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Subaru or Volvo?
July 16, 2011 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Should we buy a Subaru or a Volvo? Outback or Forester / V50 or V70? Requirements: AWD, durability/dependability, fuel efficiency, safety, cargo space in that order.

We had pretty much decided that we are going to buy a used Subaru, and went to a dealership today to test drive one. (The 2005-2006 ones are in our price range -- we're hoping to spend around $14K). The dealer had a 2005 Volvo V70 AWD Cross Country on the lot, which we hadn't even known about / considered, so we test drove that one too and liked it, though it was a little big. Then I came home to research it and found out there's a smaller wagon that Volvo made, the V50, that sometimes came with AWD. They seem really rare though, I can't find one in the Portland metro area.

Would it be worth seeking one out? Or should we stick with a Subaru? And if so, which would be better for our needs: Outback or Forester?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Shopping (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a Volvo V70 - non Xcountry - I adore it. It's big enough but not too big, easy to maintain, and safe. Fits me, the 2 kids, about 900 things from Ikea, and even once a slipper chair from Hickory Furniture Mart!

I've never owned a Subaru but have to put in the vote for the Volvo station wagon. (I got mine from Craigslist - if you have a good mechanic to do a good test before you buy you can get a fabulous deal on any car without paying dealership prices... just my two cents).
posted by lucydriving at 6:58 PM on July 16, 2011


I'm prejudiced. I'm on my 3rd Subaru. 2011 Outback. My aunt has a 2010 Forester. I can't speak for the 2006-06 ones. Interior wise, they're much the same. Little more cargo room with my Outback. Same engine.
You're gonna get a lot of this cause there are dedicated Volvo owners along with dedicated Subaru owners. We both like our cars.
Good Luck.
posted by JohnE at 7:02 PM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


JohnE's got it - I love my 2001 Subaru Forester. Be warned that the 2001+2002s have a known head gasket issue so if you're looking at one that old be on the watch for it. Non-issue in later years as far as I know. We camp, haul art, canoe, stuff with ours and have never gotten stuck in either deep snow or pretty rough off road stuff (lava field anyone?) Will definitely replace it with another. I like the greater height of the Forester than the Outback but have only test driven the Outback.
posted by leslies at 7:13 PM on July 16, 2011


We have a 2005 Forrester that I absolutely adore. She's a workhorse, fantastically reliable, I used it until recently as a daily commuting car (when I bought my second Subaru). We've done several major road trips in it without a problem, and really I suspect we'll drive it until it dies because we love it so much.

Last winter we had some record snowfalls and more than once I felt like we were the only safe car on the road, watching other cars spin and slide. I adore it for safety. The only caveat I would have for you is that we bought the turbo engine, and that may impact your fuel efficiency. As for cargo space, I can't tell you how much we've hauled in it. Large pieces of furniture, enough gear for four people to go to the beach for a week, you name it.
posted by librarianamy at 7:22 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My parents' 2006 Forrester gets ~10.6L per 100km in normal suburban driving.
posted by trialex at 7:51 PM on July 16, 2011


I've had both. I'd go with a Honda CRV AWD.

Do yourself a HUGE FAVOR and spend the $8 subscribing to Consumer Reports online Car database. It shows you the 10 year reliability history of all of these (and anecdotedly is SPOT ON with my experience).

Look at the Subaru and the Volvo. Look at how they get after 6ish years. Look at the Honda CRV--very different.

Trust an impartial source.
posted by Murray M at 7:56 PM on July 16, 2011


I'm partial to the Forester.
posted by 4ster at 8:24 PM on July 16, 2011


14k? Yer crazy. '07 Subaru Impreza hatchback. You'll spend 10k to 11k. All wheel drive, 2.5 liter engine so you'll get 20 to 26 mpg (vs. the outback which gets much less).
Subaru Impreza Hatchback. Look into it.
posted by Tennyson D'San at 9:42 PM on July 16, 2011


Since the first requirement you list is AWD, it's worth noting that the Subaru has a significantly more sophisticated AWD system than the Volvo. This article explains it:

The automatics get a very sophisticated multi-plate electro-magnetic clutch pack centre differential, which doesn’t merely react to wheel slippage but can proactively direct torque rearward if, for example, it senses hard throttle application that might make those rear wheels spin.

And, again, the Forester is always in four-wheel drive to one degree or another; most competitors’ four-wheel drive systems are front-wheel drive until wheel slippage occurs, and it inevitably takes longer for them to engage the rear wheels. As our former engineering writer Gerry Malloy used to say, “There’s full-time four-wheel drive, part-time four-wheel drive, and too-late four-wheel drive.’’


These videos, while created by Subaru employees, are illustrative of real differences.

In terms of reliablity, the Volvo V70 gets better marks from Consumer Reports than the V50, which is mixed. Subarus are well known for their reliability; you can't go wrong.

The Outback is just a Legacy wagon with more ground clearance, while the Forester is built on the Impreza platform, so I'm not sure if it actually has as much interior space. They're pretty similar; I'd drive both and see what you like better. The Forester is the most car-like SUV; it's a good choice, better, I think, pace Murray M, than the CRV.

If you're looking at the Outback in the 2005/6 model year, get the 2006; there were significant improvements to side-impact protection and rear-impact whiplash protection that year in the Legacy, which I assume carried over to the Outback.
posted by Dasein at 9:43 PM on July 16, 2011


I will add, however, that the Volvo will have a much tighter turning radius. If that's worth 7k to you than go for the Volvo. (I've driven both and will never buy anything other than a Subaru.)
posted by Tennyson D'San at 9:44 PM on July 16, 2011


Ooooh, good luck with this decision! My wife drives a 2010 Forester and I drive a 1998 V70. Both are seemingly indestructable, both are a pleasure to drive, both average over 25mpg, both are great in bad weather and offroad (the Subaru has a little more clearance, but the Volvo held her own), and neither one of us would trade with the other.

One thing to note on the Foresters - if you're looking for the more-SUV-less-wagony version, they did a major redesign in 2009. If they hadn't done that, we would have gone with the Outback instead.
posted by spinturtle at 10:08 PM on July 16, 2011


All right, the CR reliability reports are pretty compelling. Though the CR-V looks huge to me, and I really hate large cars, I feel like I must look into that before making a decision. Looks like they get better mileage too.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:22 PM on July 16, 2011


Here is a web site, True Delta, of impartial repair and maintenance information gathered from actual car owners over time. I find their data pretty compelling.
posted by ptm at 11:39 PM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


We've had Outbacks for ten years, as a data point. Mrs. M drives an '05 now with 75K. She loves it, and it's a nice car to drive. We've had very little major work done, none on the '05. (Cars less than ten years old are "new" in our household.)
posted by maxwelton at 11:47 PM on July 16, 2011


Definitely consider the CR-V. I have a 2005 and it is awesome. I've never had any issues with it at all, and it handles great in all weather. Lots of space, good gas mileage for the size. Good luck!
posted by mudlark at 12:18 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would reconsider the Volvo. My mother has a 2006 (a car, not SUV) and it has been nothing but a headache. One (costly) maintenance job after another. They used to be quality cars (at least safety-wise), but my once-favorable view of them has changed, probably irrevocably.
posted by GeniPalm at 2:22 AM on July 17, 2011


I had a 2005 Volvo S60, purchased new, and will never buy a Volvo again. I had to have sensors replaced, the radiator replaced and the transmission replaced over the course of the 2 years that I had it.
posted by Jacob G at 8:03 AM on July 17, 2011


Just a point, my best friend bought an early 00's Volvo because of their supposed dependability. Over the last four years, he spent more than it cost him originally before he finally dumped it and bought a Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:16 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I have a 2005 Forester that I absolutely adore. It's only got 50k miles on it and I've only had it since January but I fully intend to drive this car for another ten years. Speaking with other owners, this is a distinct possibility.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:17 AM on July 17, 2011


OK, decided not to buy the Volvo. We test drove the CR-V yesterday and it does feel bigger, but I guess I could get used to it. Not only does it seem to get better reliability reports, but it's a bit more fuel-efficient. Now the challenge will be to see if we can find one in our price range; there are less of them on the lots than there are Subarus, and those Hondas really seem to hold their value, I guess unsurprisingly.

Tennyson D'San: I looked it up and I don't see what you're talking about. Retail for an '07 Impreza hatchback is $15K.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:08 AM on July 18, 2011


Update: bought a 2008 Honda CR-V this morning. I'm confident I made the right choice. Thanks everybody!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:59 PM on July 20, 2011


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