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Subaru Outback? Or is there a better car

My wife is looking for a new vehicle, and her requirements are:

- AWD or 4WD

- Higher clearance than a normal sedan

- Not a minivan

- Cargo space (so probably a wagon)

- Not a big SUV

- Heated seats

I figure that means, “Subaru Outback”. Are there other options out there? Both of our cars are over 10 years old, so I’m not real familiar with current brands, let alone the models. (She currently drives a 1992 Lexus LS 400, so I guess a leather interior might be necessary, too.)



“Requirements” needs further explanation. If your wife does extensive poor weather driving in the New England snow belt, a Subaru is a very good choice, provided it is maintained by the book!

The Lexus LS 400 is a wonderful car, and replacing it exactly can be expensive. Also almost any SUV will feel primitive ride-wise if you have been used to a Lexus LS 400. Almost any vehicle your wife picks will be noisier and also less comfortable. Hence my hesitation to address her “requirements”. Lexus does make an SUV that’s very civilized.

If you tell us your wife’s exact work and lifestyle and driving habits, we can better recommend the right vehicle.

Thank you for your reply. We are in southwest Virginia which only occasionally gets significant snow, but it is hilly enough that the rear-wheel-drive sedan is not very drivable. She also wants to drive in muddy fields for work (which is really taking a toll on the Lexus.)

She has driven her brother?s Toyota 4Runner and says that it is ?mushy?. However, she understands that whatever she gets will not behave like a Lexus sedan. I have to admit, I like the Lexus RX series, and a three or four year old RX330 might be a good fit.

It will be driven about 9,000 miles per year, with limited commuting, carrying the 4 year old boy, some winter driving, some rough gravel road driving, and occasional 300 mile road trips.

She had a 1991 Toyota Corolla Alltrac Wagon, and loved its quirky styling and ability to drive almost anywhere. If we could get one of those with improved safety features, that would be what she wants.

I don?t feel like I?ve expanded the requirements very much, but she really has very few, but the few that she has are binding constraints: Clearance, AWD, not a minivan, and not a big mushy SUV.


Check out Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV and Hyundai Tuscon/Santa Fe.


Thanks for the additional info. If I was driving in mud I would look for functional over comfort qualities first. The Toyota 4Runner is probably the most competent and rugged off road SUV; it’s the undisputed master of the Australian Outback. If you don’t mind the bulk, the Land Cruiser combines comfort with awsome off-road performnance at a price.

Having said that, the Lexus SUV has the good road clearance and can get through mud, as well as maintaining a dignified ride and creature comforts. But is is “mushy” compared to other SUVs, and will be very expensive to operate, as a number of my friends have found out.

For the price of a Lexus RX that a couple of years old your wife should look at the new Toyota RAV4, a very capable vehicle, and the new Honda CRV, an equally nice machine. Both are hatchback, compact SUVs, and are highly rated. They will cost considerably less to own and operate than any Lexus, which is a good, but expensive vehicle.

Both represent a considerable upgrade from the Corolla Alltrac concept. And considering the mud your wife will be driving in, I would recommend against a Subaru, which excels in snow, but is NOT and offroad capable vehicle.

In the final analysis, one has to drive these vehcles to appreciate them.

I’ll be pleased to help refine your choice.

How about a Volvo XC70 wagon? It’d more comparble to Lexus than the Subaru is, but more expensive to obtain and service.

It’s always a tough choice because few SUVs compete directly with each other. The 4Runner in most models is hardcore off road with previously standard features (climate control, power lumbar, etc) now optional. If you don’t need off road, you don’t need something like a 4Runner. Be careful of “high ground clearance”. It means little in an independently sprung car when fully loaded, as it looses it’s clearance, unlike a solid axle. Re enter the 4Runner and other truck based SUVs if heavy loads and towing capability are needed.

The most roomy, compact SUV is the RAV4 with the CRV a close second. there may be others as big in compact but not as reliable.
The Pilot is a no brainer for all of your needs as it has among the best economy, car like handling and capacity of any large SUV short of a hybrid Hylander.

So…my two recs are RAV4 vs Pilot depending upon how much size you actually need.

Check out a Honda Ridgeline. It has 4WD and a crew cab. A friend drives on and thinks it’s great. Cargo space? The pick-up bed will do nicely. There are caps available if sh wants the bed enclosed.

Subarus are not known for cushy interiors. You can get heated seats, though. And for everything else, no, there is no better car.

But if she wants a luxury car she may want to look elsewhere. I understand Audi has AWD comparable to Subaru. Also the newest Haldex AWD system is supposed to be really good. I know that was in the highest trim level of the Saab 9-3…I’m not sure what other cars have it thus far.

Acura MDX, Lexus RX, Honda CRV, GM Acadia, or the Subaru. Whatever she test drives and really likes.

VW, Audi, Mercedes, and BMW offer wagon versions of their sedans. I’m not sure if the VW offers AWD, but I think it does. But the Subaru is the most rugged and reliable without going over to an SUV.

Consider the AWD Toyota Venza. You can get the 4 cyl or 6 cyl versions with AWD. It is a bit higher off the ground than a sedan, has “wagon” versatility and isn’t too big. I’m not a big fan of Subaru, since you seem to keep cars a long time I think a Toyota Venza would hold up better over the years than a Subaru.

Thanks all, for the thoughtful replies. The LS400 that we have is awesome, and I doubt we’d get rid of it, but between the 4 year old crawling around, and the wife driving in muddy fields, something needs to be added to the stable.

The RAV4 looks like a really goo choice, as does the CRV. The Volvo option is tempting, but sounds expensive. We’re probably not interested in ‘luxury’ until the yard-ape is a little older, so that helps with the choices. And budgetary constraints point towards a RAV4 or a CRV, too.

Thanks again for all of your replies - It’s been a huge help

I know they used to offer AWD in the Passat. Also the Golf R32, but cargo space might be inadequate in that. If you go back to…late 80s, I think, and you’re willing to go to some pretty absurd lengths or wait until it’s 25 years old, there’s also the Golf Country (I think that’s what it was called), an off-road 2nd generation Golf/Rabbit.

Please don’t buy a Volvo, whose uncertain future and poor reliability will make your wife’s life miserable. Going from a Lexus LS 400 to a Volvo is a “Mother Theresa to Jezebel” move.

Subarus are excellent and in general you can’t go wrong; but I’d shop the compact SUVs as “Two tone” mentioned as well and buy by personal preference.

“Subarus are not known for cushy interiors.”

That may well have been true in the past, but it is absolutely not true in regard to the redesigned 2010-11 Outbacks. You really need to look at and drive one of these new models to see how much they have been upgraded in terms of the quality of the interior.

My Limited model has seats that rival my old Volvo in terms of comfort, and the leather is of very nice quality. The 8-speaker, 440 watt Harmon Kardon audio system is integrated with the Navigation system, Bluetooth phone, and back-up camera, thus giving an…elegant…interface on the touchscreen.

The interior sound level (at least in the six cylinder Limited model) is incredibly low, the ride is the most comfortable that I have ever felt in an AWD vehicle, and it even handles quite well. And, the ground clearance, at 8.7 inches, is probably better than that of any other car-based crossover AWD vehicles that you will find.

And, if you are interested in power, the 3.6 liter engine puts a smile on my face every time that I put the pedal to the metal. The amount of power is…generous…to say the least. And yet, I average better than 23 mpg in rural/suburban driving.