Owner Review: I Thought The 2021 Subaru Outback Was The Perfect All-Purpose Family Hauler. Here’s Why I Sold It

The Outback's out — but what should replace it?

2021 Subaru Outback — Owner review
(Images: Chris M.)

Editor’s Note: In some contrast to the family who just bought into the Subaru Outback ecosystem, TFL reader Chris M. just sold his Outback after a cross-country trip. Here’s his story.

Chris’ 2021 Subaru Outback adventure

“I bought a new 2021 Outback thinking it could be a perfect family hauler, a somewhat off road oriented all purpose vehicle, and a great car for road trips.Testing that idea, last month we headed out on a 6,300-mile, 24-day trip across Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The primary focus of the trip was to visit the National Parks, but also to explore some off-pavement trails along the way.

I have been to Ouray and Moab a couple times, but only in my Jeep Cherokee. We wanted to explore some of the milder trails in those areas with the Outback. Before the trip, we used the trailsoffroad.com site for difficulty ratings and uploaded to a tablet running GaiaGPS. We stayed well clear of anything marked a 2+ or more difficulty rating. Off road, we found out quickly the Outback was capable, but only to a point.

More Reading: We Loved Our Jeep — Here’s Why We Traded It For A 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Instead: Owner Review

With limited approach and departure angles, and more importantly without a low range gearbox, even the 2-rated trails outmatched us. All Terrain tires and skid plates don’t help much when the car approaches an obstacle and refuses to go anywhere. No mashing of ESC Off or toggling X-mode helped. On one trail, we found out the hard way that hill descent control works in reverse. (We tried to get to the first parking area of Yankee Boy Basin and did not make it).

My takeaway from that experience is flooring the car and using momentum to clear obstacles is the worst thing you can do when the trail gets tricky. The experience was not all negative however. The Outback did great on anything that resembled a dirt road or easy path. Some trails we were able to complete include:

We averaged 29 mpg over the journey and probably drove a couple hundred miles of Forest Service Roads, and trails thrown in. The car was great on the highway, and the EyeSight adaptive cruise control with lane centering made the journey stress free. Every vehicle has trade offs.

My decision to purchase the Outback was a desire for an all purpose mild off-roader with good gas mileage. Unfortunately my expectations of the Outbacks off road and trail capabilities were not met. I may have got too caught up in the fan base forums and online reviews. It is a capable car to a point, but leaves a lot to be desired for actual off-road trails.

With the chip shortage and inflated used car values right now, I sold the Outback this week to Carvana. What to choose next? For now, I’m driving my 2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ,  but it is a little long in the tooth and lacking creature comforts. At the end of the day, I know there is no perfect vehicle but my next vehicle will be something more capable off-road and will have a low-range transfer case.”