2001 Subaru Outback
This 2001 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
A $30,000-plus Subaru station wagon seems a little hard to figure—especially considering that Subarus were cheap economy cars not all that long ago. "Inexpensive and built to stay that way," Subaru once said of its cars.
Lesser Outback models cost less but have a smaller 4-cylinder engine.
By the way, don't let all those letters and numbers put you off. The "H" means that the engine has a horizontally opposed piston layout, like Porsche engines. The "6" means—you guessed it—that the engine has six cylinders. The 3.0 means it has a 3.0-liter displacement. And VDC stands for Subaru's new Vehicle Dynamics Control stability system.
The L.L. Bean version has such things as special leather upholstery and a liberal amount of L.L. Bean identification. But it doesn't have the VDC system.
New 4-Cylinder Model Features
But those Outbacks only have a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 165 horsepower and considerably less torque than the 6-cylinder in the new H6-3.0 models. The 4-cylinder provides decent acceleration, but is no match for the smoother, quieter 6-cylinder.
The new engine has a horizontally opposed piston layout like the 4-cylinder to allow it to sit low and keep the center of gravity closer to the pavement. It's quite sophisticated, with chain-driven (for lower maintenance) dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.
First "Six" Since 1997
There shouldn't be such price objections to the Outback H6-3.0 VDC. After all, Subaru pioneered 4-wheel drive for mass-produced cars nearly 30 years ago. Subarus looked frumpy and felt cheap for a long time, but they were inexpensive and tough. New Englanders loved them.
Subarus became more mainstream in the 1990s, with much better styling and a more solid feel. The automaker even came up with its above-average Forester sport-utility vehicle a few years ago. In fact, some might feel that the Forester should have gotten the 6-cylinder before the Outback.
Why Outback Got the Six
In fact, the Outback was a decent substitute sport ute, and was continually made more attractive. Its off-road prowess matched car-based sport utes.
That timing was good because the 2000 Legacy was revamped and made larger. The 2000 Outback wagon version had such features as a higher roofline and raised suspension for sport-ute-style utility and off-road prowess. But it still had a 165-horsepower 4-cylinder when a larger engine was clearly needed.
The 2001 Outback still is based on the Legacy and has sport-ute features. But the 6-cylinder versions feel like different models. For one thing, the 6-cylinder doesn't sound as gruff as the 4-cylinder and need not work as hard.
New Engine No Fireball
Still, the 6-cylnder loafs at 2700 rpm at 70 mph, and it delivers an estimated 27 mpg on the highway. The city figure is acceptable at 20 because, after all, this is a fairly heavy vehicle, weighing from 3,715 to 3,735 pounds.
Feels Like Big Sedan
The systems are an effective trio, working simultaneously.
Elaborate Audio System
The L.L. Bean version has two-tone leather upholstery embossed with the L.L. Bean insignia and L.L. Bean badges on front fenders. Even floor mats are embroidered with the L.L. Bean logo. Importantly, owners of this model get free scheduled maintenance for three years.
The quiet interior has comfortable seats that offer good side support so occupants don't slide when the Outback H6-3.0 is zipping through curves. However, rear legroom is tight behind a tall driver who moves his seat back a lot to get comfortable.
Only One Sliding Sunroof
The spacious cargo area has a wide opening and large hatch for easy loading. Split-fold rear seatbacks considerably enlarge the cargo area.
Subaru has finally grown up with its mainstream 6-cylinder Outback, which seems destined to be a hit.