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  • 2014 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

    Posted on January 9th, 2014 ninarussin

    Five passenger crossover gains more fuel-efficient powertrain

    By Nina Russin

    Subaru Outback

    Subaru Outback

    It would not be an exaggeration to say that Subaru invented the active lifestyle vehicle. The brand’s commitment to athletes dates back to its sponsorship of the US Ski Team in the 1970s. Although Subaru commands a relatively small portion of the global automotive market, it remains the Big Kahuna within the athletic community.

    Of all the vehicles in its current lineup, the Outback wagon expresses this focus the best. From its 8.7-inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive to the standard roof rails and rubber cargo mat, the Outback is clearly designed for outdoor enthusiasts who like to venture off the grid.

    The newest model introduced in 2013 features a more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with slightly improved gas mileage as compared to the 2012 car. Engineers improved the car’s torsional stiffness to make it more responsive and quieter.

    Infotainment features now include navigation with real-time traffic updates and Bluetooth streaming audio.

    Buyers can opt for an EyeSight safety system that includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking. The system is capable of stopping the vehicle if the driver fails to recognize pedestrians or cars in its path at speeds below 20 miles-per-hour.

    Base price for the upscale Limited grade is $29,395. Standard convenience features include leather upholstery, keyless entry, Harman Kardon audio with satellite radio, Bluetooth audio and iPod interface, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and fold-flat second-row seats.

    The test car comes with two options packages: a power moonroof with rearview camera and voice-activated navigation. Final MSRP, including the $825 destination charge, is $33,030.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    Subaru Outback

    Subaru Outback

    In January, Phoenix, Arizona’s weather is the envy of the country with cool mornings and 70-degree sunny days. Residents spend as much time as possible enjoying the many running trails, bike paths and golf courses the city has to offer.

    As a runner, this is the time that I binge: the more mileage, the better. I find it hard to do anything work-related, but if I have to work, driving a new Subaru Outback is a pretty good choice.

    Why’ Because the Outback will take me anywhere I want to go and clean up well after the adventure. Average fuel economy with the new four-cylinder engine is 26 miles-per-gallon: not bad for an all-wheel drive wagon.

    I can load the bike up top and toss all the dirty stuff in back. Because of the standard roof rails and cross bars, the Outback will hold five adult passengers and their gear. There are tie-down hooks in the cargo area to keep larger items from shifting around and the rubber mat is easy to remove and hose down. A cargo net holds smaller items such as tools and groceries.

    Rubber cladding on the rocker panels keeps the paint from getting scratched up if the driver happens to catch a branch ambling down a dirt road and there’s enough ground clearance to prevent bottoming out on rocks or roots along the way.

    The all-wheel drive system is impressive in its capability: one of the few that can handle the gnarly off-road course at Local Motors that we use during out Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year competition.

    In other words, the Subaru Outback is the automotive version of a gnar junky.

    Subaru Outback

    Subaru Outback

    But it also functions well as a daily commuter for those living in the nine-to-five world. The engine is still a bit anemic on the low end. I found myself having to dip pretty deep into the throttle when merging onto the freeway. But there’s plenty of horsepower for passing slower vehicles at speed.

    Although the base and Premium Outback are available with manual transmissions, the Limited comes exclusively with a continuously variable automatic. Engineers added formula-style shift paddles for manual gear selection. They also simulated gear changes similar to a six-speed step-style transmission.

    I’m not a huge fan of CVT units, but this one works well. There is none of the rubber band feel that can be the bane of CVTs although there is a slight hesitation during moderate acceleration. Since most athletes favor easy-to-clean cloth interiors as opposed to leather, my recommendation would be to go with the base or Premium trim levels and get the manual gearbox.

    The manufacturer’s claim of a quieter interior is true. There is still some tire noise at higher speeds, but noticeably less than in the outgoing model.

    The four-wheel independent suspension offers up a comfortable ride. Engineers beefed up the stabilizer bars to make the Outback corner flatter. There is still some roll, possibly because of the car’s higher ground clearance.

    Response from the car’s rack-and-pinion steering system is quite good, with a 36.8-foot turning circle. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Outback in firm, linear fashion, even when the roads are wet.

    Spacious interior

    Subaru Outback Interior

    Subaru Outback Interior

    As mentioned above, the Outback has plenty of room for five adult passengers and the cargo space to handle their gear. The Limited model comes well equipped with most of what a buyer might want.

    The only exception is the rearview camera that comes with the moonroof package. It is the only criticism I have of the car. I think rearview cameras should be standard equipment on all models.

    I found the 10-way power driver’s seat comfortable on trips lasting up to two hours. Being in Phoenix, I didn’t have a chance to try the seat heaters, but they are a nice feature in colder climates.

    Designers did a good job of adding storage areas, cup and bottle holders throughout the car. I like the addition of a 12-volt power point in the cargo area.

    I found both climate and infotainment controls intuitive to program. The center stack screen is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions, including bright sunlight.

    Standard safety

    The Subaru Outback has received a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, a rollover sensor, tire pressure monitoring and all-wheel drive.

    The factory warranty includes three years of complimentary roadside assistance, up to 36,000 miles.

    Subaru builds the Outback at its Lafayette, Indiana assembly plant.

    Like: A versatile, durable crossover vehicle with standard all-wheel drive and a high level of standard safety features.

    Dislike: Rearview camera is not standard equipment.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Subaru
    Model: Outback 2.5i Limited
    Year: 2014
    Base price: $29,395
    As tested: $33,030
    Horsepower: 173 Hp @ 5600 rpm
    Torque: 174 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: No
    Off-road: Yes
    Fuel economy: 24/30 mpg city/highway

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