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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 17 OB, happy with the car & features but I would like to update the factory head unit. Car Play came out on the 18 models, would I be able to switch head units ?

Any suggestions out there ?.?


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Twilight Blue 2015 3.6R with Eyesight
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4,996 Posts
I'd LOVE to know this too! LOL! It might be as simple as a firmware update as well...
 

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2016 Outback 2.5 Touring
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83 Posts
Probably have to go aftermarket, unfortunately. New head unit from new manufacturer for 2018. Disappointing, but would be surprised if they did the right thing.
Emphasis above mine. Got to admit I don't understand this statement. I get that the 2018 head unit is all new compared to 2017, but every aftermarket unit is also different than the 2017 unit. One would think that of all the HU's available out there, the 2018 Subaru unit would be the most likely to fit, and in particular have the same wiring connections so that steering wheel controls, backup camera, microphone etc. continue to work as before.
 

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'15 Outback 2.5i Premium
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Aftermarket units are purpose-designed to be used on a variety of cars to the greatest degree feasible. Specific-year OE units are purpose-designed to work with current-year peripherals designed into a specific set of specific-year cars. Wider compatibility is not generally a goal.

If you can make it work, cool. What Subaru wants you to do is buy the newer car.
 

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2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited
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I would not even consider the idea of trying to swap in a 2018 head unit, but instead go for an after-market, for the reasons below. This assumes you have a standard stereo in your '17, and not an upgraded one.
1. After-market HU will have more power and possibly more features.
2. The factory stereo is custom fit into the dash - so unless the profile of the stereo of the '18 or later OB is exactly the same, you will have problems adapting it into the opening.
3. From what I can tell, buying a factory radio from Subaru would be way more expensive than buying an equivalent/superior after-market stereo. Save the money and buy new speakers or pay for professional install.

The downside of the after-market stereo is that it truly won't look as good as what you have now - it is a standard unit, and will have to be installed with an adapter to fill out the space around it to fit the space in the dash.
 

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Lawn ornament XT
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I strongly endorse the aftermarket path.

I did this with my Outback years ago, and again just last month with our new Toyota. In that example, we saved a few grand by purchasing a lower trim and retrofitting a carplay/android capable deck. Everything works, plus we can easily update it with a new deck when this one goes out of style. Way cheaper than trading the car, way easier than dealing with a different-year factory system.
 

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CarPlay is so god awful on my 2018 head unit I'd almost recommend against buying the entire car because it's so bad. Some of it is because Carplay sucks (no way to set the volume of alerts, so you can be listening to the radio at a low volume, and get a text message or call and it's BLARING and scares the crap out of you) and the other half is because it simply won't work 1 out of 5 times and there's way to reset the radio without turning the car OFF AND THEN BACK ON. Hopefully the September Carplay update will mitigate some of the awfulness, but I'm really not hopeful. I'd go back to using my ancient ipod if it even worked properly with the car.
 

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'15 Outback 2.5i Premium
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CarPlay is so god awful on my 2018 head unit I'd almost recommend against buying the entire car because it's so bad. Some of it is because Carplay sucks (no way to set the volume of alerts, so you can be listening to the radio at a low volume, and get a text message or call and it's BLARING and scares the crap out of you) and the other half is because it simply won't work 1 out of 5 times and there's way to reset the radio without turning the car OFF AND THEN BACK ON.
Since I buy a car to haul people and things around, not to be an extension of my phone, how well Carplay or Android Auto works or not is of no importance to me. I also keep cars for a dozen years or longer, and, given how these systems are evolving, predict that even a correctly-working Carplay (etc.) implementation available today will not work with phones that will be available three years from now. Experience suggests that the phones have a life cycle of three or four years or so. If you keep new car for only that long, this may not affect you.

Even if the car side of the app could be made compatible without any changes to hardware, I place the chances of car companies updating the firmware of cars three model years and older at approximately nil.

"Well, shoot, Mabel... the car's radio doesn't work with this new phone. Time for a new car."

There seem to be fundamental problems with this year's audio and information systems that makes resetting them necessary far more often than they should, which is, ideally, never. Given how much people expect them to do, and software being software, the need for an occasional reset (say once or maybe twice a year - YMMV) would probably be acceptable for most people. By contrast, it's been necessary to power-cycle the one in my '15 twice in more than three years (and it doesn't randomly drop radio presets, either), suggesting they really dropped the ball with the current one.

I typically have some audio programming going (over-the air, USB, or, occasionally, CD), and it sounds like these systems struggle with even that - switching sources, dropping presets, and lock-ups. Problems like that may well have been a show-stopper for me had I been looking for a car after they became known.

Hopefully the September Carplay update will mitigate some of the awfulness, but I'm really not hopeful. I'd go back to using my ancient ipod if it even worked properly with the car.
We keep an old iPod Nano (I think it's from the late 2000s) plugged into one of the USB ports (it does not support Bluetooth) and tucked into the cubby hole in the console; it works fine. Even the steering-wheel controls work with it. Maybe try that if yours is failing over a BT connection and see my earlier comments about short windows of compatibility.
 
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