More than just a wagon, the Outback is an intriguing alternative to a traditional midsized SUV. It has more cargo space than most seemingly larger competitors, less thirst for fuel, and a lower price. Functionally, it does everything most midsized SUVs can do -- except tow a heavy load. Subaru has split the difference between a wagon and a crossover, creating a winning combination.
The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been recalibrated, making acceleration less thrashy. Unless you floor the gas pedal, the engine revs and noise drop off quickly, which makes the car sound much quieter and feel more relaxed. The tradeoff is that the four-cylinder Outback is slower, though it doesn't really feel slow from behind the wheel. With the 2.5i, we measured fuel economy of 24 mpg overall, which is significantly better than any midsized SUV. Six-cylinder 3.6R versions are much quicker and even quieter, with little penalty in fuel economy. We got 22 mpg overall.