4 or 6 cylinder - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 06:16 AM Thread Starter
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4 or 6 cylinder

I've narrowed my new car to Subaru OB. Now is it the 4 or 6 cylinder? Most driving will be in town with weekend and vacation trips on the highway. Just not sure about the CVT transmission on the 4 cylinder. Any and all thoughts appreciated...

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post #2 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 07:33 AM
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I've been aware of CVT/belt transmissions since the little DAF 600 in the late 1950's - the criticisms centre on the fact that the engine maintains constant rpm during acceleration, as it's designed to do, when most drivers expect the rpm to rise - the longevity of early versions was poor and more recent steel belt designs still need to overcome the reliability question.

Having a 2006 Outback with the 4EAT conventional automatic I was very interested to test drive the 2010 CVT - even as a sceptic I wasn't aware of the engine racing up to max torque rpm and then remaining constant so I think the electronics on the Subaru CVT have overcome that old objection.

I did find fault with the delay in power application - all convention automatics are slower than a manual transmission to respond to extra throttle, the elderly 4EAT being worse than most but the CVT took even longer to get things going and could be embarrassing in traffic.

On the plus side the CVT is 2-3mpg better than the same engine with the 4EAT, which in itself is 3mpg better than the 6-cylinder.

Does performance or economy matter most to you? Answer that question and you have the answer.

You don't give your location so I'll assume North America - pity because the boxer diesel version available elsewhere is a real pleasure to drive with so much torque I could be persuaded to accept the non-availability of auto or CVT with the diesel and go back to a manual transmission.

Get a test drive in the 4 and 6 cylinder versions and decide which you like best.

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post #3 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 08:13 AM
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If you can afford the initial extra cost of the 6-cylinder engine, as well as the lower mpg rating of the 6, I think that it is a better choice for several reasons:

>First and foremost, the 6-cylinder engine utilizes a timing chain, rather than the timing belt used by the 4-cylinder engine. This means less maintenance over the life of the engine and it eliminates the possibility (admittedly a remote possibility) of a snapped timing belt causing massive internal engine damage.

>Secondly, CVTs are not currently repairable in the US. A mechanical malfunction of a CVT means replacing the transmission. While under warranty, this is not a problem. After the warranty runs out, if there is still no way to overhaul a CVT in the US, you would be looking at...probably about $4k for CVT replacement. This transmission may actually prove to be extremely durable. My problem is that this is brand new technology for Subaru (other than the old Justy), and nobody really knows how long these transmissions will last in real-world conditions.

>The 6-cylinder engine never has to work as hard as the 4-cylinder engine does in order to accelerate. Thus, you have a quieter car with the larger, more powerful engine, simply because it is turning over at lower RPMs in order to produce similar acceleration.

>When you need more powerful acceleration--such as on expressway entrance ramps--you have it with the 6-cylinder engine. This can actually be a safety factor if it helps you to avoid an 18-wheeler that is bearing down on you and refusing to yield.

>There have not been any head gasket issues with the 6-cylinder engine. While the head gasket issue was supposedly conquered on the 4-cylinder by '03 or '04, every once in awhile there are still cases of 4-cylinder Subies made after '03/'04 with a bad head gasket.

When I bought my '02 Outback, I purposely opted for the 6-cylinder--due to all of the above reasons except for the CVT issue (no CVT in '02). I have never regretted my decision. On my '97 Outback with the 4-cylinder, I averaged 23-24 mpg in "mixed" driving. On my '02 with the 6-cylinder, I average 22-23 mpg under the same conditions, but the car is luxuriously quiet and awesomely powerful when I need the power.

IMHO--it all depends on your wallet. If you can afford the initial extra cost of the 6, as well as the slight mpg penalty, I think that it is worthwhile to opt for the 6-cylinder engine.
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post #4 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by JLD View Post
I've narrowed my new car to Subaru OB. Now is it the 4 or 6 cylinder? Most driving will be in town with weekend and vacation trips on the highway. Just not sure about the CVT transmission on the 4 cylinder. Any and all thoughts appreciated...
Get the six cylinder engine. It is a better car all around and a far more fun car to drive! The piddly amount you save by getting the four cylinder is negligible.
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post #5 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 08:59 AM
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If you must have an automatic tranny, I personally think the 6 cylinder is a no brainer unless you want to gamble with a CVT.

The MT/4 cyl combination is at least somewhat engaging to drive, something even a 6 cylinder OB can't say with an automatic.
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post #6 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 09:15 AM
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I am happily driving a 2.5i CVT after initially thinking I wanted the 6-cylinder.

When we were shopping for our OB, I was very concerned about the 6-cylinder hesitation issue after having experienced it first-hand on a test drive. I was also concerned about gas mileage for commuting. So, I ended up getting the 4-cylinder.

I am happy to report that 6 months and 7,000 miles later, I am very happy with the car. I am more than satisfied with the acceleration off the line, the gas mileage is terrific, and the driving characteristics of the CVT are not an issue. (We did get an extended warranty since the 2010 was a first year model.)

In hindsight, I would have bought the 4-cylinder as my first choice.
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post #7 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 10:49 AM
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I've driven both cars, but bought the 6 cylinder for two main reasons: Highway power and engine life. Mine is a commuter car that spends all its time on the highway and for me the 4 cylinder doesn't have enough power at highway speed (merging and passing). I'm not a fast driver but during morning and afternoon commutes, you have to keep up with the flow of rush hour traffic around the Philly area (65-75 mph average) or you're persona non grata (to put it diplomatically). Therefore, I'd be running the 4 cylinder at consistently higher revs so I was afraid the motor would have a shorter life expectancy. Mpg on the highway is about 3 mpg less on average than the 4 cylinder, not quite enough to tip the scales for me. On the other hand, if I were using the car mostly around town or on back roads, I might have opted for the 4 cylinder. You should also know that some people in this forum, including me, have noticed a significant difference in the way the steering feels between the two cars. My 6 cylinder is significantly heavier and stiffer than the 4 cylinders (and other 6 cylinders) that I've driven so you might want to pay attention to that when you test drive both cars. It depends on what you like. Mine is too stiff to be a matter of personal taste. I actually like a stiffer, heavier wheel, but mine is so stiff/heavy that it causes hand and wrist pain. SOA is working on it. Good luck!!!
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post #8 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 12:24 PM
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I purchased a CVT model because I couldn't afford the extra cost of the 3.6R. That being said, if I could afford a 3.6R (initial cost and extra expense of lower fuel economy) I would go with it no questions asked. The 2.5L models have adequate power for most peoples' needs and also have excellent fuel economy for a vehicle this size (I have averaged at least 28 MPG on every tank since my first oil change at 3000 miles). The highest real world MPG I've seen with a 3.6R is 28 MPG on a strictly highway tank of fuel.

Make no mistake, if you want or need the extra power the 3.6R is your only choice. If you haul people and/or cargo on a regular basis, go 3.6R. If you tow ANYTHING, don't consider the 2.5L (just my opinion). I'm not saying that the 2.5L can't get the job done its just that from my personal experience when I've had my Outback loaded up the engine gets bogged down and it is quite noticable as far as performance and fuel economy are concerned.

Threads you should review:

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post #9 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 05:20 PM
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Last month my wife and I rented a 2010 2.5i for a week in southern Utah and Arizona. It was just a fluke that I got this car as I just wanted a small suv and this was what they gave me at Hertz.
After a week (1300 miles)of non-shaking driving through canyon country, on and off road, the car loaded with me, my wife and ~ 125#'s of luggage I felt the car had plenty of power.
It climbed easily out of the canyons, passed slower traffic at 75-80mph with no problems at all. I did however use the paddle shifters to "shift" the car for easier passing on the highways and for downshifting when descending into the canyons.
That car is a soldier!
My overall mileage for the trip was 32mpg.
Needless to say I was very impressed with this car, and will be placing an order this week!
I test drove the 6cyl at the dealer, and did not feel like it would be necessary since I will not be towing, but it is a nice, smooth, engine.
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post #10 of 251 (permalink) Old 06-06-2010, 06:26 PM
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I've spent time with each. Had a 2.5 CVT for almost a week that I returned for reasons having nothing to do with the powertrain. The 2.5 CVT was more enjoyable than I'd expected - I definitely could have lived with that combination. When choosing it's replacement I went for the 3.6R because (1) I found the 2.5 CVT on the noisy side, and (2) I was coming from an '05 LL Bean w/ the 3.0 six so I was already spoiled.

The 2.5 I would have liked. The 3.6R I love. It's a very smooth powertrain that, for me, really makes the car a sweet ride.

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