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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Dangerous_Daveo
Dangerous_Daveo
1 month ago

They have speaker phones that work on motorbike helmets, to the point there’s so little background noise, that’s actually the way you can tell they are on the bike, and that was at least 8 years ago.

All that said, we still can’t really get video conferencing to work day in day out…

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago

My brothers 2014(?) Subaru has this same issue. His voice over the speakerphone sounds awful. I knew it wasn’t just his because the loaner he used and the neighbor’s Subaru are both the same.

Meanwhile I’ve answered calls in my 2007 Toyota Solara with the top down on the highway at 70 mph (top down, windows up) and they don’t even know I’m on speakerphone!

I don’t understand what’s so difficult about getting experts to engineer the speakerphone, but there they are, accepting less.

First Last
First Last
1 month ago

My absolute favorite part of this series hating on Matt’s Forester is the embedded Subaru ads that get served up in the middle of them. That’s some smart ad tech that’s hilariously dumb.

Goblin
Goblin
1 month ago

Well, no matter how many more article will be written about this poor thing, it has three things that trump everything else on account that few cars still have these nowadays:

Three nice, round HVAC knobs for temp, mode and fan.

Last edited 1 month ago by Goblin
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago

Is the weird high-pitched humpback whale sound filter in effect all the time or only when the car is moving or the engine is running? It could be that the system is filtering out some low frequency noise that you don’t notice. Also for various historical reasons telephone frequency response has been limited to above 400Hz and 400 is about in the middle of your hearing range.

I used to work at a company that made Voice conferencing software of all things, and once a week there would be a conference call, included all the engineers, product, managers, and sales reps. Every week the head of sales would join the call and I swear he must’ve been driving a convertible with snow tires. Or maybe an open cockpit biplane. After about 45 seconds of screaming and yelling, it would be determined that it was not necessary for the head of sales to be on the call and he would hang up. The funny thing was that it was his job to talk to the CEOs of prospective customers on the phone and demonstrate the system, so he must’ve known what he was doing, but he never got called out for being the passive aggressive ass that he was.

Timbuck2
Timbuck2
1 month ago

Tbh Sabarus are like early 20teens Toyotas that are less reliable.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

I’d listen to you complain, but I can’t hear you.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago

Just get the maverick without consulting anyone. Once they see how awesome it is, I’m sure there will be no negative repercussions.
Side note: It may not be the best idea to take relationship advice from a lizard from outer space.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

Met my wife on OKCupid, but before Match bought it. I hear it is not as good now.

Autonerdery
Autonerdery
1 month ago

I was just on the receiving end of my dad’s first Bluetooth call from his new Maverick, and he came through crystal clear!

I was surprised to learn that CarPlay requires a wire, though, at least up to the XLT trim level.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago
Reply to  Autonerdery

Anecdotal, but I’ve heard that wireless Carplay just eats iPhone batteries. (not like in a “permanent damage” way, but drains them stupidly quickly.)

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  VanGuy

I installed a wireless Android Auto adapter in my Honda because the wire that does Android Auto charges the phone just barely faster than Android Auto and a music stream drains the battery.

Now I have wireless Android Auto, yet I still plug my phone in, but to a high speed charger instead. Odd combination, but it works very well for my needs.

Gene1969
Gene1969
1 month ago

Sounds like you’re building up a really good checklist of features to test when you checkout vehicles.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 month ago

I have experience with bluetooth on a 2015, and it works fine…

But the good news is that it’s double DIN, so it’s easy to upgrade to something else, if you wish, including Carplay/Android Auto 🙂

Yeah, Subaru was still using double DIN as late as 2018 😀

Last edited 1 month ago by Dogisbadob
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Hell, is there a reason to gun for the end of DIN/double DIN? I like it cause it means I can replace factory bullshit when it eventually dies.

unless

you have an E85 Z4, in which case every single thing about the stereo is nonstandard and cannot be used in place unless replaced with an OEM part. $150 head unit to get some bluetooth up in here? That’ll be $1500 to overhaul everything else, minimum, and I’ve seen estimates between 8-12 hours of labor.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

My RDX’s stereo is so nonstandard and an asspain there isn’t even an aftermarket for it. You can’t upgrade anything (other than some of the speakers). AFAICT there aren’t even mounting and trim kits to install a different radio. And even Crutchfield recommends against trying to install an amp or crossover.

Strangek
Strangek
1 month ago

Weird. I have a 2017 Legacy that I assume has the same infotainment setup, the phone thing works fine, my wife uses it all the time. I also have a 2012 Forester that I bought used in 2018, it features no connectivity or sunroofs. Unlike Matt, I’ve enjoyed six years of trouble free motoring! Lately there’s plenty of squeaks and rattles, it burns a little oil, and recently I’ve got a bunch of fun lights on the dash. I’ve been planning on moving on from it, but last weekend I hauled home three six foot tall trees and 10 big bags of dirt and gave zero fucks about what all that was doing to my interior….I think I’m gonna keep it.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 month ago

Subie infotainment of that edition is almost worthless. Even my kids have trouble helping my mom use hers. That blows my mind.

Get the goddamn minivan Matt! 🙂 Get a Sienna and you will have solved almost all your current car problems. Also, I bet you could get four to eight 100 stock tanks in a Sienna. Your entire family will like it.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
1 month ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

All Subaru “infotainment” is worthless. I have yet to use one that is any good. Before they were “intotainment” and just radio controls, they were fine.

I hate the infotainment on my ’18 Outback and on my wife’s ’19 Forester.

John Crouch
John Crouch
1 month ago

GM’s influence on Subaru is showing. Remember everyone backwards is U r a bus.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Subaru
Couldn’t escape when I wanted to
Subaru
Its not too late to be done with you
Su-Su-Su-Su Subaru
Finally replacing my Subaru

Ham On Five
Ham On Five
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Woe, woe, woe, woe

Lincoln Clown CaR
Lincoln Clown CaR
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Is this what happens when you sell Subarus at Saab dealers?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
1 month ago

Ugh… I can relate regarding Subarus.

Had a 2012 impreza hatch, commuted it in every day, and it was good overall but the bluetooth microphone always sounded like shit to others talking to me. I even tried putting foam up there and moving the mic around… nothing.

Also tried putting in a better (OEM Subaru) head unit with a color display… that did fuck-all.

On top of that, I put in better speakers and they sounded exactly as shitty as the paper ones.

That, and the motor was one of the many early FB boxers that drank oil and had to be replaced at under 50,000 miles.

Basically, even though I still think Subaru’s are good cars overall, their durability, comfort, fuel efficiency, and features are not nearly as good as many would have you believe. I’m massively happier with my Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
1 month ago

My 2016 Levorg also suffered from terrible hands free sound,along with crap interior quality. By the time that thing was 5 years old I had to replace the steering wheel because of wear. Regardless I want to have one again,how the hell do they do that.

R53forfun
R53forfun
1 month ago

Matt, maybe you should do that cross-country drive in your unwitting #content Forester, trade it in to Galpin, David can feature it on Trade-in Tuesday, Mad Mike can fix the microphone… and Beau can get you mate’s rates on a new ride.

I guess you then need to get it home. Hmmm … I dunno. I love your takes on this rig but I also feel so bad for you!

And I say this as the owner of a 2020 Outback Touring XT which I love (and bought used with eyes wide open, expecting to be thoroughly pissed off with certain aspects of).

Last edited 1 month ago by R53forfun
R53forfun
R53forfun
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

Oh yeah, I forgot about the Maverick resistance from all Hardigrees not named Matt. Hmmm …

Drew
Drew
1 month ago

I’m grateful for these articles because I kept looking at an Outback, but there’s so many compromises (the turbo engine is laggy as hell due to the transmission, the screen-based controls for some features I don’t want on a screen, lackluster ventilated seats, etc.) that I don’t think I want to live with. Knowing a Subaru can be such a pain makes me feel like I made the right call.

Last edited 1 month ago by Drew
Albert Ferrer
Albert Ferrer
1 month ago

As the owner of a 2023 A110GT this sounds familiar. No not the poor quality of the microphone, but just the general crappiness on the ergonomy of the thing.

It as if only the Germans and (some?) Japanese can get it right…

RataTejas
RataTejas
1 month ago
Reply to  Albert Ferrer

But on the flip side, you drive an Alpine, so it sort of works out. People were probably tired of you just calling them and giggling.

Albert Ferrer
Albert Ferrer
1 month ago
Reply to  RataTejas

Where I giggle with the little Alpine there is no network coverage usually 😉

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
1 month ago

Can anyone recommend a CarPlay unit for my Outback?

Gee See
Gee See
1 month ago
Reply to  Jdoubledub

I helped a family member upgraded their Prius using those Amazon special units. They are Android running mirroring software for CarPlay. Even though they are branded differently, they are basically the same thing with different level of RAM in it. Pick the maximum amount of RAM you can afford and go with that. Storage is not really an issue if you are just using CarPlay.

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
1 month ago
Reply to  Gee See

Appreciate the recommendation.

Andrew Daisuke
Andrew Daisuke
1 month ago

Matt, (I’m sure you know this of course, but) this is because people want to hear real reviews about shitty cars by people they trust/like.

There’s far too much ass sniffing in car journalism because people are afraid to lose their access.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago

A friend had the same issue. She bought a unit from Crutchfield, a Pioneer I think for pretty cheap. But it’s been back to the stereo shop about 6 times for various issues.
Not sure if it’s the unit, or the installation though that is the problem.

For some reason I read the title here as “another reason I regret marrying my wife.”
Strange…

David Tracy
David Tracy
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I really want someone to write me a big feature on Crutchfield. How did a small audio shop in Charlottesville become THE SPOT for audio upgrades?

Detroit Lightning
Detroit Lightning
1 month ago
Reply to  David Tracy

That catalog was MAGIC to me as a teen.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
1 month ago

That, plus the DAK catalog (best source of dirt cheap blank tapes in the 80s, even though they weren’t nearly as good as Maxell).

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Edit. She had purchased a replacement unit from the stereo shop owner. It took him about 4 hours to install it. And it fried out on her way home. After waiting a couple weeks for another unit, she just ordered from Crutchfield.

The prices, fast delivery times, included wiring harness adapters, and the fantastic customer service and phone reps are a big reason Crutchfield is huge now. I won’t buy anywhere else.

BTW, I think my friend’s Subie has been back to the stereo installer guy is because he cut her wiring harness doing the first install. Which sort of screwed the deal when her Crutchfield showed up. 4 months later she has given up dealing with that guy. Which sucks, because she knows I do stereos, but really despise fixing someone else’s shit show.

CUlater
CUlater
1 month ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Mail order discounting before the internet killed that, 1-800-knowledgeable customer service that was prioritized, and pre-made install harnesses with great instructions and before you know it, Bob’s your uncle.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
1 month ago
Reply to  David Tracy

99% of it was the effort they put into sourcing/making custom harnesses for almost everything under the sun, and writing clear instructions for that AND for the other ones that didn’t get a custom harness. Plus competent phone support when you screwed it up.

Seriously. I’ve installed dozens over the years. They earned my business many times over.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  David Tracy

For me? Information. Lots of specs and pictures.

Did that translate to sales? Not really. Crutchfield was much more expensive than other local places. Like Frys.

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago

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. 

I don’t know, man, David’s POStal Jeep journey (from the old site) is a very good read. The picture of him driving with all the crap around him always makes me smile.

David Tracy
David Tracy
1 month ago

It’s different if the audience already knows the writer well. That series did do quite well.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  David Tracy

In all honesty, your (mis)adventures around Jeep builds and the trek to/from the Easter Safaris were pretty epic.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 month ago

I’m left wondering if the better microphone from the high-trim model (or perhaps one from a newer model) is a plug-n-play mod.

Gee See
Gee See
1 month ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

I bet it will be a different connector.. impedence etc.. you know just for funsies

SegaF355Fan
SegaF355Fan
1 month ago

“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.”

Is this the reason we still haven’t seen that Jaaaag article from SWG?

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
1 month ago
Reply to  SegaF355Fan

We should start a petition to get the Jaaaag article published! We need more SWG around here.

Data
Data
1 month ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

SWG has been as rare as Rootwyrm lately.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Data

And the lack of both is sorely felt

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Data

But only one is truly missed

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