Subaru advice

My wife is getting ready to get a new vehicle, which will serve as the watercraft transporter. She is considering a Forester, most likely, but perhaps an Outback or Crosstrek. Mazda CX-5 is also a possibility. Any words of wisdom? What about roof racks? We will carry solo canoes, a tandem canoe, or a kayak, and possibly more than one at a time.

Love the Subaru Brand

– Last Updated: Sep-09-13 8:40 PM EST –

Any kayak can be put on almost Any car
- with a little bit of thinking of how to "span"
and support the kayak

Sliding Extenders fit just about anything out there
up to the 21 foot long surf ski style boats
cradled nicely in the V supports

Reliable, carries boats easily, V6 gets reasonably good mileage and is powerful. Lot’s of room inside. Got 76k on mine with zero issues and still runs like new.

I know Yakima doesn`t make a rack to fit the 2013 Outback the last time I checked. I carry my Stellar Skis on V-bars also hooked on to the factory rack, they make me nervous when I carry a 25 ft tandem and a ski at the same time.

Subaru Forester
The Forester is available with true side-rails which makes hauling items on your roof easier and cheaper. Malone universal cross-bars are cheap on Amazon and fit all Thule (and Malone) carrier attachments.

The Crosstrek and Impreza hatch are equally good. I despise the “nifty” fold-away crossbars in the Outback.

I use 50" crossbars and regularly carry two kayaks on top. I would have gone to 58" if I knew I was carrying canoes and kayaks.

This is my 4th Subaru. All have been great and the company stands behind them.


Had a 99 five speed manual transmission Forester that died on the way back from the Ozarks at about 240,000 miles (busted rod.)

Replaced it with a 2010 automatic transmission Forester. Liked the 99 better. The 2010 is larger and higher, suspension is softer. The 99 handled better. In my opinion I made a mistake not sticking with the manual transmission.

I was considering the Outback but those dopey roof racks were a deal killer so I went with the Forester. I use a Yakima rack system. Rail Grabbers and crossbars long enough to haul two Mad River Freedom Solo canoes.

Have had no problems with that system, even in strong cross winds and occasionally doing 80 mph on the interstate. Matter of fact last year I sat out a tornado that passed about a quarter mile behind me while I had my canoe strapped to the top of my Forester. The canoe stayed on the car even though I swear that at one point two of my wheels left the ground.

My friend has just taken delivery of a new Subaru CrossTek. He had a 2003 Forester (estimated) and did not like my larger 2010 Forester. The CrossTek is similar in size to the pre-2009 Foresters.

The CrossTek has a 2.0 Liter engine while the Forester has a 2.5 Liter engine. While it has slower acceleration than the Forester, he has compared the torque and has determined that it is close enough to his old Forester that he will have no problem hauling his tear drop trailer and his canoe.

He also said he looked around and really wanted a vehicle like his old Forester. He said the CrossTek is the closest he could find. Other Subaru models, and the Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, etc., have all become too bloated.

Knowing what I know now if I were shopping for a new (to me) vehicle today my first choice would be a 2008 or 2007 Forester with low miles and a good maintenance record with the five speed manual transmission. As a second choice I would take a hard look at the CrossTek, but I like a vehicle with faster acceleration than I’m afraid the CrossTek has.

Good luck in you search. Would be interested in what you decide to acquire and the rationale for you decision.

2013 Outback Roof Rack Sucks
Like the car otherwise.

My girlfriend has been test driving…
…Subarus as a replacement for her aging Passat wagon. From our test drives of comparable base models, there is no doubt that the Outback is a much more refined vehicle than the Forester. We we both turned off by the Forester’s hard plastic interior, uncomfortable seats, buckboard ride and useless door armrests. In contrast, the Outback was far more comfortable, had better interior appointment and design, and had a much smoother, though still well-controlled ride. The only question now is whether to get the 6-speed manual or the CVT. For an automatic, the CVT is nice, but we both have always driven manuals, so we’ll see.

I would like to hear more specifics about the Outback roof rack complaints, as it seems like a brilliant design, at least on the surface. The cross bars aren’t as rigid as an aftermarket rack, but as long as your run the straps around the side rails, I don’t see that as much of an issue.

We’ve had a 2014 Forester for a few months now and have been very pleased. Mileage with the CVT and no rack has been in the low 30s. For a rack I use my old Thule bars attached to the factory side rails with U-bolts.

I do wish it wasn’t as tall as it is. We had a 1999 Legacy wagon – NOT an Outback – that was a great boat car because of the low, long, flat roofline.

The roof rack is to antagonistic to people with a mix of boat hauling needs, like you guys. The changes they made to the rack in 2010 are very difficult to deal with for that kind of use, maybe impossible unless you are handy or want to spent a goodly amount of bucks for a third party kludge. And it is even taller than the Forester.

Forester racks have not been messed with. Don’t know about the Mazda or the CrossTrek. I think the Mazda rails are a little shy on length, maybe, if I recall correctly. But they are otherwise relatively normal.

My wife recently got the crosstrek. We both love it. Drives real nice and very comfortable. We have the factory racks on them and can easily fit two kayaks with j-racks. There is a weird plastic part at the edge of the rack so i couldn’t fit a kayak in a j-rack with a SUP board next to it. Also, the front and rear are almost all plastic and i had a hard time finding something solid for a bow and stern lines.

Use the hood bumpers
Put a strap or a loop around them, up front.

Subaru owners love their cars and there is nothing wrong with them - except for the Outbacks roof racks. Don’t sell the Mazda CX-5 short. Great handling, great gas mileage (even in a 4 wheel drive version), state of the art technology (Sky Active) and if you opt for no roof rails you can use Thule foot packs. You will also pay less for a loaded CX-5 than a loaded Outback.

Forester and 78 inch crossbars
I have a 2010 Forester with Thule towers and 78 inch crossbars. This gives me plenty of room to carry 2 sea kayaks, or a sea kayak and a canoe, and if need be, I could get 3 sea kayaks on. I do have tennis balls on the ends of the crossbars to soften the inevitable head bumps! The Forester side rails are great. They have more length than the side rails on the 2010-current Toyota 4Runner. FWIW, my mechanic says the Mazda’s are the hardest to work on, but the CX’s certainly are nice vehicles. (My mechanic says the second hardest to work on are the Subaru’s!) A paddling friend has a similar rack setup on his Forester, and he’s often carrying 2 canoes. I like the long crossbars because they give me more and better options for tying down whatever is on the top of the car.

I am on my way home from a trip…

– Last Updated: Sep-10-13 6:05 PM EST –

of 2000 miles with our new 2014 Suburu Forester and am carrying a 17 foot canoe on yakama bars.
I purposely got the model without the roof racks so I could use my yakama landing pads.
The roof has four knock outs that you pry out, and then just screw the Landing pad bases to the car using Yakama bolts. Doing it this way eliminates the extra few inches of mounting cross bars on top of factory rails, and makes the cross bars much more secure and rigid.
From what I could see when we were hunting for a new small vehicle, every single new model sucks for getting a good distance spread between cross bars.
We had a Ford Escape which was our perfect "boat carrying" vehicle, but the new ones are no different then the Forester.
I swear some idiot car designer came up with a rounded roof design and then sold it to every car manufacturer.
We wanted an Escape but with their new rounded roof, and the fact that they are between 5 and 7 thousand dollars more then the Forestor is what sold us on the Forester.
With all that said, I am getting between 27 and 32 MPG with the canoe on the roof.
Their new transmission is the smoothest of any automatic that I have ever driven, and another good point is the fact that they went back to a timing chain rather then a belt.
I don't know the actually height of my cross bars, but they are several inches lower then on my Escape which makes it nice for my 5'-1" tall wife loading the boats.
If you use the long Yakama bars you won't have any problem carrying two sea kayaks and one canoe at the same time
If you have any other questions on the Forester I will be glad to answer them for you.
Jack L

the crosstrek
Is just an impreza lifted about 6 inches with a few different body panels.

Ryan L.

If you use the factory rack
There are no side rails to tie anything down to, all tie downs are to the cross bar. If you load two boats there is no room to tie anything down. Yakima does not make landing pads for the 2013 so if you want an aftermarket rack that is wider you have to attach it to the factory cross rails which flex and not good for multiple boats, waveskis, surfboards etc.

I have a 2012 Outback

– Last Updated: Sep-11-13 10:15 PM EST –

The stock rack seemed pretty much on par with any other stock rack that's out there, ok but not nearly as bomber as a Thule or Yakima setup. Would carry two kayaks on j-cradles fairly easily. I replaced the stock rack with the Yakima setup, and it's been working great. Got wider bars to extend the rack out further, helps get boats up there without having to reach onto the roof as far. The rack does get somewhat tall with the addition of the landing pads and control tower, raises the whole thing up another few inches. I'm 6'2" and its almost a reach. The good news is this give you plenty of clearance to get the rear liftgate up more than halfway with boats loaded.

Apparently Yakima is going to release a rack for the 2013 the beginning of 2014, if you can believe what you read on the internet. You can also modify the current landing pads 12 to fit the 2013 roof, but you're only getting a 30 inch spread.

Mine is the 6 speed manual, it would be a great Maine or NH car, but for me driving around the burbs of MA it's not worth the aggravation. At this point I wish I had gone with the cvt automatic, and the wife can't drive stick, so there's that to deal with as well. It's a big comfy car, great in the snow, heated seats and quiet, but handles like shit, lots of body roll and doesn't hold a line well on the highway. It will get around 30 mpgs on the highway, and again is super comfy, tons of space in front and in the back seats. I'm coming from a 2002 WRX wagon which was a great little car, fast but uncomfortable. So I've had to drastically change my driving style for the Outback, which isn't a bad thing as I now drive like a responsible law abiding citizen. Would really have prefered just a Legacy wagon without the 9 inches of ground clearance on the Outback, but it seems all manufacturers are going the crossover route, and I just kinda rolled with it. If I had the money I'd have gotten a Ford Flex, more carlike ride and height, but they were out of my price range.

Good luck with whatever you decide to get...

Rav 4
I’ve had 3 Subarus (Legacy, Outback and SVX) and had pretty much decided my next car would be a Subaru until I talked to a friend with a Rav 4. After comparing, I went with the Rav 4. Better mileage, more useable space, and the roof rack is well-designed and sturdy. I got a 4-cylinder and it is peppier than any Suburau I’ve driven.

Also, I LOVE the side-opening rear door, which unlike vertical opening doors, opens all the way even with a boat on top. I also find that it’s much easier to load my kayak with the rear door open, and I can stand on the back bumper to fix the rear straps.

Like side opening door too
I get a nice spread on my bars too, something like a 42" spread. works nicely for my long boats. Racks are very sturdy.