It’s hard to imagine any other vehicle as versatile as the Subaru Outback. It’s the all-purpose car. It’s ideal as a family wagon. It’s a workhorse for a small businessperson. It’s as safe as any car on the road in inclement weather.
Introduced in 1995, the Outback has gone through several editions, including a redesign and a new lineup of models with more than 40 trim configurations for 2010.
The Outback has a new 6-cylinder engine and it’s about 3 inches wider and longer in wheelbase than the 2009 Outback. Two engines and six models are offered, all with horizontally opposed engines.
Subaru is also now well into its second decade of offering only all-wheel drive as a standard feature throughout its line — Forester, Impreza, Legacy, Outback and Tribeca.
The Outback offerings in 2010 include: the 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, and 2.5i Limited with a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on 2.5i and 2.5i Premium with a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) as an option. It’s standard on 2.5i Limited. The top-line 3.6R, 3.6R Premium, and 3.6R Limited have a new 256-horsepower 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine matched with a 5-speed automatic.
Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, and front-side airbags. A wireless cell-phone link is standard on Limiteds and optional on all other Outbacks. Heated front seats are optional on 2.5 Premium and standard on 2.5i Limited, 3.6R Premium, and 3.6R Limited. Leather upholstery is standard on Limiteds, while a navigation system is optional.
I’ve driven several Subarus in recent years, and I also leased an early version of the Legacy wagon for four years in the mid-1990s. Leased or tested for a review, every Subaru I’ve driven has the same secure feel.
Originally marketed as the “world’s first sport utility wagon,” Subaru’s early reputation as a versatility performer was enhanced in its several-year sponsorship with the U.S. National Ski Team based in Colorado Springs, Colo. It was an ideal marriage.
Winters present serious weather in Colorado and that allowed for a nice, truth-in-advertising campaign. But even in far less severe circumstances it’s easy to see how Subaru has built its strong reputation, particularly among mountain drivers.
All-wheel drive vehicles (the four-wheel drive can’t be disengaged) are often criticized because an appreciably stable ride is countered by a loss of gas mileage. My weekly driver Outback was rated at 18 mph in city driving and 25 mpg in highway conditions.
As a wagon acting like an SUV, the Outback has a slightly raised suspension, which only adds to its efficient, simple good looks. It doesn’t have the off-road capabilities of true SUVs, but that shouldn’t deter potential buyers.
Safety Features — Dual front, front side and side curtain airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 18 mpg (city), 25 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 7 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
Base Price — $30,995.00.
Price as Driven — $35,198.00.
Likes: Comfortable leather seats, spacious back seats, visibility, huge navigation screen, secure ride.
Dislikes: Small lever engages and disengages hand brake. It’s positioned oddly and makes a “grinding” noise when engaged.
The Weekly Driver’s final words: Neither snow, nor rain, nor sleet, nor a youth soccer team nor a handyman’s supplies can prevent the Subaru from getting the job done. It’s the automotive version of a multi-tool pocketknife. Own one and not much else is needed.