The Truth About Cars » subaru outback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 06 Dec 2014 21:01:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » subaru outback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:10:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=902858 Of all the things that struck me during my week with the 2015 Subaru Outback at the end of August, it was the realization that this nameplate has been around for two decades which shocked me most. Is this because I’m getting old, that when I think something occurred recently, I find out it actually […]

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2015 Subaru OutbackOf all the things that struck me during my week with the 2015 Subaru Outback at the end of August, it was the realization that this nameplate has been around for two decades which shocked me most.

Is this because I’m getting old, that when I think something occurred recently, I find out it actually happened 20 years ago? Subaru first showed North Americans a Legacy Outback at the New York Auto Show in 1994. In other words, there are people who have been driving for four years who never knew a world without the Subaru Outback.

Yet during this long period in which the Outback, and Subaru as a whole, became increasingly successful, there have never been any properly direct Outback rivals, at least none that have made real hay off the Outback’s format. And yes, by the Outback’s format, I really mean the AMC Eagle’s format.

True, you could argue that most modern crossovers have stolen their offense from the Outback’s playbook. But driving the Outback is different, and it continues to be perceived by the vast majority of actual Outback buyers as different, as a true crossover; a true mid-point, between car and SUV.

Audi’s A6 and A4 Allroads are all good and well, but they’re very rare cars. Volvo’s XC70 has lingered, but it too has become very uncommon in terms of new car sales. Don’t even say the words, “Honda Crosstour,” within range of my ears.

One then wonders what’s always been so different about the Outback.

To answer that question, we would need to examine multiple products from multiple periods over the the last two decades. So what about this new car? What makes this 2015 model great; what ensures further success for the fifth Outback?

2015 Subaru OutbackSubjectively speaking, it looks better than the outgoing car. Though strikingly similar in most ways, perhaps too similar from some angles, its face is cleaner and classier. Unfortunately, this specific tester, a 2.5i Touring version on loan from Subaru Canada, features alloy wheels that do a really good impression of cheap wheel covers.

It’s better built than previous Outbacks were. There’s no hint of fragility to this car, no after-bump jiggles and rattles, no door-closing thwacks where there ought to be, and are, thunks. It is more than vaguely Toyota-like, and given the relationship between the two companies, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Interior quality and workmanship has taken a big leap forward, particularly where it matters around the driver. The infotainment unit is now modern, which is to say it meets our low expectations for in-car systems but doesn’t rise to the level of convenience you’d find in the new Mazda 3 or the depth of services in Chrysler’s UConnect.

With each new Outback iteration, there’s been a moderate increase in space and comfort, progressively less of the knees-to-chest awkwardness for rear passengers and arguably better seats for front passengers. This remains true, but I’d like the front seats to feature side bolstering that wasn’t quite so far away from my sides. The headrests feature a welcome range of adjustability.

Cargo capacity is up slightly from 34.3 cubic feet to 35.3; from 71.3 to 73.3 cubic feet with the seats folded as overall length grew by six-tenths of an inch.

The Outback is still a smart car. The roof crossbars are embedded in the flush-mounted side rails until you need them. Combined city/highway fuel efficiency has increased from 26 mpg to 28, three miles more per gallon than the 2014 Honda CR-V, America’s best-selling SUV/crossover, is rated to achieve, and on par with the 2014 four-cylinder Toyota Camry, America’s most popular car. Pressing Subaru’s X-Mode button turns the Outback, already a tall-riding car with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, into a very capable mud-runner by remapping the transmission and all-wheel-drive system and traction control. It’s not a joke.

2015 Subaru Outback rearThe 2015 Outback’s on-road behaviour produces what may be the most convincing argument that the Outback has improved. Ride quality is superb, as the Outback isolates occupants from road imperfections while maintaining a nice amount of firmness. The Outback has become a very quiet highway cruiser, no vibration seeps through the pedals or wheel or shifter, and the boxer four-cylinder has been further refined to reduce unwanted boxer noises.

Say what you will about the character of older H-4 Subarus, they weren’t the engines you strapped on if you were going to meet the queen. This 2.5L is now smoother, and there is still a hint of flat-four warble if you call upon it.

Subaru has also made a slight return to its more enjoyable driving roots after a fourth-gen car that was all too boring to drive. This new Outback doesn’t have the the same amount of athleticism enjoyed by the third-generation Outback; nor is there any real interactivity here. But body roll is kept to a minimum in comparison with most small crossovers and the steering is sufficiently quick to make me think I’d hustle this car whenever the opportunity presented itself. I wouldn’t have said that about the last Outback, and I certainly wouldn’t say the same for the Toyota RAV4 or Nissan Rogue.

Hustling is perhaps a stretch for the overburdened 175-horsepower powerplant, of course. There’s a great deal more cooperation now between the engine and the continuously variable transmission, so much so that the car no longer feels slow unless you’re accelerating from rest up a steep hill. The CVT is rarely annoying, offering a distinct stepping sensation and paddles if you want to exert some control. In the Canadian market, consumers are still given the option of selecting a manual transmission. Oh joy, oh delight.

2015 Subaru Outback InteriorYes, you’ll want the 256-horsepower six-cylinder, but you might not want its fuel bill, 22 mpg overall, or the $3000 premium you’ll pay on top-trim Limited models to get that boxer six. (Limiteds start at $30,845 including destination, $3000 more than the Outback Premium, which is $2100 more than the base Outback. We averaged a somewhat disappointing 24 mpg in mostly urban driving in the four-cylinder.) And you won’t need the six-cylinder – base four-cylinder Outbacks weigh less than 3600 pounds. They can make do.

Positivity aside, I’ll admit I grew somewhat bored of the Outback before the week was up. I blame the black paint for masking the more stylish look of the cladding – it looks great in lighter shades. We also have frequent access to more thrilling machines on a regular basis. The Outback doesn’t thrill, nor does it aim to.

No, the Outback really is just a new take on the old-fashioned station wagon. Rather, a 20-year-old take. But I realized when the Outback left our driveway that a rugged, roomy, affordable, surprisingly efficient, all-weather midsize wagon is basically the perfect car for almost everybody I know, in the same way flimsy, massive, affordable, inefficient, rear-wheel-drive full-size wagons were basically the perfect car for almost everybody I never knew 35 or 40 years ago.

There are things Subaru could do better, from re-injecting more fun back into the chassis, crafting less American-waistline-oriented seats, designing a faster power liftgate that doesn’t leave me standing impatiently in a parking lot with a 30-pound bag of dog food, reining in the aggressive throttle tip-in, and providing 200 standard horsepower.

Yet the 2015 version makes the Outback a better car than it’s ever been. Subaru has worked to make it better despite the lack of pressure from rival automakers; despite the security of Subaru’s steadily growing North American sales volume.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. These Outback images were supplied by frequent GCBC photographer Steffani Cain.

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VW Weighing Jetta SportWagon Variant to Compete With Subaru Outback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/vw-weighing-jetta-sportwagon-variant-to-compete-with-subaru-outback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/vw-weighing-jetta-sportwagon-variant-to-compete-with-subaru-outback/#comments Mon, 05 Aug 2013 14:51:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498258 VW, whose growth in the U.S. market has not gone quite according to their optimistic plans, may take a page from booming Subaru’s playbook and introduce an all-wheel-drive station wagon to compete with the Subaru Outback, Fuji Heavy Industries’ best seller in North America. Automotive News reports that VW has approved an AWD version of […]

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VW, whose growth in the U.S. market has not gone quite according to their optimistic plans, may take a page from booming Subaru’s playbook and introduce an all-wheel-drive station wagon to compete with the Subaru Outback, Fuji Heavy Industries’ best seller in North America.

Automotive News reports that VW has approved an AWD version of the next Jetta SportWagon that will be sold in the United States starting next year and that the Wolfsburg based automaker is considering a version with higher ground clearance and body cladding, like the Alltrack concept shown last year.

Last year in the U.S., Subaru sold 117,553 Outbacks, about five times the number of Jetta SportWagons that VW sold. The proposed Outback-fighter would also add a pseudo-crossover model to VW’s lineup, and would act as a stopgap until VW can add more crossovers to its range – something its beleaguered dealer body has been crying out for.

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Dear Automaker, Please Build Me A… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/dear-automaker-please-build-me-a/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/dear-automaker-please-build-me-a/#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 16:58:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483663 In 1995, Subaru rolled out the Outback, which was tremendously successful at fooling New Englanders into believing that they were driving an SUV. Seriously: Subaru took a Legacy wagon, raised it an inch, painted the bottom part gold, and – for the first time in its history – became incredibly popular, even among people who […]

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In 1995, Subaru rolled out the Outback, which was tremendously successful at fooling New Englanders into believing that they were driving an SUV. Seriously: Subaru took a Legacy wagon, raised it an inch, painted the bottom part gold, and – for the first time in its history – became incredibly popular, even among people who don’t consider “granola” acceptable for a restaurant menu. (Let the record reflect I have now completed an entire paragraph about Subaru without making a lesbian joke.)

In 1998, the Subaru Outback range added a sedan model, called the “SUS” for “Sport Utility Sedan.” Unfortunately, the presence of a trunk meant New Englanders were no longer fooled, though some people from Colorado apparently were. Nonetheless, sales were dismal no matter how many times Subaru tried to remind shoppers that driving on a dirt road doesn’t mean you need to carry a lot of stuff. Eventually, they gave up and cancelled the Outback sedan, then redesigned the wagon to compete with a milk truck. (Seriously, why is it so big?)

 

But today’s article isn’t about the Subaru Outback sedan. Instead, it’s about the process that created the Subaru Outback sedan.

You see, just as the Outback was just starting to gain sales momentum, a Subaru dealer wrote to the brand and suggested they make a sedan version. After all, it would only take a new part here and there, and maybe a few dozen buckets of gold paint. Genius! And did Subaru laugh in the dealer’s face? Did they say: “Shouldn’t you be advertising at the local softball games?” (You knew it wouldn’t last the whole article.)

No. They actually built it. How cool is that?

Whenever I think about this story (which is whenever I see an Outback SUS, so every two years), I always consider how exciting things would be if we could simply write a letter to our favorite automaker and ask them to build the car of our dreams. Of course, some people actually have this ability. In fact, I think this may have been Bob Lutz’s job during his last six years at General Motors.

If I had the power to write a letter and make any car so, I promise I would use it judiciously (unlike Lutz). To minimize costs, I would only ask automakers to build cars on existing platforms. I would only suggest vehicles that have an appeal beyond the limited scope of my brain. And I wouldn’t ask Ford to bring back the Crown Victoria.

I can think of two letters I’d write immediately:

First, I would petition Mercedes to create an AMG version of its GLK compact SUV, which would be the very first performance SUV that makes sense. Imagine it: take the CLA’s dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive and 355-horsepower turbo four. Stuff it in the GLK, which is more practical than a sedan and nimbler than an M-Class. How can Mercedes create the R63 AMG and not give us this?

The next letter would go to Porsche, requesting a turbocharged Cayman with four-wheel drive, a stick shift, and a targa roof. This would be the perfect sports car: mid-mounted turbo power, three pedals, and Cayman styling with an open roof. Of course, people would stop buying the 911. But it would look damn good parked next to my GLK AMG.

While we’re writing letters, I guess I should write one to my bank.

The problem with all of this dreaming about variations of existing platforms is that it doesn’t always work out. Of course, the Lutz-era GM lineup is the best example of this. During the early 2000s, people at GM actually said each of the following things: “Yes! An Envoy with a retractable roof over the cargo area is a good idea!” or: “Who wouldn’t buy a retro-themed convertible pickup with a bed cover?” or even: “Our research indicates the market for a Solstice coupe is huge.”

But GM isn’t the only guilty party here. For example, the Jaguar X-Type station wagon didn’t create itself. Neither did the Dodge Rampage, which was – truly – a front-wheel drive pickup based on the Omni. And we can’t forget the Lexus IS 300 SportCross, or the Honda Crosstour, or the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. (The general rule seems to be: avoid the word “Cross.”)

Indeed, each of those failures must’ve been devised by product planning, approved by a board of directors, penned by designers, created by engineers, tested over millions of miles, and, finally, built by line workers. Maybe they should’ve just asked a dealer. Or me.

So, TTAC: what letters would you write?

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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It’s the Weekend, It’s 3 Degrees Out, and It’s Half-Price Day At the Junkyard! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/its-the-weekend-its-3-degrees-out-and-its-half-price-day-at-the-junkyard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/its-the-weekend-its-3-degrees-out-and-its-half-price-day-at-the-junkyard/#comments Sun, 13 Jan 2013 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=473239 Back when Pick-N-Pull and Pick Your Part both operated yards in Northern California, Half Price Day sales used to take place at least every couple of months. Everything was half off on those days, which meant you could get transmissions for something like 30 bucks, complete engines for $75, and so on. Then, back in […]

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Back when Pick-N-Pull and Pick Your Part both operated yards in Northern California, Half Price Day sales used to take place at least every couple of months. Everything was half off on those days, which meant you could get transmissions for something like 30 bucks, complete engines for $75, and so on. Then, back in 2009, El Pulpo packed up and left NorCal, which meant that the competition didn’t have as much motivation to put on such sales. Now that I’m in Colorado, it appears that U-Pull-&-Pay also does the occasional Half Price Day… and this time they chose the coldest weekend of this winter.
Actually, UPAP made this sale a coupon-only deal for those who liked the Aurora yard on Facebook. I need a steering column for my ’41 Plymouth project, so I printed out the coupon and headed up to Aurora.
Thanks to the trapper cap that the Busted Knuckle Garage guys gave me at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in ’07, I didn’t fall over and die instantly from the single-digit cold, in spite of my inability to get used to this real winter thing that places east of coastal California get.
This guy wanted to take advantage of the 50%-off deals, but apparently the only warm outfit he could put together on short notice was centered on this festive-but-not-so-toasty-looking souvenir poncho.
I can never remember what year range of Toyota Previa contains the supercharger with Mad Max-style electrically-operated clutch, so I decided against freezing all my fingers diving into the engine compartment of this ’96.
For the ’41 Plymouth’s steering column, I’m looking for something simple but modern enough to have a built-in turn-signal switch. Ideally, this column would be from a floor-shift car (so no holes where a column shifter once lived) and would be from the pre-steering-wheel-lock era (so no ugly ignition switch on the column). This DJ-5 mail Jeep looked promising.
The turn-signal mechanism was all busted up, so I passed on this column… for now. I might go back and get it tomorrow, though. Half price!
I was also looking for a BMW E30 with rear-mounted battery, so I could grab the cable for the Plymouth. No dice on that, but I did find this ’02 Subaru Legacy to donate some parts for my wife’s ’04 Outback. 21st-century Subarus are still very rare in self-serve yards, so I was happy to find this one.
Got the rear cupholder and the driver’s-door dome light switch. $4.06 total.
One of the best things about serious cold weather in the junkyard is that the range and striking power of New Car Scent Little Trees— by far the most popular air freshener in the junkyard— is cut down to near zero.

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Ed Niedermeyer Returns To Automotive Journalism http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/ed-niedermeyer-returns-to-automotive-journalism/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/ed-niedermeyer-returns-to-automotive-journalism/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 16:41:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461165 Yes, dear readers, I am happy to announce the Ed Niedermeyer has returned to automotive journalism. Sort of. And not for TTAC. Ed’s essay on the Subaru Outback and the Mini Countryman is perfectly timed for reading over your Friday lunch. Check it out over at Curbside Classic and curse our fearless Editor Emeritus for […]

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Yes, dear readers, I am happy to announce the Ed Niedermeyer has returned to automotive journalism. Sort of. And not for TTAC. Ed’s essay on the Subaru Outback and the Mini Countryman is perfectly timed for reading over your Friday lunch. Check it out over at Curbside Classic and curse our fearless Editor Emeritus for installing a snot-nosed neophyte like myself into such a hallowed vocation.

 

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Subaru Is Like, So Over China, Totally Moved On To America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/subaru-is-like-so-over-china-totally-moved-on-to-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/subaru-is-like-so-over-china-totally-moved-on-to-america/#comments Thu, 17 May 2012 14:07:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=444813 Subaru’s failed relationship with China hasn’t burdened Subaru with too much baggage; the automaker is already moving on, planning to expand its Indiana plant to build more Legacy and Outback models. The 52,000 square foot expansion will be worth $75 million. The body assembly facility will be the main area of focus, and is expected […]

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Subaru’s failed relationship with China hasn’t burdened Subaru with too much baggage; the automaker is already moving on, planning to expand its Indiana plant to build more Legacy and Outback models.

The 52,000 square foot expansion will be worth $75 million. The body assembly facility will be the main area of focus, and is expected to take capacity from 156,000 units to 180,000 units assuming no overtime is worked. 100 jobs will also be added. Further expansion, including an all-new plant, is also on the table for Subaru.

As far as we know, the rising yen and a need to focus on North America makes the case for expanded capacity on this continent even more compelling. One only needs to look at other small automakers like Mazda to see just how badly the rising yen can hammer a company – though Subaru does have the backing of parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, while Mazda is essentially on its own.

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2013 Subaru Legacy Quietly Drops 2.5GT Model http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/2013-subaru-legacy-quietly-drops-2-5gt-model/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/2013-subaru-legacy-quietly-drops-2-5gt-model/#comments Fri, 30 Mar 2012 17:30:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437210 Subaru will revise their 2013 Legacy with an all-new 2.5L FB boxer engine. The 2.5GT model, with its turbocharged 2.5L engine, will die a quiet death as Subaru axes their antiquated SOHC flat-four range. The new DOHC 2.5L will make 173 horsepower and 174 lb-ft, while mated to a 6-speed manual or a CVT. The […]

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Subaru will revise their 2013 Legacy with an all-new 2.5L FB boxer engine. The 2.5GT model, with its turbocharged 2.5L engine, will die a quiet death as Subaru axes their antiquated SOHC flat-four range.

The new DOHC 2.5L will make 173 horsepower and 174 lb-ft, while mated to a 6-speed manual or a CVT. The 3.6R model, powered by a 3.6L flat-six engine making 256 horsepower, will survive the transition. Only a 5-speed automatic will be offered with the 3.6.

The 2.5 liter engine mated to the CVT  in the Legacy will return 24 mpg city and 32 mpg with a combined rating 27 mpg. The Outback with the same drivetrain will get 24 mpg in the city, 30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Subaru’s Eyesight stereo camera driver monitoring system will be offered on both models.

 

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