Balance was the key to victory when the Subaru Outback won the 2010 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year award in 2010. And for 2011 and 2012, very little has changed.
The Outback shines as a crossover with SUV versatility, but without any of the SUV penalties. Subaru was able to combine a large and well-suited interior space with exceptional ground clearance, comfortable on-road ride, solid off-road capability, healthy performance and fuel economy into a great package.
Under the hood, it manages well with only four- and six-cylinder options due in large part to its relatively light 3700-pound curb weight. This, too, enables the Outback great handling characteristics, despite its height. On the road, it's smooth and quiet, and it delivers all-weather and off-road confidence that is unmatched in its segment.
Inside, the Outback is ergonomically suited with pleasing controls and creature comforts, and there are a host of safety features; in 2011, the Subaru was an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Bodystyle: Crossover SUV
Engines: 2.5-liter flat-4, 3.6-liter flat-6
Transmissions: six-speed manual, five-speed automatic, continuously variable automatic transmission
Models: 2.5i, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Premium, 3.6 R, 3.6 R Limited, 3.6 R Premium
It's "stay the course" for the 2012 Outback, Subaru's most popular model. After a redesign for 2010, the only changes for the new model are audio enhancements, and Bluetooth buttons on the steering wheel of Premium models.
Subaru is not generally regarded as a "premium" manufacturer, but the Outback, along with the Legacy on which it's based, is Subaru's premium offering. It looks like a tall car, but for some, the Outback is an attractive tall car with handsome front grille, wagon design, and sporty flared fenders.
Inside, the Outback has all the usual bells and whistles of an entry-level luxury car, like available leather and heated seats, an infotainment and navigation audio system, and six standard airbags. It also has a huge cargo capacity.
Performance & Handling
The Outback 2.5i, Limited and Premium all share the same 2.5-liter 170-hp flat-4 engine while the 3.6 R, Limited, and Premium share the new 3.6-liter 256-hp flat-6 engine. All Subarus come with the automaker's Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive, aiding in performance and safety in all weather conditions, but the Outback's suspension and braking system is more urban than sporty.
The Outback's available and optional safety features include electronic brake distribution, four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain first and second row overhead airbags, airbag occupancy sensor, traction control, and all-wheel drive.
EPA Fuel Economy
2.5i: 21-22 mpg city/27-29 mpg highway
2.5i Limited: 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway
2.5i Premium: 19-22 mpg city/27-29 mpg highway
3.6 R: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway
3.6 R Limited: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway
3.6 R Premium: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway
- Not afraid to venture off the paved path
- Ample cargo and interior space
- Improved audio connectivity
You Won't Like
- Base model underpowered
- Quirky styling
"Less is more" works well
If You Like This Vehicle
- Toyota Venza
- Honda Crosstour
- Volvo XC60
- Toyota 4Runner