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Subaru Outback vs. Toyota 4Runner

badburrobadburro Posts: 2
edited June 25 in Subaru
I am looking at getting a used 2005 Subaru Outback XT Limited or a 2005 Toyota 4Runner Limited. I spend most of my time in the burbs, but do get out to go skiing and camping/backpacking. I currently own a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

I can rationalize for either the Subie (better gas mileage) or the 4Runner (bigger cargo to hold my Irish Setter and Lab).

What are the pros and cons of each one?



  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,021
    Maybe changing the discussion title will help generate some interest in here. I like my Outback for trips to the local ski hill. I don't know if it's really roomy enough for a big Lab. When friends come to visit with their Lab, our minivan is barely big enough to tote him around. ;)

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  • greengreen Posts: 15
    They're really in a different class. The 4Runner is a truck based SUV with a 2-spd transfer case capable of intense, low-speed off-roading. It's solid rear axle makes it give up some rear cargo room to car based SUVs like Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot. If cargo space is a major consideration, Highlander or Pilot, while perhaps looking a little smaller than a 4Runner on the outside, have more cargo space. 4Runners are great, but it sounds like you may be considering it for less than ideal reasons.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    This thread just appeared on my radar now, even though the question was asked a while ago.

    The Outback's cargo bay is not that tall, so a lab may not be able to stand up.

    The Forester's cargo area is actually taller, so check that out. I've carried two dogs, a lab and a lab/great dane mix, but that was with the rear seat folded, and both dogs sitting down. Danes are very tall, you might need a van if you want them to stand.

    4Runner has a pretty high cargo floor, so make sure the dogs can jump up that high, and get in and out easily.

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,687
    is fairly athletic, and he has a bit of trouble sometimes with getting in and out of the rear hatch of my 4Runner. It is pretty high.

    Unless you are an offroader, someone who tows, or the vehicle will spend half the time off the pavement getting beaten up a little at a time on dirt roads, I would go for the Outback. The 4Runner is overkill unless you meet one of those conditions.

    Plus in the turbo Outback you get a little better fuel economy and way better handling (and it goes without saying, MUCH more power and speediness, especially noticeable on the highway) in the Outback. Oh yeah, and in the Outback, your passengers don't have to climb up into the vehicle (something not everyone is fond of, and some people have a very hard time with!).

    Now of course you get a higher seating position in the Runner, which some people like, and a certain sense of rugged indestructibility, which it has earned over the years. And very good resale, if that matters.

    Bottom line: unless you intend to do things in the Runner that the Outback is really not capable of at all (rock crawling, towing, mud-stomping, running crappy forest service roads 50 miles at a stretch), the Subaru will serve you better.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • sullyaksullyak Posts: 30
    I've owned both cars. I have traveled with 2 medium sized labs in both and the outback was fine for space. If you don't need the truck aspects of the 4-runner, I think that the subaru is a better choice due to fuel economy, drive comfort and price.
  • jeffer3jeffer3 Posts: 22
    Wow, these were exactly the 2 vehicles I was considering. While some people seem puzzled as to how these 2 get the top spots when you consider my criteria it becomes more clear.
    What I wanted was a vehicle that had decent 4 or AWD. At least 30 cu ft of cargo space, and a decent roof rack. While there are other vehicles that fit those requirements many of them had one issue or another. Volvo and Audi - too expensive. The other so called SUV crossovers I didn't really care for, and most of them had sub-par AWD. Outback and Pilot had decent AWD and of course 4Runner is the best you can get. I scratched the Pilot more due to looks. So I was left with the Outback and the 4Runner.
    All things considered the OB was about 2k less when comparing the Limited package to a 4runner Sport. I also did extensive calculations on expected mileage and fuel cost per year. I figured I'd save about $300 - $400 /yr on fuel with the OB. Total 4 year savings about $4,000. That's what I thought anyway.
    So this past February I sprung for a shiny new OB. I can't tell you how disappointed I've been. You see, everything about the OB is small. I did take it for a long test drive in the pouring rain. It handled quite well actually but I think the rain caused me to be less cognizant of other issues. First, I take a size 10.5 shoe. My left foot has no place to rest comfortably. The dead pedal on the left is only 2/3 the size of my shoe. My foot usually ends up twisting in some weird way. The odd thing is a friend of mine has a 2001 OB w/ MANUAL shift and there is plenty of room in that car for my left foot. Subaru took a step backwards on this.
    Next up - trunk is not really that big. Cabin room is not very roomy. Sun glass compartment is smaller than glasses.
    Now overall it's not really a bad vehicle and could be OK for some people. But the REAL kicker is - BAD gas mileage. Seriously - I'm only getting about 18mpg's - if that. If you read the sticker on the car closely you will see BIG numbers 22 - 28 city/hwy. But read the fine print next to it. It says 18 - 23 city, and 26 - 33 hwy. Now my tendancy has always been to drive on the fast side but I've cooled it down and I still barely get the lower side of those estimates. In my previous vehicle, a 2000 Maxima 6 cyl 222hp, I often drove fast and hard, and it would do it too, and I averaged around 20 - 22 mpgs. Better than my 4cyl OB gets even when I baby the thing. I had fun driving the Maxima I can tell you.
    So if you have little feet, and don't carry a lot of cargo - go for the OB. But if want to have plenty of room and want real 4WD then I'd get the 4Runner - I wish I had. You will only benefit from the gas mileage if you drive for long highway trips. I did get 25 mpgs on one highway trip in the OB, but another only 21 mpg due to cargo and kayak wind resistance. From what I've read the 4Runner will get close enough to what I'm getting in the OB, and that's comparing a a 4cyl to a 6cyl.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Your mileage is well below the typical OB buyer's. Most average around 22-24 mpg with that powertrain.

    Just know that YMMV, and it does.

  • Which Engine do you have in the Outback?
  • nickelnickel Posts: 147
    Only 3 weeks ago I was on the same road that jeffer3. I pretty much had 3 options, after discharting leather and costly goods, prices approx.: OB 2.5i ($21.6K), OB XT ($27.5K), 4runner SR5 ($27K). As you see, the differences start at more than $5k. Then, that week, gas went over $3. Knowing from other family members that the 4Runner gives you less than 17 mpg, I realized I'm talking about maybe $600/year, on 4 years that's like $8,000 between price and gas. And the more costly options have higher insurance, maybe $300 more in the XT. Decided on the cheaper 2.5i.

    In Minnesota I drive mixed, and I've got 23 mpg. Of course I miss the power of the XT, and the "indestructibility" of the 4R off road, but about 35% of cost is something I prefer. Anyway, my OB can take me to where the hiking starts, or to family cabin.
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    Mine is a 2003 V8 LTD 4WD. I take mine offroad when fishing on the beach and hunting.

    It handles pretty well, for a truck. It stops pretty well, for a truck. It rides pretty well, for a truck. But you will never mistake it for anything other than a body-on-frame, solid-rear axle truck.

    It is not something that encourages sporty driving. The heavy solid rear axle has a lot of inertia and you can feel it move around on bumpy roads. The crummy pavement on the highways around Boston often set up a bit of a fore-aft pogoing motion. It's very well controlled for a solid-rear axle. But it is not an independent suspension and you realize it if the pavement isn't smooth.

    My 4Runner has a fair bit of wind and tire noise. The truck is also significantly affected by the wind -- you do get pushed around by gusts and the bow waves from semi-trailer trucks. The steering has very little effort, is highly geared (low number of turns lock-to-lock), and has poor on-center feel. The result is that the truck is busy on the highway -- you have to make a lot of small corrections to keep it centered in the lane. In contrast, my wife's MB C240 is much less tiring to drive on the highway. Driving the 4Runner on the highway isn't like herding cats, but it certainly is restful trying to keep it centered in the lane.

    In my normal commute (5 miles of clogged suburban roads and 10 miles of highway), I'm getting around 17 mpg. On the highway, if I drive at 65 mph or less and use the cruise control, I might get 19 mpg. If you are heavy on the gas, I'm sure you could get it down to 15 mpg in the city.

    Parking the 4Runner can be an adventure. It's a pretty tall vehicle and you can't see the corners of the front fenders. When backing up towards a parked car (e.g., when parallel parking), you lose sight of the front of the car behind you and have to guess where it is (unless you spring for the nav system and rear camera).

    The upside of all this is that the truck is excellent offroad. I put dedicated snow tires on it in the winter and it has incredible traction. In the winter, I regularly drive out an unplowed road to the shooting range. To do so, I have climbed over a 3' high snow bank at the edge of the paved road (dragging the undercarriage and running boards on the compacted snow bank) and then driven through 18 inches of fresh snow. The truck never struggled at all doing this; it just went up, over, and through.

    The 4Runner has an excellent offroad system. But that comes at a significant cost in mileage, comfort, and driveability. This is a big, heavy (4500 lbs) truck. If you don't need the offroad capability, you might be better served with something else.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's a refreshingly honest review. Thanks.

  • mystromystro Posts: 64
    I hoped you looked at the Tribeca,hands down better AWD and 5 it doesn't look like a Lexus. ;)
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    " It's solid rear axle makes it give up some rear cargo room to car based SUVs like Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot. If cargo space is a major consideration, Highlander or Pilot, while perhaps looking a little smaller than a 4Runner on the outside, have more cargo space. 4Runners are great, but it sounds like you may be considering it for less than ideal reasons."

    No offense but SOLID axles give MORE room than independent rear axles. Independent rear axles require more space for the Upper/Lower control arms and the inboard pumpkin giving those vehicles with them a higher rear load floor than a solid rear axle.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Not sure I agree, mike.

    With indy you give up some space on the shock towers, perhaps, but the pumpkin tends to be smaller plus it's in a fixed location.

    On a solid axle, you have to leave room for the (usually bigger) pumpkin to move up and down, so you have to leave clearance for that suspension travel.

    Obviously, some package it much better than others, but if you compare an Expedition to a Tahoe, the indy Ford does it much better. There is a lot more room in the footwell in the Ford. In the GM, the floor is a lot higher and there's no room for your feet so you sit with your knees in your chest in the 3rd row.

    Again, each manufacturer varies, but I compared those because they're so common.

    The Armada's very spacious. Nissan seemed to do a good job with packaging.

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    But, I think the floor is still significantly higher on the Indy trucks (the Armada included) than the non-indy. I even read that as well. Those control arms take up a lot of space and need to move, wheras on a solid rear axle there is only the springs that need to move up and down. I guess if it's a "small" vehicle the indy might have more room, but anything that has substancive rear control arms will need space.

    One of the things that bugs me about my armada is the high load floor due to the indy suspension. But it's got so much room to begin with it's not really an issue. :)

  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    Not sure that I agree with that Mike. I bet your rear load floor is about the same height off the ground as the new Tahoe and Suburban, which don't have fold into-the-floor rear seats or IRS.

    Everything I've read suggests that IRS allows for better packaging which allows for fold-into-the-floor rear seating without raising the floor.

    Also, look at the rear floor of the new solid-axle Jeep Commander. They had to "raise" the cargo floor in order to have fold into-the-floor rear seats.

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Hmm Maybe you are right, although it doesn't make sense that the IRS would take up less space than SRS.

  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,661
    Well, here's my take. With IRS you can bolt the rear differential directly to the frame. By doing so you don't have to allow for vertical travel room of the differential or driveshaft, as you would with a solid rear axle.

    Just by doing that allows for engineers to package items differently. That in turn may open up more space for relocating (or re-designing) other items such as the fuel tank, exhaust, etc.

    Now I may not be 100% accurate with specifics here, but I think you see my point. The fact of the matter is that all the SUVs and crossovers with IRS seem to have more 3rd-row seating room than those with solid rear axle setups. Now, having said that the Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen (not Jeep!) SUVs do pretty well with rear seating and legroom space, with a fold-into-the-floor rear seat, despite having a solid rear axle. If Dodge and Chrysler can do it, I don't understand why GM couldn't do it?

    I sat in the rear of a new Tahoe yesterday, and because the rear floor (for my feet) was so high my knees were close to my chin. I doubt that's the case with your Armada. The Armada's rear footwell is lower because there is no room needed for vertical travel of the driveshaft, therefore the footwell can be deeper. That in turn benefits the 3rd-row passengers.

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    on the Armada is actually usable by full size paisan adults (2 of em) for up to 1-1.5hr trips.

    I'm not sure if that's because the roof is so high or the floor is low though.

  • This thread is old, but its exactly what I'm thinking right now... whether to get the new 4Runner or the new Outback 3.6R. I currently have a leased 08 Outback - that has performed well - been taken places it probably shouldn't have gone - while not instilling a sense of confidence in me.

    Before I saw the '10 4 Runner... I was undecided about several "possibilities"... including the Inifiniti FX, Lexus RX, Highlander, Land Cruiser or Sequoia. All of these but the Land Cruiser scream "chick" vehicle to me. And the Land Cruiser and Sequoia are spending and too much vehicle (and won't fit in my garage).

    So I found myself left w/ the Outback... sure the outside is "interesting"... but the inside - while VERY roomy looks and feels cheap. I think my 08 Outback has better interior quality than the '10.

    Enter the redesigned 4Runner - and for about 2K more - I could have a cool looking, taking it anywhere vehicle. About 95% sold on it. The gas mileage is City rated just under the Outback 3.6R (6cyl). But in every other regard the 4 Runner just seems better.

    Thoughts? Other considerations?
This discussion has been closed.