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2020 Outback Touring 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK...I really like the car; quiet, economical, comfortable, but severely challenged to the point that what is supposed to make the car less distracting and safer are making it just the opposite. Specifically, The multi-media system and navigation are a disaster unless you run "CarPlay" in which case it's either just lame and occasionally useless. (I have not tested Android so I cannot speak for the functions under that phone OS.)

For the record, I’m sharing this with Subaru as well. When my Consumer Reports evaluation comes through shortly, I’m going to significantly downrate the vehicle. Technology is a substantial part of the driving experience. It’s also what turns the $26,000 Subaru into the $36,000 Subaru.

Reliability issues:

1. The system often locks or functions in unexpected ways. Several posters in other threads have noted the locked Starlink screen issue (which I've experienced twice; once it cured itself after several hours; once the dealer had to reset.) For those who haven't had it, your radio stops and the screen comes on. Nothing else works. In my case, the screen came on and the radio was on but neither volume nor tuning nor source controls worked. Akin to the old Blue Screen of Death in Windows PCs, but in this case, no reboot will solve the problem.

2. Voice command system (CarPlay had not been connected) just today stopped working. Nothing. Dead. Push voice button, nothing. Shut off car, walked away, came back a few minutes later. Restart....nothing. Took it to the dealer....they couldn't make it work either....And then it started working again after they shut off the car and told me to bring it back….I have to bring it back next week so they can check it...of course it will be fine then, too.

3. Voice recognition is abysmal unless you use specific syntax and the system often gets confused and answers with "your system does not support that multimedia function" or "your phone is not configured for text messaging".

Built-in Navigation Functionality AND stupidity Issues:

1. For the non-smartphone user, the Navigation system is as basic as can be (despite having XM traffic built in- free for 3 years.) It will easily navigate to an address, but not easily navigate to a place unless it's in the Point of Interest database. If it is, it better be within a few miles of your location or you'll never find it.
a. Example: Navigate to 22654 Smith Street, Cleveland Ohio. No problem. b. Example: Find Starbucks....it will load a list of Starbucks and you can press the number one or two on the screen and you're on your way. c. Example: Find Holy Hound Pub (in nearby York, PA.) Instead of finding it, it will ask you to go to the POI list for restaurants and eateries...and then give you a list which will NOT include Holy Hound Pub since it's outside the search area. [NOTE: 2017 Outback will immediately take you to Holy Hound Pub. So the 2018 is functionality limited.]

2.THERE ARE NO VOICE COMMANDS FOR FAVORITES, LAST DESTINATIONS, FREQUENT DESTINATIONS, ETC. Navigating to favorites and previous addresses requires multiple input strokes and clicking on tabs (since recent destinations are different from favorites) on the screen They can only be accessed from the screen and may require several screen interactions before actually getting what you want. THIS IS DANGEROUS IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE DRIVING SINCE YOUR EYES HAVE TO BE ON THE SCREEN.

3. Customizing your Navigation system is basic or impossible. Example: There is no way to have voice navigation directions turned off by default. No matter what you do, when you set navigation to drive somewhere, it will blare the first set of directions. I'm 71 years old, car savvy, technology savvy, my short term memory is still pretty good and still know how to get out of my driveway, off my street and to the next major highway on my way to a particular location in Baltimore 50 miles away. But the system is going to tell me how to leave my driveway anyway and the next street or two as well since they’re all less than 200 feet apart….and if I quickly go to cancel the audio, you can be sure the system is going to give me ALL the directions before it shuts off. You CANNOT change screen colors; navigation voices; etc. Route preferences, toll roads, avoid highways, fast route, slow route, etc. are only available as screen prompts and are set within menus on individual destinations. (Perhaps buried is a better word.)

4. Voice commands are very language context sensitive; don't tell it to "cancel navigation, stop navigation, etc..." It will tell you that multimedia function is not available. "Stop route" is the only thing that works....most of the time. MOST of the time. Again, voice command gets stupid sometimes. The simplest way is hit the menu button on the screen and cancel navigation. That’s neither hands free nor safe as it requires me to take my hand off the wheel, my eyes off the road, and target a small menu icon on the navigation screen to do what a simple voice command should do. NOTE: In the spring 2018 press releases from Subaru, they said they’d be using two microphones and technology by Nuance (makers of Dragon Technology) and that voice recognition is “significantly improved in the 2018 Outback.” Uh, No.

5. Traffic conditions are very slow updating. You can be stuck in traffic 10 minutes before it registers to the built in navigation system. Or it can show you in traffic when there isn’t a car within miles. And it only works on MAJOR highways around home (If the highway isn’t preceded by the letter(s) I or US, there’s rarely a traffic display. Limited coverage under the SXM system. And in 3 years I’ll have to pay for it. NOT. (The 2017 Outbacks with navigation show traffic conditions on a wider range of roads and seem to update them sooner.)

Multimedia Functionality

In short, Harman Kardon (provider of the technology in the 2018) blew it in some ways; though the Sirius XM works wonderfully and the audio quality is extremely good for a vehicle in this range. However, streaming via Bluetooth is limited compared to the high end systems in the 2017 Outback. Less text information hits the screen and album art has a placeholder for pictures, but no cover art appears. Same for any other streaming app. It all works fine when I connect my iPhone to a 2017 Outback via Bluetooth. Just not on 2018. Great: more screen, less information.

Thumb drives work fine but will force you to use the challenged built-in Navigation system. There’s no voice search, or if there is I haven’t found the syntax to make it work – all visual on screen buried in menus. And thumb drives cannot be used with CarPlay. Or again, I haven’t been able to make one work together since they both occupy a USB port.

Vehicle Functionality via Voice command

It is possible to control many vehicle functions via voice command – fan speed, passenger temperature, switch to map screen or radio screen from thumb drive, or SiriusXM to map, change to an XM channel or Radio frequency that’s not a preset….syntax is a little funky – for things like temperature DO NOT USE THE WORD DEGREES. It won’t INCREASE or DECREASE fan speed, but it will set it to 7 if it was on 4 or 4 if it was on 7. For those who say using voice commands for these things is silly….perhaps….but it’s 5 seconds you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to find the correct button and read the old and new settings. OF COURSE ALL OF THIS CONVENIENCE GOES AWAY WHEN SWITCHING TO APPLE CAR PLAY OR ANDROID AUTO BECAUSE YOUR CAR BECOMES A PHONE….and there is no interoperability between them. Give a car command: Siri says….”I’m sorry, that’s a vehicle function.” Actually, it’s now a driver’s eyes off the road and go hunting for a button function.

Oh, and there’s no speed sensitive volume level for the audio system, even though the owner’s manual says there is.

Phone Functionality

It just wants me to use Siri over Bluetooth. It will NOT display my phone favorites (even though there’s a function button for it) and it will NOT send text messages (even though there’s a display button for it. It says my iPhone 7+ doesn’t support that function.) At first I tried to blame it on my phone – even wiped my phone and set it up as a new phone (do you know what a pain that is?) No, it’s not the phone.

Siri works just fine…or as fine as Siri works, which to say that’s another frustration which should be saved for a different rant.

CarPlay Functionality

Limited to specific Apple Apps, Apple Maps, and features. Every now and then it doesn’t work when first connected. Disconnecting and reconnecting makes it work, most all the time. If that doesn’t work, shutting off the car, opening the door, unplugging the iPhone, starting the car, and reconnecting the iPhone will make it work. BUT IT HAS TO BE IN THAT ORDER!! Sometimes CarPlay just doesn’t work unless I restart my phone with the Subaru turned off for at least 10 minutes. (This has only happened 2 or 3 times since the end of September.)

Once open, CarPlay displays the main apps you’ve chosen for your home screen. While I have no experience with the versions of CarPlay in other vehicles, I can truly say that Subaru’s is not very good.

Apple Maps works fine, if you happen to like Apple maps and the quirks therein. Streaming audio requires you to start an app on the Navigation screen – but often the favorites associated with them don’t work. Example: Radio.com app; Tune-In app. Functions within those apps requires you to open your phone, tune to one of your stations and then start it on your navigation screen. (Tune-In’s sometimes works, Radio.com’s doesn’t at all). Eyes off the road during this process. AND, if your phone requires a passcode, you can be sure you’ll be doing that every time you want to change a station on your phone, since for some reason the Subaru iteration of CarPlay is “now playing.” Album art from iTunes is displayed as a 5% transparency image behind a gray screen that occupies the overwhelming majority of your navigation screen. And to switch from TuneIn to Apple maps, you have to punch a half postage sized image of maps on the left side of your screen.

Navigation with Apple Maps will open the function on your car screen and your phone screen. If you’re actually driving someplace, you’ll have a map on the car screen and the turn by turn directions on your phone screen. If you want to go to an app on your phone, it takes your Nav map away. If you answer a call, your navigation screen is gone until you hang up (you can work around this on your phone IF you’re not connected to CarPlay. In CarPlay, I haven’t found a way to keep my maps up (though perhaps taking my eyes off the road, putting in my passcode, and switching from my phone call to my homescreen and then hit Apple maps might do it.) How many seconds were my eyes off the road?

Summary: The dealer and the manufacturer have both said there are significant updates coming. Will they be bug fixes? Feature updates? Reliability repairs? Nobody seems to know…and that’s as troublesome as the issues themselves, because it indicates the manufacturer may not know the extent of the problem.
 

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2007 Outback L.L. Bean 3.0, 2018 Outback Limited 3.6R
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Thumb drives work fine but will force you to use the challenged built-in Navigation system. There’s no voice search, or if there is I haven’t found the syntax to make it work – all visual on screen buried in menus. And thumb drives cannot be used with CarPlay. Or again, I haven’t been able to make one work together since they both occupy a USB port.
Very good list! Many of these problems have been reported in this forum. Regarding the voice search, it works for me using a USB stick with AAC and MP3 files. The commands are listed in the voice command section of the Starlink manual. For music, "Play Artist (artist name)" works, at least it did for Led Zeppelin and Baby Mammoth for me. It will supposedly also respond to "Play Song (song name)" but I haven't tried that yet.
 

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Excellent List! I got most of issues as well and haven't tried some of features.
I mostly rely on Apple CarPlay doing navigation, calling, music, radio. It's really frustrating not able to use CarPlay.
Tried to remove vehicle from phone and reconnect it to head unit. Work at the first beginning and then same issue comes back. I was assuming flawless head unit is very basic requirement for new vehicle before having new 2018 Outback.
I can't believe high reliability rating brand has this kind of quality control.
 

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2018 Outback 3.6 Limited, No NAV, No Eyesight, LED interior/footwell lights, OEM 1&1/4" bike hitch; iPhone7
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It's a bit ridiculous, but here we go:
I hit on the Starlink/carplay/pandora answer today, at least for me. I did many local errands yesterday and today, one long trip to B'more, errands there, and then return to Bethesda, and each time this procedure worked perfectly to launch Carplay/pandora/imaps, without fail:

Each time you approach the car, do the following specific steps:
-Turn off all phone apps before entering the car
-Get in the car, connect the phone via USB before you start it.
-Start it.
-After 5secs, the CarPlay app will be fully visible (not grayed out) and launch-able.


-When you leave the car you must shut off the car, take the key fob, disconnect the phone from USB, shut the door and get out of fob range.
If you do anything other than this, Carplay will be greyed out and will not be launch-able after you start the car. If you turn the car off (or on ACC) and leave the fob in the car (as I did with my wife), or stay within FOB range, it won't work. If you fail to shut the door completely, it won't work. If you leave your phone connected and leave the car with the fob and go out of range, same result. It seems the only way to totally reset the system for a proper Carplay app launch each time is to do the exact specific steps above,

I did this today, all day, repeating the procedure perhaps 10 times over the whole day, and it worked like a charm. Carplay launches, I fire up Pandora, then also launch iMaps, use the phone with full contact list, etc. I also tested the failures listed above as well. Give it a shot!

Mario D
2018 Outback Limited 3.6, (No Nav & No Eyesight)
 

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Thanks for your SOP!
Like symarsh's experience, I found if I leave my thumb drive on USB port, both Apple CarPlay and thumb drive will never be detected. I'm not able to play music in stick drive as well as CarPlay. After removing thumb drive from USB port, CarPlay works better now.
 

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2018 2.5i Limited w/EyeSight
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Great list. I think the reliability issues are still understated. The head unit is not functioning as expected something like 1 out of every 3 times we start our car. After shelling out $33,000 for a vehicle, we expected it to function fully and reliably.
 

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2019 Limited 2.5 Magnetite Grey, 5th Outback
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Thank you for the excellent summary.
I took mine in to the dealer for many of the same issues and the did not hesitate to order a replacement head unit. After it gets installed I'll report back.
Aside from the head unit, I agree this car drives remarkably well all around. I've taken it on several fishing/camping trips to date, I have 1200 miles on it and I love driving this car and how it handles on and off road!
 

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2017 Outback 2.5i Limited
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Thanks for the comprehensive list of issues.

For years, I've been saying the Chinese Android based head units had great potential but fell short in reliability and refinement. It looks like the 2018 Outback head unit may have beaten the Chinese at their own game of releasing substandard products. I'm very happy I got a 2017. The head unit in that car isn't great, but at least it doesn't have bugs like the 2018.
 

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2018 Dark Blue Outback 3.6R Touring arrived 8/31/2017
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Thanks for the list, but sadly, it isn’t comprehensive on the problems with the head unit!

One (others have more to report, so do I) that makes me grumble regularly involves the the stupid “Advisory Message” saying “No Signal” when the XM signal isn’t strong enough. It doesn’t matter what’s on the screen or what else you’re doing (like having Navigation or CarPlay Apple Maps in use during a critical time) it puts up that modal screen obliterating everything else, even though it already shows signal strength via a GUI indicator if you need it.

Once you have gotten back to where the signal is strong enough again, it disappears... but let’s say you’re crazy enough to try to dismiss it by pressing the ‘OK’ button: I’ve seen that press get detected by whatever is currently being blocked (Apple CarPlay and music, once, or was it the Media app?) or sometimes not.

When is this an issue?

When you’re in a parking garage (I have those at hime, work, shopping around the Seattle area)

Around large trees (normal around here!)

Certain earth formations like canyons (also common here, with cliffs)

Under bridges and highway tunnels (many around here) where being able to see navigation may be important due to exits you need to get towards.

A truly defective design AND implementation, designed to distract.
 

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2020 Outback Touring 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update: The dealer called me last Wednesday morning and asked me to drop my car off so they could fully check it out. They called late Wednesday afternoon to say they'd want to keep it several days and give it a thorough going over - I assumed that they would be asking for factory experts. As of 3:30 I had not heard from the dealer.

In the meantime they gave me a 2017 3.6R Limited. The amount of "customization" in the GPS alone is amazing, though I will admit the map screen itself is lower resolution. But you can turn spoken directions off by default. Change voices. Change screen colors. Traffic updates are almost instantaneous and cover a significantly wider variety of roadways compared to the 2018 - I think they use the same system as Google maps vs. the Sirius-XM traffic system on the 2018 that requires a subscription after the complimentary 3 years is up.

No lockups in the multimedia system so far.

On the other hand, despite having the flat 6 instead of the 2.5 flat four in my car, the ride quality and level of noise an vibration are significantly worse in the 2017 vs. my 2018. And around town driving with my 2.5i Touring was averaging in the 26-27 mpg range. With the same driving patterns I am running in the 20-21 mpg range on the 3.6r. But acceleration is significantly better.

I'll keep you all posted.
 

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2020 Outback Touring 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Received a call from the dealer this morning- they've had my car since Wednesday. A factory rep came yesterday with a thumb-drive update for the system and it was installed. They are testing it today and said they will let me know what happens.

Despite the numbers of people with problems who have been to the dealer for relief, mine appears to be the only car so far to be offered a software update. I'm wondering whether this is a real fix or another layer of beta-ware to be installed to cover some of the issues until the mother-lode of repairs is done - and judging by the myriad issues in this and other threads, there is much work to be done.
 

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Funny everybody could not wait for the updated infotainment and it has bugs galore which is surprising given the fact the Impreza has had it's share and continues to have issues. Maybe they will get it together with the Ascent
 

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I'll add one more wierd issue with my '18 OB Limited 3.6 "R"
Adding FM station to memory and it works fine. Adding XM station to memory button and it only works until you turn off the car, after that the memory button doesn't work and just says XM initialising forever.

I also noticed coming from same, but '15 model is you could do two finger rotate the map before, but not in current tomtom system.
 

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2017 3.6 Touring Outback
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Funny everybody could not wait for the updated infotainment and it has bugs galore which is surprising given the fact the Impreza has had it's share and continues to have issues. Maybe they will get it together with the Ascent
The previous head unit was abysmal and I think it's pretty sad the 2018 head unit makes the previous one look great in comparison. Why can't they get it right?
 

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2017 Outback 2.5i Limited, Ice Silver
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The previous head unit was abysmal and I think it's pretty sad the 2018 head unit makes the previous one look great in comparison. Why can't they get it right?


I don’t get it, people complain about the prior HU almost like it didn’t even work or function . Sure it’s not perfect but both my wife’s 15 and my 17 HUbwork as advertised with no issues. My OB the mapping works every time I used it. Sure I have not found an occasional waypoint not in the system but I found that to be the case with every other mapping application too. None of them are perfect. My iPhone connects every time via BT and I can use Siri to read and dictate text messages or receive and make phone calls, or use Google Maps or Waze if I want and get directions thru the HU and play audio thru the BT. My music collection plays flawlessly from my iPod Nano and all 4000+ songs are ready to listen to only 15 to 30 seconds after starting the car. The sound is more than adequate.

Man, I used to think I was picky but after listening to some of the abysmal comments about the HU I am pretty happy with it.
 

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2018 Outback 3.6 Limited, No NAV, No Eyesight, LED interior/footwell lights, OEM 1&1/4" bike hitch; iPhone7
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Has anyone noticed that the 2018 Starlink system does not show photos - i.e. album covers, photos of callers from you contact list, etc? My 2018 is in for service and I have a 2017 loaner - and all those photos come up on the 2017 Starlink system.
 

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.0 T AWD
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I don't use Apple carplay or Android auto. So other than the possibility of those two things not working mine has been working pretty well.
It seems that the new infotainment system is either short on memory or has a slower processor. Or a combination of both.
I bought a 2.0 USB memory stick, loaded it up with about 30 MP3s. And if you hit USB too quick after start up you get the loading music message, but just for a few seconds. I've seen the SXM presets initializing when I'm parked in the garage, but again just for a moment. They never lose what station is what preset.
Voice commands...ah well...it's just faster to manually do whatever myself.
I also turned off the trajectory lines in the back-up cam. I much better prefer it that way.
Also now that I think of it. Some have said the first 3 radio presets are only reserved for SXM stations. Mine is not that way. I can mix and match presets, no problem.
 

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'17 OB 3.6R Touring [ex-'09 OB Ltd. (2009-16); ex-'01 Audi A6 Avant (2001-2009)]; '14 Impreza Sport Premium
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Thanks for erasing any tiny regret I didn't wait for an '18 when I bought my '17 last year.

I don't use Subie Nav much but always turn volume to minimum, that's where I want it (or off) 90% of the time. The litany of horrors is a nice "to do" list for fixing. I'd never buy or want a car with that list of tech infirmities and tedious workarounds. I do fine without CarPlay, too. :cool:
 

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2018 Outback 2.5 Limited with Nav, Premium Audio and Eyesight
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Excellent post symarsh and very well written. However, the title is misleading making us think it is only limited to the Touring Edition when I am having the same issues on my 2018 2.5 Limited with Nav and Premium Audio. There is another, longer thread on the subject as well. Maybe both should be combined.

David
 

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2020 Outback Touring 2.5i
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Excellent post symarsh and very well written. However, the title is misleading making us think it is only limited to the Touring Edition when I am having the same issues on my 2018 2.5 Limited with Nav and Premium Audio. There is another, longer thread on the subject as well. Maybe both should be combined.

David
Point well taken, David, on adding the Touring Edition to my thread. The problems cross all units with the 8" display...I'm not sure whether it's limited to navigation equipped models, however.
 
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