2012 Subaru Outback

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2010 Subaru Outback — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2014.
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.2

Bottom Line:

The Outback has always had a split personality — self-assured commuter and adept trail runner. The vehicle has only been enhanced its larger size, more refined interior, and more powerful and fuel-efficient engines. This is a real winner.
Pros:
  • Split personality, on-road/off-road
  • Cavernous, usable 71.3 cubic feet of storage
  • Good mpg, big tank equals 444-mile range
Cons:
  • 3.6R Limited starts at pricey $30,995
  • Looks like wagon in mid-morph to SUV
  • Wheel arches dwarf base rolling stock

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?

Model Lineup
The Outback comes in a six-pack of possibilities that encompasses three trim levels and two engines. Outbacks with 2.5-liter engines are designated as 2.5i, 2.5i Premium and 2.5i Limited. Those with 3.6-liter engines sport 3.6R, 3.6R Premium and 3.6R Limited badges.

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 2.5i trims are powered by a 2.5-liter boxer four rated at 170 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 170 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. The 2.5i is outfitted with an all-new 6-speed manual transmission from the factory. But for $1,000, you can add Subaru's Lineartronic CVT, which selects any ratio between its highest and lowest available ratios at any time. This means a more efficient use of power and better fuel economy. In the past, manual gearboxes got better mileage than their automatic counterparts, but in the Outback the 6-speed delivers 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway, while the CVT posts 22 mpg/29 mpg.

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.

Inner Space
The Outback's interior plays an important role in the vehicle's ability to multitask. The 2010 is larger on the outside, with a longer wheelbase, width and track. This translates into more cargo area to haul everything from home-improvement supplies to camping gear. With the rear seats down, the 2010 version sports 71.3 cubic feet of cargo volume, 5.9 cubic feet more than the 2009 Outback. Further, the hatch is designed to open up the Outback's cargo potential, making it easy to stow gear. Driving position, comfort, quietness and overall quality inside the Outback is on par with the competition.

On the Road
Subaru reports that almost 20 percent of Outbackers take their cars off-road. In this realm, we are taking about dirt fire roads and light trail work, not some rock-crawling obstacle course.

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?
The Outback has a devoted cult following, and the 2010 edition should only increase its adherents. Its split personality of self-assured commuting and adept trail running is not only intact, but is also enhanced by the Outback's larger size, refined interior, and more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, as well as Subaru's trusty all-wheel drive. Today's tight economy means people are trying to get more out of their vehicle, which makes the Outback a Swiss Army knife worth having in your pocket.

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.

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BB04 - 4/19/2014 7:41:03 AM