Pros: Solid, quiet, outstanding stable ride that grips the road with all wheel drive.
Cons: Limited luxury features for the price.
I have had our 2000 Subaru Outback Limited wagon for six months now (Sept. 2002 update). It was the best choice to balance my dreams of an SUV and my more reasonable side that said, get a car! What I'm learning most about is maintenance cost and how to avoid high dealer fees.
------------------Sept. 2002 Updates-------------------
Now at 64,000 miles, this vehicle continues to perform flawlessly. The power/speed from this small engine is exceptional. While take-off is a little too fast and abrupt (you have to learn to use very gentle foot pressure), there is a very smooth power curve. Handling is exceptional; what I have read about low center of gravity on these cars plus full time all wheel drive, is all true. On wet roads, I can take curves at 60 and feel solid and in control - and actually be in control!
A few new developments:
* Transmission fluid change. I learned that the recommended interval for changing is 30,000 miles - very frequent compared to the typical 60,000 miles. However, the good news is that the design helps the do-it-yourself solution. The transmission has a drain plug and the filter is a spin-on type (if you have a late 2000, early 2000 had an internal filter). Ground clearance allowed me to do most of this without jacking the car, but you might need ramps. Only the Subaru dealer sells the filter, $35! But, you can do the change yourself staying less than the price at a car shop. Using a good quality hydraulic car jack, after you roll the car back off the ramps, you can jack one side and tilt the vehicle sideways, draining 8 or more quarts of fluid - that's very good for draining AT fluid and allows you to make nearly a full change; most vehicles drop less than 5 quarts. PS - doing this yourself, you can use a high quality fluid like Mobil 1 Synthetic ATF; you'll not get the dealer to put that in without paying another $100! and you can get the fluid yourself for about $40 - synthetic AT fluid is fantastic and a little known way to get much longer AT life.
* Differential fluid changes. Same 30K interval; I'm about to try myself and will report soon.
* Dealer maintenance fees. The dealer's 30K and 60K maintenance fees (at least here in MD) are crazy - $595 for a 60K check up that changes plugs and fluids, but everything else will be extra! This car has not had either one and it's running great. I change all fluids myself, or I'd find a local shop w/reasonable prices.
* Air filter change. Fast, convenient and easy access.
* Seat heater switches. The switches for the front seat heaters are between the seats in a position on the arm rest where they are often flipped on by accident by arm movement - not a big deal, but you have to look to check each time you start out.
* Rain & Back Hatch. Tailgate hatch provides excellent rain cover.
------------------Original April 2002 Review---------------
I bought this vehicle with 53,800 miles on it from a neighbor/salesman. The existing maintenance records were all in order with frequent oil, coolant and transmission fluid changes. The only repairs to-date were a new set of tires, all brake pads replaced and a minor under-warranty engine setting adjustment. He reported flawless performance and has purchased a 2002 model just like this one, so he obviously loved the car.
First the positive: This vehicle rides so comfortably I can hardly believe it's built on the rugged platform that is below. No squeaks, rattles, etc. and wind noise is very low, less than a new SAAB I recently test drove (note the miles on this already too). The quiet is probably because the windstrips on every door, around every window, around every opening are designed to stop all air flow which cuts out the noise; much better windstrip design than typical.
Ground clearance is exceptional because unlike many SUVs, the design of the undercarriage has nothing hanging down low like a differential, shock mounts, etc. The undercarriage is nearly flat, great for avoiding road debris, going over the snow instead of pushing it, and that once-in-a-while off-road ride. I have already had it out in heavy downpours of rain and felt very solid and in control; the full time all wheel drive takes the curves in a solid and stable car-like manner without that high-up, tipping over feeling that I get in the larger SUVs and vans. Both the clearance and the handling have something to do with engine design (more later).
The quality of the leather interior is exceptional, some of the best I've been in. The engine compartment is wide open and easy to work in, access to oil dip stick, filler, air cleaner, etc. all are within easy reach. When you lift the hood of this vehicle, you get a feel for how solid and heavy the metal is; that's one heavy hood! I had the opportunity to test the all wheel anti-lock brakes; in a hard emergency stop they worked very well with a minor pulsing feel, not that hard pulsing that I've experienced with some other vehicles. Finally on the safety note, not only are there front air bags, but side ones too.
The engine runs smoothly and because it's a horizontally opposed SOHC, it's supposed to be a top design. They call these a "pancake engine" because of their flat design; they contribute to the wide open engine compartment and better ground clearance. The engines also help with a lower center of gravity, thus the better handling. Several friends who have owned Subaru vehicles have said their engines were "bullet proof" and lasted well over 100k, up to and beyond 200,000 miles.
So, the positive summary on a 2000 Subaru Legacy Limited Outback Wagon is that it is a rugged, sturdy car and would be good for transporting your family or hauling your belongings like you would in a sports utility vehicle.
Mechanically speaking, the Subaru Outback Limited Wagon includes: a 2.5 liter horizontally opposed SOHC engine; a five-speed manual transmission with overdrive (ours has the optional four-speed auto transmission); and a fully independent, heavy-duty, raised suspension with all-wheel drive. It has nice pick up for accelerating onto the highway, fast and smooth. Standard features were: cruise control; leather upholstery; AM/FM cassette stereo with weather band, CD player, eight-speakers and in-glass antenna; air conditioning; headlight auto-off with ignition switch; and a cargo area security cover and tray; power windows with driver?s auto down, power door locks and heated seats and mirrors.
The negative boils down to one point - if I had to pay nearly $30,000 for this vehicle new, I would be disappointed with it's lack of high quality features (but paying $16,300 used, it's great!). For example, the seats are hard and won't be that comfortable for a long trip; my daughter complained about her 3 hour drive hurting her back. The driver's lumbar support is hardly noticeable; it's toy-like and you can hardly fit your hand in the space to the side of the seat to operate it. The dashboard gage information is limited to only fuel, temp, speed and tach (I'm sure there are idiot lights but they are not serious driving tools); and the trim is thin plastic in most places. Some design features don't make sense; e.g., the power locks lock when you push the button up, that?s the opposite of most cars. With a four cylinder smaller car, gas mileage should be better than 24 mixed. While the inside has wood grain-patterned trim, it's clearly plastic.
While the Outback Limited Wagon has two moonroofs, the front one only tilts up a small amount, it doesn't open all of the way to give you that open road feel; it's just frustrating that the front moonroof wouldn?t slide open. While the drives seat is power, it has a manual recline, tilt back not a power tilt back feature which would let you fine tune the seat much better. There are no map pockets behind the front seats, so you can only store small maps in the front doors with no where to put the larger ones. Finally, the space in the back isn't all that large, not for a wagon. I find myself without places to put things out of sight that a trunk or regular SUV's back cargo area gives me. While there is storage below the cargo area, it is very shallow and only will fit some small tools, not the flashlights, jumper cables, etc. I'd like to store out-of-sight. The driver's floor mat creeps up and towards the center, constantly being skewed; there is a hook that the mat gove over but it doesn't work all that well, it should have a clamp-down or other locking design.
While there is a good bit I would improve, there is nothing I don't like - hope that makes sense! I would just be cautious if buying new not to overpay for less than you might get with another vehicle.