Subaru Outback 2.5i vs 3.6i?

Asked by Mar 20, 2017 at 07:30 PM about the 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5i

Question type: Shopping & Pricing

I am looking for a reliable car to take with me to Montana while I live there
for 6 months. I have been looking specifically at the 2011 Outback 2.5i, but
seeing so many for sale makes me question it. Are there any known
problems with this car? And should I be looking instead at the 3.6i engine? I
don't plan on towing anything, but I need to be sure the transmission won't
cause me problems in Montana.

20 Answers


I haven't heard too much complaints but I would go with the 3.6L engine.


Both the 4 and 6 cylinder Subaru's have issues with oil consumption. Not all of them but some of them do. Look up Consumer Reports Thirsty Thirty. If the car has a CVT I would stay away. I am pretty sure the 2011 3.6 engine uses the tried and true Subaru automatic.


Emily- I have the 2010 Subaru Outback Limited with the 2.5 and the CVT transmission. It's a great car, and you won't have any problems with oil consumption. The 2010 to 2012 Subaru Outbacks have the older EJ Series Phase 2 engines.. They are known​ for high oil consumption like the 2013 Subaru Outback FB series engines. The 2.5 Four will save you fuel and they are just a little slower on acceleration, 0-60 in 9.6 seconds. The 3.6 has the older transmission and much less effecient I took my car to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with a trailer and the car went to 9,000 feet just​ fine.

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Look into the CVT before buying one. They are not very good and cost a small fortune to replace. Just a few days ago there was a thread about a guy whose CVT had packed it in at a really low mileage.

1 people found this helpful.

Emily- FYI- take a look at this article from Torque News below, automakers-reliability An excerpt from this article, "Subaru uses a 6-speed Lineartronic CVT with 6-speed manual mode and paddle shifters on the 2016 Outback, Crosstrek, Impreza and Legacy and Lineartronic CVT with low mode (2.5i Forester models) or 6- and 8-speed manual shift modes and paddle shifters (2.0XT Forester models). The 2016 Subaru WRX gets a Sport Lineartronic CVT transmission with paddle shifters and 6- and 8-speed manual modes. Subaru engineers have done a good job of blending fuel-efficiency and sporty driving dynamics with their Continuously Variable Transmissions. The new emerging trend that is causing many automakers to drop in the reliability ratings, has not effected Subaru as they are in the top five for reliability in CR’s 2015 Annual Auto Reliability Survey"


Emily-. I DO NOT work for Subaru.... Just a pleased owner and by the way, I know someone on this forum who drove his 2010 Subaru Outback Limited with the CVT transmission 300,000 miles.. YES, things happen, but, don't let people make decisions for you. I was very impressed when I purchased my pre-owned certified Subaru Outback three years ago, have had zero issues, and still love my car. Drive one and see if you like it. When I went looking for this car, I really thought that I would need the 3.6 SIX cylinder engine, but, after I drove the FOUR cylinder engine with the CVT transmission, I was pleasantly surprised. Good luck.

1 people found this helpful.

Ignore the Subaru cheerleader and make your own decisions. Mark only reports the exceptional cases, not what mechanics who work on Subaru's will tell you.


Emily- Ask yourself how many Subaru cars are on the road and why Kelly Blue Book has said that Subaru is the most trusted brand... brand/


Sis boom bah!

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Emily- my suggestion is drive the car and see how you like it...


Please read this article below about which CVTs are considered, cvt.html/2


The CVT has Obvious problems with a Thrust Washer breaking inside the torque converter and causing the "stall at stop" or the dreaded shudder.. I'm glad Mark has had no problems with his car, but there are thousands of people that have had this exact issue, and have been left high and dry by Subaru of America.. I am one of these people.. This issue should have been a recall, but as evidenced by labor cost to do this job, Subaru is unwilling to eat it in most cases unless threatened with legal action.. And as far as the oil consumption issue, my 11 Legacy has lost a quart to a quart and a half since new, and it has had nothing but Mobil1 since new.. To me the oil consumption wasn't a huge deal since I had no other issues with the car, but when the Torque Converter failed that wore most of the Subaru "love" off for me. When I contacted SOA about some help with the torque converter issue, I was offered $500 off of a new Subaru, but no assistance with my disabled vehicle due to their defective part. I in good faith could not recommended a Subaru at this point especially a 10-14 Legacy or Outback with the 2.5 and CVT.. It seems to me that Subaru used to be over and above better, especially with customer service, until an expensive problem occurs then they revert to being just like any other conglomerate that puts profit before reputation..

1 people found this helpful.

You summed up the current state of Subaru nicely Courtney.


I've had a 2011, 2014, 2015 and now a 2017. I hated the 2014 and the 2017 doesn't get the mpg the 2011 and the 2015 got but engine and transmission wise I've never had any trouble or oil usage. I always change oil and have all my vehicles serviced at the recommended mileage. I've driven across country with 4 people that averaged out to 1000 lbs., all their luggage, two dogs and their cages, food and water for all that would last 4 days. Performance left nothing to be desired and they had the 2.51 engine. Handled the mountains and off road just fine.

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GuruDCN11- just returned from a 300 mile run in one day.. averaging 28.5 MPG from the 2010 Subaru Outback Limited CVT...and half of those miles were towing my teardrop trailer.....SO, I probably should have gotten over 30 MPG.... without towing... All freeway miles..... runs great.. For those of you who still say towing is risky....the car is rated to tow 2,700 pounds.. and Subaru specified that with the CVT transmission..... I know that many of you disagree...too bad.. Performance of the 2.5 as stated above is just fine... And, pretty quiet unless you are under heavy acceleration. Emily, save the money and get the FOUR....the SIX is a gas hog.... Especially the SIX without the CVT transmission.

Hey Markw1952 thanks for sharing your experiences. Very helpful. What is the GVW on your trailer you pulled to the GC?


John- you're welcome... here's a picture of my 2010 Subaru Outback Limited 2.5 CVT transmission with the teardrop trailer....the trailer is around 1,000 pounds fully pulls this easily...has a maximum tow capacity of 2,700 pounds... keep in mind that the 3.6 SIX cylinder can tow 3,000 pounds maximum.. not much difference.. only way you could notice is pickup, no problem to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.. also Sequoia Kings Canyon.. What's your setup???

Hi- New here. I have had several 70's & 80's Subarus that served me well over the years. I am now looking at a 2010 Outback 2.5 4 cyl. with only 74,000 miles. A dealer just received it in trade and are checking it out before I get to see and drive. I was hyped until I started reading the CVT stories. We purposely changed our target years to after the head gasket problem - post 2009, but I'm getting nervous. What other choices are there for something comparable? We need AWD or 4WD and something that doesn't mind dirt roads.


GuruWHMCH- all I can share with you is my personal experience...we have the 2010 Subaru Outback Limited with the 2.5 FOUR.... it's got 85,000 miles on it... service records are absolutely essential... I just got the timing belt, all tensioner bearings, water pump, thermostat and super coolant all replaced... cost $1,235... and all genuine Subaru parts...WHY is this important and WHY am I raising this with you... WELL, the car you're looking to purchase is essentially 9 years old... even with only 74,000 miles.. don't get too focused on the supposed low mileage.... I had a decision to make recently.. either get all this work done right now or sell my car.... this maintenance will occur every nine can't skip car is in beautiful condition... had everything checked out..and decided to keep it another 7 years... SO, get the records or receipts and ask them if they have done all this work....if they haven't walk, to answer your question about the capability of the Subaru..we took the car to Sequoia National Park...and took the Outback down an unmaintained dirt road ( mostly washed out); I told my wife.. sure hope the car makes it down and back's a long walk...and a rugged area....the car performed like a champ..... I'm not saying I would do it again, but it probably could... they're very robust... Contact the seller and see if they can provide you all the service will be very happy I told you this...A super clean interior is a sign that the owner has really taken care of the vehicle..... --Mark

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Markw1952- Thanks for the advice. I will check the service records and will go from there. I remember my 1978 Subaru with 290,000 that I sold to my sister-in-law who drove it for 2 more years - all without any major repairs. Of course, everything that wasn't motor related fell off at some point.

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