A lot of money for a lot less car
Power Antennae (twice) 45K and 60K km.
Power Mirror 50K km.
Head Gasket 90K km.
Window Pads 75K km.
Clutch Pack Housing 93K km.
I've read all the other reviews here and I wonder if I am driving the same car.
To be honest, I decided to buy this car for my wife (Automatic, used in 2001 with 30K km on it) purely on paper after listing all of the attributes we were looking for in a vehicle; Safe (crash worthiness), Secure (AWD, we live in the Canadian Shield Snow Belt), Spacious (wagon), Reliable (Consumers Reports consistent Recommended Buy) and Operating Costs (insurance, maintenance, gas mileage etc.) and Resale value.
I was taken aback the first time I test drove it. It sounded pretty "agricultural" to me and pretty noisy at speed. I was however duly impressed with its compliant ride and truly exceptional handling. It met the spec, the price was competitive; we took the plunge.
As other here have suggested, the Automatic does indeed shift roughly, with a hell of a shudder between 2nd and 3rd gear, especially if driven gently, and has a flat torque spot at that range as well that require a complete red-line pushing kickdown to get out of. Throttle tip-in has always been abrupt at best which has made for less than elegant/smooth standing starts. It's actually smoother if you drive it aggressively. The interior/ergonomics were/are rather underwhelming in relation to other Japanese cars I've driven/owned of that vintage, with no backlighting and poor positioning of a lot of controls, and cheap feeling materials. The seats are low, wide and flat and not very supportive. We always took our other car if we went anywhere of any distance.
With a small gas tank and poor mileage, no doubt due in part to the AWD system and rear axle, it was just as well as it has meant frequent fill ups. The jerky jack-rabbit starts probably don't help, but I suspect that it was programmed to respond like this to appease North Americans' (and the French as well) penchant for 0 - 60MPH performance. Gearing seems to be low though, with the engine turning over at a buzzy 3150RPM at 72MPH, the police-tolerated, if not legal speed limit on most major Canadian highways in the region.
It has been by far the most expensive car we've ever owned to maintain, and that's despite near religious maintenance and easy duty with 90% highway mileage. A testament to how easy the mileage it has endured is that we've only once had to do any brake service (front) over the 90K km we've owned it so far, unlike some of the other posters here. The back disks will soon be due however. One of the issues that we've faced is that nobody else seems to want to, or can, service it, so we're beholden to our Subaru dealer with no competition for service and/or parts.
Although the drivetrain has been reasonably sound, (more on that later), it has had numerous failures; Power Antennae (twice), Power mirror, scratches in the windows from dirt infiltrating the pads that hold the frameless windows and more, all of which have cost $450 - $475 Canadian to repair. As a matter of fact, almost all of the repairs we've had done have been the same minimum $450 - $475, with the rest costing way more.
At 90K km, we started to experience a grinding sensation when turning corners. When we brought it in for its 93K km oil change, we were told that it's a "normal" sensation for an AWD vehicle. When we brought it in for its 98K km service, and complained again that it seemed to be getting worse, again we were told that it's just normal wear and tear. That service cost CDN$1000 as it apparently needed new head gaskets as well. At 103K km, we brought it in for it's regular oil change, and it suddenly was road tested and was diagnosed as needing a new Clutch Pack housing and Planer gear within 20min of arriving. Naturally, the warranty expired at 5yrs or 100K km and as it turned out, we had started complaining about the grinding 31 days after the 5yr warranty expired, thus were denied the warranty claim to the tune of another $1100. Apparently all of that complaining beforehand about the grinding sensation fell on deaf ears.
We have now been trying to sell this car for a month and all comers have taken a pass, as the "agricultural" sound has gotten progressively worse. We have given up and are trading both of our current cars in to get rid of it, and this despite having sunk a considerable amount in cosmetic and preservation dollars, like annual rust proofing, window tinting, twice yearly detailing, upgraded and winter tires etc, etc.
Despite all that, we still hadn't quite given up on Subaru, as we seriously considered a new 2005 GT that finally has the power to go with the Boy Racer looks. But after one look at the price and the past repair bills, and we just said forget it. We have just ordered a Passat Wagon instead.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 7th July, 2004