The Subaru Outback is all new for the 2015 model year, though you'd be forgiven for having to do a double-take to notice that this is more than just a facelift. The Outback continues to dominate the crossover segment which it arguably pioneered, and its ubiquity on our roads is a testament to its success in the marketplace -- that's why Subaru decided not to mess with success too much in designing the fifth-generation Outback, which seeks to maximize and refine the qualities that have made it a winner.
Exterior design has taken a turn for the safe: Gone is the plastic cladding that used to adorn many an Outback's bottom half in previous generations. The Outback has received the new version of the corporate grille, which used to change more frequently for Subaru than for most of its competitors, and the result is a cleaner, fresher front fascia. Design language used to communicate ruggedness has not departed completely, but it has migrated to the front fog light surrounds, the roof rails.... and that's about it. The new front fascia also features a metallic chin guard, which does not diminish the relatively high departure angle of the front bumper, and it's a nice stylistic touch that gives the Outback's new face some balance. Out back, the design of the tail lights has retained that "mismatched" look fervently practiced by BMW; just about everything else remains similar to the outgoing model.
The 2015 Outback does not represent a major architectural redesign, though height grows by 2.2 inches and the cabin gets 2 inches of additional width on the inside -- Subaru designers and engineers managed to squeeze out a bit more interior space without having to stretch the car sideways. As part of improving upon the previous model, Subaru engineers have increased torsional rigidity by 59 percent while increasing bending resistance by 39 percent thanks to liberal use of high-strength steel. The company has also tried to shed some weight where possible, giving the new Outback an aluminum hood to try to make up for gains elsewhere; the 2015 model has actually gained 170 pounds.
The proportions of the outgoing model have largely been retained.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
The powerplants haven't changed much from the outgoing model, with a choice of a 2.5-liter flat-four and a 3.6-liter flat-six. The former produces 175 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque, while the latter is good for 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. Subaru says that the engines have been thoroughly redesigned to reduce weight and to improve fuel efficiency, though this has not necessarily translated into gains in performance over the previous versions of these engines. The biggest change to the powertrains, then, is the debut of a continuously variable transmission replacing the manual and conventional automatic transmission. This CVT has been engineered with six "gears" for what Subaru calls manual operation via the column-mounted paddles.
The dash has maintained a sharp yet user-friendly design.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
Subaru pulled the sheets off the 2015 Legacy sedan at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday. The company says it's the roomiest version of the Legacy yet, boasting the largest passenger cabin in the ...
How Does it Drive?
We spent a week driving the 2.5i Premium model, doing daily errands and occassional hardware store runs -- tasks that hundreds of thousands of Outbacks do every day. And it only took a few minutes for us to appreciate just what a nicely balanced wagon (we're calling it wagon) the Outback happens to be.
For starters, the 2015 Outback has received the better interior that Subaru puts into its cars. Some models in its lineup get the short end of the stick -- they know who they are -- but the quality of the interior in the Outback, even in the mid-level Premium model, is simply great. The seating position is well thought out and the seats are very supportive and ergonomic. The driver's space is equally well designed, and everything is engineered to be within easy reach; that last detail has become somewhat overlooked in the industry, especially as automakers try to surround infotainment screens with rows of buttons. But none of that is present in the Outback. Everything is within easy reach.
The Outback's road manners also deserve praise. Despite being a large wagon with a sizeable footprint, the Outback managed to stay pretty loose in traffic, able to move around quickly and exploit gaps with ease. We found the steering relatively communicative if not especially quick, with not too much slop dialed in, and unwilling to transfer impacts from the road into the driver's hands. WSpeaking of impacts, the suspension soaked them up exceptionally well without letting the wagon become floaty or get unsettled in the same way a Crown Victoria taxi might. The ride quality remained fairly constant in city and highway driving, and there was not much in the way of road and tire noise in either speed category -- NVH mitigation was something the company spent some time on for this redesign.
The rear seats offer plenty of room, even for adults.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
The 2015 Subaru Outback took a bow at the New York auto show on Thursday. It gets a new front fascia with a hexagonal grille, a standard CVT -- not sure how we feel about that -- and the same 9 or so ...
Speaking of highway speed, the 175-hp engine in this version of the Outback, we're certain, will be deemed adequate by the vast majority of buyers. The CVT in the Outback is a pretty well sorted unit, emitting none of the usual whining noises of CVTs, and hiding the slight power deficit of the powerplant nicely -- while acceleration from 0 to 20 may be brisk, getting from 20 to 45 takes a bigger push of the accelerator and a longer wait time than we'd prefer, but that's about the only thing we found wanting in the powertrain department. And it is a 175-hp engine, after all. At highway speeds, the boxer unit provided plenty of torque and exhibited no gaps in the power band.
We found the 2015 Outback to be just as cavernous as the outgoing model. The rear seats, in particular, deserve special mention because the amount of legroom they provide is not geared for small children only. Full-size adults will not find themselves struggling to get in and out.
The Outback 2.5i starts at $27,845 in Premium guise, which includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10-way power driver's seat, dual zone climate controls, heated front seats, a windshield deicer, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and fog lights, among other smaller items. That also includes the 7-inch infotainment system, which iss among the more intuitive ones on the market today, as well as an upgraded version of the EyeSight driver assist system with adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and vehicle lane departure warning. Our car stickered out at $30,340, with the biggest additions to the menu being the moonroof package, the power rear gate, and a navigation system, all three of which added $2,195.
The cargo/dog compartment still offers plenty of room.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
Do I Want It?
The station wagon is an endangered species these days and even though the Outback is credited with inventing the all-wheel drive soft-roader wagons collectively known as crossovers, it's nice to see one getting so many things right.
The Outback is one of those rare cars on sale today getting the hang of which requires zero time. Everything is where we expected it to be, and intuitive to use. That's a quality that's somewhat overlooked, but everyone knows the feeling -- it's like driving a car that's been in your family for years. The Outback has managed to nail it. Perhaps the reason there aren't a lot of large AWD station wagons on the market these days is because the Outback has chased everyone out of this segment.
At a starting price of $27,845 for the Premium trim, the Outback is a lot of car for the money, especially considering how much less room some premium-branded crossovers will give buyers for much more money than this. There's always the 3.6 if more power is what you need, and the Limited trim if more gadgets are your thing -- even then, it's tough to beat the Subaru Outback on value.
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