Review: Subaru Legacy/Outback Diesel (2008 – 2014)


Big, solid, honest, comfortable, fine handling and very economical four wheel drive chain-cam diesel estate car, sensibly priced. Unique.

Just a little bit old fashioned. Early cars had DPF problems.

Recently Added To This Review

28 October 2018

Report of problems with DPF of 2010 Subaru Outback estate AWD. Four warning lights have appeared, DPF light (Flashing) VDC,electronic parking brake and check Engine light. Local mechanic has cleaned... Read more

26 September 2017

Report of ongoing problems with 2011/60 reg Subaru Outback SE Boxer D, bought used with 36k miles from Subaru dealer in March 2016 for £11,450. The first oil problem was identified on 19th July,... Read more

22 May 2017

Report of engine of 2008 Subaru Outback diesel seizing. Apparently had been over-filled with oil. Read more

Subaru Legacy/Outback Diesel (2008 – 2014): At A Glance

Subaru enthusiasts, pony club members, and anyone living up a muddy lane or above the snow line had been clamouring for this for years. Subaru now expects to sell 85% of Legacy Sport Tourers and 95% of Outbacks with its new ‘Boxer' diesel engine.

And so it came to pass, nine years after the Subaru engineers were given the green light to produce the world's first boxer diesel-powered engine, here it is.

Obviously we're not going to be dishing any awards for cutting-edge industry initiatives here, but that's another issue. The key question is whether it's all been worth the epic gestation?

The short answer is yes. Any engine which can pull the architecture of a not-so-inconsequential-sized estate car to a top speed of 126 mph while powering all four of its wheels and still boast nearly 50mpg is surely be worthy of a positive reception.

And if those facts weren't impressive enough, then take the starting prices: a smidgen under £20k will buy the surprisingly well-equipped Legacy TD, or the same entry-level Outback for £21,495.

Subaru Legacy Diesel 2008 Road Test

What does a Subaru Legacy/Outback Diesel (2008 – 2014) cost?

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Subaru Legacy/Outback Diesel (2008 – 2014): What's It Like Inside?

And it's a pleasant enough car. Stacks of luggage space (more than the old V70, anyway). Nice cream leather seats and very posh carpeting for the load compartment. (Will definitely require loadliner and seatcovers for anyone living in the country.)

I thought I'd test it out on my housekeeper, who was used to my long-term CR-V, on a shopping trip to Tesco. It made a good impression. She much preferred it. Liked the colours inside and the twinkling red LEDs on the instrument display. So for someone who doesn't know cars the Legacy made it on the status stakes as a superior machine to an SUV.

Child seats that fit a Subaru Legacy/Outback Diesel (2008 – 2014)

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What's the Subaru Legacy/Outback Diesel (2008 – 2014) like to drive?

On first impression then, Subaru seem to have laid the foundations for a diesel model line-up which they so desperately need.

But there's a caveat to all this. Subaru is quite rightly proud of its achievements and is consequently doing much chest-beating about how this turbocharged unit produces 258lbs of torque and 147bhp from the same horizontally-opposed layout as the petrol original. Oh and this new alternative takes up even less space in the engine bay. Yet, none of this will mean a toss to real people if the results still sound and drive like a Massey Ferguson tractor. Surely they'd have remembered that little consideration?

Well... starting from cold, the clatter coming from underneath the bonnet immediately tells your neighbours that this car is a fan of the black-handled pump. I'm trying not to be too harsh on this first offering from Subaru, but you have to understand over the past decade or so, diesel technology has progressed at an alarming rate, turning the image of diesels as oafish oil-burners into quiet, refined and acceptable sources of power. This engine, though, feels as if it has been stuck in a time warp somewhere between now and when we used to write the date starting with a 1 and a 9.

The great shame is, if it were launched as little as five years ago, I have no doubt all the motoring fraternity would be feting this unit as the new diesel Messiah. Given what is currently on the market - especially from those clever Germans - this diesel needed to be so good that it would blow away everything that stood in its path. Instead, all it can do is muster a tentative nudge above the average mark.

With both cars sharing the same engine, suspension and five-speed gearbox, there is hardly any difference in the overall performance. On the straight, the Legacy's is a tad quicker - by 0.3 of a second to 60mph, in fact. And at 126mph, it has a higher top speed, by 2mph.

Only when the two are driven back-to-back do the Legacy's slightly sportier characteristics become more evident. Neither could be considered the most rip-roaring drive ever, yet the Legacy shows more responsiveness and has an overall sense of dynamism. Take both through the same set of twists and turns and the Legacy hunkers down and relishes the job in hand, while the Outback feels a bit like trying to post a dead trout through a letter box.

If you're choosing a new car and are prepared to think a little outside the box, even slightly left-of-centre, either of these cars isn't as risky a prospect as you might first suspect. Like their petrol siblings, they feel as though they've been built to withstand a megaton explosion. And not only that, they have been finished to a standard of refinement far exceeding expectations. A protective blanket swathes each car in an array of passive and safety equipment, too. And although the full-time AWD system is there for added traction, trespassing across a Gloucestershire farmer's land is not going to cause it too many problems. (Note: before running the risk of being blasted by a 12-bore shotgun, do take into account ground clearance and lack of low-range gearing).

So is this the technical, gob-smacking breakthrough Subaru would have you believe? Not really, but much the same as the rest of its range, it's a fairly credible choice.

If you seek an escape route from the one-way system of German fashion, Subaru finally has a diversion that's not marked ‘petrol'.

What have we been asked about the Subaru Legacy/Outback Diesel (2008 – 2014)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Should I sell my high mileage Subaru?

I own a 2008 Subaru Outback 2.0-litre diesel. I am the second owner of the car which has now done 180,000 km. Everything has been perfect so far, but there are 3 big non-official Subaru repair shops in my country which all say to sell this car due to the famous big problems with the broken crankshaft. Last month, after I did a lot of research about this problem, there are two big mysteries I have found: 1. Subaru never comments on the problem. FHI has not given a single detailed official information about the problem. 2. Due to the first point, there's never been any statistics of how many Subaru diesels are sold all over the world and how many of them have been diagnosed with broken crankshaft at how many miles. Moreover I wonder if there is anything that can be done to prevent that from happening instead of regular servicing and driving with premium diesel fuel because these actions have proven to be inefficient to combat the problem. Is it inevitable for all Subaru 2008 diesel engines and should I sell it as soon as possible? If the answer to my last question number is yes, shouldn't that have turned into a worldwide scandal that discredited Subaru diesel engines and how have FHI managed to hide that for 8 years.
180,000 kilometres is a reasonable life for any modern engine, but not a great life, and does not fit the legendary reliability of the old Subaru belt cam petrol flat fours that were known to hit 1 million kilometres plus. We have no more data on crankshaft failure than we have recorded from reader reports here: But it seems to be quite common. If I was you I'd be nervous and I'd try to sell the car.
Answered by Honest John
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