Towing with Outback Limited 2.5i, 4 cylinder

20

Asked by Dec 15, 2015 at 11:11 PM about the 2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

Question type: General

Is the 4 cyl rated for 2,700 lbs of towing truly capable of towing 2,100 lbs 5-6
times yearly on 400 mile long trips of continuous driving (2,500 of 12,000 mi.
annually)??  Or will such towing shorten the useful life of a vehicle otherwise
capable of over 200,000 miles??

66 Answers

73,035

That would be a good assumption.

5 of 5 people found this helpful.
20

What would be a "good assumption"??... That I cannot get 200,000 miles towing 2,500 miles a year with EITHER a 4 cyl or 6 cyl??

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

http://techinfo.subaru.com/proxy/110544/pdf/ownerManual/110544_2016_Legacy/MSA5M1603CSTIS101515_12.pdf

6 of 6 people found this helpful.

Yeah I know it says Legacy in the link but Chapter 8 Page 21 -22 covers Outback. From Subaru -- decide after reading that

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
74,095

From what I have read, towing with the CVT can cause transmission issues. If you are going to tow a lot, get a real tow vehicle like a SUV or pickup.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.

Bingo FoR.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.
21,095

Drmuskie, well, with respect for the other responses, I have to disagree on the towing issue and here's why, Subaru has migrated to the CVT transmission in 2015 exclusively since they first introduced it on the 2010 Outback, which is precisely the car I have with the 2.5 Four. And, I've towed my car and teardrop trailer all the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, that's almost 9,000 feet with no problems. My advice is this, if you are towing 2,100 pounds, just be certain not to overload your car. And, if Subaru didn't have confidence in the CVT, they would have never introduced it and continued to advertise the tow capacity of 2,700 pounds. Also, get the CVT transmission fluid changed at recommended intervals, consult your manual or talk with the dealership. Yes, I know people will disagree with me, spare your comments, but, they could have just left the old 5EAT transmission in the new vehicles and they chose to move forward with the CVT transmission. I'm no expert, but, in conversations I've had with some friends who are engineers, they told me that the CVT transmissions are superior, less complicated and more efficient for the power, the engine is always in the right power band. My two cents. Happy towing, I say go for it, just take it easy on take offs. Once you are rolling, do whatever you want.

13 of 13 people found this helpful.
21,095

Drmuskie, if you properly maintain your car, I see no reason why you can't go 200,000 miles. By the way, the 2010 Subaru Outback 3.6 , H6, had the old 5 electronic automatic transmission. They must have known something moving forward with the CVT for both H4 and H6 in 2015. They only offered the CVT transmission on the Four cylinder Outback for 2010 -2014 models.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

All I did was point to owners manual Mark. "Your vehicle is designed and intended to be used primarily as a passenger-carrying vehicle.Towing a trailer puts additional loads on your vehicle's engine, drivetrain, brakes, tires and suspension and has an adverse effect on fuel economy. "CVT MODEL "When towing a trailer without brakes. 1,000 lbs (453 kg) When towing a trailer with brakes. 2,700 lbs (1,224 kg) When towing a trailer on a long uphill grade continuously for over 5 miles (8 km) 1,350 lbs

8 of 8 people found this helpful.
Best Answer
5,280

The CVTs are now starting to enter statistically significant failure rates. Is it stress related or related to dirty fluid? Time will tell. Subie was VERY afraid to offer the CVT initially with the H6, but very poor fuel eco forced their hand...perhaps sensibly. I am being VERY ginger with my clients re stressing the CVT, including keeping towing loads under the "old" 1500lb limit. Additionally, the poor suspension of the modern OBs doesn'tt lend itself to dragging anything approaching an equal mass behind it, eh? Vomitorium, anyone?

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
74,095

I believe the CVT's are VERY expensive to replace so keep that in mind when making a choice. CVT's are hardly a proven choice for a towing vehicle, if they were you would be seeing them in Ford Super Duty trucks.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
21,095

TheSubaruGuruBoston ,-- so, at what mileage are you starting to see these CVT transmissions starting to fail?

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
5,280

2010.

21,095

I asked what mileage, not year.

74,095

Subaru is pushing the limits on mechanical reliability with the CVT and the 0W-20 oil they specify in order to make small gains in mileage in order to comply with ludicrous government demands for ever increasing fuel economy. As always it is the customer who ends up on the losing end of things. As far as the CVT and economy I can tell you that I have driven both the manual and the CVT and there is a small increase in mileage on the highway with the CVT but none at all in mountain driving.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
74,095

Based on what Ford posted, I would not tow a row boat with a CVT. 1350 pounds up a hill is virtually useless.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
5,280

I'm of two minds on this, Towing 1500 lbs with the 2.5i CVT is similar to towing nothing with the 2.0i CVT in the Impreza. The result is that the latter has to rev up much higher in order to overcome inertia via the CVT. MAY be ok...if indeed stressful. Mark, 2010 (sic)

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
21,095

TheSubaruGuruBoston, thanks, but, again , give us a mileage estimate. Are we talking about over 125,000 miles or more? You just can't say 2010.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
5,280

So far it's been 2010's.

21,095

Ernie, so , you don't want to state the mileage? Why is that?

21,095

Ernie, yes, I find it's interesting that the 2011( 9 %) and 2014 (12 %) Subaru Outbacks according to True Delta, have a correspondingly higher percentage of repairs than the 2010 (6 %) model for transmission problems. Are you getting your information strictly from anecdotal evidence in your personal encounters with your clients? If you are, that's not a fair representation? See this, http://www.truedelta.com/Subaru-Outback/reliability-253

21,095

By the way, your favorite years, the 2005 to 2009 have shown many failings especially with the suspension problems, with most of those cars having over 25 percent repairs and problems to their suspension. Sorry, the record speaks for itself.

5,280

Mark, $50 sway bar end links and $10 bushings are dirtying up your analysis. Wait until the floors rot out on the 2010+ OBs to see where owners' pocketbooks REALLY get hit! The real data is with the NorthEast indies who service hundreds of these each month. Learn something about specialized population sampling technique before you throw meaningless broad stat data at me, please. Happy Holidays.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
21,095

Ernie, Happy Holidays to you as well! Listen, I understand it might be different in your region of the USA? And, the statistics I cited are from True Delta, I understand that they're pretty reliable folks there. Anyway, you know I'm in Southern California. We don't see cars with rotted out floors here, oh, maybe when the car is over 50 years old, LOL . And, I would never keep the car that long under any circumstances. Peace.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
50

Man, come here to learn about Subaru towing capacity, and learn more about Men Got Snark.

5 of 5 people found this helpful.
5,280

kackle, it's 20-seventeen! To your point, SOA has always played games w/ towing cap recs. It's been interesting to watch them raise the limits from 0 to 2500lbs in steps over the decades without meaningful changes to the bolt-on nice Draw-Tite et al rear hitches used. Here in the NE we're used to seeing Legs and OBs tow OTHER Legs and OBs since 1990. The limiting factor is NOT the torquey 2.5i nor the rear unibody subframe, but the condition of the transmission fluid! Seriously...just ensure your ATF/CVTF is clean and have at it up to 3000lbs. Keep tire pressures up at 35psi too. The only caveat I suppose is that the newer Imp/CT 2.0 is NOT recommended for towing much, as its pretty wimpy. As well, towing is better performed with the slushboxes as otherwise it's clutch-eating behavior.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.
50

Very helpful, Guru! Much appreciated.

20

Hi, I have a 2014 Outback and am looking at a trailer the weighs 1575#. Whats safe in terms of the tongue weight? Guy says tongue is 300#'s on this T@B trailer. May be going from Mass to Calif and back. That means over the Rockies. Any thoughts? Bad idea? thanks

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
5,280

I'm very concerned about that 300lb tongue weight, as that will severely compress the rear struts/springs and leave you nil for at- speed pothole compression; imagine it as two guys sitting on the bumper all the time! Just too risky....

10

I've been inclined to believe the tongue weight can weigh 10% of the towing weight which for my 2016 Subie should be 270 lbs! There's also no possibility of a cooler for the transmission! What was Japan thinking when they designed this car I was so anxious to buy? I want to be able to pull a Aliner LXE! Someone please tell me what direction to go from here.. I need an RV with a bathroom. The LXE only weighs 1800 lbs dry weight.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
10

...and the tongue weight of my car is 200lbs.. not enough to tow much more that a hardside tent with no imenities.

74,095

At best Subaru's are for light duty occasional towing. Any real towing should be done with a SUV with an actual frame or a full sized pickup.

74,095

Keep in mind that towing capacity is linked to the amount of stuff you have in your car. Deduct for luggage, passengers etc. You can't max out your cargo and the trailer weight at the same time!

3 of 3 people found this helpful.

FOR: what is your basis for "At best Subaru's are for light duty occasional towing."? And if you base that on solid data or experience, what is your definition of "light duty"? I tow 2500 once every month for a weekend on average in my 6 cyl and have had nothing but great experiences.

74,095

2,500 pounds is light duty and once a month is occasional. Subaru's specs don't allow much load and the CVT is known for not liking loads.

74,095

Guru9BWPY - I do not know what transmission you have but if it is a CVT have the fluid changed regularly and if it is the automatic keep an eye on the ATF and make sure it has a nice, healthy red color. If I were towing with a Subaru automatic I would install a transmission temperature gauge and upgrade the transmission fluid cooler.

21,095

Rose- good morning...I see that based on what you've said above..you have a 2016 Subaru Outback with the 3.6 H6 engine.... and YES...by 2016.. Subaru started using the CVT transmission.. I actually have a 2010 Subaru Outback Limited with the 2.5 Four and the CVT..... I have NO problem pulling my 1,000 pounds teardrop trailer and have taken it to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.. about 9,000 feet.. uphill is slower, but, the car and trailer made it fine.. You CAN load up to 825 pounds in your car.. people, luggage, gear..and still pull an additional 3,000 pounds maximum with your H6....the H4 2.5 can pull a maximum of 2,700 pounds.. interesting how that is just 300 pounds difference.... I would say that if I were you, I would try and pull your trailer without any fluids that weigh things down..try and keep it as close to the base weight as possible..it's easier for the car and you to control.. then, when you get to the campsite, stop and fill up the tanks.. and use the dump station when you depart....this way you'll get the best mileage and performance for your car. ..As far as "adding a transmission cooler".. listen, this is NOT ADVISED...how do I know this...I talked directly with Subaru..yes, I actually make phone calls.. the nice folks at Subaru explained to me that they engineered a cooler into the transmission..and by adding an aftermarket device, you are creating another single point of failure, you don't want that.. I would just advise you to take it easy on acceleration. As you start from a dead stop, realize that every 10 MPH or so above zero will take about half the amount of energy to get rolling.. think of it like a train..once you get going..the momentum will make it easier for the car to pick up speed.. there's a clear difference of opinion between some of us on the forum... I believe in taking my car to the Subaru dealership for transmission fluid changes... others say that you should only drain the fluid and refill with new fluid.... I'm more inclined to believe that the dealership knows what they're doing... your choice.. more expensive, yes...do they know the car.. of course.. Unfortunately, there's a lot of people who will tell you every way from Sunday how to cut corners and "save money" (how much money are you really saving, if the job goes south??) You obviously purchased this car "new" or as a very late model.. and want to keep it nice..so, go with the dealership or your trusted mechanic.. good luck with your camping... One more thing, be careful with the tongue weight..I don't know what that is for the Aliner LXE.. those folding campers are much heavier than they look... Here's a picture of my teardrop trailer..

5 of 5 people found this helpful.
21,095

Rose, maybe you have the 2.5 Four??? I see that you didn't write the message about the H6 after all...no matter, it's still 2,700 pounds..like my car.... The additional 300 pounds is not that significant if you keep your trailer weight below 2,000 pounds.

5,280

Grasshopper (aka Mark1952), you're wrong again, thinking that a necessary internal fluid cooler is ALWAYS suffiicient for towing loads. Just because a "dealer" told you that there's a cooling capacity within the box doesn't mean that you get to interpret that as precluding the usefulness of an auxiliary trans cooler for high load apps; again, a grossly incorrect conclusion after making a "real phone call". Wow...you're an expert now...again! Rose, the real poop: despite the STRENGTH of the transmission, its real fragility is from overheating its (cooling) fluid...no matter how it's originally designed. Inexpensive (under $100) aux coolers can be easily plumbed into existing systems to effectively effect about a 20F temp reduction across all loads. This can make the difference between ruining internal rubber valve and bearing seals over time. Using synthetic CVT fluid (the only kind, really), helps keep this fluid from cooking off over time, but only keeping the temp down preserves the soft inner guts. So the answer is: it depends! The professionals who either tow loads or boost engines often first attach a physical AT temp gauge to the fluid, then proceed as necessary. In my case I was unhappy with the ATF temps in my boosted Miata, so added a sturdy inline cooler that acts to drop temps 20-30F both by adding one quart of total capacity AND its cooling fins behind the grill. It's useful to note that sustained highway use is NOT necessarily the highest thermal stress on a tranny, as the torque converter is locked up at steady speed. It's when the combination of high ambient temperature and sustained frictional losses combine to raise the fluid temp. That's where extra cooling is REALLY useful to prevent both short term failure and premature lifespan loss. Additionally, "tongue weight" is the actual down force on the towing vehicle's tow bar, and greatly affects how the entire package feels on the road. Much more than 100lbs on a Subaru's bumper IS going to upset handling significantly...especially on the softer sprung 2010-2012 and 2015+ Outbacks. 2000-2009 OBs, despite what you read (or what Grasshopper jumps around about), tolerate a towed load more imperceptibly. I'm not too worried about your towing an 1800lb trailer occasionally, but try to redistribute its balance so that the down (tongue) weight onto your towbar is miniimal. So you get that we're talking about two different criteria here: total weight affecting AT fluid temperature, and compromised handling from weight imbalance (tongue weight). An example is that we here in New England have used Subies to even tow OTHER Subies in a pinch. Since the "tobgue" weight is near zero, handling is ok. But imagine what happens when three people sit on a rear bumper (500lbs togue weight): handling goes to crap. So balance your trailer so it's almost an even see-saw with minimal front downforce and you should be ok. Just be careful on long climbs on hot days. And if you find yourself dragging this 1800 load frequently then DEFINITELY grab an aux cooler. It'll cost you only about $200-300 installed and certainly extend the life of the CVT's soft guts. Watch out for the grains of salt around here....

74,095

Mark you clearly have NO idea of basic physics. Going faster takes less energy? Momentum helps you go faster? You really are revealing your abject ignorance of basic science and mechanical principals. Just a note - Any hydraulic system will benefit from cooling for the reasons Ernie explained. Even manual transmissions can be cooled but for any hydraulic system the fluid is the life blood of the system. Fluid oxidizes at a rapidly increasing rate as the temperature goes up - not linear. Then there are all the seals.

74,095

Mark - your reading comprehension as usual is below par. I did not suggest that CVT's could benefit from additional cooling even though I believe that. My comments were confined to automatics.

74,095

Ernie - is there a port on the CVT where you can add a temperature sensor? Is the optimal operating temperature for a CVT the same as an automatic - 180 degrees F?

74,095

Just a note to those that tow. Do not get your trailer tongue weight too low which can introduce fish tailing and a rude introduction to the road side ditch.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
5,280

The top fill plug is of course safer, but a bit small to set a conductive copper sensor probe... but that's where I'd try before using the larger lower drain plug. Works great on my Miata, where the ATF ranges from 160F at low stress to 210F max. Used to touch 240F before the aux cooler! I have currently no idea where the CVT temp sits in the Subies. Obviously, as you state, keeping it well under 200F is advised. Good point on not having ANY tongue weight. I'm hoping that clean fluid helps these CVTs ,but the failure rate of the 2010-2012s is getting alarming, and as I said, may not be related to fluid degradation, as that's not terribly well corellated with torque converter and bearing failures, eh?

74,095

Clean fluid sure cannot hurt! I was wondering if there was a spare sensor port on the side like some automatics have. Just filing information for future reference. My truck has an aftermarket transmission pan with a sensor port so I put it there. Temps run 160 to 180 without the fan assisted cooler that I also bought but have not installed. Low speeds seem to cause the temperature to rise no doubt due to low air flow through the stock cooler.

74,095

I may buy one of those OBD2 port gauge pack set ups but the specs I have read indicate that transmission temp protocols are not standard so you may or may not be able to read a CVT's operating temp that way.

10

I have a 2005 Impreza outback sport special edition wagon. I am moving from PA to TX in December. I want to put a hitch on so I can tow a small travel trailer. I understand it can tow 2,000 lbs (automatic). Any suggestions or opinions. Car is in good shape and the head gaskets were replaced at 80,000 miles and it has 102,000 on it now. I have a loan on it and can't get a loan to purchase another vehicle. Can't sell it because I owe more on it than it is worth.

5,280

You have the previous gen 2.5i with 4EAT automatic. If you haven't drained and refilled (3.5qts) your ATF in the last two years (and you probably haven't, as it's often ignored) DO IT BEFORE YOUR TRIP! The relatively big 2.5i and rugged 4EAT will be fine.

Is it okay to put a cargo carrier on an Outback?

5,280

Of course. Just mind low bridges and tunnels, eh?

74,095

A cargo carrier is OK but the weight limit is around 200 pounds. Check your owners manual for the exact weight limit.

5,280

...and try to secure your rig as close to the corners as possible to effectively increase actual load stability; you want to avoid centered loading and its trampolining effects.

Q. What about towing considerations for a 2005 manual transmission 4cyl - 2.5 OB station wagon?

5,280

ANY increase in load, whether via added mass or uphill angle, very soft tires, etc., will increase the inertia required to be overcome by the clutch's friction disc, spelling earlier death. Don't do it unless you're a wrench willing to replace the clutch pack yourself...or you're rich.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

Thxs...

20

Actually aliner trailers are designed to be light weight I have have the largest model the expedition. Tongue weight is about 270 lbs. it is a2016 model. It weighs only 1850 lbs. Just bought a 2017 3.6 touring model outback. The teardrop is almost nothing to tow around don't think you could even gauge any damage at all. I now tow with my honda 3.6 van. Can go 80 mph not a problem. Going up a 9000 ft mountain road very little resistance. The engine just doesn't get hot either. If anyone is towing one ☝️ of these things around or if anyone has any information about late model outbacks or if anyone is towing around a aliner please respond. Of course the dealer said it was under rated at 2700 lbs But what do they know thanks Matt

5,280

Your 3.6 will of course have no problem with the total mass load. The concerns are the heavy load on its CVT internal bearings and the high tongue weight upsetting the handling balance. Not sure if SOA is covering the 3.6's CVT for 5yr/60k or the extended 10yr/100k. Be careful, as most repondents may tell you that everything's ok, but the longterm CVT failure rate may be very high. NO ONE knows....

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

Thankful for the information . Just read the owners manual and wow . The main tell that i found here is that it says in the owners manual that you can not drive continuously for over 5 minutes up a uphill grade with outside temp above 104 degrees. Wish I knew Wish the salesman stopped me. Waited 20 years to buy a all wheel drive. You are so correct. Think of it this way You can't drive up a hill for more than 5 minutes forget about the temperature.My father was toyota transmission mechanic. Think about driving for 1 hour up a grade @ 80 degree temperatures. I could keep going here . The bottom line here is that a tongue weight of 200 lbs On this vehicle is really about the maximum. Any kind trailer hitch should be considered almost cosmetic. The dealer even sells 2"adapters for the oem hitch. The point is i bought this car assuming that it could tow a tent ⛺️ trailer that weighs 1850 lbs. I paid extra for the 3.6 touring oops. Both Subaru and the Subaru salesman know that this is not a car for towing. The dealer knew my intent was to tow I was told it was under rated at 2700 lbs. Tongue weight is the most important thing I missed 200 lbs . I would not recommend buying any kind after market hitch Stick with factory. Do not listen to the after market. My suggestion is if you are going to tow get the oem hitch And buy the 2" adapter from a dealer. The owners manual claim towing is hard on the engine first as they go down the list they also finally include the transmission. In my opinion the transmission is the only concern here. Really anything beyond a utility trailer on flat ground is pushing it. And don't think a disingenuous co.like this is going to going to honor your warranty especially if you have a after market hitch I have a special bit of of hate for deceptive marketing. I will never forgive Subaru for this. And most important the dealer. I will spend the rest of my life telling people my story. I will also be the first in line for the class action that will follow. No No No towing anything even a small teardrop trailer up mountain roads is just gambling. My plan was a trip to the sierras. I guess I'm not a happy camper

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
5,280

Again (alas), NO ONE KNOWS what the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rates will be for the CVT's...especially as a function of load. Given the high failure rate just toting their 3500lb mass I wouldn't tip the curves too much by adding appreciable mass...especially uphill or at high temperatures. We're all guinea pigs here....

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

Subaru knows the answer and they give it to you in the owners manual. One more time to me the answer is simple. If drive more than 5 miles up hill and it's hot outside your screwed and you warranty is void. Imagine going to the sierras like I was going to do never ending inclines . One big problem here is that the Subaru is not being honest and telling buyers. What is really unforgivable is when give the information to the Subaru salesman and they still sell you the car

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

Looks cool doesn't it seems like they belong together NOT

74,095

Yet people will ignore all this good advice and then curse Subaru because they blew up their CVT.

5,280

Maybe all is not lost: I'm assuming that the 3.6i especially uses a CVT fluid line to a portion of the main coolant radiator for cooling the CVT. If so, you can fairly easily add a simple transmission cooler to drop fluid about 20F. That will substantially help keep fluid temp down on hot ascents...somewhat! I prefer the finned heat-sink type that has more flexibility in mounting,as it doesn't have to sit in the airstream (front of the main radiator), and is much more rugged than the common foil "tanks". There should be room somewhere underneath the front to hang it. A decent long one will also add about 1 qt heat sinking capacity to the system. If your committed to this trailer it's worth a shot...along with an extended warranty purchase!

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

I have a 2010 legacy cvt as a company car which has now done over 200,000km. I have been towing a 1000kg boat (often filled with camping gear) all over NZ. Regularly changed cvt fluids as only precaution. I have never had a problem and have climbed some decent mountain ranges. The only thing I recommend is to put the transmission in manual mode before a long ascent and manually select the best gear to be in for the climb. This seems to not make the cvt work too hard and keep the car and cvt at a better tempreture. Previously I owned a H6 2003 legacy with 5AT. The 2010 CVT I believe is as good, if not a better all round gear box. Currently, I am looking for my next legacy or outback and am considering the 2014 2.5 Outback with CVT.

5,280

Greetings, Lewis. You've enjoyed good service from your Subies. The 2013-2014 OBs have better native handling (like your 2003) than the 2010-12 or 2015+, so are a good choice. If you do get one of these "softer" iterations, I recommend Subaru's own 19mm rear anti-swaybar as a very inexpensive mod to control body movement and improve handling...especially when loaded. Not sure what "not make the cvt work too hard" and "keep at better temperature" mean. The CVT's "cones" don't know their specific ratio at any time, so I'm not sure there's any thermal load variant. I DO recommend dialing up the motor's rpms manually when descending a slippery or steep hill to prevent brake overheating, but I'm unsure that artificially controlling the revs...except by throttle depression....is effective uphill. But following your comment I'm now curious if the actual torque converter's temperature is kept lower uphill via keeping the revs up...or vice versa!? Did you put a direct fluid temp sensor on the CVT's drain plug? Then again, I'm not sure that torque converter nor internal bearing failures are necessarily correlated with either load, temperature, nor chosen driven rate (manual control of rpm). Maybe we'll know as time marches on....

5,280

Further, the DOHC 2,5i introduced in the '13 OB certainly has the necessary torque for towing moderate loads, with adequate passing ability at speed. It's a better choice than the previous SOHC 2.5i it replaces. Just be sure to use 5w30 synth instead of 0w20. It's just the CVT we worry about.

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