2008 Subaru Outback

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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2008 Subaru Outback. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • AWD operation
  • Seat comfort
  • Automatic-transmission operation
  • Ground clearance

The Bad

  • Ride comfort on rough surfaces
  • Limited offroad capability
  • No low-range gearing
  • Interior not as luxurious as some competitors

Notable Features of the 2008 Subaru Outback

  • Slightly modified front styling
  • Standard AWD
  • Sedan or wagon body styles
  • Three available engines

2008 Subaru Outback Road Test

Kelsey Mays
The Subaru Outback gets a little better for 2008, in part because it's been cleanly separated from its Legacy sibling: Now, the Outback is only a wagon, the Legacy is only a sedan. The Outback is as competent as any Subaru product of late, but it hasn't shaken the automaker's characteristic rough edges.

Some may appreciate these Subaru-isms, which give the car a distinct feeling and, at the very least, spare it the anonymity that plagues too many midsize cars. Others will feel the opposite: that the quirks are too hard to accept and, with a few compromises, something more conventional can meet their needs.

The Basics
The Outback gets a few styling changes for 2008, most notably a new bumper and a restyled grille. Most people will be hard-pressed to tell the two apart, as the differences — both outside and in — are relatively minor.

All Outbacks offer either a four- or six-cylinder engine. Four-cylinder trim levels include the base, 2.5i and the 2.5i L.L.Bean Edition, which is the car I tested. The 2.5 XT Limited comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder. Topping things off is the Outback 3.0 R L.L.Bean Edition, which uses a six-cylinder engine.

Driving
Engine output ranges from 170 horsepower in the base four-cylinder to 245 hp with the six-cylinder. Manual or automatic transmissions are available for the regular and turbocharged four-cylinders.

Outback Engines
Four-cylinderTurbocharged four-cylinderSix-cylinder
AvailabilityBase, 2.5i, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i L....

The Subaru Outback gets a little better for 2008, in part because it's been cleanly separated from its Legacy sibling: Now, the Outback is only a wagon, the Legacy is only a sedan. The Outback is as competent as any Subaru product of late, but it hasn't shaken the automaker's characteristic rough edges.

Some may appreciate these Subaru-isms, which give the car a distinct feeling and, at the very least, spare it the anonymity that plagues too many midsize cars. Others will feel the opposite: that the quirks are too hard to accept and, with a few compromises, something more conventional can meet their needs.

The Basics
The Outback gets a few styling changes for 2008, most notably a new bumper and a restyled grille. Most people will be hard-pressed to tell the two apart, as the differences — both outside and in — are relatively minor.

All Outbacks offer either a four- or six-cylinder engine. Four-cylinder trim levels include the base, 2.5i and the 2.5i L.L.Bean Edition, which is the car I tested. The 2.5 XT Limited comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder. Topping things off is the Outback 3.0 R L.L.Bean Edition, which uses a six-cylinder engine.

Driving
Engine output ranges from 170 horsepower in the base four-cylinder to 245 hp with the six-cylinder. Manual or automatic transmissions are available for the regular and turbocharged four-cylinders.

Outback Engines
Four-cylinderTurbocharged four-cylinderSix-cylinder
AvailabilityBase, 2.5i, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i L.L.Bean2.5 XT Limited3.0 R L.L.Bean
Size2.5-liter2.5-liter3.0-liter
Horsepower (@ rpm)170 @ 6,000243 @ 6,000245 @ 6,600
Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm)170 @ 4,400241 @ 3,600215 @ 4,200
Transmission choices5-speed manual; 4-speed auto5-speed manual; 5-speed auto5-speed auto
Recommended gasolineRegular (87 octane)Premium (91 octane)Premium (91 octane)
EPA-est. gas mileage (city/hwy., mpg)19/26 (man.); 20/26 (auto)18/24 (man. or auto*)17/24 (auto*)
Source: Manufacturer
*Estimate for SI-Drive default Sport mode; Intelligent mode is claimed to improve mileage by up to 10 percent.

With the automatic, the base four-cylinder delivers modest power. There's enough oomph for grocery-getting and other errands, but the engine quickly gets winded when pushed hard. The transmission could use a fifth gear; in many cases you can press the gas pedal halfway down without inducing a downshift, which doesn't help your passing confidence. A Sport mode holds gears longer and allows the engine to wring out a bit more power under hard acceleration, but I couldn't discern any quicker downshifting response, which is something this drivetrain sorely needs.

The six-cylinder and turbocharged four-cylinder cars with the automatic transmission offer a Subaru Intelligent Drive system, which was available last year only with the turbo engine. SI-Drive maps out throttle response between three separate settings: Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp. The latter two accelerate more aggressively, while Intelligent Mode relaxes pedal response for a 10 percent improvement in overall gas mileage, Subaru says.

The Inside
As midsize cars go, the Outback's five-seat cabin feels intimate. It seems like there's a lot of space-saving going on: The window controls are tightly wedged below the door handles, and the center console also serves as the place to plug in your electronics. The power driver's seat has limited range; I'm 6 feet tall, and with the optional dual-pane moonroof, I needed to lower my seat all the way for adequate headroom.

Total passenger volume ranges from 93 to 98 cubic feet, depending on whether you have a moonroof. As far as space for five occupants goes, sedans like the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima offer slightly more.

The dashboard is attractive, with handsome two-tone materials and a nicely textured steering wheel. I only wish the rest of the cabin measured up. The heated seat controls have a rickety feel, and the doors lack window frames, so they don't shut with as much heft as I've come to expect in a midsize car. They also let in a significant amount of wind noise on the highway. Many other cars with frameless windows — mostly coupes — address road noise by powering the glass up an extra quarter-inch after the door has been shut, so it fits snug with the door seal. The Outback's windows do not. They don't all completely lower, either: The rear windows stop three-fourths of the way down at a crooked angle.

Safety
As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the Outback. Standard equipment includes four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows. An electronic stability system is optional.

Outback in the Market
If the Outback has something going for it, it's durability. The car's modest offroad credentials are rare among wagons, and the current generation, introduced for 2005, has returned impressive reliability ratings so far. It also holds a unique value proposition: There are precious few all-wheel-drive wagons that cost $25,000.

Play with the criteria a bit, however, and the Outback's isolation breaks down. SUVs have the offroad talents, two-wheel-drive wagons have the cargo room, and midsize sedans have the passenger space — and all three can be had for a similar price. With so many alternatives just a few steps away, I'm not sure the Outback can still rely on its differences to keep buyers coming.

Digging Deeper
Apart from the sheet metal updates, the Outback hasn't changed much from last year. For more thoughts on this model, check out Joe Wiesenfelder's review of the 2007 model here. He drove the 2.5 XT Limited trim, which is mechanically identical to the 2008 2.5 XT Limited. Joe shares some thoughts on SI-Drive, as well as the Outback's turbocharged performance.

Send Kelsey an email 



Latest 2008 Outback Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.7)
Performance
(4.3)
Interior Design
(4.4)
Comfort
(4.4)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.6)

Latest Reviews

(5.0)

It's a Subaru

by herbert92x from Alexandria, VA on July 15, 2018

This is my second Subie. I am very impressed. New they are a good deal. Used, they are a very good value for the money. Read full review

(5.0)

Faster car than any website review tells

by Chicbaby from Pittsburgh, PA on June 13, 2018

I bought a 2008 Subaru Outback LL Bean last August and I am pleased with the smooth ride and quietness of thewhole operation. What most impressed me was the accelation. I notice that from 0-20 it is a ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2008 Subaru Outback currently has 4 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2008 Subaru Outback Base

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Outback received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker