2015 Subaru Outback: Safe, rugged, versatile

James Raia

The Subaru Outback is among the best cars for college students because of its safety records.

Now in its sixth generation, the newly designed 2015 Subaru Outback further blurs the segment distinction between wagon and crossover sport utility vehicle.

By any category name, the Subaru Outback is alone in the auto industry. No other car looks similar and there are no direct competitors to the family-oriented, all-wheel drive vehicle and its special consideration to those who travel with their pets.

The Audi Allroad and Volvo XC70 also offer all-wheel drive, turbo-charged power and superior interiors to the Outback, but both have substantially higher starting prices. The 2015 top-line Outback 3.6R Limited begins at $32,995, while the Volvo XC70 has a starting MSRP of $37,825 and the Audi All-Road begins at $42,400.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The 2015 Subaru Outback is a five-passenger crossover wagon offered in four trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited. The numbers refer to engine displacement, and my weekly driver was the top-line 3.6R Limited.

(All Images © James Raia, 2014)

The Outback 3.6R Limited begins with a six-cylinder engine upgrade and standard Xenon headlights, also an upgrade. It has 256 horsepower and a continuously variable transmission.

The Outback features the standard equipment of the 2.5i and the upstyled 2.5i Premium. It’s a lengthy list and includes: 18-inch alloy wheels, active foglights, a front skid plate, a power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, leather upholstery, driver memory settings, a four-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, wood trim and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

All-wheel drive is standard on all Outbacks as are hill descent control and hill start assist. Ground clearance is 8.7 inches, a few inches higher than most five-passenger SUVs.

Fifteen years ago, I owned a Subaru Legacy wagon for four years. I bought it new and I can still remember the solid feel of my first car with a symmetrical all-wheel drive system. In inclement weather on winding roads or in any other conditions, the Legacy always handled whatever was presented without issue.

The new Outback offers the same driving authority. It feels solid and secure. Braking and maneuverability are strong points. There are no blind spots nor sharp learning curves, since there’s no over-the-top technology offered. (The touchscreen navigation system is intuitive.)

From perhaps two other test drives with early year models of the Outback, the 2015 also seemed more spacious upon first drive. It is. The cargo capacity has been increased from 34.3 to 35.5 cubic feet behind the passenger seats. With the seats folded down, the cargo space has been improved from 71.3 to 73.3 cubic feet.

Subaru has also always been considerate toward pet owners. A varied lineup of dog barriers, cushioned and lined mats, seat covers and even a dog hammock are offered via the manufacturer or third-party outlets.

It’s a thoughtful, practical addition side benefit to Subaru lineup. And it further defines the Outback’s versatility as a family vehicle that defies categorizing.


Spacious interior.

Excellent visibility.

Strong off-road ability for a wagon.

Great option equipment, safety considerations for animals.

Impressive all-wheel drive system.

Regular grade unleaded gasoline.

Easy-to-use touchscreen navigation system.


Some competitors have more cargo space and increased towing capacities.

Facts & Figures: 2015 Subaru Outback

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.3 seconds.
Airbags: 8.
Fuel economy: 20 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway), 22 mpg (combined) six-speed automatic transmission.
Horsepower: 256.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $32,995.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.subaru.com.
Price As Tested: $36,040.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

“This is the go-anywhere, do-anything wagon for those who aren’t sold on the idea of high-riding SUVs. It’s comfortable, quiet, gets competitive fuel mileage, handles well on pavement and can scurry along dirt roads with pretty much anything this side of a Jeep or Land Rover.” — Edmunds.

“The good-to-drive, ready-to-play nature of the Outback has always made friends, and this new model addresses the negative points of the outgoing model while improving upon what’s made it successful. Say what you will about its non-traditional form – here, it’s good to be different.” — Autoblog.

“This car’s charm is not hard to pinpoint. The Outback oozes appeal in the pragmatic transportation sense, if not the car-folk sense. With palpable refinements throughout, the 2015 makes a solid case as the ultimate automotive appliance.” — AutoWeek.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Once only a fringe vehicle for alpine skiers, cyclists and high-altitude enthusiasts, the refined 2015 Subaru Outlook continues the wagon’s infiltration into the mainstream. It’s a fairly priced choice for families, small business owners or anyone active who seeks comfort, dependability and versatility while driving anywhere a car can go. And with your pet if you choose.”


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Article Last Updated: June 27, 2015.

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