get something, but it would be nice get in the next few weeks. Trying to stay in the $5-6k range, but will go as high as $8k if I have to.
 

Herbie

Adventurist
#3
The larger displacement motors (2.5/3.0) are definitely the most tractable for regular commuting. I daily-drove a 2.5RS for 4 years and then a 2.0T WRX for like 14 years and I loved them both, but the 2.5 was always easier to drive "moderately". (The WRX was faster by an order of magnitude, though. ;))

Based on my own experience, there's a trade-off between old/low-miles vs. newer/high-miles, which is that at some point all the rubber bits start to degrade no matter how many miles you have. At around the 12-year mark on my WRX, I started having a different hose fail about every other month. I finally said "screw this" and proactively went through and replaced every minor vacuum, fuel, water, and oil-line I could reach. (The increased underhood temp of the turbo probably didn't help, but life in SoCal means it's hot under the hood even on a normally aspirated engine.) Perhaps factor in some budget for such maintenance (either proactive or reactive).

Regarding Forester vs. Outback - the Forester is built on the Impreza pan, so it's shorter and narrower (but taller). If you plan to put tall tires on it, definitely the easiest platform. The Outback was originally based on the Legacy pan (wider/longer), and eventually got it's own platform (also bigger). These tend to be optioned more luxuriously and generally came with the bigger motors more often. Plenty of clearance for "soft-roading" activities, but not as easy if you really want to put big tires on.

Beyond that, you'll want to identify any of the "problem" year combos. There was a batch of 2.5s that had a reputation for head gasket issues, etc. But then again, my model-year WRX (2002) was supposed to have a glass transmission and I went 14 years on it (and the original clutch) with no issues, so I think type-of-owner might be a factor for some of these "problems". NASIOC.com is the de-facto resource for that kind of info.

LATCH is nice, but most useful if you'll be removing/installing the seat a lot. Using the regular belt can be a pain but if the seat stays in place for a year at a time, maybe not the end of the world. Remember also that the weight limit for the LATCH anchors is 65lbs for combined seat+child, so for the average seat, you can only use it up to 35 or 40lb kid. (Which will definitely buy you some time, but not forever.)
 
#4
The only thing I'd add is a note on driving style and performance preferences:

The turbo models will be a little more "fun" at speed, and handle things like passing better. The non-turbo models have tall gears (like 4.44) and a lot more low-end torque making them easier to finesse through the occasional off-pavement obstacle. FWIW I'm going turbo next time.
 

BlkWgn

Adventurist
Senior Staff
Founding Member
#5
I am leaning towards a 2005 to 2008 (due to budget) outback 2.5T. I have been warned about the up pipe on the 2005 model that was corrected in 2006 but looking at budget 80% of what I see is an 05. I am in no hurry, so just going to see what turns up local
 

Dave

Adventurist
Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#6
If I bought another Outback, I’d like the 3.6. I always felt that car was on the large side for the 2.5. But I bet the 2.5T on say, the Crosstrek, would really be nice :cool:
 

BlkWgn

Adventurist
Senior Staff
Founding Member
#7
the 3.6 is 256 hp and 247 tq, the 2.5t is 250hp and 250tq Granted there are differences with gear ratios, weight, and the RPM range where the power is made, but the 2.5t should be more than enough to move the outback especially since the one I am driving now is the non turbo version
 
#8
We have an 07 Forester (2.5 NA, manual) that we bought a few years back with 190k miles on it. It was priced about $1000-1500 less than others with less miles at the time ($4500 vs 6k ish). The interior had far more wear than most others and the paint was beginning to fade. This is the first car I've had with this amount of mileage and I knew it was going to need some work but besides some expected stuff it has surprised us with how reliable it has been considering the mileage. We cleaned it up real good and drove it a few months with zero issues. I kept an eye on it and started noticing signs of headgasket issues and decided to proactively change them as well as a few other gaskets and seals around the 205k mark. Being on a tight rebuild budget at the time I did not do the pistons or rings at the same time and regret that as now at 225k there is quite a bit of blow by. Despite a tired engine it still has not let us down. Some driveline parts are in need of replacement now (ball joints, control arm bushings, tie rods, etc) but for being mostly original parts with nearly 230k miles on them they have held up very well. Parts are fairly inexpensive for it and it has been far more reliable than the Mustang we had previously. We put a small 1" lift and stuffed some 28" Cooper AT3s that makes the thing pretty much unstoppable for light off roading and its excellent in poor weather. Its treated us well and we plan on getting another Subaru when this one finally dies.
 
#9
I have a friend that is heavily into Subarus, but I know little about them. I did read an article the other day that gives Subaru some bad press for it's poor wireless security measures and outlines the very easy steps for cloning a wide range of Subaru key fobs to gain access to locked vehicles. Seems to affect the models/years you're looking at. Just don't lock your Christmas gifts inside at the mall and you'll be fine I guess...

Here's a link to the exploit for copying the key fobs:

https://github.com/tomwimmenhove/subarufobrob/blob/master/README.md
 

Herbie

Adventurist
#10
I did read an article the other day that gives Subaru some bad press for it's poor wireless security measures and outlines the very easy steps for cloning a wide range of Subaru key fobs to gain access to locked vehicles. Seems to affect the models/years you're looking at. Just don't lock your Christmas gifts inside at the mall and you'll be fine I guess...

Here's a link to the exploit for copying the key fobs:

https://github.com/tomwimmenhove/subarufobrob/blob/master/README.md
If that's a major concern for you, yank the keyless entry module from under the dash, sell it on ebay (+$30), and replace with an uprated alarm of your choice. ($50-$200).
 
#11
I just sold my bought-new 2008 Outback 2.5XT Limited turbo/5-speed manual last year with 49k miles. Too bad you were not looking then. The problem I ran into when going exploring, was that the turbo and manual tranny don't play well together at crawl speeds. I got in uphill situations with larger rocks that I couldn't go over them fast enough to have the torque I needed, but couldn't go over them slow enough to not have to slip the clutch way more than I wanted. That's when I decided to buy the 4Runner.

If I'd had the 2008/2009 H6 with automatic, I'd still be driving it today, with an Anderson lift and Gorilla skid plate/lightbar! Those last two years of classic Outbacks were some of the best made. Head gasket problems were gone and quality/reliability was fantastic. Interior appointments were better than any vehicle I've had before or since.

If you go turbo, be sure the banjo bolt filters have been removed. The turbo gets starved easily and kills the motor.






The prior year I'd sold my also bought-new 2002 WRX 5MT wagon with just 37k miles on it. I miss both of my Subarus!



Good luck in your search!
 
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