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Discussion Starter #1
I will soon be returning to the states after an extended trip abroad and will be in need of a car. I am considering an OBXT in the 05-07 range and want to learn more about what to expect and other options people here considered.
I want a car that can fit 3-4 people with stuff for a weekend so the outback seems about the right size, I would want one without a sunroof as I have found headroom tight in ones I have been in (I'm 6'3"). I am a mountain biker, skier and hiker so I need a car that can handle forest service roads and snow. But I am also a car guy and will be on a tightish budget so good handling and decent gas milage are important as well. Overall cost of ownership I would want to be in the same range as the passat V6 wagon that was my last car, which was 25ish mpg, low depreciation but expensive maintenance. I also will only consider a car with a manual transmission, this is not flexible and don't bother trying to suggest otherwise.
I am not sure where I will be living but it will be somewhere in the mountains, possibly at high elevation so the turbo seems like a good option for decent gas milage with good power.
How are service costs on the XTs, I can do basic stuff like oil changes but will likely not have a place for anything more than that. What does the timing belt service run for comparison with my last VW? How frequent are major issues like a turbo going out that would be big $? What are the odds of having the ghost-walking issue, as this would be $500-1000 to fix based on my reading?
Price wise it looks like I could get a car with 50-70k miles in the $12000 range. What other options did people here consider before deciding on an outback, that meet the midsize wagonish, forest road/snow capable and manual tranny requirements?
thanks
 

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I have a 2006 Outback 2.5i which is pretty much the same basic car except for the lack of a turbo. I got it originally because of the AWD and it has preformed VERY well in the snow. I have snow tires for the winter and I cannot get it stuck. lol
I've driven an XT and having the extra power from the turbo is very nice. For mountain driving I fully support your choice for the XT. I've driven one up some grades at highway speeds and it did very well.
My outback is an automatic so I can't review anything myself about a manual, though a friend of mine has one with a 5 spd and is happy with it. As for room I can fit 4 people + ski gear along with using a roof rack. I am 6'3" as well and I haven't noticed any head clearance problems. lol
The timing belt can run about $1000 depending on were you go. The dealer will generally be the most expensive. This should be done around 100k miles.
I've never noticed the ghost walking problem on my outback and I just replaced my rear struts myself yesterday. My outback has 118k miles and is running fine.
 

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I'm constantly considering new (to me) vehicles, and the OBXT is one I search for regularly. I thought I read that the XT has a timing chain rather than a belt? Am I mistaken?
 

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Thought I heard that only the 6 cyl engine have a timing chain. Think even the STIs still have a timing belt except for maybe the new ones.
 

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I will soon be returning to the states after an extended trip abroad and will be in need of a car. I am considering an OBXT in the 05-07 range and want to learn more about what to expect and other options people here considered.
I want a car that can fit 3-4 people with stuff for a weekend so the outback seems about the right size, I would want one without a sunroof as I have found headroom tight in ones I have been in (I'm 6'3"). I am a mountain biker, skier and hiker so I need a car that can handle forest service roads and snow. But I am also a car guy and will be on a tightish budget so good handling and decent gas milage are important as well. Overall cost of ownership I would want to be in the same range as the passat V6 wagon that was my last car, which was 25ish mpg, low depreciation but expensive maintenance. I also will only consider a car with a manual transmission, this is not flexible and don't bother trying to suggest otherwise.
I am not sure where I will be living but it will be somewhere in the mountains, possibly at high elevation so the turbo seems like a good option for decent gas milage with good power.
How are service costs on the XTs, I can do basic stuff like oil changes but will likely not have a place for anything more than that. What does the timing belt service run for comparison with my last VW? How frequent are major issues like a turbo going out that would be big $? What are the odds of having the ghost-walking issue, as this would be $500-1000 to fix based on my reading?
Price wise it looks like I could get a car with 50-70k miles in the $12000 range. What other options did people here consider before deciding on an outback, that meet the midsize wagonish, forest road/snow capable and manual tranny requirements?
thanks
I've highlighted a few reasons why an XT wouldn't be the best choice.

Repairs could get expensive, timing belt isn't outrageously priced and is not too difficult to do. Turbo failures are somewhat common and expensive.
 

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If he wants good handling then that only leaves the Legacy GT sedan or wagon both are great cars and cheaper than the SUV marketed Outback. They also run circles around the outback regarding handling. Same sized car with proper car suspension on them.

If cost of repairs and the thought of turbo failure etc is a deal breaker then - your option is a H6 outback - the Legacy and Legacy wagon were only offered in 4cylinder versions and the turbo.

The H6 will return slightly better mileage than the turbo in most cases - and will lack all things turbo regarding repairs around turbo issues etc.

The lowest cost highest powered AWD Subaru option would be the H6 Outback and there are more H6 OB made than there are XT Outbacks don't even get me started on the Manual transmission requirement.

#1 I do agree with you that manual is great - however used XT with Manual and being concerned about repairs is like wanting to date a stripper but being freaked out that she wasn't a virgin. Get my drift? An XT used and with a Manual 5spd you need to go into the purchase knowing that there is a very real possibility you need $1200 for a proper all things replaced clutch job - and another $2000 handy if the engine needs some TLC.

People who buy the H6 Outbacks tend not to be race car wannabe types and a larger percentage of H6 buyers tend to be older folks with more money so much higher chance of finding a well cared for nice H6 ready to go with little to no surprises.
 

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Also note XT takes premium fuel, which erodes any savings from the misconception that the car *might* get better gas mileage than an H6
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A few follow ups.
I know a LGT would be better handling, but I want something better equipped for shitty dirt roads, I found the limits on my passat frequently so I am willing to give up a bit in this category. I view the outback as a compromise between a good handling (ie german) car and a mid-size SUV to get me where I want to go. I get better handling and milage than a 4-runner and can get further out than a BMW.

was the H6 offered with a manual?

how slow is a non-turbo 2.5 at 10000ft with 3-4 people and bikes on a hitch rack?

As for costs, my reference is a VW passat, 20-25mpg depending on driving and the timing belt job on that was more like 2000 all said and done, I loved that car but it was 1500/year on average in the shop.
Clutches are wear items, and cheaper than a new automatic, and worth any extra penny they cost.
Other beyond good service records any used car is a risk, and my requirements don't leave me too many options, but I have to think a turbo subie is cheaper than an audi. I will be spending time shopping for well cared for no matter what I buy.

I am also considering a forester XT but it likely has the same set of issues in a not really cheaper but less comfortable package. Volvo XCs don't come manual, maybe I could lift an r, and audi allroads will kill the maintenance budget for sure
 

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A few follow ups.
I know a LGT would be better handling, but I want something better equipped for shitty dirt roads, I found the limits on my passat frequently so I am willing to give up a bit in this category. I view the outback as a compromise between a good handling (ie german) car and a mid-size SUV to get me where I want to go. I get better handling and milage than a 4-runner and can get further out than a BMW.

was the H6 offered with a manual?

how slow is a non-turbo 2.5 at 10000ft with 3-4 people and bikes on a hitch rack?

As for costs, my reference is a VW passat, 20-25mpg depending on driving and the timing belt job on that was more like 2000 all said and done, I loved that car but it was 1500/year on average in the shop.
Clutches are wear items, and cheaper than a new automatic, and worth any extra penny they cost.
Other beyond good service records any used car is a risk, and my requirements don't leave me too many options, but I have to think a turbo subie is cheaper than an audi. I will be spending time shopping for well cared for no matter what I buy.

I am also considering a forester XT but it likely has the same set of issues in a not really cheaper but less comfortable package. Volvo XCs don't come manual, maybe I could lift an r, and audi allroads will kill the maintenance budget for sure
Subiesailor will tell you that the LGT does just as well as the Outback on dirt roads, but I beg to differ. We have two Outbacks and a Legacy GT. I tried taking the Legacy GT down a little-used dirt road and had to turn around--it was starting to scrape in the middle (type of road where the tire ruts have worn it so there's a hump in the middle). My Outback has plenty of clearance to spare on the same road--heck, even our '98 Outback with worn-out stock suspension (definitely sagged from its original height) has clearance to spare on that road. Another minor nuisance with the GT: Can't drive it up onto my ramps because it doesn't have enough clearance.

But, that Legacy GT handles better than my Outback for sure. It's one of the older ones, so it's just got the N/A 2.5 that most Outbacks have--meaning it's SLOW compared to my H6, but it's still fun to drive.

The H6 was never offered with a manual transmission, unfortunately. It would be a great combination.

I think the base 2.5 is slow in all conditions, but the Outback (other than possibly the XT), isn't really designed as even a somewhat fast vehicle. Heck, even the H6 is slow, but it's much more bearable to me than the 2.5 is. To each their own, though.
 

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Good friend has his Allroad - ordered it from the dealer in manual version. He plans on keeping it a very long time. He just replaced both turbos and did some major major work on it at 130K. He did some of it him self and had a local Audi specialist do the rest. $6000 not including the air suspension he rebuilt ground up all new a couple of years ago.

For him the car is more of a toy than just getting from point A to B so the cost isn't a big deal. His dad just bought a new Subaru Outback and wishes the OB handled like the Allroad.

And no the H6 is not offered in Manual transmission. The last AWD car sold with a manual transmission is the 2.5L Subaru. As for 10000ft ie Colorado with 4 dudes going to the trails? Subaru built the H6 for a reason and that right there is there is the reason the H6 Outback is offered. I've lived with the 2.5 since 2001 actually replaced a 4runner with a Legacy GT. It handled all the dirt roads and snow trips in the Sierras just fine only time I needed more ground clearance was crossing a muddy bog on a friends ranch but I doubt the OB would have been any better given his 4x4 was nearly to the axles. The Legacy never stopped even dragging its ass through the bog ha ha. We also towed our racing sailboat with it for over 10yrs before replacing it with a new gen 4 Outback - would have bought a Legacy Wagon in a heart beat! The Outback handling is Horrid! Absolutely HATE the OB handling - which is why we owned a Legacy GT MT 5spd prior to the OB - given even in 2001 the OB handled Horribly.

My advice get over your fear of auto boxes - anything 5spd and up are decent and with subaru quite reliable. Heck even the horribly geared old 4spd AT subaru sold for WAY WAY too many years was about as bullet proof as you could get. The MT with subarus have very short throw clutches and I would say 80% of the people who own them drive them incorrectly and burn through the clutch excessively fast! $1200 for a proper clutch job by the way! Mine was at 144,000 with 10% of the clutch left - the release bearing started failing- fairly common with the subaru 5spd MT. That was life in San Francisco and daily commutes and towing trailers your worst possible nightmare for a clutch.

A family friend ran a local subaru dealer shop for the past 3yrs he said the number of people who came in with less than 100K and clutches completely gone - he would never recommend buying a used MT subaru unless you have them put a new clutch in it as part of the deal when you buy it. He builds custom alcohol burning drag cars in his own custom shop by the way he knows a few things about clutches and proper use.
 

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BTW, 20-25mpg is optimistic on flat roads. Throw mountains and hills in the mix and you'll be looking at 18-20 avg plus required premium. The OB really does handle like a boat. There are things that can be done to help, like replacing all struts with 04 kyb's, but it will still feel more like an suv than a car.
 

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Handling and gas mileage are definitely weak points on the OBXT. Handling is fixable with some gentle, inexpensive mods. Mileage? Not so much. These cars were built to burn gas. Really satisfying to drive, and very capable in winter & mild offroad duty. But you'll pay at the pump and there isn't a practical way around it on these cars.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
20ish mpg is definitely less than I want to be getting, what does a forester XT get?
Might be forced to pay up for my speed desires.
 

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My 2.5i definitely isn't the fastest car at 10,000ft. I go skiing in Colorado a lot during and winter and I'm always wishing I had more power. Driving a 2.5i up grades in the mountains feels like your a truck trying to pass another truck. It's takes awhile. I have a 4 spd auto which doesn't help. I know a 5 spd would perform a bit better. I actually plan on trading in for an STI wagon around sometime mid 2013. :) STI with a CVT anyone? Infinite gear ratios!

As for gas mileage vs power. The H6 and XT's mileage isn't that bad, personally I wouldn't dismiss a car solely on it's gas mileage. If you want the power go with it if you can afford it. If you compromise and get something with less power and better mileage your going to wish hadn't when you get up into the mountains. I wouldn't expect good gas mileage from any car in the mountains. I moved to Colorado from Indiana and 4 cyls work just fine in Indiana but I've always wants more power out here. So that's the main driver behind me upgrading to an STI even though it's quite a jump from a 2.5i. You could always get an STI wagon. It's a bit smaller though so fitting 4 ppl + gear may be tricky unless you get a roof box or something.

If course the past history for a used car can be an unknown. You might be able to pick up one from a private seller that is a bit older and may not of abused the car.

As for the auto vs manual debate here. The XT I test drove had a 5 spd auto which I thought did rather well. It was much better than a 4 spd auto. I would never push someone away from a manual if they really want it though. Eac type of transmission has it's ups and downs.
 

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Two weeks ago I traded in my 2005 OBXT with M/T for a 2013 OB 2.5i Premium with a M/T.
The two things that I liked about the OBXT was:
1) the power when driving on mountain roads (power comes on at 2800 RPMs and above) and
2) the great sounding factory 6-disc head unit.

The things I did not like about the OBXT are as follows:
1) Gas mileage: 15 to 16 MPG city and 18 MPG HWY using premium fuel (92 octane).
2) Transmission and clutch: A hard and long clutch pedal stroke combined with a hard to shift in gear feel made the car a real labor to drive in town or in stop in go traffic. Also the engine’s RPMs would drop below 2000 when you take your foot off the accelerator while depressing the clutch so unless you revved up the engine to above 2500 RPMs while letting out the clutch the engine would boggle.
3) Tight passenger compartment--especially for people over 6 foot tall. If you do decide to get an OBXT, make sure it does not have a sun/moon roof because the top of your head will be jammed onto the moon roof’s screen and head liner. Note; my new 2013 OB has room to spare for tall passengers in all 4 seats.
4) Engine:
a) Subaru’s first generation Active intake Valve Control System (AVCS) combine with the turbo makes for a rough and jerky throttle response below 3500 RPMs.
b) The engine oil and filter needs to be change every 3,750 miles (Max.). Subaru engineer’s needed to fit a small oil filter in-between the turbo exhaust supply pipes. A small oil filter can easily get clogged up if the oil change intervals exceed 3,750 miles, which means that the banjo bolt screen in the turbo’s oil line feed can get gummed up as well. If banjo bolt’s screen is partially blocked with debris, than you will be replacing the turbo charger and most likely the engine as well.
c) You must replace the coolant every three years with Subaru specific anti-freeze and stop leak otherwise you run the risk of blowing the head gasket(s), which cost around $2,000.00 to replace. If you replace the coolant yourself, download Subaru’s serve manual and follow the service procedure for coolant changes. For example, pouring coolant into the filler neck to quickly can trap air in the system and blow a head gasket.
d) The turbo charged engine burns about a quart of oil every 1,500 miles. Also you need to use a Subaru oil filter with and O-Ring seal otherwise you will have an oil around the filter.

Again the best thing about the OBXT is the turbo-charged power. If power is what you are looking for and can live without a wagon, I would strongly suggest a sporty 4-door sedan with a large V6 or small V8, which should have a lot more low end torque and smoother power curve than the OBXT’s drive train.
 

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Any 2009 and earlier models legacy or outback your not going to be hauling 5 dudes for very far. The bi-chy dude gets the hump seat in the back ha ha. All the Mt bike trips and ski trips done with the guys the subaru always had 4 and all of those guy trips were with my legacy GT. My new 2010 OB hauls two kids - two parents and occasionally a grand parent it is FAR FAR wider and roomier than the 09 and earlier gen models regarding width and rear seat room.

With the legacy we could pack 4 Mt bikes off set facing front and rear on 54 inch bars and we always bungi the front tires on the frames given we were a dirty motley bunch doing Downyville in CA and Tahoe etc. We could pack the old school Coleman ice box of beer - and some basics in the trunk we stacked the helmets across the back window they take up a pile of space.

We all had small one man or two man back packing tents we just strapped them between the bikes on the yakima rack bars. Worked just fine and the legacy GT did the logging road trip to all the trail heads just fine had to go around a few bolders and slow down for a few creek bed crossings the OB really would not have been any different.
 
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