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Subaru Outback or Acura TSX Wagon?

We’ve outgrown our 2002 Civic and waited for the TSX wagon to finally arrive. But after the recent snow storms in the Midwest, I’m reconsidering AWD and the Outback. The pro/cons for each seem to cancel each other out.

This vehicle will be our only car since we’re in the city. Also will be hauling 2 little kids and a dog occasionally. Biggest drawback for the Outback is it’s styling (liked the old style much better!). Biggest drawback for TSX wagon is premium gas and no AWD, though I like that it’s pretty efficient. And I LOVE how the TSX looks. Thoughts welcome.

The biggest drawback with the Outback is that most places will insist you buy 4 tires should 1 get damaged. The AWD system on Subarus is quite sophisticated and quite picky about tire circumference; hence the reason to keep all 4 the same size/tread

I agree specifically to what you say, but only up to a point in general. I must add that AWD requires no more tire maintenance than should be practiced on any vehicle. Rotate and keep tires inflated to recommended pressures. Tires tend to last longer on all the awd cars I’ve owned or aware of with friends vs fwd with their even power distribution properties.

The awd systems of Toyotas, Hondas and Subarus in general are more reliable than on average, the fwd systems on other cars. The added maintenance is minimal with slight loss of economy and initial expense being the only significant difference. In the new Legacy, that’s minimal. If you owned a Ford, Chrysler or GMC AWD, you could have a reliability problem attitude. Their systems perform very well and I’m sure they will catch up soon in reliability. But not as yet.

BTW, if it were true that the “complicated” awd systems of today were less reliable, we’d still be lamenting the loss of the much the less complicated Yugo and Fiat Strata. Reliability has more to do with execution and engineering then the number of parts. If you can afford the whim of trading “new” cars, fear not; go for it. Just try out a few other equal reliable makes than just Subarus.

I never said anything about reliability one way or the other. I merely pointed out, as we often get questions regarding the topic, that most tire shops will tell you to buy 4 new tires when 1 goes bad. It’s a liability issue with the shops as they could wind up paying for a new center diff should they put mismatched tires on and it damages the system.
It’s also something they won’t tell you about when they fawn over how great their AWD system is when they sell their cars.

How often does it snow in your location? Six months out of the year? Four months? Three months?

Seven years ago I decided I needed an AWD Subaru because it snows, sometimes, where I live, so I bought a Legacy wagon. The Legacy does very well in snow, as long as it’s equipped with winter tires. It also costs significantly more to maintain than my other car, which is an Acura.

My Acura, which does not require premium gas, also does well in snow, as long as it’s equipped with winter tires.

See the point?

Winter tires.

I, too, am interested in the TSX wagon (except for the premium fuel requirement), and unhappy with the new styling on the Subaru.

If it were my money I’d find a used car, probably neither of the above, but if you have to buy new, I suggest the Acura.

Make a set of winter tires (four, not two) part of the deal, and you’ll be good to go.

Unless you live where it snows A LOT. Then ignore the looks and buy the Subaru.

But you’ll still need a set of winter tires.

Tires make all the difference when snow is involved.

I understand and was not directing comments after “I must add” to you and your comment which was a good observation I fully agree with. They were just a few reliability issues (“thoughts welcome”) that OP might consider when comparing AWD to FWD in the purchase of a new car.

You are exactly right about the mismatched tire issue. Though people have for years lived with mixing tread design I would never think of recommending it either in any fwd, rwd, awd or 4wd cars but more for control issues.

In awd cars, the difference in tread design has never approached the difference in tire pressure, natural tread wear and load from front to rear which in and of itself would cause a greater difference in rotational diameter. The awd systems are in general, very sturdy and practically impervious to these small variations. Having said that, you are absolutely right that it is a CYA issue if one fails and blame is placed upon “faulty” tire recommendations by a tire shop.

The biggest cause of failure in awd systems is the same as in any 4wd systems. It’s using the car beyond manual recommendation in ways that a fwd car would never be used or failure to do the minimal maintenance required.

Example; I almost destroyed our Subaru’s drive shaft by inches, going through 12 inches of 6" minus spread gravel. It was one of my many stupid moves in our car and put a dent in the floor board inches from the shaft; something you would never attempt in a fwd car.
Neighbor’s son uses his mother’s Subaru to pull his dad’s 3/4 ton plow truck out of a ditch with tow line tied to the front suspension, the only available point…I could go on how we beat on these things…

OP here. I would love to get a used late-model wagon, but most seem to be around $25k anyway. Any recos? Just need to put 2 child seats and squeeze a small adult in between them on occasion. We’re in the Chicago area so it does snow quite a bit, but roads are somewhat manageable since they’re (usually) plowed. Thanks for note about winter tires too - I will also miss the manual on our civic!

You should be able to find a used Mazda6 wagon, 2006 or so, for under $8000.

One thing that some of us don’t do enough in their decision to buy a new or used car with or without AWD, is to try out 2wd cars with traction control IN SNOW. You may not have AWD in you TSX wagon, but assuming it has traction control, you have essentially an electronic limited slip on the set of drive wheels. With winter tires, your apprehension may be for not and the TSX should be very good in the conditions you’re likely to face. Run out and drive a demo in snow before you decide you may need an awd car. Many upper end later model used cars may have this feature too.