Crossover & Midsize

Transmission Failure Is a Common Problem for the 2011 Subaru Outback

Since its debut in the mid-’90s, the Subaru Outback has seen its fair share of criticism. Some model years are adored by drivers and some (like 2013) are significantly less popular. But as long as you avoid the years with major problems, things seemed to go well for Subaru Outback owners. There’s certainly a cost to ownership for Outback drivers, but it seems like people are generally quite satisfied with the model. However, an issue with one particular model year (not 2013) has led to expensive repairs and fuming customers.

The Consumer Reports review

Consumer Reports gave the 2011 Subaru Outback a four out of five in both reliability and owner satisfaction. And over the decade since the 2011 Outback debut, those ratings have seemed to hold up. The one pesky issue with the 2011 model is its transmission – namely, that it has the potential to fail catastrophically. Transmission problems make up the second-highest complaint category on the 2011 Outback Car Complaints page, and vehicle owners are not pleased.

Transmission failure can manifest itself in anything from a slow start-up at a stoplight to a full-on freeway shut-off. From the reactions quoted below, it’s clear that drivers are not only terrified of this issue with the 2011 model, but it’s affecting their future car-buying decisions as well.

In recent years, Subaru owners have joined Tesla and Toyota owners in suing the manufacturer for an unexpected acceleration issue. While this began popping up in 2015 and did affect Outback models, it appears to be completely separate from the 2011 transmission problems. 

Specific complaints about the engine

The “transmission failure” complaint carries a severity rating of 9.8 on Car Complaints and with good reason. Once it’s gone out, the car simply doesn’t run. Here are some of the more vocal complaints from 2011 Outback owners:

“I will never buy a Subaru again after no [sic] only a defective car, but also the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced.”

“I wouldn’t buy a Subaru ever again, and I would advise anyone that owns one to sell it well before 100,000 miles. Additionally, I would recommend that NO ONE ever buy a used Subaru.”

“Subaru has know for sometime about transmission failure in 2011 Outbacks. Since my car was just over 100,000 …not covered under extended warranty they offered. Since the failure of transmission nearly got me killed on interstate…it’s dangerous and a recall should be offered (in my opinion). Cost of repairing transmission quoted at $9597.70…..leaving me shell shocked.”

The bottom line on 2011 Subaru Outback’s transmission failures

RELATED: Subaru Dominates Consumer Reports’ 10 Best SUVs List

The transmission failure issue in the 2011 model is both dangerous and expensive. Many customers’ warranties expired just before the transmission failed, leaving them with a hefty repair bill on a car they might not even be done paying off.

The above comments reported bills of up to $10,000 to replace the transmission which is on the high end, but even cheaper repairs can be thousands of dollars. The average amount listed on Car Complaints is $4,200 and it has a tendency to occur just past 100,000 miles (when many extended warranties lapse).

Despite the dismal 2013 version of the Subaru Outback, it appears that the company has learned from its mistakes in the early 2010s. The uncontrolled acceleration is another issue, but it’s too early to tell if it occurs on the model years from 2020 and beyond. Even if you’re a fan of the Outback, it may be wise to choose a different model if you’re looking at cars from eight to nine years ago. In 2020 and 2021, many of the Outbacks still on the market will be hitting 100,000 miles for the first time and at risk for expensive transmission failure.