Drive

2015 Subaru Outback : Tall, rugged and a little rough

2015 Subaru Outback

• Type. Four-door, five-passenger midsize wagon

• Engines. 2.5-litre four-cylinder (175 hp), 3.6-litre six-cylinder (256)

• Transmissions. Six-speed manual (2.5), CVT (optional on 2.5, standard on 3.6)

• Price. $27,995 (2.5), $35,495 (3.6) base, $38,895 as tested

I can seldom keep up with all the designations the automakers use. Subaru calls its redesigned 2015 Outback an SUV, while I call it a station wagon on steroids. Whichever you choose, it’s an overall decent ride.

It starts with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine in the appropriately named Outback 2.5i, but my tester was the 3.6R Limited, which uses a 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine making 256 horsepower.

It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), an automatic that uses belts and pulleys instead of gears for better fuel economy.

These can sometimes feel odd in comparison to a regular transmission, but this unit is well-tuned and gives the car a peppy feel. The throttle can be a little too eager at times, and I often found it hard to get a smooth take-off from a stop.

The six-cylinder is rated at 12.0 L/100 km in the city and 8.6 on the highway, while I averaged a reasonable 11.4 in cold-weather driving.

All Outback models come with all-wheel drive, and my tester’s system was continually monitoring its sensors and sending more power to the rear wheels if they started to slip, or for better control around corners.

I like the Outback’s steering feel, which has enough weight for confidence at higher speeds, but is light enough to spin easily through tight parking lots.

At $38,895, my Limited model felt just a bit pricey, but it includes such features as front and rear heated leather seats, navigation, premium stereo, and HID headlights.

The interior is roomy and the rear chairs fold flat to increase cargo space. It’s just a little thing, but I really like that the rear seat belts are routed to the outside of the seatbacks, so you don’t get them caught when you’re putting those folded chairs back up.

The Outback’s rugged styling is intentional, and Subaru markets this as an “outdoorsy” vehicle, although I found it just as useful on city streets.

Put on a good set of winter tires, and it should get you through just about anything.

Market position

Subaru made its name with all-wheel drive.

Combined with the chunky, rugged styling of many of its models, its vehicles are often a favourite for cold-weather fans.

Points

  • All Subaru engines are horizontally opposed boxers, with the pistons lying flat on either side of the crankshaft.
  • Symmetrical all-wheel drive refers not to torque distribution, but to the mirror-image layout of the engine, transmission and driveline.
  • The EyeSight system uses a dual camera for safety features such as lane-departure and pedestrian warnings.

Interesting features

Rearview camera, heated seats, satellite radio and automatic headlights are all standard; voice-activated navigation, leather upholstery and the EyeSight driver assist system are optional.

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