Skip to main content

Subaru’s Canadian-Spec Outback and Legacy are Here; Where’s the 6-Speed Manual?

The Canadian-spec 2018 Subaru Outback and Legacy models have arrived but the 6-speed gearbox is missing. Would you buy a manual transmission if it were still offered?


The manual transmission is going away in the Outback wagon and Legacy sedan models. Subaru Canada is dropping the 6-speed gearbox in the new 2018 Outback and Legacy sedan and it’s not coming back. Subaru went away from the manual rower in U.S. models in 2015, but you could still get one in Canada until now.

Why is Subaru and other automakers dropping the manual gearbox?

It’s likely because of tighter fuel mileage regulations in the U.S. and Canada. Subaru dropped the 6-speed standard gearbox back in 2015 to meet the more stringent fuel-mileage regulations here in the U.S. market. Subaru Outbacks and Legacy models with the new Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) are more fuel efficient.

The Canadian and U.S. Subaru Forester SUV is still available with a 6-speed manual transmission in the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium trims, but the CVT is much more fuel-efficient. The Subaru Forester with a 6-speed manual gearbox gets an EPA estimated 22/28 city/highway mpg, and it gets improved considerably at 26/32/ city/highway mpg with the CVT automatic. All automakers need to get their fleet mpg up and this is how they can do it.

CVT is improving

We aren’t fans of the CVT but the Subaru automatic is improving, like the updated Continuously Variable Transmission in the new Crosstrek. Subaru says engineers expanded the ratio coverage (speed range) in the automatic transmission that will improve acceleration performance, and fuel economy will be improved at higher speeds. Engineers also reduced the weight of the transmission case by 7.8kg.

We recently drove the newly-revamped 2017 Impreza compact, and were impressed with its new CVT. Most CVTs wind up relentlessly sounding like a jet plane taking off. The Impreza’s upgraded automatic shifts more like a conventional automatic which is a welcome change. You can still get Impreza with a 5-speed manual rower and an STI short-throw shifter for driving enthusiasts. But the automatic is much improved over the previous-generation model.

If you want a 2018 Subaru Outback or Legacy sedan with a manual gearbox, you are out of luck. You’ll need to buy a new 2018 Forester, Crosstrek, Impreza, WRX/STI, or BRZ to get one.

Fan poll. How many of you would still buy a manual gearbox over the CVT automatic if it were available in the new 2018 Outback and Legacy models?

Photo credit: Subaru CA


Jeff O (not verified)    July 14, 2017 - 3:05PM

I'm always saddened to see fewer manual gearboxes in North America every year. Even worse the diminishing global market due to manufacturing output/demands/availability. I don't think the Crosstrek even offers a stock in AUS or JP this year. It's even hard to get a decent truck in manual for a fair price nowadays. People have forgotten the joy of driving. Yes, they don't get as much fuel efficiency as the autos do and over time the difference does add up, financially and environmentally but where is the thrill of being one with your machine? My first car was automatic, my dad's old 1985 Hyundai Stellar, but my first stick came in 1998 when I was 19, a new 96' Chevy Beretta. It was then I learned how to actually drive. My wife considers me a danger because my machine and I are one, despite my absolute control of the machine. I know my car and it behaves properly no matter the demand from aggressive or evasive posturing maneuvering to a typical cool day "at the beach". Auto/CVTs don't offer that. They're designed for 100% passive action; you do not control the car, the car controls you. No surprise here, I vote manual. In fact, I've been waiting for 2018 (Suabru) manual specs to come out before I replaced my (now sold) 07' VW Rabbit 5 speed.

I won't buy the Outback or Legacy because they are larger than my needs demand but the Crosstrek fits the bill perfectly. I fully understand why they don't offerstick for the O and I, its because the market in NA has moved towards inner city automatic, and IMHO uninspired drivers. I just wish the XV Limited came in stick like it did last year. I was attracted to the leather and fun, zone climate but for 18' I'm stuck with the sport.

Bob Chen (not verified)    July 15, 2017 - 1:34AM

I prefer manual transmission. Having driven many modern automatic and manual cars, I usually find you can get better efficiency in a manual if you shift early and sometimes skip gears. I've gotten upto 50 mpg on my 2016 VW Jetta 5 spd manual. I guess CVT can be better but definitely I've read that the shifting schedule the EPA requires for the tests with the manual transmissions cripple them, and automakers can game the system with the shifting pattern of automatic transmissions to get better ratings, even if the automatic transmission doesn't get better fuel economy in real life.

Bob Chen (not verified)    July 15, 2017 - 12:53PM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

I just wanted to mention, I'm trying to keep the art alive. I am 23. I actually grew up driving automatics with no access to manual transmissions. Once I learned how to drive manual transmission in college from a friend, I made the switch as soon as I got my first job. I have taught my siblings and couple of friends. Few switched over as well as they enjoyed it. Definitely don't want it to become a lost art. But having traveled around, manual transmissions still dominate in Europe and many Asian and Latin American countries.

Brandon Collette (not verified)    August 23, 2017 - 6:36PM

I was really disappointed to see this. I have a 05 Blazer with a manual transmission that I really need to replace but I am not quite financially able to *right* now but was planning on getting a manual Outback. My only hope now is to basically get a 2017 model before they clear out inventory.

Jennifer Wishnok (not verified)    March 17, 2018 - 4:05PM

Super disappointed that it is so hard to find a manual transmission in a new vehicle. I have a soon to be driving teen and hoped we could pass my old (HHR) manual transmission vehicle onto her and upgrade myself to an Outback. A manual keeps a driver's eyes (especially a teen) off the cell phone and on the road. It appears the only options are the (looks like every other SUV on the road) Forester or "a little too small" of a vehicle Crosstrek. The Outback would be the perfect size to transport the family, dog and SUP. Looking at VW's golf wagon instead.