2010 Subaru Outback — Review
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Perhaps one of the most versatile vehicles on the road, the Outback is a Swiss Army knife on wheels; there is a blade or other useful utensil ready to handle whatever task you throw its way. Commuters will be comfortable. Hikers will be confident. The frugal will like the respectable fuel economy. The Outback sports a well-appointed interior and supple suspension for the workweek, plus 8.7 inches of ground clearance and Subaru's ready-to-rumble all-wheel drive for weekend adventures. What's not to love?
The base 2.5i is a good starting point, featuring a 6-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, 4-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch wheels, power windows and locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel as standard issue. The 2.5i is priced at $22,995, and its only option is Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable transmission.
Stepping into a Premium-trimmed 2.5i adds a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel, auto up/down driver's window and fog lights, and raises the sticker price to $24,295. Optional fare includes the Lineartronic CVT, all-weather package, a 440-watt Harman Kardon stereo and a sunroof.
The 2.5i Limited is priced at $27,995 and adds a 4-way power adjustable passenger seat, all-weather package, CVT, climate control, the Harman Kardon stereo and a leather-trimmed interior. Going with a Limited opens the door to options such as a navigation system and a sunroof.
The 3.6R line has a bigger engine and 17-inch rolling stock as standard equipment, and beyond that, its Premium and Limited trims add the same equipment as seen in the 2.5i trim, except for the CVT gearbox, which is available only in the 2.5i. The base 3.6R is priced at $27,995. The Premium 3.6R adds $1,000 to the base trim, while the top-of-the-line Limited checks in at $30,995.
Under the Hood
The 3.6R is the big-engine version with a new-for-2010 3.6-liter boxer six that replaces the '09 version's 3.0-liter six. The new powerplant increases horsepower by 11 ponies to 256 horsepower at 6000 rpm and, more important, adds 32 lb-ft of torque to 247 at 4400 rpm. In fact, the 3.6 generates a broad torque curve putting out a minimum of 225 lb-ft from 2000 rpm to 6000 rpm. A 5-speed automatic is the only gearbox in the 3.6R lineup. At the pump the 3.6 is rated at 18/25 mpg.
On the Road
We were impressed with the Outback's ability to absorb potholes, ruts and severely washed-out sections of road. We were also surprised how much suspension travel Subaru designed into the Outback's strut-based front suspension and new-for-2010 double-wishbone rear setup. Despite some risky maneuvering during our test drive in Montana, we managed to bottom out only a few times. The Subaru traversed the terrain without transferring an unreasonable amount of harshness into the cabin. The Outback was in its element as its 8.7 inches of ground clearance translated into supreme confidence when negotiating protruding rocks and deep ruts. With Subaru's all-wheel drive along for the ride, the Outback exhibited a good deal of trail-happy gusto.
The Outback didn't miss a beat on the pavement, either. Despite its high ground clearance, the Subaru displayed a relatively low center of gravity. Agile, tossable and racy are not in its dictionary but predictable, smooth and comfortable do well in describing the Outback's on-road behavior.
We hammered both 2.5i and 3.6R trims and must say the low-end torque of the 3.6-liter won the day. The Outback felt more substantial and authoritative with the 6-cylinder doing the heavy lifting.
Right for You?
Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compacttuning. Today Griffey freelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.