Home » Yet Another Reason Why I Regret Buying A New Subaru

Yet Another Reason Why I Regret Buying A New Subaru

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I’ve already explained how I bought a new Subaru Forester back in 2016 and how that ended up feeling like a mistake given all the nuisance maintenance issues I’ve had to face. I further explained how a simple thing like changing a tire has been turned into a minor asspain due to what feels like another bad choice by the automaker. Are you ready for one more complaint? Here’s one more complaint.

The original post was meant to be catharsis because, as a professional car reviewer, I felt a little extra dumb that the first new car I purchased ended up being such a disappointment. That post was wildly popular. It turns out that all of you would rather listen to me complain about my boring daily driver than talk about the triumph that is my old BMW project car.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

That makes sense. We’re in the misery business like Paramore. No one, and I mean no one, will read about the road trip across America that changed your life. We get pitched this story every week and it never, ever works. But I get cranky about my Subaru and our analytics software lights up like David when he sees another i3 on the street. So here we go. More catharsis.

If you click the video above you’ll hear a phone conversation with me and our man Peter V. I do this call basically every morning as we plan out the posts for the day, features, et cetera. It’s fine for me but it’s miserable for Peter. Why? Because the microphone in the Subaru was designed by a humpback whale, only transmitting weird high-pitched noises. I’m not trying to make this video sound worse; I had to tweak the sound to make it good enough to be recognized by the auto-captioning software I use!

The morning of the recording Peter was especially bothered by how poorly I sounded, but this is a common complaint I get from him and anyone else I’m talking to. And this is a new-ish car! I’ve been reviewing cars since 2007 and almost every car I’ve had features some sort of wireless phone connectivity. Not every car sounds great, but most sound passable.

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As Peter points out, his older Toyota RAV4 sounds great when you switch from speakerphone to carphone. The Subaru? Having talked to my wife many times while she’s driving it I can only assume the people who set up this system only watched old Peanuts cartoons and thought all adults sounded like a muted trumpet.

As a test, with Peter, I switched over to just using the speakerphone on the iPhone and it worked way better. This makes sense as the iPhone is newer and has a more precise mic, but it goes to show that my car isn’t even that loud (for all its faults, NVH in the Subaru is pretty average).

The mic is located up in the overhead control panel next to the lights and sunroof controls, which is fairly common for modern cars. So it can’t be that.

I Am Not Alone In This Complaint

The question always worth asking in these situations is: Am I alone here? I do review a lot of nice cars and perhaps I’m being unfair to what is essentially an economy car. Maybe my car is just a rare dud.

Thankfully, Subaru owners are active on forums like SubaruForester.org and can provide a gutcheck. It turns out my gut isn’t alone.

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Screen Shot 2024 05 09 At 3.10.35 Pm

That sounds familiar.

Screen Shot 2024 05 09 At 3.10.23 Pm

So does that.

Screen Shot 2024 05 09 At 3.10.14 Pm

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Yup.

I think the more premium version of the sound system is maybe better, based on this post:

Subaru Forester Screenshot

Either way, it’s a completely minor nuisance in car that otherwise always delivers the basic minimum of getting me from place to place without too much drama (unless the headlights go out again).

The rest of Subaru’s 2016-era infotainment system is clunky and was outdated within a month of buying the car, but that’s not abnormal for cars of this era.

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Subaru Connection

It would be sweet if my phone would connect regularly, it would be nice if the controls worked while the car was in reverse, and it would be awesome if the system could be updated to use CarPlay but the system is too old. As pointed out in the Discord, there are solutions:

Screenshot of idoing setup
Screenshot: WRX DAILY

This is a unit made by Idoing (great name) and it’s about $460 at WRXDaily and would give me, if not a better microphone, at least a usable CarPlay/Android Auto setup. If I planned to keep this car for longer than a year I’d definitely consider doing it, but I’m already quietly shopping for a replacement.

In positive news, I managed to fit an entire giant 100-gallon stock tank in the back of the Subaru because it is, if not great to drive, fairly large for its class.

[Editor’s Note: I just had to help a friend decide which battery to put in her 2016 Subaru Outback, since her old one had died. Two weeks later, the new battery died. Turns out, phantom drain is a common issue. Also, today I found out my friend’s wife’s 2012 Outback had its sway bar bracket literally rust off. I think some of this is just the Law Of Big Numbers (lots of people we know have Subis) and some of it is indeed quality related. In the end, I find that many folks still like their Subarus despite their faults. -DT]

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Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
9 days ago

The more Subaru gripes I see the more I question why they are so loved? A BMW usually offers a special driving experience as compensation but most Subarus are as exciting as a Prius. I’d sooner have a Mazda than a Subaru because they are less expensive, more reliable and even the mundane Mazdas have Zoom Zoom

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
9 days ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

We have a bare bones bottom trim 2005 Impreza hatchback with a 5spd manual and we absolutely adore it. Our other car is a 2017 Golf R, which was a replacement for a 2015 M235i, which was a replacement for a 2011 WRX, which was a replacement for a 1975 BMW 2002. We’ve had a lot of fun cars, obviously, but we have never ever considered selling the Impreza. We just love it. It has been completely unkillable, insanely reliable, and has never required anything non-routine aside from a valve cover gasket. It still drives reasonably spritely due to its small size and low weight, feels nice and analog, has an incredibly airy greenhouse and thin pillars, comfy and durable seats, and is super practical. It has never had a garage so it looks like a complete shitbox but every time i bring the car in for something the mechanics are always impressed with what great mechanical shape it’s in. It’s really a nothing special car on paper, but it has served us well and i really do enjoy driving it. That said, i wouldn’t consider spending a red cent on anything in the current Subaru lineup and that has been true for some time. I do, however, daydream about overpaying for a really nice unmolested example of a WRX from the same gen as our Impreza, if such a thing could even be found.

Last edited 9 days ago by Oldhusky
Space
Space
9 days ago

I would read a road trip across America story if it involves a pos car. That one story of the guys road trip to/from the Autopian meet up was very interesting.

Wc Jeep
Wc Jeep
10 days ago

2017 4runner. Zero issues. Zero repairs.

Horizontally Opposed
Horizontally Opposed
10 days ago

Presently at 46k mi on a bought-new, 2017 premium trim Outback 3.6 R and the driver seat “leather” (they only come with leather for the center part, sides are cheap vinyl) ripped like an overboiled egg. And now it developed a clunk in the steering rack that is a $1300 part plus at least 1k in labor. Not unsafe so I’ll keep driving but it’s just annoying on a $47k list price car with this few miles on it. This is our 2nd outback but will be the last.

David Radich
David Radich
11 days ago

My CVT is playing up at 100,000kms on my 2016 outback. 100,000ks. It’s not good enough to be honest. We are quietly shopping for a new car (although we just bought a house, so it may be a while). However the microphone is fine!

WaCkO
WaCkO
11 days ago
Reply to  David Radich

I’ve got 230000kms on my 2017 forester, it’s CVT does weird things once in a while but still doing fine. My 2014 pathfinder had its CVT replaced a 75000kms and it’s got 169000 now and never studerd since.
I’m retiring my forester next week, mostly cause I’m making a car payment on gas, so I’m getting a EV6, I’m supposed to get it hopefully next week

David Radich
David Radich
10 days ago
Reply to  WaCkO

Mine feels like someone can’t drive a manual when you apply a tiny bit of throttle to creep in traffic. It’s fine if you boot it, it’s fine if take your foot off the pedal, but at low revs it bunny hops. I’ve had it serviced as a precaution – they couldn’t see anything when they had it apart, I don’t want to throw money at it as we realistically need a bigger car anyway, so not sure what to do at this point. We are just putting up with it for now

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
11 days ago

I just had a dear friend tell me that after just one unfortunate incident with her 150K Mercedes-Benz GLS – She bought a new Subaru Forester.

It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut.

Millermatic
Millermatic
11 days ago

It would be sweet if my phone would connect regularly, it would be nice if the controls worked while the car was in reverse

This is a bit annoying… but it’s that way because the federally mandated back-up camera takes over the screen when you are in reverse.

It’s an annoyance I can live with…

Millermatic
Millermatic
11 days ago

You seem to have an unhealthy obsession with ranting about Subarus.

Get over it.

Saying “I’m not alone” and pointing to internet forums full of complaints is hardly evidence that Subaru is doing an objectively worse job than any other car maker on these issues. Name a car that _doesn’t_ have forums full of complaints about it…

lastwraith
lastwraith
6 days ago
Reply to  Millermatic

I feel like he explained that pretty well in the initial part of the article. As in, people read and engage with his Subaru rants, so you are clearly in the minority.

Also, he owns a Subaru, so it’s more likely he’ll have material related to that since he is intimately familiar.
When people stop responding positively to the articles, I’m sure you will get your wish.

Millermatic
Millermatic
6 days ago
Reply to  lastwraith

That’s just it… it’s mediocre clickbait. Both he and this site can do better. His examples, for the most part, are only anecdotal – yet he presents them as evidence that Subaru is somehow more affected by these issues than other car makers. I found his rant on “Subaru uses bad bolts on their wheels” to be borderline irresponsible. There’s no evidence that the higher thread density he maligns is “bad.” They are, in fact, stronger (but they don’t deal with air guns as well).

For the record… I’ve continuously owned at least one Subaru for the last 19 years… and my experiences (I’m “intimately familiar”) are completely different.

Last edited 6 days ago by Millermatic
lastwraith
lastwraith
5 days ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Apparently it’s not all that mediocre by their statistics though. And there’s nearly 100 comments in the responses here, FWIW.
I’m sure when people don’t show interest, they will stop writing these types of articles.

We have an older Forester and while the AWD is beastly, there are plenty of areas for complaint – head gaskets, turbos in the XT variants, frameless window design that leads to bent areas and road noise intrusion near the A-pillars, oil leaks directly over the exhaust due to the engine design, O2 sensors, propensity for rust in certain sections, etc. On ours, some of these things are due to age but they are by no means uncommon in the forums.
We have a Toyota product from the same year that exhibits none of these issues (nor any others) at similar mileage. So YMMV.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
11 days ago

I am told that when I use the speakerphone in my 2013 JSW, I sound as if I’m calling from a cave in Afghanistan.

Rex
Rex
11 days ago

FWIW, the microphone improved drastically in vehicles with the Gen3 (Harman) head unit. For the Forester, that would be 2019-present.

Along with that, regardless of what system you’re using, do this: go into your sound settings, find the OUTGOING phone volume, and I can almost guarantee it’s jacked way the hell up. Changing this by even one or two levels will drastically impact what the person on the other end of the call hears. Set it to zero (it has positive and negative values) or one, but NO HIGHER. That should improve the situation. The vast majority of the customer questions I get about in-call phone issues are related to this specific setting. Also, make sure the in-call volume of your phone is at a reasonable level.

Last edited 11 days ago by Rex
Theotherotter
Theotherotter
11 days ago
Reply to  Rex

I’d love to follow this advice, but after a look through my iphone’s settings, I have no idea how to.

lastwraith
lastwraith
6 days ago
Reply to  Theotherotter

Pretty sure most of that advice (except for the very last part where they specifically mention the phone itself) was about changing settings on the car radio, not the iPhone.

Last edited 6 days ago by lastwraith
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 days ago

…have you considered just buying the damn Maverick?

Ben Chia
Ben Chia
11 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Yeah. Get rid of this POS already.

WaCkO
WaCkO
11 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

I’m replacing my forester hopefully next week. I’m replacing my gas payment with a car payment!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 days ago
Reply to  WaCkO

Oooooh, what car?

WaCkO
WaCkO
6 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Kia EV6 awd in blue.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
4 days ago
Reply to  WaCkO

Congrats!

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
11 days ago

“Because the microphone in the Subaru was designed by a humpback whale, only transmitting weird high-pitched noises”

Be careful, you may wind up summoning an unidentified intergalactic species that will destroy the Earth. We don’t exactly have a Klingon Bird of Prey laying around to use for time travel, ya know?

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
11 days ago

…or James T Kirk and friends could come back from the future to save us from ourselves while we destroy this planet.

I don’t see the downside.

Last edited 11 days ago by Urban Runabout
Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
11 days ago

Subaru definitely sucks at infotainment, no doubt about that. Our 2018 Forester does suck in that regard.

But goddamn your Forester has got to be reeling. Does it read the Autopian? Will it get mad when it does, and blow a gasket?

lastwraith
lastwraith
6 days ago

At least we know what (head) gasket to be on the lookout for.

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
11 days ago

Of course I’m in the misery business. I literally paid money to make your editor in chief buy a 20-year-old car and live in it for a week.

Jimal
Jimal
11 days ago

Subaru sold its soul to become a volume auto manufacturer.

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
11 days ago
Reply to  Jimal

6000 good paying jobs (and many more at the keiretsu affiliates) here in central Indiana. Thanks for buying them, folks.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
11 days ago

I put Subies in the same category as VWs – you have to love them to put up with them.

  • Vanagon owner
AircooleDrew
AircooleDrew
8 days ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

Can confirm. I have a 68 Beetle, and have owned 6 Subarus (currently own 2)

I love my cars, but I also love to tinker and have found all of mine to be extremely reliable. YMMV.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
11 days ago

They must have fixed the issue later. I have never had that complaint talking to people in my 2019 WRX.

Smoke&Mears
Smoke&Mears
12 days ago

Analytics software driving content… you’re not supposed to say the quiet part out loud.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
11 days ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

I find those bits of information quite interesting fwiw.

Dave Plank
Dave Plank
11 days ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

[deleted]

Last edited 11 days ago by Dave Plank
Horizontally Opposed
Horizontally Opposed
10 days ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

That’s the only way to fly!

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
12 days ago

As some people alluded to below, I would bet this is a software issue, not a hardware issue. I have to turnoff the background noise filtering on most of the videoconferencing platforms I use.

I’ve only ever looked at a Subarus because they offered stick when other cars in the class did not (e.g., the Crosstrek up until ’23). I have no idea why someone would buy a horrible CVT Subaru instead of a Toyota.

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