Subaru first introduced us to the wagon-like Outback in 1995. It didn’t ignite a new passion for wagons, but it sure did establish the Outback as a distinctly different SUV that managed to do everything the consumer expected (and maybe a little more).
Subaru has an intensely passionate following, and the Outback is the favorite son of them all, with sales typically exceeding 140,000 units per year — pretty amazing, given the crossover competition in today’s market.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque is Subaru’s signature power plant, and the majority of Outback models come powered by the same version that is offered in Subaru’s Legacy sedan and Forester crossover.
An upgrade to the six-cylinder engine can be had on select trims. This upgraded engine, while it makes more power, uses more fuel to do it. In my opinion, the four-cylinder does a great job engaging all four wheels and is plenty adequate to get things done. Fuel economy was 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway.
My tester’s engine was mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The fact that the four-cylinder’s power isn’t abundant makes this CVT’s delivery predictable and smooth. I found throttle response to be more than adequate in virtually every normal maneuver.
For those not accustomed to hearing the horizontally-opposed Boxer engine bang out the repetitions, there may be an initial recoil. But all is fine, and the distinct sound fades into the distance after a few moments in the cabin.
Roads and trails
The new Outback is as smooth and comfortable as any mid-size crossover. Despite being perched 8.7 inches off the ground, Outback easily handles uneven pavement.
With the Subaru-engineered suspension not too stiff or too soft, the Outback manages to move along more like a car than an SUV. The steering doesn’t feel disconnected or loose like it can with so many other electrically power-assisted systems.
Of course, getting off the beaten path is what Subarus do as well as anything in the class. This wagon (featuring Subaru’s X-mode, which is standard on CVT models and optimizes the engine and transmission) has the all-wheel drive and traction control systems for off-road adventures. With independent suspension at all four corners, the Outback is able to articulate itself over most obstacles with relative ease, though its long wheelbase means the Outback’s breakover angle isn’t great.
With the Outback offering 35.5 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats and a whopping 73.3 cubic feet with the seats folded, it’s way ahead of the competition when it comes to storage.
The new Outback has plenty of room to carry four adults. Even with the front seats pushed completely back, the Outback delivers ample room in the second row, with plenty of head room and leg room.
I really appreciated the Outback’s unfettered view, with all the extra glass doing a great job of cutting down on blind spots. My tester was also equipped with blind-spot monitoring for an extra sense of security, while other safety features, including adaptive cruise control, forward and reverse automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist can also be added as part of Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance suite.
The Outback’s sticker price, starting at $26,520, includes a lot of value in a family-inspired package.