2004 Subaru Outback wagon
2004 Subaru Outback wagon. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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When Subaru introduced the third generation Legacy/second generation Outback models in 2000, the company knew it had big shoes to fill. After all, the original Outback, introduced in 1996, was the car that suddenly made it cool to drive a Subaru, by combining the foul-weather capabilities of a small SUV with the looks and driving dynamics of a mid-sized car. A massive marketing campaign featuring Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan probably didn’t hurt, either.

For 2000, Subaru’s well-known 165-hp 2.5-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine became the standard powerplant across the Legacy and Outback lines and the 137-hp 2.2-litre motor was dropped completely. Subaru’s excellent all-wheel drive (AWD) system remained as standard equipment on all models. Transmission choices with the four-cylinder were a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

2002 Subaru Legacy Special Edition
2002 Subaru Legacy Special Edition. Click image to enlarge

In 2001, Subaru added a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine to the Outback lineup; it was paired exclusively with a four-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel consumption tends to be a little higher here than in many of the Legacy’s competitors, mainly due to the extra weight and drivetrain friction in the standard all-wheel drive system. The 2000 Legacy’s Natural Resources Canada figures were 11.0/7.8 L/100 km (city/highway) with a manual transmission, and 10.8/8.0 with the automatic. The six-cylinder Outback was rated at 12.4/8.4 L/100 km.

The Legacy and Outback were offered in a wide range of trims, including Legacy sedan and wagon; the base Outback, in wagon form only; an Outback Limited trim was available in sedan and wagon body styles; the six-cylinder engine was only offered in the Outback wagon, in the H6-3.0 model; and in 2003, Subaru added the Baja, a quirky four-door, light-duty pickup version of the Outback. The Baja was notable for its folding rear seats and pass-through from the pick-up bed into the passenger compartment.

2002 Subaru Legacy Special Edition
2002 Subaru Legacy Special Edition. Click image to enlarge

While Subaru’s cars generally have a good reputation for durability, watch out for a few common issues. These include head gasket troubles in the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine: in older versions of the motor, this allows coolant to leak into the combustion chamber and can lead to a wrecked engine; in newer engines, the leaks are mostly external and cause a mess and possible engine trouble if not caught early enough. Word is that major problems can be avoided through the use of a Subaru coolant additive that helps reinforce weak spots in the gaskets, and then with frequent coolant changes. Read this thread at NASIOC.com for more information. Also, the forums at SubaruOutback.org have an entire discussion section dedicated to the head gasket issue. Apparently, too, the replacement gaskets that Subaru uses when the originals fail are of an improved design that better resists leaks.

If your Legacy or Outback “bucks” in turns, then your car has what Subaru owners call “torque bind.” Apparently it can be caused by something as simple as having differently-sized tires on the car, or can indicate an issue with the gear/clutch set in the transmission that splits engine torque between the front and rear axles. If this is the case, a transmission fluid flush might be all that’s needed to remedy the problem. The Problems and Maintenance section at SubaruOutback.org has plenty of information about this issue.

2003 Subaru Baja
2003 Subaru Baja
2003 Subaru Baja. Click image to enlarge

In 2000, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA) gave the Legacy four stars each for driver and front passenger protection in frontal impacts, and four and five stars for front and rear seat occupants, respectively, in side impact tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2000-2004 Legacy its “good” rating in frontal offset crash testing; the IIHS didn’t test this generation of Legacy/Outback for side impact crashworthiness.

Safety-wise, note that the only Legacy/Outback variant of this generation offered with stability control was the top-of-the-line H6-3.0 VDC model.

According to the Canadian Black Book, used Legacy values range from $4,000 for a 2000 Brighton wagon, to $14,350 for a 2004 GT Premium wagon. The Outback, owing to its trendier crossover designation, is worth a fair bit more, with values starting at $7,500 for a 2000 base model and topping out at $16,600 for a 2004 H6-3.0 VDC version.

If you don’t need the Outback’s added ground clearance, I’d skip it, quite frankly, and go for a less-expensive Legacy wagon. A 2002 base Brighton model is worth about $5,500, while the attractive GT trim carries a value of about $11,000. All prices quoted here include automatic transmission; subtract $500 to $600 from these values for manual transmission cars.

Used Baja models range in value from $14,250 for a 2003 model, to $16,875 for a 2005 version; it was carried over a year longer than the rest of the third-generation Legacy and Outback models, which were redesigned in 2005.

The Legacy and Outback are generally solid cars, and Subaru’s all-wheel drive system is a great selling point. Used values are reasonable, as long as you stick to the Legacy line, as the Outback tends to be overpriced for what is little more than a Legacy with a lifted suspension. Also, these cars get pricey quickly as you move up the trim ladder, so the best deals will be had on the basic Brighton wagon and “L” sedan and wagon models.

If you decide a Legacy or Outback is the car for you, choose one that has had both headgaskets (there are two, one for each bank of two cylinders in four-cylinder cars) replaced, preferably with the upgraded Subaru parts and has had its cooling system treated with Subaru’s coolant conditioner.

Pricing

Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) November 2009:

Year
Model
Price today
Price new
2004
Legacy L wagon
$11,850
$28,395
2003
Legacy L wagon
$10,125
$28,395
2002
Legacy L wagon
$9,075
$27,995
2001
Legacy L wagon
$7,400
$26,995
2000
Legacy L wagon
$6,525
$27,695

Online resources
  • SubaruOutback.org was the most useful source I found for these cars, and despite its focus on the Outback, virtually all of the information found here will apply to the very similar Legacy. Also, check LegacyGT.com for information. NASIOC.com is ostensibly an Impreza enthusiast site, but plenty of the information here also applies to the larger Legacy and Outback.

    Recalls
  • Transport Canada Recall Number 2000069. Units affected: 46003.

    2000: Certain vehicles do not comply with Regulation 6 – Statement of Compliance. Compliance label was not expressed in both official languages in regard to vehicle classification. Correction: No corrective action will be taken for existing vehicles. Correct compliance label will be affixed in current production vehicles.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2001070. Units affected: 3986.

    2000: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 108 – Lighting System and Retroreflective Devices. The High/Low beam headlamp on these vehicles does not bear a “DOT” marking which is required by the standard. Correction: All High/Low beam headlamp bulbs installed since February 8, 2000 have the correct marking. Since the non-complying bulbs meet all the performance and design requirements of the standard, no further action will be taken.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2000087. Units affected: 203.

    2000: On certain vehicles, the headlamp assemblies may not comply with the marking requirements of CMVSS 108 – Lighting System and Retroreflective Devices. The bulb centre mark on the lens has been interchanged between 2-bulb headlamps and 4-bulb headlamps. Correction: No corrective action will be taken due to the inconsequence to vehicle safety. The manufacturing process has been remedied to assure correction of the non-compliance on vehicles manufactured since January 30, 2000.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2000068. Units affected: 3986.

    2000: Certain vehicles do not comply with Cthe requirements of CMVSS 108 – Lighting System and Retroreflective Devices. The H1 low-beam headlamp bulbs do not bear a “DOT” marking as required by the standard. Correction: Since these bulbs comply with all performance and design requirements of the standard, no corrective action will be taken.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2003117. Units affected: 12450.

    2000-2003: On certain vehicles operated in the “salt-belt” provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador. The rear suspension subframe components were produced with poor paint quality which, after continued exposure to corrosive road salts for a period of several years, may result in rust-out of the component and possible breakage of the subframe. Correction: Dealer will clean and rust-proof with anti-rust oil and anti-rust wax.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 1999174. Units affected: 10.

    2000: On certain vehicles, incorrect application of anti-rust coating (PVC) to the transverse link mounting surface can eventually result in a torque decrease of the bolt that secures the transverse link bracket to the vehicle body. Insufficient torque on the bracket bolts can result in loosening of the bracket and subsequent separation of the transverse link from the vehicle frame. Correction: Vehicles will be inspected and if necessary, PVC will be removed from the vehicle body under the transverse link mounting bracket bolt location and mounting bolts will be retorqued to specification.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2003117. Units affected: 12450.

    2000-2003: On certain vehicles operated in the “salt-belt” provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador. The rear suspension subframe components were produced with poor paint quality which, after continued exposure to corrosive road salts for a period of several years, may result in rust-out of the component and possible breakage of the subframe. Correction: Dealer will clean and rust-proof with anti-rust oil and anti-rust wax.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2003198. Units affected: 811.

    2004: Certain vehicles may have a loose or out of position fuel filler hose clamp which could result in fuel leakage. Correction: Dealer will inspect and tighten the clamp on the fuel filler hose.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2004094. Units affected: 8953.

    2001-2004: On certain Legacy, Outback H-6 3.0L and Impreza WRX 2.0L Turbo, the cruise control cable could come out of its track on the cruise control lever and lodge on the control lever tab when the accelerator pedal is released. If this condition occurs, the throttle will not return to the idle position, which may cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Correction: Dealer will install a retaining clip to the cruise control lever tab.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2002200. Units affected: 11597.

    2002-2003: On certain vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions, the parking pawl actuating rod (”parking rod”) spring retainer may be defective. The parking pawl may not engage the parking gear fully and could cause the vehicle to move if the parking brake is not applied. Correction: Dealers will replace the automatic transmission parking rod assembly. Replacement parts will not be available until January 2003.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2002162. Units affected: 153.

    2003: On certain 4-cylinder vehicles, the water pump pulley center hole was improperly machined and the pulley may dislodge from the pump which could result in severe engine damage during vehicle usage. Correction: The originally equipped water pump of each of the potentially affected vehicles will be replaced.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2003167. Units affected: 217.

    2003: On certain vehicles, the left front transverse link components were produced with poor electro-deposition coating quality which, after continued exposure to corrosive road salts for a period of several years, may result in rust-out of the component and possible breakage of the transverse link. If such a breakage occurs while the vehicle is being operated, control of the vehicle could be affected. Correction: Dealer will rust-proof the left side transverse link with anti-rust wax.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2002053. Units affected: 258.

    2002: On certain passenger vehicles the brake master cylinder may not function properly in ambient temperatures below freezing (0 deg. C and lower). In temperatures below freezing, the brakes may not release after being applied, even when your foot is no longer on the brake pedal. This can occur without prior warning, possibly resulting in a crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the master cylinders.

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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