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2000 Subaru Outback Pros and Cons at TrueDelta: Owner Pros and Cons by vcastela

A member in British Columbia, Canada

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Reviewed: 2000 Subaru Outback

4dr Wagon 165-horsepower 2.5L H4 4-speed automatic AWD

Compared: 2003 Toyota Camry

4dr Sedan 157-horsepower 2.4L I4 4-speed automatic FWD

Why the 2000 Subaru Outback?

  Compared to the Camry
Reliability & durability
Reliability & durability: Worse Better Worse

These wagons have a reputation for being durable. Do they deserve it? Although some complain they are actually not super reliable (average at best), it may be wise to keep in mind their average reliability is impressive considering what many go through, given what they can do. They are used for carry heavier than average loads, moving, camping and many spend some time offroad. With the benefits of AWD you get more moving parts, and more stuff to repair. That's inevitable. Probably any Honda or Toyota is more reliable, but then again a Corolla can't do what the Outback does. If you don't ever need to go offroad or drive on snow, maybe it's wiser to get another car. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I spend a ton of time outdoors, so I actually use the AWD. With 220,000 Km and at 16 years old, my Outback doesn't feel tired or loose in terms of driving dynamics (there are dashboard rattles, of course). I do have new shocks, but overall the car feels impressively tight. In that sense, it certainly feels impressively durable.

Handling
Handling: Better Better Worse

Handling is surprisingly good on the road. The previous owner installed a thicker 22mm rear sway bar, and the car has very little lean in turns. It's almost sporty. There is a bit of a hop over bumps that otherwise would only affect one wheel, so beefier bars do have disadvantages. Handling offroad (e.g. gravel) is of course awesome. If you get in trouble, hit the gas, and power your way around the turn with the AWD. Do I feel the AWD on road? Probably not, except that there's no wheel spin, even on steep uphill wet roads. I am yet to try it on the snow , but I hear it's as good as it gets. I got brand new quality shocks when I got the wagon, and it makes it handle very well at speed. Impressive for a tall wagon, better than my old low 1999 Civic that I thought was very steady. Steering is pretty good, not too firm, not too loose. Good steering feel, although I am sometimes surprised I get so much feedback, it almost seems too much. My 2002 Camry was awful! There is some bump steer. I had it looked at, and apparently that's the way these Outbacks are.

Ride smoothness
Ride smoothness: Worse Better Worse

The springs are harder than expected, as it's a tall wagon, and they have longer travel than a sedan's. Maybe I have aftermarket uprated springs. The ride is a little bumpy over rough roads, but never jarring. I enjoy it. If the road is rough you feel like you are driving a capable SUV, but if it's smooth, it drives like a (good) sedan. An awesome compromise that makes me think I will eventually replace it with another Outback. Too bad newer ones (post 2010) are more like SUVs, which I somewhat dislike.

Driving position & visibility
Driving position & visibility: Better Better Worse

Seat adjustability works quite well for me, with good leg support. This has been an issue before as I'm just over 6'2'' and feel cramped in many older and newer cars. I manage to be more comfortable than I was in my 2002 Camry, which had an overly wide seat. There's not a ton of leg room, but the driving position feels somewhat sporty. The seat doesn't have fat enough bolsters, so I brace myself with my leg against the door, which works well because the car is not very wide. I wish I had more headroom. It's easier to park a wagon than most if not all sedans. Visibility is good with large side mirrors.

Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Much better Better Worse

When I put the rear seats down, I have the option of lowering just the seat backs, or putting up the seat bottom and then lowering the seat backs to a perfectly flat position. This is great to carry cargo or even sleep in the back. I do a lot of camping, and this is very useful. On road trips, I can sleep at rest stops.

Why Not the 2000 Subaru Outback?

  Compared to the Camry
Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Worse Better Worse

Fuel economy is as expected, not great. It's a heavy car with an old engine and AWD. Short trips in the city, and it's fairly horrible. On the highway, it's particularly sensitive to speed, as the car is not very aerodynamic. I got as bad as 16 l/100 Km in the city, and as low as 8.8 l/100 Km on long trips. I believe the advertised 8.5 highway is possible if the trip is highway only.

Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: Worse Better Worse

160-something horsepower is not a lot for the weight of this car. I wish I had the manual and just 20 more hp. Building RPMs is slow, initially. The transmission is so-so. The car jerks from a start, making you think you have a very powerful engine. But there's not much there after 10 km/h. At higher rpms, however, it actually pulls well, but my wagon is leaking oil so I try to keep it under 3000 rpms most of the time, as otherwise I can smell oil in the cabin. I may have an external head gasket leak. You can drive like that forever, apparently, if you monitor oil consumption, but of course it's annoying. When you take the foot off the accelerator, the car doesn't glide much. It's obvious the AWD system has a lot of friction.

Interior storage compartments
Interior storage compartments: Worse Better Worse

Interior storage compartments are small, maybe half the size of my 2002 Camry. It's a shame because I spend a lot of time in the car on road trips and camping trips, and it's nice to have more room to store gear and keep it handy. I do love the space under the cover in the trunk (the spare tire is low in the car, and there's room over it to store some tools, etc).

Quietness
Quietness: Worse Better Worse

I may have some issues with my exhaust, but the engine is too noisy for my liking. There is some road noise, too, but mainly wind noise. It's pretty bad around the front windows, and the roof rack, although I have one of those aerodynamic Subaru ones. Dashboard rattles are pretty bad at 1000 rpms. Fortunately it goes away at higher rpms.

Color choices
Color choices: About the same Better Worse

Most of the colours are fairly dull, and this is true for newer Outbacks too, I feel. I like the forest green. I got the white, but it's off-white and it looks a bit dated.

Conclusion

Get this car if you need the ground clearance and AWD (you probably will only really need it offroad, if it's muddy, or if it snows often where you live). If you need this, it's awesome, and a great deal. Keep in mind older cars may need the head gasket done, but after this is done, it should never happen again. Try to get one with it done.

If you just need a car, and you don't have to deal with lots of snow or difficult terrain offroad, there are many other options that are more reliable and cheaper to maintain.

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