Trucks & SUVs

The 1 Subaru Outback Year You Should Avoid

For more than 20 years now, the Subaru Outback has been a favorite vehicle in America. It started out as an alternative to SUVs because it resembles a car like the Subaru Legacy. Today, the Legacy can’t match Outback sales, with the latter being the vehicle consumers favor most.

So every model year of the Subaru Outback is good, right? No. There was one year that the Outback had problems that led to an action-class lawsuit. You should probably avoid that model if you’re looking for a quality used vehicle.

The appeal of the Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback at the Moscow International Motor Show
An older Subaru Outback model | Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Subaru Outback is a basically a midsize SUV that’s not an actual SUV and not as tall as one. It’s roomy inside with standard all-wheel drive and storage space comparable to that of an SUV. 

The latest model has an available turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with an output of 260 hp – 180 hp more than the standard motor. When you compare it to the handling of a midsize SUV, it feels more like a car and maneuvers like one. The later models don’t have the same maneuverability as those from a few years back, but they do offer expanded interior space as a trade-off.

Subaru Outback models are stable, durable vehicles, and that’s why consumers and critics alike love them. They offer great safety features, which makes it a perfect family car. If you’re traveling, it’s got plenty of room for cargo, and it’s a comfy ride.

It’s not at the front of of the pack with technology, but it never has been – fans don’t expect that. The 2020 model has an upgraded infotainment system that adds some new features but has received mixed reviews.

The worst model year

For those looking for a quality used car for the family, a Subaru Outback would be a smart choice . . . unless it’s a 2013 model. What happened there?

In 2014, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Subaru, claiming specific Subaru vehicles produced since 2011 had defective piston rings. The defect caused the vehicles to burn excessive oil, causing several cases of engine failure. One of the models named in the suit was the 2013 Subaru Outback with a 2.5-liter engine.

According to Consumer Affairs, one Georgia woman who owned a 2013 Subaru Outback found herself buying a lot of oil. She explained that from the beginning, her car required an oil change every 2,500 to 3,000 miles. The dealership merely told her the vehicle didn’t have as much oil as other cars.

Another reader at Consumer Affairs who owned an affected vehicle claimed his car consumed 26 quarts of synthetic oil between recommended oil changes in over just 26,000 miles. The car owner, who claimed to have owned dozens of cars in his life, found the car poorly designed and unacceptable. “Subaru got me once never again,” he exclaimed.

CarComplaints.com, a popular online automotive resource, listed 337 complaints about the 2013 Subaru Outback. 24 complaints to the site were about the engine. 59 NHTSA complaints were also listed for the engine. The majority of these complaints were due to excessive oil use because of the faulty piston rings.

In 2016, the lawsuit was settled with owners of the affected Subaru vehicles reimbursed for expenses pertaining to the piston rings and receiving a longer warranty.

What’s wrong with the 2013 Subaru Outback

Under normal conditions, your vehicle’s engine will use about a half quart of oil every 5,000 miles. The oil keeps your car’s engine performing well by keeping it lubricated. Excessive oil consumption isn’t normal and one of the leading causes of this is defective piston rings.

Damaged or faulty piston rings let oil leak into the internal combustion chamber. The result is the formation of carbon deposits on the cylinders and piston rings. Since the engine lost some of the oil in the leak, it will need more to function properly.

The 2013 Subaru Outback was one of the models with reported problems due to faulty piston rings. If you’re in the market for a good used car, and you have your heart set on a Subaru Outback, you may want to go with another model year to avoid potential problems with the engine.