CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Outback Acceleration?

After EXHAUSTIVE (and I DO mean exhaustive) research I finally settled on a Subaru Outback (2006-2009) but today I test drove an '08 and the pick-up was awful (scary awful) when I merged onto the highway. I later found out that there is a leak in the transmission line. Could that be the reason for the slow acceleration or is that par for the course for the 4 cylinder? If so, I will look for the 3.0. Or maybe a Legacy?

Any feedback is most welcome!

First thing to do is test one without a problem. I find my son’s Forester with the 4 to be fine, not fast, but no problem on merging, etc. Legacy with the 4 would be nearly identical to an Outback. The 3.0 in either will be faster, of course. What kind of car are you coming out of? That can affect expectations…

I think that you should just find another one to drive.

In order to say whether or not a transmission fluid leak had anything to do with it you’d have to give and EXHAUSTIVE description of exactly what was going on when you were trying to accelerate. If the leak caused the transmission to get low, then the transmission might have been slipping - i.e. you press the gas, the engine revs up really high, but little power goes to the wheels. If that is the case then do not buy that car since the transmission was just smoked.

On the other hand, a very small leak, like a seepage may not have interfered with transmission function at all. In that case you’re looking at a pretty large chunk of metal for a 4 cylinder to haul around.

Any car that has a mechanical issue (in this case, a leaky transmission), should be ruled out as an indication of how a group of cars drive.

Find yourself another Outback and drive it.
Heck, test drive a NEW Outback to know how they are SUPPOSED to drive.

Then you can compare the used ones to the new one, and see which one is the best.

Also, have you considered test driving the manual version?
They perform better than the automatics in acceleration.

BC.

Thanks for the responses. To answer the question of what car I am coming from–I had a 98 Volvo S90 that recently kicked the bucket so I have been driving my son’s 2007 Ford Fusion (2.3 liter engine). At first the Fusion seemed to lack pick-up compared to the Volvo (naturally) but the Subie was much worse.

I drive an older Subaru Lethargy (excuse me, Legacy), and I’m used to it’s leisurely acceleration. It will go if you floor it, but there’s not much otherwise.

My girlfriend drives an '07 Forester (same drive train as the Outback), and her car accelerates much more quickly than mine. I don’t think it’s slow at all.

I think the transmission problem on the car you test drove may have contributed to the problem. I suggest driving an Outback with no known problems and see how it feels.

If it’s not fast enough the 6-cylinder Outback should suit your needs, or any Subaru with the turbo-charged engine. Can you say WRX?

I rented a Legacy (2.5 L 4 cyl.) once to drive from Pittsburgh PA. to Florence KY. plus a lot of driving between Florence and Lexington during the weekend. I put about 1,100 miles on that car, and while no Corvette, I didn’t think it was THAT bad. I’d try another Outback and see how it is. The one I rented had good power on the interstate. In KY, the speed limit was 70, and that Subie could go from 60 to 80 pretty briskly when I needed to pass, and I has the auto tranny in manual mode so it wouldn’t downshift when doing so (I don’t know why, but those needless down shifts annoy me).

The Outback with 2.5L and automatic is sluggish compared to its modern peers. They make a cylinder version called H6 or the nice turbo model called the XT in the 2006-2009. The XT is the polar opposite with extraordinary amount of power from a turbo. The H6(6cylinder) is a nice compromise.

Both the H6 and XT also give you access to a really nice 5 speed automatic instead of the antiquated 4speed model that is partly responsible to robbing the car of power.

By all means, try another similar Subaru…I’d probably give the '08 you test drove a thumbs down because of potential transmission problems down the road. That said, the 2.5 litre engine is “peaky”. Not much torque at low RPMs but more than adequate above 4K.