Subaru Outback: A practical daily driver for the road ahead

Subaru Outback 

A practical daily driver for the road ahead.

By Greg Rubenstein

For some, the car is an extension of personality—a tangible expression of aspiration. That high-end capabilities—like a 150-plus mph top speed or 30-degree approach angle—might rarely be pursued is irrelevant. If what you drive reflects your passion, it offers a glimpse into what you might do, be it a blast down the Autobahn or ford a river. It’s all about possibilities.

Others are utterly nonplussed by the idea that their car is anything but a means to an end; for these folks, a vehicle is just an appliance for getting from one place to another.

Yet even in this reality, a few cars and brands transcend buyer segmentation, earning a garage spot untethered from traditional motivations. The Prius and MINI Cooper are two examples of the phenomena, as are most vehicles produced by Subaru, a company with renowned buyer loyalty built upon pillars of reliability, safety, and go-anywhere all-wheel-drive utility.

For the faithful and prospective conquests alike, the new fifth-generation Outback crossover utility represents the epitome of the Subaru’s most desirable features, and is sure to help continue the manufacturer’s five-plus years of increasing sales. Offered in four trims and with two engine options, the sampled 2.5i Limited is squarely midrange in the Outback lineup.

With a $32,695 base price and an as-tested $35,695 sticker, this Outback 2.5i Limited came equipped with $2,095 in options including navigation, automated braking while in reverse, LED headlights, headlights responsive to steering and Subaru’s “EyeSight” system, which constantly monitors the road ahead, providing driver with audible and visual warning or even applying the brakes when hazards are detected.

A 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission is the Outback’s standard powertrain. An upgraded 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine (also with the CVT) is an option with the upmarket Limited and Touring trims. Sound-insulated front-door glass, tire monitoring system with display of pressure at each corner, and an infotainment system with 6.5-inch multi-function touchscreen are other Outback standard features.

Stepping up from the base trim, Premium adds heated front seats and side mirrors, two-zone climate control, and power driver’s seat. For the Limited trim, additional standard accoutrements include leather upholstery, heated rear seats, power front passenger seat, 18-inch alloy wheels and fog lights, plus side mirrors with built-in turn indicator. The range-topping Touring model adds low-profile roof rails, heated steering wheel and a brown leather interior with contrasting ivory stitching, along with piano black-finished switch panels. Limited and Touring trims also get an upgraded infotainment system with 8-inch high-resolution touch-screen display, Bluetooth hands-free text messaging and satellite radio.

While the 2018 Outback remains essentially unchanged mechanically, the exterior received new front and rear bumpers, new grille design, revised headlights and side mirrors with reduced wind noise, thanks to aerodynamic improvements. Dynamically, this Subaru is a peppy workhorse, equally ready for errands, commute duties or long-hauls to the mountains or coastline. While the base engine is fine for around town and adequate for light road trips, the more powerful six is better suited for families who like to pack heavy or spend a lot of time on the road, especially at higher altitudes.

EPA rated at 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway economy (28 mpg combined), the Outback also scored a five-star overall government crash safety rating. Driver and passenger are protected with a five-star rating in frontal crash and side crash testing, and the Outback earned a four-star rollover rating.

Everything about the Outback is nicely executed, from basic ingress and egress to interior design, switchgear layout, ride comfort, and outward visibility. There is nothing the Outback doesn’t do well, making it an easy choice for buyers needing a safe set of wheels for new drivers, as an extra people-hauler which can be taken anywhere without worry about snow or off-road capability (or what might happen when left parked for days), or as a practical daily driver with a minimal operating expense. Subaru love, indeed. Try the Outback, and you may just fall for it, too.



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