It’s come to this: your Subaru is anemic in terms of stopping power, or the brakes squeal like there’s no tomorrow. Instead of suffering through it, you decide to restore the vehicle to its previous glory.
Some people prefer to have more of the same. In other words, they get a direct OEM replacement like these OE Subaru brake pads.
But what if you want something better? What would be the best brake pads and rotors for Subaru? Does it matter if it’s a Forester or an Outback? Legacy or Impreza?
The Subaru model doesn’t matter – your preferences and needs do. Let’s take a look at the top 3 setups I recommend.
Balance between street performance/daily driving: Hawk Performance pads are a classic among Subaru owners. Outstanding stopping power whether it’s hot or cold, and a great pedal feel.
These lean towards street performance, but are great for casual driving too.
Budget take on daily commuting: This Bosch QuietCast kit. While weaker on pad bite and performance, these are very quiet and virtually dust-free. Good choice if you want simple city driving.
Strictly street performance: Can’t go wrong with StopTech brake pads. Massive improvement in stopping power and the best linear response to street conditions. However, they do dust way, way more than Hawks.
As far as rotors go: Both Hawk and StopTech jive well with Centric brake rotors. These have enhanced coating and bigger surface area to reduce friction/wear and tear. Great stuff.
If you go with QuietCast pads, just pair them with the QuietCast rotors. Not as good as Centric, but they’re cheap and complement the brake pads well.
As a whole, your choice of Subaru replacement brake pads and rotors will depend on these:
Do you want more stopping power and an aggressive pad bite?
Do you prefer to have brakes that are low on noise and dusting levels?
Performance brake pads will dust a bit more, and they will definitely have more wear and tear impact on your rotors. However, for anything from challenging street roads, to autocross or even offroading, they’ll outperform a generic pad like the QuietCast.
Let’s look at each of these recommendations, with the included Subaru vehicle fitments. Use the Table of Contents to select whichever option you’re most interested in.
1. Best balanced brake pads for Subaru cars:
Note: These are the rear brakes. The fitting front pads can be found here.
This set of Hawk Performance pads fits:
Subaru Forester 2009-2015
Subaru Outback 2005-2014
Subaru Impreza & WRX 2008-2014
Subary Legacy 2005-2014
One of Hawk’s most notable manufacture features is the Ferro-Carbon formula they use. This allows them to cope with friction way better than many other brands (like Bosch).
This translates to something simple: greatly increased stopping power. These pads have a snappy bite regardless of street conditions. They’re not too aggressive to be full-on race brakes, however.
There’s a progressive brake feel compared to other performance pads. It’s exactly this relative mellowness that makes the HPS comfortable for normal driving too.
You’ll need to bed-in the Hawks. Here’s a quick guide regarding the process:
Compared to StopTech, they also dust way less. I wouldn’t say they’re as quiet as the QuietCasts – performance calls for that. However, they won’t be noisy on you either.
All in all, these are a fantastic option if you want to balance more adrenaline-pumping rides with your daily commuting across town. Particularly great for Subaru Outback and Impreza, and you can see that in Outback community discussions.
2. Best Subaru brake pads/rotors for daily driver:
For the casual urban dweller, this is the biggest bargain ever. Both the pads and rotors are well-priced, and focus on what matters for city driving. Yep, that’s quiet operation and reduced dust levels.
This particular kit fits various Subaru applications:
Subaru Forester 2003-2010
Subaru Impreza 2002-2010
Subaru Legacy 2002-2012
Subaru Outback 2002-2012
It also fits Subaru WRX models 2003, 2004 and 2005, as well as 2008-2014. However, I wouldn’t pick these for the sportier WRX applications.
As I mentioned, unlike street performance pads, these are very gentle on many levels. They run quietly, they stop quietly, and they keep dust to the minimum. The way they’re constructed and behave also leads to very minimal wear and tear on your rotors.
Don’t mistake them being not street-performance grade for lacking proper stopping power. It’s just that the bite isn’t as aggressive as any Hawk, StopTech or Brembo pad would be. A smoother approach to braking which befits daily commutes.
All of this is paired with the crazy good price tag Bosch has put on them. These easily cost half of what a lot of other setups would cost you.
The only drawback is that the shims are made of pure rubber. They don’t cope well with heat, so if you’ll be driving off the beaten path or doing anything more extreme, they won’t quite cut it.
Pair them with this QuietCast rotor for an all-around affordable take on proper city area braking. They’re decently coated to endure corrosion. Not ultra high performance, as I’ve written in my Bosch review – but they do the job right for urban applications.
3. Best high-end setup for Subaru 3.6 Outback & Legacy GT:
StopTech Sport Brake Pads
Note that this one fits the following models:
Subaru Forester 2014-2018
Subaru Legacy 2005-2018
Subaru Outback 2010-2018
Pair these brake pads with this specific Centric rotor. The most optimal setup if you want consistency between brakes and discs.
StopTech’s no stranger to high-end street performance. It doesn’t matter if the climate’s hot or cold, they unlock your Subaru’s full stopping power potential.
These fellas have a pad bite that bites, guys. Expect on-the-point braking that adjusts to extreme conditions with ease. The upside is that despite this, the StopTechs stay relatively quiet.
I say relatively, because you can never expect a performance pad to be as silent as a daily driving setup.
This specific set I recommend are a direct fit. 100% easy to install process that also doesn’t take much. The bed-in process is fairly quick too, unlike some other brands. Thinking mainly EBC or even the Hawks I reviewed above.
What about the cons?
Well, definitely dusting. These dust way, way more than Bosch which is expected. However, they do have higher dust levels than Hawks too.
It’s an expected downside of having a set of ultra high performance pads, but still…
StopTech pads pair up extremely well with Centric rotors. The one I recommend is from the brand’s Premium line. It copes better with high-end brakes that would otherwise chew through other standard rotors.
The bigger surface area helps for less friction, which also means less heating.
I mean, it’s not EBC rotors level of performance…But it’s also not as expensive as them. Definitely the best option for anything from a WRX STI, to Legacy GTI or Outback 3.6 models.
Any other recommended brands?
While these three are the most optimal choice, you have a few other companies that manufacture great brake pads and rotors for Subaru vehicles.
One of them is Akebono. Japanese company, US manufacture quality. This is the Akebono brake pad that fits some Subarus and delivers premium, balanced performance a bit similar to Hawks.
Another good brand is Wagner. The QuickStop product line is somewhat similar to Bosch QuietCasts in that it focuses on urban drivers who want a cheap, yet well-rounded braking setup. This one fits anything from Outback to Impreza.
I actually have a comparison between Wagner and Akebono, with Brembo included in the mix too.
EBC brakes are great too, but they exclusively cater to street racers.
Probably I’m leaving out some other brands that might be a good option. If you have a favorite which I missed talking about, let me know. Always on the lookout for stories from my readers!
As far as other aftermarket replacement parts go, you can also check out my quick guide on Subaru spark plugs. It lacks the diversity of brand options like the braking system here, but that’s how things go!