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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Sep 18, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


As a traffic safety expert and automotive journalist, people often people ask me which vehicle I consider when shopping for a car. I usually think of several cars right away, but Subaru rarely comes to mind.  For years, Subaru made cars that didn't come to mind. I always thought of their vehicles as economical, dependable and, to be perfectly honest, boring. My opinion of Subaru began changing after driving the WRX, and now their Outback 3.0 VDC edition is anything but boring! It combines everything I look for in a car: Impressive styling, a comfortable interior, and plenty of power. The Outback has been completely redesigned, giving the body a sleek, sporty look. The roof rails with cross bars look great; the multi-reflector halogen fog lights are a nice touch. But is the stylish exterior enough to justify a price tag in the mid 30s? Sliding into the driver's seat, I feel as though I'm sitting in a more expensive luxury car.  The leather-trimmed seats are quite comfortable, and all controls are within easy reach. There are numerous, conveniently placed cupholders, and today I'm testing one of them with a vanilla bean frappuccino from Starbuck's in Alhambra, the perfect beverage for my relaxing drive through the San Gabriel Valley.

You're probably thinking that a car this nice has a power moonroof, right? Well, you're wrong - it has dual power moonroofs! Just another nice touch from the designers at Subaru. But I guess even the designers can have an off day, and that's apparently what happened when they decided to angle the plastic over the clock on the dashboard - making it practically impossible to read during daytime hours due to sunlight reflections coming through the windshield. But there are other interior features that make up for that little design flaw, such as a leather-wrapped wood Momo steering wheel, and a stereo system with a six-disc CD/MP3 changer that sounds great!  There's no shortage of power in the Outback. A 250-horsepower engine makes acceleration almost effortless, and there is no hesitation - even on steep hills. The shifting of the five-speed automatic transmission is fairly smooth. Like many newer vehicles, the Outback has a Sportshift feature allowing you to shift manually without a clutch, if you prefer.  The ride is smooth and comfortable without sacrificing the feel of the road. All-wheel drive with VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control) traction control system and speed-sensing power assist rack-and-pinion steering make the car responsive and fun to drive. Just don't have too much fun - it's fairly easy in the Outback to attain speeds that may bring you face-to-face with a CHP officer on the shoulder of the freeway!

The car is sporty, but I feel safe and secure with three-point seat belts at all seating positions and airbags throughout the car, including dual front air bags, side curtain airbags and side impact air bags. A tire pressure monitoring system gives me an added feeling of confidence. Another thing that impresses me about the Outback is that most of the vehicle's exciting features are, believe it or not, standard equipment. On the fully loaded Outback I'm driving, the only add-on is an equipment group priced at under $300 that includes an auto dimming mirror with compass and a perimeter alarm.  Hey, I've been so busy enjoying the way the Outback looks and drives, I almost forgot that it's a wagon. From the outside, the sporty lines of the Outback may make it appear as though the cargo space is somewhat limited, but fold down the rear seats and you have a full 61.7 cubic feet! Groceries, your bicycle, luggage for you next weekend'll have room for everything and maybe even a little room to spare. Well, if I had to describe the Outback VDC Limited Wagon in one word, that word is impressive. Here is a car that is powerful, practical and good-looking. Subaru's advances in styling and performance has resulted in a vehicle that I would be proud to own and drive on a daily basis. It looks and handles like a more expensive wagon, and during this time of high gas prices and a concern for fuel economy, the Outback's estimated 25 mpg highway seems quite reasonable. SUMMARY JUDGMENT This is not your father's Subaru.

For more information about Subaru products, go to SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Subaru Outback 3.0 R VDC LIMITED WAGON Price: $33,495 Engine type: 6-cylinder, horizontally opposed (boxer) engine with sequential multi-port fuel injection and Electronic Throttle Control (ETC). Horsepower: 250 @ 6,600 rpm Torque: 219 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm Drive configuration: All-wheel drive; Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC), Variable Torque Distribution with an all-speed, all-wheel electronic traction control system. Transmission type: Five-speed electronic direct control automatic transmission with Sportshift feature. Steering: Rack-and-pinion with engine-speed-sensing variable power assist. Suspension: 4-wheel independent, heavy duty raised. Front: MacPherson-type struts with internal rebound springs, lower L-arms, stabilizer bar Rear: Multilink suspension, coil springs, shock absorbers, stabilizer bar, liquid-filled rear differential mounts. Wheels: 17 x 7 JJ aluminum-alloy, 5-spoke Tires: 225/55 R 17 95V Bridgestone Potenza RE 92 All-Season with tire pressure monitoring system. Brakes: Power assisted 4-wheel discs with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and 4-channel / 4-sensor ABS. Front: 11.5 x 0.94 ventilated discs, dual-piston floating calipers Rear: 10.6 x 0.39 in. solid discs, single-piston floating calipers Overall length: 188.7" Overall width: 78.4" (including mirrors) Overall height: 63.2" (including roof rails and cross bars) Curb weight (lbs.): 3,630 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 19/25

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