Subaru questions

I saw a thread from last week bashing the Outback’s factory rack/rails. I’m not 100% clear on what makes the Outback’s rails so non-functional, but I’m wondering if it applies to the Impreza Sport wagon/hatchback as well. The Impreza Sport is currently on my new car short list, with ease of kayak loading being a major factor. I have not looked at the car up close yet.

My husband has a VW Jetta Sportwagon TDI with standard factory side rails, Malone Universal Crossbars, one set of Malone Seawings, and one set of Malone “Downloader” folding J’s. Would the same setup work on the Impreza Sport?

Secondary question: I’m largely considering a Subaru over a second VW Sportwagon because of the ACA discount on top of the already lower cost. Has anyone used the ACA Subaru discount before, and how did it go? The VIP program states up to $3300 off depending on model and equipment- how much did you really save?

the issue
Is rack spread. There are work arounds for every car.

Outback new system is a problem

– Last Updated: Aug-22-14 4:38 PM EST –

The side rails on newer model Outbacks pivot and clip to the rail on the other side. This means the side rails can be moved to create cross bars when needed. It looks like this:

It probably seems like a cool idea at first but fails in practice for most of us. That system is probably fine for cargo boxes and bike racks but not for kayak systems.

There is in general a dislike of the factory cross bars on most cars. The weight limit is usually lower and the curve of those bars, which the Outback also has, can be problematic at times.

Lots of us have already invested in crossbars (round or square mostly) and have various mounts to fit those bars. The Outback rack will not allow us to use our crossbars and unless we have mounts that fit the "aero" style crossbars they will not fit.

Since you can't use your crossbars, all of us who have longer crossbars to fit more up there are out of luck.

Depending on your kayak you also need to change the spread between the crossbars. The Outback system locks them in place.

Overall you are better just buying a car with side rails only and skip the car branded crossbars completely. Go to Thule or Yakima and enter the car you are thinking about to get an idea what you need. Lots of us go with longer than recommended bars especially if you are using stackers and trying to get 4 kayaks up there, two wide kayaks side by side, or maybe a cargo box and a bike or two.

I don't think the other Subaru side rails swing out like the Outback does. If you are looking at a car for kayaking consider the height of the car and your ability to get a kayak up there. With higher roof SUVs this can be difficult depending on your height, kayak, and if you have help or not.

Impressa Sport
Looks like the rails are similar to your spouse’s VW and would take the same rack setup. I had a 02 WRX wagon, which is essentially the same car, and it was a great kayak hauler.

Outback rack
Thank you for the photo of the Outback rack. As far as I can tell, the Impreza Sport does not have those silly swing-out crossbars, just normal side rails, and should accept Thule/Yakima/Malone rail-grabbing crossbars. So thats good news.

You are correct, roof height is my #1 consideration for ease of kayak loading, SUVs aren’t in the running. I don’t know why wagons aren’t more popular in the US. Impreza Sport is 6" shorter than the Outback and about the same as the VW Sportwagon, so it should be a good loading height for me, I was just worried about the rails after reading about the Outback.

Racks and ACA discount
As above, the Outback is the only one where they made it such chore to deal with the kind of racks most of us want to work around for longer boats or mixed up multiple carries. They had made noises about moving he same rack system onto the redesigned Forester but never did it… probably had too many multiple time Subie purchasers walk out on them.

We used the ACA discount on our last Subie and that part worked out very well - saved us a bunch of money.

Cross bars

– Last Updated: Aug-22-14 12:53 PM EST –

I delayed trading in my beloved 2004 Outback for a new Outback for 2 years simply because of the stupid new design roof rack/crossbars. So finally I went with a 2015 Forester instead, taking delivery just 3 weeks ago. My old Thule rack system fits the Forester rails, but nothing made is satisfactory with rails on new Outbacks.

The Subaru VIP program is great. I use my membership in LNT. I just bought my third Subaru using the LNT VIP program. The final price is 2% below dealer invoice. I am told by a trusted Subaru employee that the price is the same as what a Subaru employee would get, and no one would ever get a better negotiated price on a new Subaru. It does also apply to any options you order as well. In actuality my savings from sticker was a little over $2,000 on my new 2015 Forester. As I recall it was a similar savings when I bought the 2004 Outback and the 2007 Forester that I still have.

The discount may or may not save
you money. When I bought a new Subaru in 2005, I actually saved more money on the deal than the ACA discount, primarily because it was the last of their “previous year” models, and they desperately wanted to sell it. Had I bought from the current year model inventory, the ACA discount would have been a better deal than trying to negotiate it.

All in all you can’t go wrong, but their is no negotiation with the ACA deal- just a fixed amount off sticker.

impreza sport racks
Owner of '14 Subaru Impreza Sport with factory rails

DO NOT purchase factory crossbars, they are plastic

See rack fit guides. is a good place to research roof racks for most vehicles

There is a “Fit Guides” link at the top of their home page which will take you to a page that contains links to various brands of racks.

As an alternative you can go to a manufacturer’s web page (like Yakima or Thule) and check out their fit guides for your vehicle.

'Busaru rails & canoe-Just fine
I have a 2013 Outback, and manage perfectly well with a 16ft canoe strapped to the rails, front frame, and the rear trailer hitch. I hauled that thing from VA to TN at 75mp and it didn’t budge.

Just goes to show that …

– Last Updated: Aug-22-14 4:18 PM EST –

... different people have different standards of what's "good enough", and I've seen more examples of "it never budged" that were plainly a sloppy job, not up to the standards of the average serious paddler, than I care to think about. I can't speak directly to how your system worked, but when the two points of support are as close together as they are on that rack, the reason it works poorly with a boat of that length is as easy to understand as the principles of leverage (and when talking about support points being too close together, I'm talking about what happens when you try to mount a decent set of cross bars in the most expedient way. They end up with about 18 inches between them). The factory bars are a lot farther apart than that, but honestly, I've seldom seen a canoe strapped to a factory rack in a way that looked anything better than "it'll do for now", with a fastening method that is harder than it needs to be. Most of us who haul boats day in and day out want something a LOT better than a factory rack, and certainly better than that particular rack, which is one of the worst there is.

different strokes …
I used my factory rack for a year and it worked but not optimum. Switched to landing pad set up and can now carry two kayaks. Would prefer the longer spread just to make tie down easier. I had an extera for years, and really miss the Yakima set up I had there.

One big issue with the factory rails is you can’t open the hatch back with anything long on the roof. Not a problem if you drive once. But when you have boats on the roof three days a week it becomes an issue.

Also East Coast Va to TN is nothing. I do 1000 to 1800 round trips with my boats. I want something easy and and 100% reliable for 2 boats.

fore-aft strut ?

Rack design is far less important than roof structural design ?

Stock rack problems are difficult for the non owner to grasp but would fore-aft aluminum strut of dimensions for your hull, mounted to vehicle’s stock cross bars with strut ends tied to vehicle ends…solve problems ?

Mount hull to strut.

Strut to cross members with U bolts both sides cross, steel bar held by U bolts beneath cross: crush as indicated.

I have a 2014 Impreza
Without the Subaru rack. I put Yakima landing pads and control towers with the 68" cross bars on it instead. The best spread I could get is 32". It works very well with 2 solo canoes they need the longer cross bars, and with 2 17 foot sea kayaks which would work with the 48" cross bars as they are 23 and 21" widths. I really like the yakima control towers as they can be removed very quickly and locked up inside the car while paddling. The landing pads stay on the roof. I went with the Impreza because it is lower than the bigger Subarus and gets the best gas mileage. I got 35 mpg on open road with a canoe on top. The car came with the all weather rubber mats.

Need more boat capacity
One thing that is not uncommon with kayaks is to carry up to three for a day trip. Awagon of reasonable size can usually carry a day of gear for those three people. That is an easy thing to do with padded third party racks and stackers, or with two J-bars and a boat between. And at current gas prices that is awfully handy.

But that is flat out not possible with the post 2010 Subie Outback racks. The only people I know who need to carry more than two boats and have one of these vehicles had to buy a trailer. It works, but it complicates driving and rest stops on a busy holiday weekend in charming small town parking lots.

Those who primarily canoe have never had the option to carry three boats rooftop - at least that I have seen. Those of us who kayak, especially skinnier sea kayaks, cannot make the current Outback work as their prior roof rack systems have. That is why at least a couple of sea kayakers I know went to the Jetta for their next car.

2013 Outback Is just fine
I have owned a 2013 Outback for about a year now and despite having missed out on the weather radio era, the car has been close to ideal for my uses. I get about 29mpg average on the highway with a 17.5’ Valley kayak on top.

I completely agree that the clever crossbar design could be much better and I would have much preferred attaching my original thule rig instead. However, with the kayak secured to standard J-Bars and both a bow and stern rope in place, the connection to the car feels solid and the boat does not oscillate or wiggle at highway speeds.

The 40" spread front to back seems sufficient for a 17’ boat though I wouldn’t go without the bow and stern ropes.

The Honda Odyssey in comparison has solid rails, but only allows a 36" spread.

Hopefully Subaru will improve their design by the time I need a new one, but the deficiencies in the rack wouldn’t prevent me from buying another.

Why only 32 inches?
How is it that you can only get a 32-inch spread between the bars when using a custom mounting method such as that? I would think that an innovative company like Yakima could figure out how to make mounts that would take advantage of the reinforced edge of the roof, not just specific points of cross reinforcement, and spread the contact area sufficiently to be able to use nearly the entire length of the roof for rack spread. I would never settle for that amount of bar spread, and if I owned that type of car, I’d yank the headliner and figure out how to make something reasonable (yes, I realize that not everyone can fabricate their own rack mounts, and I’m not saying you or any specific person should do this. My point is, I’d be shocked if it isn’t a cinch to come up with something far better than what Yakima came up with in this case).

I have traveled long distances
With a 32" spread for several years now. I do a inverted v shape front and back tie down. I have had no problem.with the tie down the leverage is kept at bay. There is no question thst a wider sptead is better, but this has worked well for me. All my boats are composit.

Same here
My Yakama rack is bolted directly to the Suburu’s frame so there is no intermediate garbage.

Two 18 foot kayaks and a 17 foot canoe between them on 2000 mile trips with just front tie downs to the center canoe, and no rear ones needed.

I would never travel with them like that if I had to attach the rack to the factory racks

Jack L