Uncomfortable car seats in new subaru outback


The best test drive I ever took was in a 1990 Ford Aerostar extended with the Eddie Bauer trim back in 1991. A person in our neighborhood had a used car agency and this Aerostar was on his lot. My wife wanted a minivan, but I wasn’t so sure that I did. We had arranged to rent an Aerostar from the Ford dealership for a 700 mile trip we were planning to take so I could decide if the Aerostar minivan was what we really wanted. When I told my neighbor who had the lot that I would decide about his minivan after we returned from our trip in the rental, he handed me the telephone and said, “Cancel your rental and take mine. I won’t change you a dime for its use and there is no problem if you don’t like it”. We did exactly that, took our vacation trip in his minivan and bought the Aerostar when we got back home. It was one of the most enjoyable vacation trips we ever took. I have had minivans since 1991and I like sitting up. I just returned home an hour ago after driving 370 miles from a trip to see our son and his family in our present minivan, a 2011 Toyota Sienna. I am 75 years old and don’t feel a bit tired after the trip. I have an evening’s worth of work I need to tackle. We don’t even own a regular car any more. Our other vehicle is a 2003 Toyota 4Runner. It is also very comfortable for us on long trips. For me, the most important things in a vehicle are comfortable seats and driving position.


Find a Recaro seat dealer, visit the show room and seat in several seats. The Style XL Topline is great. Unfortunately auto manufacturers have to design a car seat bottom to fit someone 5 ft. tall who may have upper legs that are short. That won’t work for someone much taller. They could solve it with thy extensions. Lumbar adjustment is another problem due to the varying lengths of backs. Interesting that Subaru has optional seats in some models around the world but not the US. Check out the option seats in a Cadillac CTSV and Mustang. They give customers a choice.


My wife and I had very similar experience when doing test drive of Outback 2017 6. I wonder if only small percentage of people has the issue or people just tolerate not so good seats. I’m driving VW Jetta Wagon TDI 2004 and seats are comfortable for my wife and I. I feel that 13 years later the seats should be at least as good in a new >40k car :slight_smile: .


There have been a number of seat complaints with the Subbie here that seem to be noticed after driving the car a little bit. Just something that should be in CR as a warning to buyers.


Thanks for your comment. I think I agree that some people just tolerate stuff. Fast forward now, we ended up buying the 2017 Outback, “Premium” package, at first reluctantly, as it included leather seats (which I am not a fan of but the salesman asked us to try to see if it felt any better, which it did) and a sun roof (which we don’t use at all), but did get the upgraded sound system (which I love) and the upgrade options for the electronics package, which we both like. Contrary to what you might expect, the leather seats were different! Don’t know why. They were definitely more comfortable. Looking at them, except for the leather, they appear the same. Since we both felt they were more comfortable, and we wanted to take advantage of the extra options available - and we loved the car overall - we went for it. We have gotten used to it very well and it’s quite comfortable. PS: a few weeks after we got it, I complained that the left-side lane drift sensor seemed to be insensitive versus the right side. So I brought it in and they gave me a loaner - very similar to the one we were looking at originally, with the cloth seats. Ugh! Absolutely awful~~! I noticed it right away, as soon as I sat down, even though I hadn’t really thought about it before I got in. So there IS something to those cloth seats! Anyway, thought you might be curious “whatever did they decide to do…”


It’s not contrary to what I expect or what I know from experience.
While car makers don’t publicize it, when one opts for leather upholstery, the seat structure is almost always more…robust…more comfortable…and more durable. Similarly, while they don’t publicize this reality, opting for a more “luxe” model usually yields more sound-deadening insulation, which makes for a much better driving/riding experience.

In my younger years, I scrimped and saved as much as I could, and the result is that now, when I order a vehicle, I can opt for almost every upgrade/option, and that expenditure definitely yields a lot of pleasure for me.

My 2011 Outback 3.6R Limited has really good acceleration, very comfortable heated leather seats, and an excellent audio system that is integrated with its Bluetooth capability, its onboard GPS, and its backup camera. The result is a seamless integration of those capabilities, which I can access (or not!) while riding in a very quiet, fairly fast, good handling, and very comfortable vehicle.

If I had just chosen the base model, NONE of those advantages would be present. Even the brakes were upgraded in this model.


Thank you Gary! Not just curious, but VERY-VERY curious.
The plan is to go to a dealership and sit in the car for half an hour to
see if the seats could be adjusted to tolerable position.

I’ve checked for aftermarket seats that are probably state of art. I have
to go to Ontario from Alberta to try them out in a store. And top one
costs around $3000US.
So my mortgage told me I don’t really want those.


Good to know! Thanks for the insight!


I am so glad I am not the only one to have encountered the uncomfortable Subaru seats saga, and like others I wish I had found this site before I started looking at buying another Subbie. This appears to be an international “issue” as I am writing from Australia, but would also seem to be a modern problem - maybe too many ergonomic ivory towers and not enough sitting and driving long distances!!
My first Subaru was the 1985 DL wagon: I loved it, and it was really comfy to drive except there was no power steering back then so I developed good arm muscles driving into parking spaces at shopping centres. Then I had a number of company cars (not Subbies) and finally got my next Subaru: a 2002 Outback. Although not a lux or limited model, it had some features that the GM/ Holden and Mitsubishi company cars didn’t have like variable speed wipers, 2 front cup holders (!) and fabulously comfy seats, especially for the driver. Other family members have various ages of Impreza, Forester, Outback, Tribeca and Impreza XV and no mention of uncomfortable seats, just the great Subaru reliability and longevity. So it was a HUGE surprise that I would need to spend a long time doing test drives when it recently came for me to consider getting a younger car (Outback now having done 333,000km). I was a little puzzled at not being able to get comfy in the 2011 Forester, mainly because the headrest pushed my head too far forward. Yes, I wear my hair in a pony-tail and sometimes a bun. The newer model Outback I tried didn’t have the features I was after and was asking too much as a used car. I only tried a short drive in the Impreza, liked the Bluetooth connectivity, legroom in the back for my teenage boys, smaller engine with hopefully better fuel economy, and bought the car. I have been uncomfortable ever since…:disappointed:
Now it seems my only hope is that before I sell my old Outback, that I can swap the front seats over and keep my great Outback seats and pass on the hard, difficult-to-adjust Impreza seats to someone else. Thanks for all the great advice and insights. Hopefully Subaru gets the message and goes back to a more comfortable time for the drivers who are looking for what Subaru does best: driving long distances for a long car life.


If your swapping them into a 2011 Forrester, that might work. It probably will not work on any Subaru MY 2015 or newer, at least if US spec because of the seat sensor in the passenger seat is different.


Yep, this has been an on-going issue. Here at least.


I guess I am missing something here. And no I am not going to wade through 51 posts from 2014.

It seems to easy - Me don’t like seats in vehicle-me go look at something else. Problem solved.


This has been on-going. The problem is just sitting in it doesn’t cause a problem until they take a long drive for several hours and the seats become unbearable. That’s why people are fine with them in the show room or on a test drive, but not on a trip.


I’ve had a look at the brackets in both cars (2002 Outback and 2011
Impreza) and it looks like it might work. Not many places in Australia
where it’s cold enough to need seat-warmers, so I don’t have to worry about
those connections from/ to either car. The brackets that are next to the
center console might be tricky, but I’m hoping not. This is on today’s
To-Do list, so I’ll let the community know how it went…



@ingridb.cmc Why in the world are you putting that much personal information on an open web site?

@cdaquila Carolyn, Edit time ?


@ingridb.cmc I deleted the contact info. @VOLVO_V70, easy there. she replied by email so it included her automatic signature. Thank you.


Thanks for spotting my unwitting mistakes in responding by email instead of “reply” through the website, and for fixing it all up.
Before I got stuck into trying to swap the seats from Outback to Impreza I phoned my Subbie specialist mechanic who said it would NOT work: the floor pans are different, and I don’t have the expertise or time to try and make different brackets etc. My guy also said that there could be a potential problem with airbags regulations here so it was not worth the effort or potential trouble.
His suggestion was either WRX seats from the same year, or even XV seats. I am going to see if I can test drive either of these cars before ordering new (2nd hand) seats for my Impreza. Thanks again for your help, thanks @VOLVO_V70 for spotting my mistakes and asking for the edit.


Hey folks.
The extended test drive would have been such a good idea. Sorry I found this board AFTER I found my problem. But thanks for all the great comments. 5 days (135 miles) into our ownership of our 2017 Outback, I dropped it back at the dealer noting to them the defective lombar support. I said fix it or I’m returning the car. At its lowest setting, it pushes me out of the seat - to the point that I roll out of my seated position while making a low speed L or R turn. So this is actually a SAFETY ISSUE. I can fit a loaf of bread between my shoulders and the back of the seat. Can’t imagine heading up a mountain road to ski and being tossed around for hours. Very disappointed in the dealership. Not at all interested in exploring the issue in any detail or contacting HQ for a solution - even though I gave them the car for 48 hours. So I suggested they get into the 600 page on-line repair manual and check out how to repair a defective lumbar support and go from there. Bad on Subaru for ignoring years of the comments like the ones found on his site. A strongly worded letter to them is my next step. I’ll update after I help my dealership solve this. They need all the help they can get.


Never heard of returning a car for the lumbar support. At any rate it should just be valve that opens to let the air out so either the switch or the valve. I personally dislike the lumbar supports and never use them. The seats though are a different matter and not much to do about just uncomfortable seats.


Did you test drive the car before you bought it?