If you think back, there was always that one kid in school who participated in every extracurricular activity, did well in every subject, and fit in with just about every social circle. That is the personification of the Subaru Outback. The Outback is a jack-of-all-trades vehicle. It has no major flaws, and gives you no reason to dislike it. Updated in 2015 in conjunction with the closely-related Legacy, the Outback won acclaim for its safety, technology, and all-weather capabilities. With less body cladding and more cohesive styling, the new Outback has gone a bit more main stream.
For years, Subaru has portrayed themselves as a brand for the active family, dog lovers, and the outdoors type. More recently, however, they’ve gotten more blunt; a recent TV spot features an Outback-owning family literally hugging a tree. Regardless of how they market, Subaru has a strong hold of the northeast and northwestern United States thanks to the individual climates and cultures of those areas. The Outback and Forester are Subaru’s two sales juggernauts.
Inside, the interior is almost identical to the Legacy we drove last winter. The simple and highly-responsive touchscreen is one of the most accurate in the industry. It’s also nice to have buttons and dials for climate controls. Subaru’s EyeSight system offers some of the least intrusive and most accurate driver-assistance features on the market. In our tester, EyeSight came bundled into a package that includes the 7” touchscreen with navigation, power rear lift gate, and moonroof. With an as-tested price of $32,000, the Subaru comes very well equipped. Rear legroom is ample, but there’s over 73 cubic feet of cargo space under that long roof if you fold the seats down.
Driving the Outback is mostly unremarkable. The 2.5L boxer engine produces 175hp and 174lb-ft torque and runs through a CVT. Unlike some other brands, Subaru’s CVT doesn’t pretend to have gears, which means it doesn’t try and pretend to be something it isn’t. That approach has worked, resulting in seamless power and smooth delivery. The symmetric AWD system and all-season tires give the Outback sure footing in most conditions. The suspension is compliant and controlled, preventing some of the waywardness a typical crossover might exhibit.
The updated styling, predictable handing, and general do-everything nature of the Subaru Outback makes it highly appealing. It’s as practical as a crossover or mid-size SUV without the “big car” stigma. A clever set of roof rails that swivel to become crossbars are a unique feature that prevents the need to buy an expensive set of aftermarket accessories. With its top IIHS marks for passive and active safety features, the Outback is perhaps the most utilitarian vehicle on the market today. It might not be the best handling station wagon, the most well-appointed crossover, or the most capable SUV, but the Outback doesn’t have to be any of those things. It just has to be a Subaru.
|2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium
|Moonroof Package + Power Rear Gate + Navigation System + EyeSight + Blind-Spot Detection & Rear Cross-Traffic Alert||$3,490|
|Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV)||$300|
|As Tested MSRP||$32,035|
Photos courtesy Subaru