WE’VE GOT YOUR ‘BACK
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 Thu, Sep 16, 2010
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John-Fredrik Wright Subaru is known for its all-wheel-drive, its rally team, and its adventurous clientele. Driving the 2011 Subaru Outback, you can feel the presence of all three characteristics. The AWD nicely hugs corners, and although the 2.5-liter engine is not the fastest pony in the stable, the rally team heritage becomes clear with the paddle shifters and the vehicle’s power delivery to all four wheels. As for the clientele, the Subaru has the potential to bring out the adventurous spirit in anyone that gets behind the wheel. Naturally, the outdoorsy target customer wants an environmentally friendly car. To appeal to the customer that travels everywhere but wants to tread lightly, the 2.5i engine in the Outback is PZEV-certified (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle).
On the subject of paddle shifters, the thought of having these available on a car with virtually no transmission gears (the Outback sports a CVT, AKA, a continuously variable transmission) was a little surprising at first. However, after getting annoyed with the constant RPM drone of the CVT, I decided to use the “manual” mode via the paddle shifters. In manual mode, the car does became more responsive and, yes, more fun to drive. Accelerating on curvy on-ramps is definitely better with the paddle shifters than without. At first glance, the Subaru Outback looks a lot like many other station wagons parked outside houses of families seeking a spacious non-SUV car. With the extra clearance in mind, the Volvo XC70 steps up as a potential rival. However, a closer look reveals that the Outback is raised a bit more than many other off-roadish wagons (8.7 inches of ground clearance, versus. 8.2 inches in the XC70), probably enough to get you through anywhere you might want to drive. With the raised stance and spacious interior, the Outback further illustrates its big car capabilities.
But just how big is this car? Well, fold the rear seats and it will easily fit two bicycles, five beach chairs, four boogie boards, one skim board, two medium sized coolers, and an assortment of various beach toys in three duffel bags. These things just slid into the car without it even looking full. Had it been necessary, I could have placed the two bikes on the roof-rack system that folds out from the integrated roof rails (I would only have needed the bicycle clip add-on). For my passenger and I, however, the fact that we could get all that into the back of the Outback was very cool. Those who mainly have shopping bags in the cargo compartment and passengers in the rear seat can be sure that Subaru thought of them as well. The back seat has more legroom than one finds in most station wagons, and the cargo compartment comes with a set of four hooks for tying down the larger toys as well as two smaller hooks to hang grocery bags on. Pretty nifty.
The back seat passengers have an added bonus of reclining seats. It’s not the first thing I would’ve expected from a Subaru, but this Outback is made for the long road trips out to the wild back country. On the note of comfort, however, I don’t see why only the driver’s side window has the automatic up/down function; this seems like something all occupants would enjoy. The roominess and off-road capabilities of the Outback come with two minor drawbacks: The blind spot on the driver side is rather large, and parking this vehicle takes a little getting used to. However, like with any new car, I learned how to maneuver this wagon with ease. All-in-all, the Outback keeps the faith for the Subaru True Believer, but it will also tempt a new group of drivers looking for something different from business as usual. The Outback is definitely not business as usual.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT Versatile, roomy, able to leap tall hills with a single bound—and solid as a rock. This ‘Back has your back covered. SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium 4dr Wagon AWD Price: $24,595 (base) $26,751 (as tested, with Lineartronic CVT transmission and Sirius satellite radio) EPA fuel economy rating: 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway Engine: 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (flat) four-cylinder engine Power: 170 at 5600 rpm Torque: 170 pound-feet at 4000 rpm Transmission: Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with six-speed manual mode and paddle shifters Drive configuration: All-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension Fully independent, with Vehicle Dynamics Control; elevated for added ground clearance Brakes: Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS) Wheels and tires: 17-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires with Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Dimensions Length: 188.2 inches Width: 71.7 inches Height: 65.7 inches Ground clearance: 8.7 inches Curb weight: 3495 pounds