2008 Subaru Outback – First Impressions

Expert Reviews Subaru

2008 Subaru Outback

By Gary Chan

Pros and Cons

  • Solid structure
  • Quiet at cruising speed
  • Generous amount of storage
  • Feels heavy
  • Excessive engine noise when floored


Looking for an AWD wagon and the price tag of Audi A3 or Volvo wagon is a little steep for your pockets? Now that the Outback has been around for 14 years, its styling is toned down making it a viable option in this limited field. It’s got lots of storage, good historical reliability (at least since 2004), and good gas mileage. Try it, you might like it.


I suspect some of the reason for the quietness of the cabin is due to the amount of steel and/or insulation used throughout the car. The hood is one of the heaviest hoods I’ve ever lifted, and all doors close with authority. Overall, the structure and vehicle assembly quality is impressive.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

Would I take this car on a long weekend trip or across the country? Absolutely. With comfortable and adjustable seats, it’s easy to find a good driver’s position for the long haul. The seats are not sports seats, but the soft material does its job to prevent you from sliding around. Control placement and labeling is very well done and non-cluttered. Going to several triathlons a year (and bringing my gear), two features stood out. One was the full rubber mat in the trunk. I can throw my wet and dirty gear on it, and hose it off later when I returned home. Secondly, the adjustable roof rack was very nice. I have a Thule roof box, and getting that to work on some racks requires tools and patience. The Subaru cross members slid easily along the rails.

2008 Subaru Outback - interior cabin 2008 Subaru Outback - rear cargo area


This is a wagon so I didn’t expect too much with regards to performance handling, but the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system surprised me with great dynamics during aggressive turns. The engine, when pressed, is very loud breaking the calmness of the interior. Even with the added noise, the Subie did accelerate with aplomb. Ninety miles-per-hour came up fast. Once there, I backed off the throttle, and the cabin quieted down with just a hint of wind noise. One quibble is the “manual mode”: you push forward to go up a gear … I’m used to flicking the gear levers backward to up shift.


Subaru is rounding off its edges now, and the previous generation Outback’s character is lost. It’s become an amorphous car that blends in with every other car … great if you’re speeding, but not if you desire character in your car. I think Subaru designers should have left the rear roofline squared-off. This would have produced more interior space and maintained the character of the previous generations. The extended rear bumper is a nice touch for seating or standing … more hatches need this as a standard feature. The integrated projector headlight assembly is well integrated into the front fascia; stare at them long enough and you’d swear they’re looking back at you. The lower door panel cladding is too much, and looks very much like an afterthought.

2008 Subaru Outback 2008 Subaru Outback


For $24.6k, you’ve got lots of options:

  • The all new 2008 Saturn Vue XR ($24.9K or the Vue XE starting at $21.4K)
  • Honda CRV 4-WD EX or 2WD EX-L
  • Toyota RAV4 Limited
  • Nissan Rogue ($21,870 AWD)

All of the other options have more character than the Subie. I think you could spend a little less and still get most of the features of the Outback.

2008 Subaru Outback


It’s a solidly built car that is very quiet and versatile. Lake Tahoe, Monterey, Stinson Beach, or the Wildflower Triathlon, … this car will get you and all your gear to your destinations regardless of the conditions. Compared to the competition, the lower height of the rear hatch and the lower roofline will make accessing your gear an easier task. Check it out, and you may fall in love with the Outback.

















View all of the Subaru Outback pictures in the photo gallery

Want another expert opinion? Read Tony’s review of the Outback HERE

Read what other consumers are saying about the Subaru Outback or submit your own review

Official site for information on Subaru cars, sports sedans, and sport utility vehicles: www.subaru.com

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  • Derek says:

    Is a hitch rack an option for you?

    SportRack, Kuat, Thule, and Yakima all offer bike racks that attach to a rear hitch mount. I’m closely tied to the bicycling community through my relations with our sister sites RoadBikeReview.com and mtbr.com. Outbacks are very popular throughout the cycling community and nobody has ever had an issue with carrying their bikes.

  • dara ohuiginn says:

    the roof rack is very poor apparently. It will not work with Thule or Yakima. For a vehicle where it would be normal to put a couple of bikes on top and a carrier box it just does not work.
    For now anyone wanting a vehicle capable of carrying stuff on teh roof should probably look at another vehicle. I have contacted Subaru and am trying to get them to work with me on a solution.

  • Michel Gregoire says:

    I love my Outback! Only negative comment is with the roof-line spoiler which interferes with the ski box when opening the hatch. Subaru designers could have prevented this problem by extending the roof rack forward.

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