1997 Subaru Outback Limited: owner review

  • Doors and Seats


    5 doors, 5 seats

  • Engine


    2.5i, 4 cyl.

  • Engine Power


    115kW, 221Nm

  • Fuel


    Petrol 9.1L/100KM

  • Manufacturer



  • Transmission


    4 Spd Auto

  • Warranty



  • Ancap Safety




The Outback was the ‘everyman’s’ choice for an outdoor lifestyle – it was an SUV before SUVs were a thing in Australia.

Owner: Mark Wellard

  • It is a really useful workhorse for our family

1997 Subaru Outback Limited: owner review-0

The Outback was the ‘everyman’s’ choice for an outdoor lifestyle – it was an SUV before SUVs were a thing in Australia. All-wheel drive offered the ability to hit the snow, go camping with all the necessary gear, stick a canoe on the roof racks, or tow a trailer full of dive tanks to Queensland for a trip to a secluded Barrier Reef island.

As a touring car, the Outback has sufficient ground clearance for most places that aren’t accessed by a 4WD track, and enough power to handle all terrain ‘as advertised on the box’. Being a wagon, it has good visibility and sufficient room for four people. It’s certainly not a rocket-ship, relative to a WRX of the time and cars of today, but it compensates with reasonable fuel economy and a comfortable ride.

One of the things it has in common with other Subarus I’ve owned is a lack of ventilation. Unless on full, the fan is pretty average. Using air-conditioning helps, but you pay a price with reduced power and fuel economy. The headlights are only fair in the country and supplementing them with decent driving lights is an advantage.

For its time, the Subaru had pretty up-to-date technology equivalent to other cars of the time – airbags (never tested but old enough to be pre-Takata!) and cruise control that works well. Although when fully loaded, the automatic gearbox tends to change down aggressively to maintain speed, which makes using cruise control in undulating country uncomfortable. This has become more of a problem as power drops off with age.

The Outback has been a really practical car; something to jump into at any time, and it has been adaptable to all our needs – which explains why it’s still part of the family. This one certainly lives up to the Subaru reputation for reliability.

Ours has travelled 350,000km, and other than new head gaskets at 220,000km, it has required only routine maintenance. Our mechanic sometimes remarks that we must really like this car given that we haven’t looked at replacements. It works so well that any replacement could not be called an ‘upgrade’.

I’m sure many of the model improvements that have been introduced in the last 20 years would cover the deficiencies mentioned above. Adaptive cruise control and stability control are two that come to mind.

One useful feature that was previously available, but deleted before this model, was the ability to raise the ride height. The return of adjustable ride height would be most useful for promoting safety in marginal terrain. Current models seem to suffer from bloat, so returning to the original size would also gain my approval.

Owner: Mark Wellard

Owner’s Rating

1997 Subaru Outback Limited Wagon

4.8/ 10

Technology & Connectivity