The car is a solid one, and is absolutely unstoppable offroad and in even the deepest snow. However, the car has some poor design features all around. I'll list a few, but there are many more where these come from.
Front blinkers are placed as so they're nearly invisible to anyone who isn't looking at the car head-on.
Engine bay configuration makes it very hard to change spark plugs and perform other routine maintenance (AC compressor sits right over the plug).
These are just two of the problems I've run into while fixing up this car. I bought it from my dad, it had been sitting for about 2 years, I figgured I'd just throw on new oil, air, fuel filters, flush and fill the fluids, and it would be OK.. I was quite mistaken.
The car had developed a brake problem in which the pedal would nearly hit the floor before the brakes kicked in. A friend of mine suggested we change the rear wheel cyls and front hoses, which I did, at $30 per front hose, and $16 per wheel cyl. Didn't have much of an effect at all (other than draining my wallet a bit). The brakes worked, and after flushing, the problem decreased, but never left.
The car ran like a dream... for about a week. The engine is strong and the trannie shifts well, the 4wd engaged and disengaged fine, but after 6 days to a week, it developed a squeak in the rear somewhere. After some investigation, I found it was probably coming from the CV joint. Now I'm 17, and I'm no car buff, but I figgured it'd be OK for a day or two before I could get the part. I was wrong on that one. Driving home one day, the joint started knocking loud, the wheel was whipping too. I crept over to a friends house and in his garage found the wheel had a big amount of play in it. I hit the wheel nut with an impact wrench.. no luck. I think its the wheel bearings and I don't have the money to buy the CV assembly for $90 and then however much for the wheel bearings. The general concenseous here is that subaru parts are pretty expensive. No clue why, it's a 12 year old car, you'd think theyd be cheap.
It's a great car, just have a can of bondo for the rust, and be ready to baby the rear end a bit. If you plan on sending it to a shop for everything, prepare for a major investment to keep it running. Mine's only at 93k... I read about these people running Loyales until 300k, and I just wonder how.
To sum it up. The car is underpowered, and lurches its way forward with effort when full of bodies and gear. The 1st gear is really a climbing gear and as such its really very short. You run out of gear at around 15MPH and shift up to 2nd, which was really meant to kick in at 20-22Mph. Thus the bottom of 2nd gear puts you down into the 1000RPM range.. and no power at all. The car will leak oil. Even so, its still a fun car, not a race car, but a very capable snow and offroad platform. Just consider what you're getting into if you're not exactly a shop mechanic. It gets by on on highways, buts its really meant for that snow as I said. Mileage is pretty poor, its got a 15 gal tank.. I think I get about 20MPG. Parts are tough to find nowadays, and I'm told they don't even make rear brake pads anymore.