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The Subaru Outback has created a cult following over the years, blending everyday practicality with an adventurous image that perfectly fits the lifestyle needs of many drivers. Still, it isn’t flawless. While it’s a top pick for plenty, the Subaru Outback does have some crucial weaknesses that are difficult to look past. Some of the Subaru Outback’s problems are simply compromises, while others may leave you stranded.

What are the Subaru Outback’s biggest problems?

A white 2019 Subaru Outback looks out over Monument Valley at dusk. The Subaru Outback has plenty of strengths and weaknesses.
2019 Subaru Outback | Subaru

The Subaru Outback isn’t the best with fuel economy, has average ride quality, and has a history of engine problems.

On the other hand, the Outback has many features that help it earn a reputation as a capable SUV. From symmetrical all-wheel drive to high ground clearance, it’s a crossover with an ideal setup for harsh weather conditions. But those advantages come with inevitable compromises.

To embrace the popular Subaru SUV’s strengths, you must understand its faults.

1. The Subaru Outback has problems with fuel economy

A silver Subaru Outback drives up an inclined road with a hilly terrain in the background.
2019 Subaru Outback | Subaru

Fuel economy has always been a weakness for Subaru, and the Outback is no outlier.

Standard all-wheel drive is a boon for slick conditions, but it adds weight and saps power from the engine. Fuel economy in the Outback typically suffers as a result, with most models barely able to scratch 30 mpg on the highway.

Newer models technically have better ratings. According to Car and Driver, the 2023 Outback is rated to get about 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. However, drivers may find themselves gunning the accelerator more aggressively since the base engine is a bit underpowered for a vehicle of the Outback’s size. This can quickly diminish fuel economy with the 2.5-liter boxer engine.

2. Older models suffer from the notorious Subaru head gasket problem

The worst Subaru engine problem affects some Subaru Outbacks.

Older Outback model years with the EJ25 boxer engine are susceptible to failed head gaskets – an issue that can lead to more destructive problems inside the engine.

From the mid-90s through the 2000s, thousands of Outback owners dealt with this common issue. Affected models require an expensive head gasket service at 100,000 to ensure the problem doesn’t crop up. It’s a stain on an otherwise excellent vehicle.

Subaru claims that it permanently fixed the head gasket issue around 2010.

3. The Outback’s ride quality is only OK

While the Subaru Outback offers confidence and capability, overall ride quality is one of its weaknesses.

SUVs have come a long way regarding ride quality, using independent suspension setups and unibody designs to smooth out bumps and emulate the comfort of a sedan. Modern crossovers offer abundant smoothness and plenty of quiet to keep you calm. Unfortunately, the Subaru Outback isn’t the best in this category.

The Outback doesn’t have an unpleasant ride – it adequately shields passengers from jolts and shocks. However, it does wear its more adventurous identity on its sleeve. The Outback is a bit bouncier than others in the segment and tends to let more wind noise into the cabin.

That isn’t to say that the Subaru Outback is uncomfortable. But it isn’t as refined as other midsize SUVs.

Is the Subaru Outback a good SUV?

The Subaru Outback is an outstanding SUV in its versatility and capability – but its weaknesses are worthy of consideration.

Winning points for the Subaru Outback include its flexible cargo space, confident capabilities, and comprehensive approach to safety. It all comes together to make a wagon-like SUV that easily takes on road trips and adventures.

But if refinement is the top priority, the Outback may disappoint. Its ride is well-connected and gives satisfying feedback, yet it may come off as jostling to some. Fuel economy in the Outback isn’t the worst, but it falls short of modernized rivals with hybrid options.

It isn’t perfect for everyone. But some will gladly take the Outback’s weaknesses in stride while enjoying its many strengths.


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