The Outback is a particularly popular car among our subscribers. So when the thoroughly-tweaked 2013 model showed up at dealers, we quickly bought one to test.
Subaru made a lot of detail changes to their popular, jacked-up station wagon. The four-cylinder engine is redesigned, although output is similar to the last model. Steering and ride have been modified, as well. The new models also get some styling details inside and out.
Outbacks cover a wide array of prices and features. You can buy one with steel wheels and a manual transmission if you want, all for just over $24,000. But our test car has a lot of options, partly because we wanted to try Subaru's new EyeSight suite of electronic safety aids.
Subaru is touting EyeSight as one of the most affordable ways to get this comprehensive array of electronic safety features. Indeed, its combination of lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning with autonomous braking, and active cruise control is impressive for this price range. Oddly though, the system doesn't include blind-spot warning; Subaru doesn't offer this popular feature.
Relatively affordable, EyeSight doesn't come cheap. You can only get it on the Limited trim level, which comes well equipped with leather and dual-zone climate control. On top of that, it's part of a $3,940 options package that includes a giant moon roof and a navigation system, adding $1,295 above the cost of those options alone. This reminds us of the days when you were forced to buy luxury options to get electronic stability control—and that's not a happy memory.
As priced, this makes the Outback 2.5i Limited one of the most expensive cars you can now buy with a non-turbo, non-hybrid four-cylinder engine. (We've been having an office contest to find something that beats it—a loaded Acura TSX wagon does cost more.) Including the mandatory-for-Connecticut PZEV emissions, our car stickers at $34,130. So much for "Inexpensive and built to stay that way." But then again, the Outback has become a rather popular substitute for a Volvo XC70 wagon.
But that's not all. Subaru also offers a long, long, long list of dealer-installed accessories. Since they carry quite a bit of profit, it's hard to find an Outback without a bunch of add-ons. Our car came with body-side molding, a rear bumper protector, all-weather floor mats, and fender splash guards. That stuff, all of which we'd gladly skip, added $568 to the sticker price, bringing the total to $34,698. Since there are about a dozen Subaru dealers within an hour's drive, we were able to easily haggle the just-arrived car's price to a few hundred over invoice.
First impressions? The 2013 Outback drives a lot like our 2010 Outback with minor differences in steering weight and feel and ride quality. The navigation radio could be better designed; we wish we could have skipped that option. The EyeSight system looks somewhat cobbled on, with two giant cameras flanking the center rear-view windshield mirror. But it does work, frequently sounding off when we cross the shoulder markings on rural two-lane roads.