STARLINK is Subaru's latest infotainment system. It heavily relies on a touch screen interface that freezes randomly, stops responding, and sometimes requires the car to be shut off for over an hour before it starts working again.
Subaru has never received much praise for their infotainment options and so they made a big push to change that when they introduced STARLINK1 for select 2016 models.
How STARLINK Is Supposed to Improve Your Driving Experience
STARLINK features a new suite of safety and security features that resemble GM’s OnStar (hell, they even borrowed the star naming convention). Services like automatic collision notification, SOS emergency and roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle recovery aim to give owners peace of mind … for an annual fee, of course. After the first couple years, owners can pay up to $149/year2 for these features.
And what good would a new car be without a way to connect to smartphones? Not only does STARLINK offer improved hand-free features like phone calls, navigation, and climate control, but it also connects with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Most of the new features are run through a shiny new touchscreen interface that “allow for smooth, effortless control — just like a tablet device3”
Common Complaints About STARLINK
The actual experience of using STARLINK falls way short of the marketing brochure description. The system uses allegedly defective Harman Gen 3 audio and navigation head units, and runs on buggy software that often freezes and sometimes requires a hard reset to start working again.
Downtown Chicago trying to get out of traffic jam had GPS all set, when all of a sudden screen went blank and began spinning. The GPS installed in this vehicle is prehistoric to say the least. – 2017 Outback Owner in US
Let’s run down the long list of issues owners of this infotainment system are experiencing.
- Back up camera freezes or shuts down
- Head unit failure that disables audio and radio control
- Complete system lockup and error messages that only go away after the vehicle has been turned off several hours
- Display goes blnk even though the infotainment system is still working
- Can’t shut off radio or adjust volume when backing up due to a technical glitch
- Radio volume is blaring when the car is turned on, even if the radio was turned off when the car was last turned off.
- Favorites on smartphones and other connected devices aren’t remembered
- Radio will turn on and off randomly
- The touchscreen is very unresponsive
- Spotty bluetooth connection prevents calls and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality.
Software Updates and Technical Service Bulletins (TSB)
Subaru has released multiple software updates to try and find a solution without replacing the head unit. Version 18.104.22.168 was released in December 2017 and 0.18.22.20 released in July 2018.
Owners who have received the software updates report little to no improvement. They’ve had better luck with replacing the entire head unit, but replacements are on backorder and can be up to a 6 month wait.
Technical service bulletins advise technicans to install the software updates, perhaps just to buy some time. There are also tips for replacing the audio amplifier, and troubleshooting ideas for Bluetooth, CarPlay, and Android Auto connection issues.
Owners tired of waiting file a lawsuit
A lawsuit filed in December 2018 says multiple software updates have failed and the system can actually pose a threat because:
- Starlink can freeze and drain the battery after the engine is shut off.
- The backup camera picture can freeze and give drivers a false representation of what is behind their cars.
The lawsuit covers the 2018 Outback, Legacy, Crosstrek, BRX, and 2017-2018 Impreza.
The lead plaintiff says a survey was sent to certain customers and dealerships in January 2018 to help identify, and in some cases address, customer concerns. Additionally, the lawsuit claims Subaru intends on sending dealers new TSBs in July 2019 concerning another Starlink update because previous Starlink updates haven’t worked.