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2015 Subaru Outback and Legacy impress at the track

Revised AWD cars have refinement and luxury touches

Published: May 19, 2014 12:00 PM

Self-improvement has long been an American pastime—check out any bookstore. Our society applauds building on positive traits while chipping away at the negative. That’s exactly what Subaru did with its 2015 redesign of the Subaru Outback and Legacy.

The Outback in particular has many friends among Consumer Reports subscribers. We have thousands of them in our reliability survey and the raised wagon is among the most researched cars at ConsumerReports.org. Based on the Legacy sedan, the Outback occupies a rather unique market niche, successfully competing with SUVs. The Legacy also stands out as the most affordable midsized all-wheel-drive sedan.

Both cars have had plenty of good traits. Fuel economy on the current editions is impressive despite standard AWD, and the interior is roomy. Visibility is great and controls are simple. But those positive traits don’t mask the cars’ shortcomings. Performance and refinement was lacking with the four-cylinder, the interiors were Spartan, infotainment was outdated, and luxury features were wanting. Subaru has attacked those issues in the redesign for the 2015 model year.

Our first look shows plenty of improvements. Interior finish is much better. Now there’s a modern infotainment system. New luxury features include a power liftgate for the Outback, LED headlights, and heated rear seats. Pricing starts at $21,695.

2015 Subaru Outback

Subaru claims deeper changes, too. The four-cylinder engine was retuned for better performance and fuel economy, and the continuously variable transmission, now the only one available, was retuned for more refinement. Sound insulation is increased. Body structured was strengthened to improve solidity and supply strong performance in the difficult Insurance Institute for Highway Safety small offset crash test. Availability of Subaru’s EyeSight suite of electronic safety equipment is expanded, and advanced to its next generation, and blind-spot monitoring is now available.

There was room for improvement with the driving, as Subaru had a hard time balancing ride and handling in the 2010-2014 Outback. Early versions rode softly but had sloppy handling; an update improved handling but overly stiffened the ride. As we spend more time with the cars, we’ll be able to report on how the dynamics have changed with the redesign.

The good news is that the practical nature of these cars remains intact. Rear seat room, already generous, has slightly increased. Visibility remains among the best of any modern car with plenty of glass and thin pillars.

All in all, the changes Subaru made in these cars seem right on target. We’ll let you know in a few weeks if they truly hit the bull's-eye.

Tom Mutchler

   

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