2017 Subaru Outback 2.5 LimitedPosted on October 3rd, 2016
Sport-utility wagon is the perfect training partner
By Nina Russin
Riding my bicycle through an unexpected monsoonal rainstorm this morning, I was thinking about the Subaru Outback test car parked in our driveway, specifically the relationship between the brand and endurance athletes going back over four decades. Long before other brands saw outdoor lifestyles as a marketing asset, Subaru embraced the idea, sponsoring the US Ski team.
A unique carburetor design that compensated for oxygen loss at altitude made Subaru’s early four-cylinder engines the only small engines that ran well in mountainous areas. Along with that came standard all-wheel drive throughout the lineup. To this day, the only Subaru that comes without AWD is the track-oriented BRZ.
But there’s a deeper reason why Subaru’s vehicles resonate with athletes. They are perfect training partners: up for any adventure and never complaining about the weather, always willing to pitch in when there’s work to be done and not afraid of getting dirty. They are durable, versatile workhorses that always come through in a pinch.
Subaru isn’t afraid to call the Outback a wagon because that’s what it is: a very functional gear hauler with the ability to go through almost anything, including mud, deep snow, water, sleet and ice.
The 2017 model adds some important upgrades: a new upscale Touring grade above the Limited, torque vectoring for better cornering, enhanced hill start-assist and hill descent control functions for better wet weather performance, a roomier cargo area, more active safety technology and infotainment features.
Base price for the Limited model tested is $32,390 excluding the $875 destination charge. An optional convenience package adds navigation, Sirius XM travel and weather updates, steering responsive fog lamps, high intensity discharge headlamps, high beam assist and Subaru EyeSight: active safety technology including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, pre-collision throttle control and pre-collision braking. Final MSRP is $35,260.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week I drove the newest Outback throughout Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as the foothills of the San Tan Mountains southeast of town. While the newest Outback is true to the brand’s heritage, some important updates have given the car more premium appearance and better road manners at high speeds.
Engineers eliminated a great deal of engine and road noise by adding better insulation around the cabin. They managed to do this without adding a lot of weight, so fuel economy remains a respectable 28 miles-per-gallon according to EPA estimates.
The test car is equipped with Subaru’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine: the smaller of two available blocks. While it’s not exactly a barn burner with 175 peak horsepower, it has enough get-up-and-go to accelerate comfortably into high-speed traffic or pass slower vehicles at speed.
Chain drive eliminates the expense of replacing a timing belt, a maintenance procedure that often occurs after a vehicle’s warranty has expired.
The continuously variable automatic transmission has a manual mode that replicates the feel of a traditional six-speed step-style transmission.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and compact double wishbone design in the rear. The double wishbone configuration enabled engineers to maximize the wagon’s cargo space, making it bicycle-friendly with second-row seats folded flat.
The electric power steering system is nicely tuned to the car, with plenty of low-end assist and a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. The wagon’s turning circle is a touch over 36 feet, making U-turns easy to perform on wider surface streets.
The adaptive fog lamps illuminate corners that traditional headlamps and fog lamps might miss, making it easier for the driver to see pedestrians waiting to cross at intersections.
A rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse. Cross traffic alert uses an audible chime when pedestrians or other vehicles pass in back.
Blind spot monitoring projects LED signals in the side mirrors to alert the driver of other vehicles he might not see in adjacent lanes. If the driver signals to change lanes, the LEDs flash to warn him of a possible accident.
The Outback’s spacious interior seats up to five passengers. Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob after dark. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with adequate lower lumbar support for longer road trips.
Infotainment features on the Limited grade include satellite radio with weather and traffic updates as well as Bluetooth interface.
Fit and finish is the best to date, with attractive wood veneer inserts complimenting leather upholstery and trim. The upscale Outback has the appearance of a premium vehicle, inside and out.
But is is also practical, with standard rubber mats protecting the floors and cargo area from mud and water. Standard roof rails make it easy to add a gear rack or cargo carrier up top. Because the Outback’s roof height is lower than competitive crossovers, the top of the car is easier to load up.
All Outback models come with all-wheel drive, stability control, six airbags, antilock brakes, hill start assist, hill descent control, a rearview camera and tire pressure monitoring. The Subaru Outback is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus.
Subaru builds the Outback at its Lafayette, Indiana assembly plant.
Like: An attractive, durable, versatile wagon suitable for buyers with active lifestyles living in four-season climates with standard all-wheel drive and plenty of ground clearance for unimproved roads.
Dislike: Four-cylinder engine lacks the low-end power of competitive turbocharged models.
Model: Outback 2.5 Limited
Base price: $32,390
As tested: $35,260
Horsepower: 175 Hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 174 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 25/32 mpg city/highway2017, Best Value 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Outback, performance, pricing, standard safety, Subaru