While Subaru’s Outback has rapidly been sliding away from its traditional crowd of granola-mainlining, gun-toting Vermonters, it still offers many of the capabilities of the previous models with the bonus of additional ground clearance and safety features. Over the years, it’s gotten bigger, picked up some interior appointments that compete with Europe’s finest, and, as a wagon, embarasses the bulk of crossovers on the market with its 9 inches of ground clearance.
There’s a problem though, and it is pretty significant: Subie sucked some of the fun out of the drivetrain by refusing to offer a manual transmission.
I could go further, but a WRX-driving college friend of mine, David Burbank, sums it up very well in his open letter to Subaru. Please read it after the jump, and feel free to check out the photos of his meticulously kept ‘Rex.
-By: Sawyer Sutton
Above photos copyright, David Burbank, 2014
My name is David Burbank. I am an Industrial Engineer at General Electric and spend my free time on cars and digital photography. I am the owner of a 2009 Subaru WRX. Putting it lightly, this car has been my life since I picked it up from Manchester Subaru on May 5th, 2009, with a mere 7 miles. I have toured the country with this car and now have 85K trouble free, fun, and rewarding miles showing on the odometer.
But this letter is not about my current car, it’s about my next car. It was going to be a 2015+ Subaru Outback. My life is changing and the low riding, small, tuner of mine will soon have trouble keeping up. Truth be told, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Outback and was thrilled with the release of the 2015 model. It pains me to read comments and hear people say the new model is little changed from the previous one. I am ecstatic about everything from the design refresh (my artistic side could rave about the styling for hours) to the enhancements in refinement and technology. It will be a great vehicle for Subaru.
There is one thing missing; a third pedal. A manual transmission; that glorious 6 speed previously available on the Outback that blows my notchy, winy, and cumbersome 5 speed out of the water.
I’m not alone. Whether it be Jalopnik, Facebook, or Roadandtrack.com, the commentary is unanimous. We want the manual. Thousands are thinking about it, hundreds are asking for it, and I’m begging for it. Ideally, the manual outback would be offered in the same trims currently available for 2014 (I want a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium 6-speed). Not having one available is enough to steer me towards a different brand. And that’s a shame, because I have been a huge promoter of Subaru over the past 5 years. I have encouraged a half dozen friends and family to purchase new Subarus. All but one have been manuals.
You probably have a canned response as to why a manual cannot be brought to the USA. ‘Not enough demand.’ ‘We are trying to simplify our offering.’ ‘Market research shows the manual isn’t in demand anymore.’ I don’t buy it. The US market makes up nearly half of your global sales and the president of Fuji Heavy Industries said himself the US market is a priority moving forward. So I ask, why does the largest market receive the most limited product offering? Our friends up north in Canada, eh, are offered the manual. Nearly 20 times more Outbacks were sold in US than Canada last year. With Outback sales going up each year, even with the manual only being available on the two lowest trim levels, I would wager that more manuals are sold now than were in the past (in units, not percentage of total sales). I would imagine a larger market would justify more options/diversity over a smaller market.
So, I would argue the demand is in place, and the mechanics are already developed for other markets (most notably Canada). I am not interested in why Subaru didn’t release the outback with a manual transmission. What I am asking is what it will take to get a Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium with the 6 speed manual.
The manual equipped Canadian Outbacks are being built right here in Indiana. If Subaru pleases the crowds and offers it to the general public, fantastic. But is a special order a possibility? Charge me the same as an automatic. What will it take to get the car?
-Thanks for your time,