When an Auto Writer Buys a Car: Part IV


Now that I knew my wife would be happy owning either a Hyundai Santa Fe or a Subaru Outback, it all came down to one last factor: price. I got back onto the good old internet and sent out quote requests for an all-wheel-drive Hyundai Limited (expecting to get a discount similar to the one I saw on the Mazda CX-7) and a 2007 Outback 2.5i. I had learned in my earlier visit to the Subaru dealer that our chances of finding an ’07 3.0 or XT Outback would be very slim, as even the new ’08s would have limited stock of them.

Again, the quotes came flooding in from local dealers. Most came via email, but we got a few phone calls. One Hyundai salesman called me while I was on a business trip in Colorado. He was shocked that, at 2 p.m., not only was I too busy working to talk to him about the email request I had asked for, but that I was out of town. I don’t know exactly why. He wouldn’t email me a quote, saying he was “too old” to email his info, so I said maybe I’d call him back when I got back to town. That didn’t happen.

Most of the Hyundai Limited quotes came in at about $27,000 or $28,000 with destination, nowhere near the discounts Mazda was offering. I could have moved down to the SE for about $26,000 with destination and still gotten the more powerful V-6 Hyundai offers. There were no rebates. Unlike the Hyundai, Subaru was in the middle of turning over its model year for the Outback from ’07 to ’08 with only minor changes for the 2008, including a slightly different grill and heated fabric seats standard.

There was a $1,000 rebate on the 2007s, and the first Subaru dealer who gave us the test drive quoted a price of $22,500 for a 2.5i including destination, all rebates and dealer cash. MSRP was $24,595 before a $625 destination charge. So basically I was getting the invoice price, or another $1,500 off in dealer cash or other markdowns on top of the published incentives. Two other Subaru dealers came in at almost identical prices, so I figured I’d just deal with the salesman I already liked. Now what to do…

Staring at about $4,000 and a car I preferred driving a bit more than the Hyundai — my wife could take a flip of the coin at this point with which one she got — I was pretty much sold on the Subaru. 


What came next was a bit of a surprise: There were only a handful of 2007 Outback 2.5is within a few hundred miles of Chicago. Only one was in a color we liked, Willow Green. The dealer wanted a small deposit so he could drive to Wisconsin and pick up the car for us. Unfortunately, we were leaving for a week-long vacation and I couldn’t get a check to the dealer. When we got back it was gone.

This was the only time I felt pressured by the dealer. They could get a silver 2007 right away, or a black one with more equipment — like a trailer hitch — that we didn’t want. I was bummed. I thought I’d save $1,000, but I didn’t want to get stuck with a color I didn’t like or equipment that would eat away at the incentive. That’s when I said let’s go with a 2008.

I figured I’d at least get our first choice of color, which was black, better resale value and a few more standard features for the $1,000. The salesman said he’d give me the same price as the 2007 — without the extra $1,000 cash back, of course — so that was $23,500. MSRP was still $24,595 before the $645 destination charge. The salesman included destination in all his prices — Cars.com lists it separately — which I appreciated because there were fewer surprises when the final numbers got crunched.

Now he just had to track down a black Outback. Unlike the CR-Vs at the Honda dealership, there wasn’t an Outback in every shade and trim at hand. Luckily, we were in no rush because we had to wait until our Jeep’s lease ran out on July 7 before getting the new car. I also knew that the current Subaru incentives ran out on July 2, curiously close to the Fourth of July holiday, which is usually a prime time for incentive offers. I asked the sales guy if it was OK to wait to sign the final deal until after the Fourth because of possible new incentives, and he said sure. He called me when our car arrived and said there was a new $500 offer for July. Wouldn’t you know, this job pays off sometimes.


The day finally arrived, and the paperwork went smoothly in about an hour. We financed with the automaker’s financing at 5.9% for five years. They matched the quote we got from our bank and what was published a few other places. Overall, I was pretty impressed with how smoothly things went. We didn’t meet any completely awful salesmen, and I only got a few unsolicited emails beyond the quotes I had requested. I think we got a good deal, too.

We put about 100 miles on the Outback in the first 24 hours visiting family, and they all remarked positively on it. The only complaint from my wife so far is that the radio doesn’t display the song title text from radio stations like her Jeep did. Trust me, that’s a minor one I can live with. We’ll see how it holds up over the long haul. Check out the photo gallery at the link below for more shots of our new Outback and some more comments.

2008 Subaru Outback 2.5i Photo Gallery

When an Auto Writer Buys a Car: Part I
When an Auto Writer Buys a Car: Part II
When an Auto Writer Buys a Car: Part III

By David Thomas | July 13, 2007 | Comments (34)



Seems as if at the end of the day, you just couldn't stand the thought of seeing yourself (or your wife) driving a "Hyundai". Thats a shame cause they are great cars.

Plus, I thought your wife wanted to sit higher up?


The Outback is a more economical choice, however, stability control costs an extra 4 grand, whereas the Santa Fe has it standard. An outback with stability costs over 26 grand.

A FWD Santa Fe with heated and power-adjustable front seats and power sunroof costs 25,054 in the Chicago area, but includes stability. An AWD model will go for around 27 grand. The Santa Fe also has 10 cu ft more passenger room, and 13 more cu ft cargo when second row is folded. Plus, IIHS Top Safety Pick and longer warranty doesn't hurt. The only downside is lower fuel economy. (17/24 for Santa Fe, vs 20/26 for the Outback). Given regular usage, this amounts to about $300/year.


For 2008 models, the cheapest Outback model with stability control is listed at about $25.6k MSRP. This is the 2.5i LL Bean with VDC option. This trim adds a CD changer, auto climate control, and nav system, compared to the 2.5i in this article. And naturally they're all AWD.

As for the IIHS ratings, they don't provide a listing for the Outback. But the Legacy with stability control also receives a Top Safety Pick, and the Outback is basically a Legacy wagon with different suspension.


My mistake - the MSRP is about $27k. The invoice price is about $25.6k.

I don't think I said either of those points at any time in this series.


Troll grade: B-
Not a bad job, but still showed through. Keep working, you'll be a master in no time.

I think it speaks very highly of Hyundai that they made the list. It's also interesting that they were one of the most expensive models in the whole process. more than Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Subaru.


Considering the wife likes both vehicles equally, I think Dave made the right choice. I think in general that Subarus have the best AWD set-up/engineering in the auto industry. If I was shopping for an AWD vehicle, Subarus would be on top of my list - even above luxury brands.

In favor of Outback: $4K price difference, Outback handles better = more fun to drive, significantly better fuel economy, Hyundais historically have an atrocious depreciation rate especially compared to Subarus.

In favor of Santa Fe: much better warranty, traction control.

Unless Dave's Outback engine/transmission melts down or blows up in the 5-10 year timeframe of ownership (very unlikely based on Subaru's history of reliability) he'll come out way ahead.


Not trying to troll- just sharing my initial thoughts.

Tom L

You know, I just thought about this: either the $30,000 limit was forced solely for the idea of getting on the cheap, or cars.com pays absolutely horribly.

I mean, really, if Dave is the DINK, then him and the wife, both making money, I'd think, could've afforded more like a 535xi Sports Wagon. It has ground clearance similar to the Outback (itself more a wagon than SUV), has more pep, a better AWD system, and at base price its beating just about everything the Outback offers.

Not that they chose wrong in my opinion. I personally would've chose the CX-7, but then again, if I had the ball-and-chain, I too probably would've took the Outback for the price.

Tom L
It was more of a practical decision on the money aspect PLUS the fact I drive a new luxury car every other week for the most part. Like I said if I didn't have this job the RDX might've easily won or an Outback XT.

Aussie Boy

Dave T. u should check out the Australian Ford Territory its the best SUV medium/large size iv ever seen, check it out.

Aussie Boy

I told u more about the Territory in Part II


The Subaru was a very good choice although too bad vehicle stability control wasn't standard on the model as I believe it is a very important saftey feature. My brother-in-law bought a Legacy wagon last summer and really likes it. Subaru has a very good reliability record, just below Lexus, Toyota and Honda. I'm thinking of the new 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i for myself this year, as long as you can order vehicle stability control as an option. Also, a sun roof or moon roof option would be nice. It's not much in the looks department, but should serve it's purpose and be reliable. My Acura Integra is 17 years old and has 236,000+ miles, so I'm ready for a new car. This article should help prepare me for when I start shoppping in earnest.


Is vehicle stability control really necessary on an AWD Subaru wagon with a low center of gravity?


I rent Outbacks from Hertz all the time and a few times in the snow, I've spun the thing out unexpectedly. In my personal cars with ESP/VSC/ Stability control, it never happens. The car automagically brakes the correct wheels and reduces engine power to keep me going the direction I intend.

It even convinced my traditional parents who don't believe in all the electronic crap they're stuffing into modern cars.

I will never buy another car without electronic stability control.


Oh, also from my rental outbacks with the 2.5i, I felt the engine to be really gutless unless you use the manumatic and let the revs get up there. I also never get more than 21 mpg on the highway. I guess it's the AWD loss causing that.

On the other hand, the ride is very smooth and it's very quiet.


Thanks for the explanation. I've never owned a car with ESP, so I wasn't really sure what benefit it provided. I always thought it was more necessary for those with RWD.

Thanks for the articles Dave, it's nice to know that most dealers that you talked to weren't terribly slimy. I'm curious as to what you think of the Subaru's headllights as compared to a car with HID lights.

I'm considering a lifestyle change, and getting an outback, but my current car has HID lights, which I quite like at night. Thanks.


You chose the Outback, but the Outback is no more an SUV than any other station wagon. I have never understood how one particular station wagon could be considered an SUV. So what about the Mazda 6, Volvo V50/V70, BMW 3/5, and Mercedize wagons? I mean if it is just ride height, anyone could put a lift kit on any car and call it an SUV.

Until the past few years ESC wasn't a standard option on most cars, it still is mostly optional. We've owned five new cars between the two of us and none had ESC. We did not spin wildly out of control in Chicago winters.

NOW that's not saying ESC isn't a great safety feature. It is something that will help you in an extreme situation gain control of your car easily, preventing some of the most dangerous types of accidents and it will be mandated standard in 2009.

There's only been one time in all my driving that I "needed" ESC and that was in a 400 hp RWD Pontiac GTO.


Don't know what Hyundai dealerships Dave worked with but there has been a $1000 consumer rebate on the 07 Santa Fe for the past several months, plus a lot of mfr. to dealer incentives meaning deals well below factory invoice. I'm getting ready to pull the trigger on a FWD Limited for about $23,000 and could have gotten an AWD Limited for about $24,500.

David S.

Belated congrats on the Outback, DT & Court.

I don't see it as a slap to Hyundai that you didn't go with the Santa Fe. The new one is a damn fine vehicle, and many praises were bestowed upon it in this article series. I agree that it's less fun to drive than the Subaru, but it still has a LOT going for it, not the least of which is looks.

What's interesting is that the Outback 2.5i is one of my wife's all-time dream cars. Not the XT, not the LL Bean, just the regular 2.5i. We rented one on a 600 mile roadtrip around Louisiana, and it was just bliss; the car is rock-stable at speed, comfy (secret: the 2.5i has always had std. heated seats), reasonably quick, and dang good looking (especially in none-more-black!). We also got fairly good mileage (about 30mpg avg.) for the entire trip, on regular gas.

The thing I like best about the Subie is the pleasant vibe of mechanical goodness it emanates; from the second you turn the key the engine softly thrums and ticks, kinda like hearing a sewing machine in another room.

Ah, but that's for the FWD model only believe it or not. No rebate on the AWD.


You may ultimately wish you had that trailer hitch sticking out from your rear bumper. We have a `99 Outback that's been hit in the rear in parking lots not once, not twice, but three times - it seems to be everyone's favorite target. After the bumper is repaired (again) I'm going to add a hitch with a barrier bar!


Dave, before I forget, and before it happens to you. For some weird reason some people with Subarus manage to turn on the parking lights, and then can't turn them off again. How they manage to turn them on without knowing they've done it I have no idea, the switch is on top of the steering column and not anywhere you can knock it accidentally. Make sure your wife knows where this switch is!


Personal Anecdote about ESC and the bells 'n whistles -- mother-in-law has a Lexus RX330 ('04) that she managed to spin out a couple of times in parking lots. She is the type who would drive 10mph below the speed limit, never got a ticket, etc. so ... And there's our Forester (yes, not *quite* the same as an Outback), which is very easy to learn the limits of; doesn't take long to figure out the point where you would get to (and then beyond) a controlled slide etc. and i've never spun that little car. Not trying to say anything about people's driving abilities (since the mother-in-law drives very carefully and i think that's the best kind of driver), but maybe people are buying a LITTLE too much into the marketing hype ... ;)

Thanks Graham. I had noticed that when I read the manual over the weekend. A bit of an odd placement for sure since it is where the hazards are in some cars.


I have been keeping track of your new car quest but I didn't see where or why you had eliminated the new Vue from consideration. You gave it a very positive review.

I mentioned that in the Part III comments and apologized. The posts became so lengthy I thought I'd spare readers the boring details. Basically, my wife didn't like the Blindspots, while I had grown more accustomed to the large side mirrors and didn't mind them as much. That pretty much ruled it out. She also didn't like the fake wood trim.

I still stand behind my review for Cars.com of course, it's just you realize when shopping that different things alter how different people feel about the vehicles. It was really eye opening.


Welcome to the wagon brigade! C'mon, say it with me. "I don't drive no Ess-eww-vee! A shaggin' dragon, Scoobie Wagon is alright by me!"

Funny thing about colors though, I had a black car for 6 years and I NEEDED something different. I also worked with a lot of fleet cars and they were all depressingly grey. (oh I'm sorry; silver, platimum, gunmetal pearl, satin aluminum, and titanum mist, THEY'RE ALL ^%&#ING GREY!!!)

So finding the car I wanted in A COLOR, (blue, red, green, yellow, orange, heck purple!) was the hardest part of my last shopping trip. (but I WAS shopping used cars)


I think you will find your new Subaru to be a great buy. We own a 2005 Outback 2.5i and it is hands down the best new car we have ever purchased. We live in IL and drive in Chicago enough to let you know you should notice no problems with acceleration when you really need it. The best part is: great height and visibility, very good mileage (we normally get 28 on highway at 70+), solid car with great crash test results. Best wishes and enjoy the heated seats during November - March.

Thanks for the kind wishes Dan.


I have a Hyundai, an 04 Tiburon. I've owned 3 Hyundai's and I'm the original owner of this particular one. I owned a 97 Tiburon and loved it. Imagine my shock to have the transmission go out on my wife at 40,000 miles. Luckily she was in 2nd gear pulling off from lights and not at speed. You can imagine my annoyance at finding out the Hyundai warranty didn't cover this part.

It saddens me to find I have a lemon on my hands. Its a lemon because this fault isn't a one time problem but inherent in all the new style Tiberons and will re-occur with the replacement transmission, as others have found out. I have paid $2000 (which I found out later on was cheap, others paid $3000). Now when I drive my car, I have lost all confidence in it.

Hyundai didn't want to know. I went to their Headquarters and complained on 3 occasions. They won't recall either, and when threatened with legal action, they said "go ahead". So now I'm one of many in a class action law suit trying to get my repair repaid.

I'm stuck with a car I don't want to use, worried about selling it, as its unreliable and why should another person suffer the same transmission failure, and worse, what if they're going at speed when it does fail.

So you did right buying the Subaru!

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