1996 Subaru Legacy Brighton from North America


Good highway car


The Subaru has been extremely reliable (just the recommended maintenance -- even with a teenager learning to drive on it, and taking a while to get the feel of shifting gears) until yesterday. I noticed an odd noise and slight loss of power at highway speeds. When I brought it in to the dealer, they spotted a leaking head gasket and a bad wheel bearing. They said the wheel bearing needed immediate replacement, and that the head gasket could wait, but probably shouldn't (they were really good about stating all the options). I decided to do all the repairs at once (apparently when they have the engine out for the head gasket repair, it's very easy to do a fair amount of other stuff).

Overall, I'm slightly disappointed -- I didn't get these very expensive repairs on my Toyota until 200,000 miles -- but if the repairs make the car last another 3-5 years, I will have gotten my money's worth (I bought it new for $16,000 in 1996 and it's now fall 2007)

General Comments:

Handles really well on the highway. I lived in Montana when we had no numerical speed limits -- and on dry pavement, during the day, it would behave beautifully on long (ca. 700 mile) drives at 90-95 mph. Generally, it's a very good highway car. The suspension is a bit soft/sloppy for dirt and gravel roads (especially washboarded ones -- I preferred my Toyota which was built on a light truck body). But I'd strongly recommend it if you do a lot of long distance driving. It's also quite roomy -- I can carry a 6 foot bookcase and still close the back -- and very stable in high winds, even with a canoe on top.

The AWD isn't as good on snow and ice as true 4WD -- but if driven conservatively, is adequate (better than front wheel).

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 28th September, 2007

19th Aug 2010, 10:07

Subarus of all years need to have their cooling systems watched very carefully. They are rock solid reliable, but if they ever overheat, even one time, due to a lack of maintenance or, damage to the vehicle, they usually will, indeed, pop a head gasket.

The timing belt is another area that requires diligence to be changed at the specified intervals, and typically, I would recommend a Subaru factory timing belt, as they tend to out perform the aftermarket ones, by a noticeable amount. When doing this, opt to replace the pulleys and the water pump at the same time, since they are easily accessible, and this will save you money in the long run. My last Subaru lasted 264 thousand miles, and the motor still ran like a champ. (The tranny died.)

Also of note the axles on most older, and newer Subarus are the same, front to back, so if you have a used model with a lot of miles, a factory axle is usually less than 100$ and keeping a spare in the garage can save you money at the repair shop. :)

1996 Subaru Legacy Brighton 2.2 from North America


Pain to fix, but still great


Cv joints needed replacing. Camshaft position sensor needed to be replaced. MAF sensor needed to be taken apart and re-soldered. windows roll down on their own. Rust developing on rear panels.

General Comments:

I needed a "snow" car, and was debating between this, and an used Outback. Decided on this when I found out the 2.5L had head gasket problems. Think I made a mistake. Gas mileage from the 2.2 is on the low side for a 4-cyl (20 city, 27 highway, 22 overall), and power is adequate at best. Would have preferred the extra grunt of the 2.5.

Anyway, since I bought it used, I expected it to have some problems. Worn CV joints being one of them. The check engine light flashing, it dying on the highway 3 times, and refusing to start 5 times weren't. Camshaft sensor fixed the starting problem, but the MAF was a nightmare. Car would suddenly slam forward, like the transmission locked, then sputter out and refuse to run. Turns out a connection for the wires leading from the sensor, INSIDE the housing for sensor were bad, so replacing the sensor to the tune of $200 did nothing. It was an easy fix, though, once I found out what was wrong. Just pulled the cap off the sensor housing on the air intake and re-soldered the connection.

Once I got past those quirks, the car became my buddy. It's like a Jeep in the snow, takes muddy construction sites like a truck, and I can throw anything and everything in it. I'm surprised how versatile a wagon is. Seats are comfortable, it has the best air conditioner of any car I've owned, and apart from some rust, it doesn't look 12 years old. Only things I dislike are the frame-less windows that somehow manage to creep down after a few days, and the flat-engine vibration at idle. Doesn't bother me all that much though, and I actually enjoy this car enough to consider buying a new one despite the initial problems.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 7th June, 2007

29th Dec 2008, 23:46

Should've bought a 96 with all wheel drive LOL, but yeah they are great cars. I've got a 96 with 270,000ks, and it's still running strong, no problems ever except small things.

9th Jan 2010, 21:55

I just bought a 96 Outback, with 251,000 miles, five speed. The car is a truly winter wonder, I love the AWD, it's amazing.

The only thing is the engine check light, and I found out that it was the MAF sensor, but other than that I love this car. I truly recommend it.