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.
Because the Outback carries a car-like center of gravity compared to those crossovers, its ride comfort and handling are more balanced and it exhibits less body lean in tight corners. It's no sports car, but in normal driving the Outback feels plenty responsive and secure.
But the Outback's ride height also has been raised by 2.8 inches over its Legacy sedan sibling. Not only does that make getting in and out of the Outback really easy, it also adds ground clearance for cruddy roads.
Inside, the Outback features a contemporary infotainment system that makes pairing phones and streaming online audio easy.
A full complement of high-tech safety gear is standard with Subaru's EyeSight, which includes lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, along with active cruise control that can bring the car to a stop in traffic.
Throw in excellent visibility, a quiet cabin, straightforward controls, and the Outback is an easy car to recommend.