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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone, I come from a long line of Volvos and currently own a 1992 Volvo 245 with 212k miles that is starting to show its age on more levels than I can keep up with. I don't believe in the newer model Volvos and after researching my next car, I keep coming back to the Outback. It has everything I need, and probably more so, since I have not exactly been spoiled by the 240s.

I am looking at a used 2005-2009 model. Don't think I want to go older, as I try to keep the miles relatively low. Might go with a newer if I can finance it.

What are your recommendations as to the best year (pros/cons), automatic vs manual (would prefer the latter), reliability, cost of repairs? And if there are any former Volvo owners, I would love to hear from you, of course!

Thanks!
 

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Wow you're pretty fickle, what with swapping cars out ever 21 years or so.

The Gen 3 outback (the years you describe) is, in the opinion of many of us, the best of the breed in the styling department.

My girlfriend drives a Volvo S60 (turbo, AWD) and while it's a nice car to drive and still runs well at 175k miles, it's not a rocket and the AWD system - specifically the Haldex clutch at the rear differential is junk. Basically it's AWD when it **** well feels like it which has nothing to do with road conditions. The computer on the rear axle is $5k to replace and you can't just buy one from a wrecked car and "marry it" yourself.

Not to bash the car too hard because it's comfortable and it's never left her stranded, but I love the 100% reliability of my Subaru AWD system, and of course my turbo actually does something besides make a whirring sound.

You'll get tons of opinions here of course, but I'd stick with a manual transmission if at all possible. The normally aspirated 2.5 with a stick will provide performance on par with or better than your 245.

Do a bunch of reading on this forum, LGT, nutsack and others. Read up on head gasket issues. If you can avoid buying one of those you'll have a nice reliable replacement for your Volvo
 

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2003 through 2009 is essentially the same exact car - the early 03's still had some Head gasket issues due to the gaskets used this impacted 2000-through early 2003 from what I learned with my 2001. The 01 got updated HG from subaru and was perfectly fine I sold it at 180,000 with zero issues.

The 4spd AT is very durable but horribly terrible regarding # of gears for the 2.5 which is why my 01 was a manual. Very durable transmission just lacking gears for the engine.

Service history!!! MATTERS! - Front diff with AT's is often by mistake never changed given people assume servicing the AT is the same as changing the Gear oil in the front diff. So if your looking at cars 90K and over maint history docs on timing belts - front diff servicing is very important. Given you can't tell by looking at the car but docs with matching Vin #'s show it was done etc.
 

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^^^ yep, history and present condition is most important.

if you post your city, maybe someone can suggest a shop or soob-experienced mechanic who can do a pre-purchase inspection.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I understand the importance of vehicle history/maintenance, paid attention to that with my Volvos too, but it seems to be even more crucial with the Outbacks.

I heard about the head gasket issue and it concerns me that it has been going on for so many years without truly being resolved (although it has gotten better). Ugh...that could be a dealbreaker. Unless the dealer can give me a warranty on the HG (if not on the vehicle).

It's a shame but it would really be the perfect choice for me.

I am in Athens GA. Thankfully there is a very well respected repair shop in town that does work on Subarus, and I am planning on getting their thoughts on the HG issue as well. I am sure they could do a good inspection.

BTW I have not owned my 1992 for 20 years...it's my 4th Volvo (1971 - 1982 - 1987 - 1992), I typically buy them cheap used with 140k plus miles and recycle them after 6 years or so when they approach 250k but are are still driveable/sellable.
 

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The Subaru automatics (made by JATCO) are very reliable with ordinary maintenance, but the 4-spd model is a bit lame in the sense that it's only got 4 gears in a world rapidly filling with 7, 8 & 9 speed automatics. So there is a bit of an MPG/cabin noise penalty associated with them.

The 5-speed auto is considerably better on that front, while retaining the reliability of the 4. But 5 is still less than 7+...

The 5-speed manual is straight out of a tractor. Almost impossible to kill. Many complain that 1st gear is not a tall enough ratio, but if you aren't towing or pulling stumps you'll be fine. (even if you are, you'll figure it out) The only downer is that this trans was never offered in combination with the H6 engine.

Head gaskets are only an issue with the normally aspirated 4cyl. The H6 & turbo 4 both dodge that liability. The turbo brings other liabilities of course, but the 6 cyl is a tank.

While the 05-09 look very similar, there were some tweaks and improvements done in the 06, and more still done in 07. cars101.com will help show you the minor differences.
 

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I THINK a shop might be able to confirm from the appearance of the edge of the headgaskets if they have been changed for the multi layer steel.

sounds like you have a plan so , good hunting!
 

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Easy solution, hands down - get an H6. Awesome motors. Lesser fuel economy but it's more than made up for in fewer issues and lower maintenance costs.

You also then have no timing belt maintenance costs ($750+ done right).

The EZ30 is an awesome motor - get it. Two of my daily drivers have them and two friends are now driving them...there is hardly any comparison. I have bought and sold dozens and dozens of Subaru's. Most commonly blown EJ25 vehicles, they're easy to find, i can buy one any given day, there's more than I have time for. I am well versed in EJ25's, have junked tons of them, rebuild a bunch, etc. . I have a motor at my office right now that i'm building for a friends EJ25 that just gave up the ghost, I'm giving it to him Saturday. Ej25's - all day long. They aren't bad motors, but my point is why bother when the H6 is unbelievably proven and solid. There is hardly any reason to favor newer motors as the 05-09 EZ's are very robust.

If there's some reason you have to own the lesser EJ25 engine:
2005-2009 EJ25's have externally leaking headgaskets so they are rather easy to spot if one knows what to look for. They leak underneath along the head to engine mating surface. There is no test needed, indeed the tests are completely worthless. Do not let any mechanic do a compression test, leak down test, or check for oil/coolant mixing - they never fail that way (unless you just flog them to the ground until they're steaming and blow).

The *problem* with the 2005-2009 EJ25 is they can start leaking at any time. Mileage is all but meaningless as they can leak at 20,000 miles. You might make 200,000 miles without issue, or you might have it fail.

You can google or search any Subaru forum and see issues all the way up to 2010 EJ25's. With H6's hitting the market now there's really no need to get an EJ25 vehicle in my opinion...*if* reliability is the key component you're looking for. That's basically the only thing I look for what is the most reliable Subaru engine I can get inexpensively.
 

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I went through the HG issue during the period Subaru had nearly every 2.5 needing the updated HG. My 2001 had it at 65K subaru actually handled it the dealer had the car 24hrs and I drove it till 180,000 with zero issues and sold it for a new 2.5.

I went through three Toyota blown Head Gasket rebuilds on the same car the cost ran around $8000 each time paid by Toyota. Subaru HG fix was $1500 and never an issue again.

Volvo failures are so many with the new cars I actually had a friend who does high end custom electrical and interior work threaten me with bodily harm if I bought a volvo when we were shopping ideas for replacing the 2001. We needed more space.

Even with my new 2010 now with 40K on it I would gladly deal with a leaky HG again for $1800 -$2000 vs deal with the higher cost potential that any of the standard strait 4 cyclinder cars or V6 powered vehicles pose if or when they have a major failure. $2000 for a major repair job is really nothing today when you consider new cars run you nearly 30K for the cheap cars.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well, $ 1500-2000 is a lot for me, since this will be a newer car that I buy for reliability and still making payments on. I understand the cost of maintenance and I am proactive about it, but $ 2000 is no small change, especially if it's for something that prematurely fails. But I will make sure to ask that local place how much a HG would run me there.

My trusty Volvo mechanic and the above mentioned repair place have one thing in common: both stay clear of, and want me to stay clear of, (newer) Volvos and VW. I'd love nothing more than a VW Jetta or Passat wagon, but their maintenance scare me enough to not even consider them.

I will look into the EZ30 H6. I would give up better gas mileage for a more reliable/durable engine, it's probably not any worse than my 240. I always thought though that 6-cylinder engines are more expensive to maintain/repair.
 

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I will look into the EZ30 H6. I would give up better gas mileage for a more reliable/durable engine, it's probably not any worse than my 240. I always thought though that 6-cylinder engines are more expensive to maintain/repair.
6 and 8 cyl engines certainly cost more to rebuild, and that is where the legend was born. But with modern metals, engines don't need to be rebuilt every 60-100k like in the past, so it's much less of an issue.
 

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6 and 8 cyl engines certainly cost more to rebuild, and that is where the legend was born. But with modern metals, engines don't need to be rebuilt every 60-100k like in the past, so it's much less of an issue.
If anything, 6 and 8 cyl engines will be cheaper to maintain. It's a good possibility that they'll have more longevity than the 4 cyl, as the larger, generally more powerful, engine will be under less stress in it's operating life, plus generally they run at much lower highway rpm's wich subjects them to less internal wear. (example: the 5.7L V8 in my Firebird runs at 2k rpm at 80mph and gets 23-24mpg on average. It has 125k on it, and has required no special maint, other than a set of plugs and wires and oil changes)

You're also much less likely to have an expensive timing belt replacement in your future if you run a 6 or 8 cyl. Mostly they run timing chains, which will normally last the lifetime of the engine. I've run multiple domestic 6 and 8 cyl engines wel lpast 100k miles with zero issues.

Read up on the Subie 2.5's...that engine is scaring me because it looks like a nightmare between timing belt changes, blown head gaskets, and blown turbos.

Wit the 6 or 8, you just have to buy a few more spark plugs and wires, and in certain cases the fuel consumption will be worse than a 4 cyl. There ARE certain cases where the larger engine will be more economical though.

Another plus is that they're usually smoother and make more torque at a lower rpm, and are therefor better to drive.

Honestly, if it wasn't for current fuel prices, I'd stick with 8 cylinders personally, and prob get an SUV. My V8 Firebird is currently my daily driver and I love it. I'd just like something that does a little more than look cool and go fast. I think the mpg is quite good for what it is actually, but for more than two people, or if there's the slightest bit of snow on ground, the car becomes useless.
 

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If anything, 6 and 8 cyl engines will be cheaper to maintain. It's a good possibility that they'll have more longevity than the 4 cyl, as the larger, generally more powerful, engine will be under less stress in it's operating life, plus generally they run at much lower highway rpm's wich subjects them to less internal wear. (example: the 5.7L V8 in my Firebird runs at 2k rpm at 80mph and gets 23-24mpg on average. It has 125k on it, and has required no special maint, other than a set of plugs and wires and oil changes)

You're also much less likely to have an expensive timing belt replacement in your future if you run a 6 or 8 cyl. Mostly they run timing chains, which will normally last the lifetime of the engine. I've run multiple domestic 6 and 8 cyl engines wel lpast 100k miles with zero issues.

Read up on the Subie 2.5's...that engine is scaring me because it looks like a nightmare between timing belt changes, blown head gaskets, and blown turbos.

Wit the 6 or 8, you just have to buy a few more spark plugs and wires, and in certain cases the fuel consumption will be worse than a 4 cyl. There ARE certain cases where the larger engine will be more economical though.

Another plus is that they're usually smoother and make more torque at a lower rpm, and are therefor better to drive.

Honestly, if it wasn't for current fuel prices, I'd stick with 8 cylinders personally, and prob get an SUV. My V8 Firebird is currently my daily driver and I love it. I'd just like something that does a little more than look cool and go fast. I think the mpg is quite good for what it is actually, but for more than two people, or if there's the slightest bit of snow on ground, the car becomes useless.

The 2.5 is no more costly or high risk than any other engine I've owned - if anything it has been far less costly due to its simplicity and strong compact design. You guys are over analyzing this. A bad gasket design will cause any engine trouble. That is what happened with the 2.5 for a few years. The HG issues beyond that are no different than all the other engines sold out there today. The up side is that the very compact heads and block are nearly impossible to bend and warp unless you run it till the engine basically locks up from overheating.

When we picked up our 2010 OB a 2.5 - another guy was there picking up his and dropping off his trade. A 98 OB with I'm not kidding you 400,000 miles on it! The whole building went out to look at it. This guy was a professor who studied fault lines and volcanoes. He explained that every summer he would pack the car and hit the road. The car had been from Alaska the most northern parts of Canada all the way down to Panama.

The car he was replacing it with? A 2.5 CVT premium OB
 

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I've researched alot of cars, and never have I come across one with so many head gasket issues. (other thna the old 3.8L Ford V6)

Yes a bad head gasket will cause any engine issues...IF it goes bad. The 2.5 just seems much more predisposed to it than other engines I have experience with. Five minutes spent on this board will tell you that, the fact that there's a "head gasket issues" sub-forum is your proof right there. Never seen a head gasket issue forum on any of my GM sites, Jeep sites, or Volvo sites I frequest.

Unless you severely overheat an engine, or overstress it due to high turbo boost or nitrous, head gaskets should't be a failure point.
 

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Unless you severely overheat an engine, or overstress it due to high turbo boost or nitrous, head gaskets should't be a failure point.
Subaru (and VW) would probably like to add something about lying the engine over on its side and keeping coolant and dissimilar metals in constant contact to your list.

As I understand it, the whole trouble with the Subaru EJ25 and the VW 1.9 & 2.1 Wasserboxer engines is that the combination of coolant, contamination & the metals used in the heads and gaskets will essentially create a weak electrical battery. The tiny current will eat away at the gasket material until there is a point weak enough to be overcome by the other stresses on the gasket.

Lots of other engines never had this problem because once the water pump stops, the water in the cooling jackets dribbles down away from the gaskets.
 

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Subaru (and VW) would probably like to add something about lying the engine over on its side and keeping coolant and dissimilar metals in constant contact to your list.

As I understand it, the whole trouble with the Subaru EJ25 and the VW 1.9 & 2.1 Wasserboxer engines is that the combination of coolant, contamination & the metals used in the heads and gaskets will essentially create a weak electrical battery. The tiny current will eat away at the gasket material until there is a point weak enough to be overcome by the other stresses on the gasket.

Lots of other engines never had this problem because once the water pump stops, the water in the cooling jackets dribbles down away from the gaskets.

Good point!

I guess the same thing can be said for oil leaks (as far as oil drainback goes). Are these known for valve cover leaks as well?
 

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Well, $ 1500-2000 is a lot for me, since this will be a newer car that I buy for reliability and still making payments on. I understand the cost of maintenance and I am proactive about it, but $ 2000 is no small change, especially if it's for something that prematurely fails. But I will make sure to ask that local place how much a HG would run me there.

I will look into the EZ30 H6. I would give up better gas mileage for a more reliable/durable engine, it's probably not any worse than my 240. I always thought though that 6-cylinder engines are more expensive to maintain/repair.
I think you should go with H6 too!
 

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Subaru (and VW) would probably like to add something about lying the engine over on its side and keeping coolant and dissimilar metals in constant contact to your list.

As I understand it, the whole trouble with the Subaru EJ25 and the VW 1.9 & 2.1 Wasserboxer engines is that the combination of coolant, contamination & the metals used in the heads and gaskets will essentially create a weak electrical battery. The tiny current will eat away at the gasket material until there is a point weak enough to be overcome by the other stresses on the gasket.

Lots of other engines never had this problem because once the water pump stops, the water in the cooling jackets dribbles down away from the gaskets.
I don't get this. In a full cooling system in any WC engine, the coolant shouldn't "dribble down" anywhere. The engine cooling jacket, water pump, hoses, radiator, and heater core should be full at all times. The only place there should be any air is in the expansion tank.
 
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