What can the Subaru Outback handle?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    JMH
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    What can the Subaru Outback handle?

    I searched and didn't see anything that answered my question, sorry if this is a common thread.

    So... our Passat wagon has been a brilliant car, but it's time to get something that can better handle the rigors of unpaved Utah byways. The Subaru Outback seems to be the official state car here and I am almost sold, but just what are they capable of? Gas mileage and highway handling are important, but are probably secondary to me vs. off road capacity.

    I really don't want a truck. But I would also like to be able to drive places that would send a normal car/suv home.

    Are there any common mods to make them more Mt Dew Xtreme?

    Thanks in advance,

    JMH

  2. #2
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    Check out www.subaruoutback.org for more details on mods and capabilities. I have a Forester and am amazed at what it can offroad wise. They are used extensively offroad in Australia.

    I woud recommend AT tires (all terrain), front skid plate, rear diff protector, and better lighting for mods. The one drawback of the Outback is it sticks out front and back over the wheels which reduces the approach angle.

  3. #3
    JMH
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    Thanks for the info!

    I did imagine that the biggest limitation would indeed be the reduced approach angle... I would further reduce it with a T2 rack on back...

    JMH

  4. #4
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    Approach angles on subies are pretty good, my WRX (not the highest car ever) is even way better than my dodge neon was. Not to say it's great, but that it's better is pretty neat.

    I drove today though some mountain roads that were completely covered in nice (not snow). It was pretty hairy at times, and there were some rocks and parts that stood up pretty high, but I didn't have any contact with the body of the car. There was one crossing that I attempted where the front two wheels broke the ice and there was water underneath. Due to a small 4-6" ledge ahead and the fact that it was all ice, I was unable to go forward through it, but due to the AWD I was able to fairly easily yank my car back and then start over and pass the crossing on the opposite side of the road. Key here is that ANY wheels that will grip will help you out immensely with AWD, but with a lot of other systems you won't be so lucky, because the differentials have a difficult time transmitting the power to the correct wheels. I've done this before in other supposedly serious "off road" vehicles, and had to get pulled out...by you guessed it, a subaru. I really shouldn't have been out driving on the roads that I was today, but I couldn't really turn back at one point either. When you think about it, with a cool head you can negotiate some pretty amazing stuff, and in the end, I have to wonder if any other vehicle would have done as well. Sure, I could have had more ground clearance, but if I didn't have as good an AWD system then I may have slipped right off the road (ice) more than a few times.

    I've also driven a legacy-outback with the 3.0 pretty extensively. Very nice car. Very capable. You have to know what you are doing because you can still have lots of problems in the kind of terrain that I was driving in today, but you simply realize that your overall limitation is the ground clearance, and with the outback it's pretty generous and everything is tucked up in there pretty well. Still, it's no jeep, but it's going to perform better than most SUVs due to the lower CG, way better AWD, and it's going to be at least as high off the ground as a lot of em.

    At least on my car, the T2 doesn't scrape ever, the design of the T2 gets higher up the further back you go, so as long as the actual reciever isn't sticking out excessively, you'll be fine.
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  5. #5
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    I think these two videos serve to affirm your choice.

    Note the second video was distributed by somebody related to Subaru, despite the disclaimers in the video. Take that for what it's worth; it contains valuable info.

    Just keep in mind that Subaru's AWD system on their 5-speed manuals (my preference) is inferior to their automatics, and that their limited slip rear differential may only be available as an option or on their GT versions.

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  6. #6
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    Why is the AWD on the manuals inferior to the auto? On my Forester with a 5 speed, the AWD is 50/50 front/back by default whereas its 90/10 for the autos. I would think 50/50 is superior to 90/10.

  7. #7
    JMH
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    I think that it's going to be the perfect choice for us, regardless of transmission. It will still be superior to our current vehicle.

    Knowing myself, I think there will be a tendency to push the car's limits but it sounds like a few precautions like skid plates will put me in a good place. I would like to be able to get past the restrooms (all the way to the parking lot) at Gooseberry, get through the occasional sandy wash (on the way to Bartlett) and get up to Grafton Mesa without fearing for my oil pan.

    The Outback models have better ground clearance than the Forester, correct? But the Forester is taller/roomier?

    JMH
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    I've got a '05 outback XT with the auto. It handles most of the offroad situations I run across with aplomb. Generally, I use it on fire roads and such to get to trailheads. As long as the road is semi-maintained I have no problems. Gas mileage runs between 16-22mpg depending on how much the turbo kicks in (two Thule roof racks mounted on it).

    The two issues I run across with the car and offroading (compared to a dedicated jeep-like vehicle) is (1) limited clearance and (2) high gearing ratio. Some roads, or washed areas just need more clearance than the Suby has. To an extent, this is an issue with all vehicles--stock Jeeps need a lift kit to hit all the mountain roads around here. The second problem is that it doesn't have the 'low' gear option that Jeep, 4-runners, etc., have. Crawling up a steep sections just doesn't work as well without the low gear ratio. I sometimes have to get a running start with my Suby...

    Overall, for a highway vehicle that has some offroad capabilities, I'm happy with the Outback and don't know of a similar vehicle that I'd swap it for. If I needed better offroad capability, I'd have to move to a Jeep, 4-runner, etc. style vehicle.
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  9. #9
    jrm
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    What model forester do U have..

    Ive been interested in the X sport, X prem or maybe the turbo XT. Im looking @
    the 06' models. What mods can one do to the X sport and premium that can boost the HP and response a bit? Ive found a chip for the XT but not the X. maybe a intake and cat back.

    Ive been scouring the ads for used X prem/sports and XTs but am having a hard time finding the exterior-interior combo, options and auto trans all in one car. Any links to info would be appreciated

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01Forester
    Why is the AWD on the manuals inferior to the auto? On my Forester with a 5 speed, the AWD is 50/50 front/back by default whereas its 90/10 for the autos. I would think 50/50 is superior to 90/10.
    No idea, 50/50 does pretty good for me. That's what my wagon is. I would rather have a manual than an auto for driving in the snow and nasty stuff, no contest.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMH
    I think that it's going to be the perfect choice for us, regardless of transmission. It will still be superior to our current vehicle.

    Knowing myself, I think there will be a tendency to push the car's limits but it sounds like a few precautions like skid plates will put me in a good place. I would like to be able to get past the restrooms (all the way to the parking lot) at Gooseberry, get through the occasional sandy wash (on the way to Bartlett) and get up to Grafton Mesa without fearing for my oil pan.

    The Outback models have better ground clearance than the Forester, correct? But the Forester is taller/roomier?

    JMH
    The forester is built on the impreza chassi, so the legacy will still be a bit wider overall. The legacy is a bigger and "roomier" car. The forester is a little "taller", but IMO that doesn't contribute very well to handling, as there's some pretty excessive body lean. The regular legacy outback is plenty big, it feels a good deal bigger than the forester IMO, and you probably get better rear legroom and the such. I've driven both extensively, we had 2 foresters before we switched them out for an outback, and the forester is ok, but if you can swing the legacy outback, it's better in pretty much every way.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrm
    Ive been interested in the X sport, X prem or maybe the turbo XT. Im looking @
    the 06' models. What mods can one do to the X sport and premium that can boost the HP and response a bit? Ive found a chip for the XT but not the X. maybe a intake and cat back.

    Ive been scouring the ads for used X prem/sports and XTs but am having a hard time finding the exterior-interior combo, options and auto trans all in one car. Any links to info would be appreciated
    You're not going to be able to easily boost the power on the normally aspirated engine for a few reasons, one of which being that there isn't any easy way to up the power as with the turbo models. With the turbo models there are 3 cats blocking the exhaust track, there's the boost limit, the fuel air-ratio (which runs excessively rich at high boost), and other factors that can be pretty easily changed to up the power, and still retain a good deal of reliability and safety. The thing is though if you are going to put a new intake on it, the gains will be especially minimal due to the restrictive exhaust (opening one side doesn't do much unless the other side is open), if the new intake is sucking air from INSIDE the engine bay, it may give you less power (so some sort of a cold-air-intake may be necessary, but not all of these actually work as advertised), and in the end there isn't a massive amount of restriction already present as there is with the turbo system, which consists of the turbo, intercooler, associated piping, up pipe, downpipe, etc. There could be some gains, but they won't be huge, and it's not like you add one component and it gives you 5hp, then the next gives you another 5hp, and so on, it doesn't add up cumulatively like that.

    With the turbo cars (like a WRX for example), you do a few things to up the power pretty dramatically; One is to get a re-flash, referred to as a "tune" or even the associated stage "map". If you buy a cobb access port, you can do this yourself, and reset it at will, choose from different maps, and so on. This is nice if you're going to work on the car and want a pretty generic and safe "map", but it won't get the most out of your car, that's what a tuner is for. The next big step is to put a turbo-back exhaust on, this opens up the exaust dramatically as well as it allows for faster turbo spool due to the exhaust gas flow. There is an associated "map" with this and you can then run a bit higher boost limit. For every additional inch of boost, you get a pretty serious power increase, it's significant. If you tried to run this setup with the stock exhaust you'd melt the cat and have some pretty serious problems. Going this full route nets around 280hp at the crank, and as much as ~230hp at the wheels (which is roughly what the STI has). You might fall a little short of that target, and that's what the tuner is for if you really want the max possible. In addition to these things, I also have the SPT short-ram intake, which is supposed to net a few more HP, but a big negative is that while idling it does suck in a lot of hot air even with the sheilding (I'm able to monitor temps with the cobb access port). In this sense, I probably should not have taken the stock intake out, as it works pretty darn well and people are able to get 300+whp with it (and other required mods) easily. I'm also running the sti-intercooler, but that actually makes it take a little longer to spool the turbo due to the slightly increased volume it has to fill, it also slightly reduces the max boost, but I think it's a good safety factor considering the intake that I put on. The other thing I had to do was modify my scoop and the associated weather-stripping/sealing stuff that directs the air through the intercooler. With the bigger intercooler a big portion of it was not seeing any air directed over it, so I had to modify it to keep doing it's job with the bigger intercooler. A big point here though is that I've put on a few extra things, and I haven't gotten a "tune" for them yet, so with that intercooler and intake I'm probably seeing very minimal gains, because you can't just go putting stuff on the car and expecting it to give you more HP. The car's computer doesn't work like that. So that's one more reason that you can't just go bolting on stuff and expecting gains. The cool thing about the access port flash is that it does the stuff like ups the boost target, changes the mixture slightly, and so on. It's not cheap, but if you're going to change maps you'd have to shell out about $300 every time for a tune by a tuner.

    The above is a good example of why you can get some pretty serious HP gains with the turbo car, unfortunately not much of that pertains to the normally aspirated car. You could get some gains by going the bigger exahust (without cats) route and intake, and to really take advantage of it you'd need some sort of a reflash/tune, but your gains probably won't be very big at all in the end. In other words, you'd shell out an excessive amount of money for minimal improvements, compared to the turbo car you still shell out a good deal of money, but you go from 230hp to 280 or so at the crank, that's huge.

    You're definitely going to have a hard time finding auto tranny forester XTs, the auto tranny makes them quite a bit slower as it shifts before the turbo spools up much, and people are buying these cars because their higher performance, and the manual will help to take advantage of that. Still, I'm sure they exist. Another side of this is that the subaru manual transmissions aren't all that great. I've driven manuals all my life and I must say that they don't have a lot of the refinement and features found in other vehicles. My wrx has a straight-cut reverse gear with no synchro, the first gear on these older WRXs has never been the easiest to get into due to the design of the trans, and the synchros for first and 2nd are simply not that great overall. It works, I have no problems with it, but honestly it's not the easiest to drive smoothly and not as refined as others.

    We had a legacy outback ll bean with the 3.0 H6, that was one smooth engine and one heck of a nice car all around.
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  13. #13
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    The auto is 60-40 while the manual is 50-50. I have an auto Forester (non-Turbo) and live in Colorado. While the AWD is superior to FWD, RWD, and most other versions of AWD, keep in mind you will need good tires when traversing icy stuff. AWD is no substitute for good snow tires while taking turns or slamming on the brakes. With both, the car is transformed into a grippy Squid on ice.

    I go through some really steep and rough roads to get to trailheads sometimes. I sticl it in first and crawl along. I do wish I had a bit more torque and HP (and wheelwell/strut clearance) because I would really like to fit some bigger tires that are a bit more capable.
    I tried some heavier tires (9 lbs heavier each) and it sapped the car of power so I switched back.

    Overall, the Outback (my riding buddy has one) and the Forester are great cars with pretty decent clearance. A Camry behind me on one road had to turn back since he kept hitting his undercarriage and bumper. Getting reguar car mileage is a huge plus too. I just switched out from a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder with a slightly modded suspension and a Honda Accord. I''d do it all over again. I do think I may put a thicker swaybar on eventually. Great vehicles!

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    I have a MY2003 model Outback 2.5 limited manual and live in Australia. The limited model over here is the one with leather interior and dual sunroofs. My wife complains about the fuel consumption but is happy with everything else about the car. Around town we use 9 litres per 100km and on a trip around 8. To help you convert 100km is 62 miles and I think a US gallon is 3.8litres (compared to 4.5 for a UK gallon) which means 26miles per US gallon in town and 29.5 on a trip.

    The problem is my car weighs 1415kg and our previous fairly old car only 1152kg however given the choice I think I would rather use more petrol and drive the Subaru as it is more comfortable and feels a lots safer and stronger.

    Mine is the 2.5litre manual that has dual range and I use the dual range a lot - it makes driving very easy when on dirt or towing. I especially like reversing a trailer in low range as it make it easier to control. I have only ever driven automatic hire cars but don't really like to drive autos and perfer a manual and am very happy with the dual range manual on the Subaru. While the H6 3 litre version has a slightly nicer interior it is only available as an auto. I read a comparision and the 2.5 manual did better in the towing/off road tests due to the low range gearbox and also used a fair bit less petrol.

    The forestor is higher but not anywhere near as long. The forestor often wins AWD competitions in Australia however the only thing it does better than the Outback is going down a steep hill and then back up again where the longer overhang of the outback bottoms out on the test track most magazines use.

    What I do like about the outback is that with the split seat halfdown I can fit my bike in without taking the wheels off. That means if for some reason my wife and son are going out after work I can ride my bike to work and then they can pick me up. I put the bike in the car and then we can drive home together afterwards. I think I might have to take both wheels off to get it in a forestor as it is a fair bit shorter.

    Also it means if three of us are going for a ride somewhere I can put two bikes on my bike rack and one in the back and still have three seats for people. My rack only carries two bikes however I guess it also means you could have one in the back and two on the roof and not need a rack at all.

    Overall I think it is a very safe car and my only complaint is that it does use a bit more fuel than my old car and is a bit more expensive to service but I think that is more due to being a newer and heavier car. Look at any model new car and compare it weight to the same car 10 years ago and I expect it will be 10 to 20% heavier. My other toy/fun car is a 1989 MX5 (Miata) that only weighs 955kg compared to 1115kg for the current model.
    Last edited by chris-crisis; 12-29-2007 at 05:39 PM.

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    i have a 99 otuback 5 speed, with Nokian Hakkipellitis.

    I have had drifted snow half way up the doors and it just kept on going.

    The bad news is if you get it stuck you are a real gomer,and everyone will know it.

  16. #16
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    I don't own a Subie, but will probably have one eventually. I can only imagine how capable they are, as I've done some crazy things with other passenger cars I've owned. I drove a 1991 Dodge Spirit for a few years (before I passed it on to my younger sister) and beat the snot out of that car.

    I tied a downed tree to the hitch to pull it off of a 2-track road in the MI forests.
    I plowed through swamped dirt roads (the sort of stuff you see on Jeep commercials).
    I drove it on remote mtn 2-tracks in UT labeled for high clearance vehicles only WITHOUT losing my oil pan.
    I put the car up on 2 wheels while crossing a washed out but dry desert road in UT.

    If I could do those things in that car, I'm sure I could do those very same things in an Outback with more margin for error.

    Right now, though...I've got a Jeep, so I'm not worried about getting stranded.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01Forester
    Why is the AWD on the manuals inferior to the auto? On my Forester with a 5 speed, the AWD is 50/50 front/back by default whereas its 90/10 for the autos. I would think 50/50 is superior to 90/10.
    Maybe "inferior" was the wrong word to use. It's a relatively simple reactive mechanical system that doesn't offer any bells and whistles, but offers what can be considered direct drive / direct power transfer to the wheels, which is what 5-speed drivers usually want. It won't transfer power until after some sort of slippage occurs.

    The transmissions used in the automatics feature an "predictive" power split (Subaru is not specific on this ratio, 55/45 is commonly referenced, and I've heard 90/10 thrown out there, too). The more advanced system directs power to the rear wheels under acceleration, to the front under braking, and to the outer wheels in a turn.

    In theory, this electronic system should get the power to the right wheel before it needs it.

    It would be interesting to see some test scenarios from the two videos I posted with a Legacy auto vs. a Legacy manual.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMH
    I searched and didn't see anything that answered my question, sorry if this is a common thread.

    So... our Passat wagon has been a brilliant car, but it's time to get something that can better handle the rigors of unpaved Utah byways. The Subaru Outback seems to be the official state car here and I am almost sold, but just what are they capable of? Gas mileage and highway handling are important, but are probably secondary to me vs. off road capacity.

    I really don't want a truck. But I would also like to be able to drive places that would send a normal car/suv home.

    Are there any common mods to make them more Mt Dew Xtreme?

    Thanks in advance,

    JMH
    I recently had the chance to drive the 08 Outback, 08 Forester, and my 07 Impreza for a couple days each. I think they would be okay for some light-duty off-roading, but the ground clearance of the Outback and Forester would definitely be more appropriate to those duties.
    Too, the Subarus are rated better in reliability than the VW by a long shot.
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  19. #19
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    I have a Legacy GT wagon and its been alot of fun. My only complaint are the dead spots in acceleration. This is with the automatic. I've heard they have improved it in the latest generation. If you want to have fun get it with the 5 speed. I live in an area that gets lots of snow in the winter and I have never had problems getting anywhere. Hell its better than most 4x4's even with the minimal ground clearance. It will be weird selling it this spring. Want something a little more powerful.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt 24 solo
    I have a Legacy GT... It will be weird selling it this spring. Want something a little more powerful.
    Legacy GT turbo diesel? I can't wait to try one. I hope they bring back the Legacy wagons by '09.
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  21. #21
    jrm
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    Thanks for the reply..

    Ive done a bit of research regarding the various models and mods. The subaruforester.com forum is a great place. I think waiting to find a 2006 XT is the right way to go. Also after reading about the Cobb accessport it sure seems like the way to go. Also there are some sic forester videos on youtube.. dang..

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