(OUT)BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
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, Jun 9, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
LA CAR reviewed the Subaru Outback 2.5i back in September and found it to be as solid as a rock. Now we’ve got the Gibraltar edition—i.e., the 3.5R Limited, and the extra cubic inches make a difference. This Outback puts you back in the saddle again. John-Fredrik Wright reports. By John-Fredrik Wright A while back we did a review of a Subaru Outback with the “small” engine (click here), now it’s the beefier Outback 3.6R being served up. Think of the 3.6R as the crème de la crème of Outbacks—as something that not only will get you through most any mud or snow, but will also have a lot of kick to it on asphalt. The two sibling cars are very similar. You might call them twins. But just like many fraternal twins, one is stronger than the other—more prominent, more muscular, and more luxurious. This is the Outback 3.6R. The interior of any new Outback is nice. The ride is okay. By that, we mean that it’s not a boulevard cruiser, this vehicle can and does go off-road. The hauling space is enormous. The Outback is a great family car, any way you look at it. Great for the everyday ride to the supermarket, great for the longer ride to the ski cottage, and perfect for transporting you to that remote destination only you know about. This is where the Outback 3.6R differs; it does all of the above, and then some. While the 2.5i Outback is a great ride, the 3.6R is great, fun, and fast.
Perfect for the active family where the driver not only enjoys the destination, but also the drive. When mom wants to buy the Porsche but can’t quite afford it, let her play with the Outback 3.6R. When dad has just dropped off the kids and their friends at soccer practice and wants to feel alive for a second or two, let him play a little as well. Being able to enjoy the drive, yet not forsake the convenience, is definitely what the Outback 3.6R has going for it. Rigged with paddle-shifters to go and a sporty automatic transmission, the shifts are quick. There is some lag time after flicking the shifter, but we find that this car really wants to go. The engine, a 3.6L Subaru-Boxer six-cylinder with 256 horsepower, also keeps begging for more. For a six-cylinder, this engine manages to develop a lot of power from a standstill. The all-wheel drive (which is what makes a Subaru a Subaru) will make sure that all that power is used to propel the car forward—not wasted on burning rubber. Speaking of the AWD system, this feature really does a great job of adding stick in corners—even on wet surfaces or loose gravel. That is not to say that the Outback 3.6R will sit on the road like the Legacy (Legacy article). No, this is still a station-wagon-crossover, and it will give a little roll to the sides if you turn too hard. The on-road environment of Los Angeles might not be the best place for the Subaru AWD to strut its stuff, but given its ground clearance and the off-road heritage of Subaru, this is the perfect station wagon (or crossover) to take you to the mountains for a ski trip. This beast will plow through a good deal of snow. One good sign as to the Subaru’s snow country prowess, is the fact that the Outback is sighted everywhere around Lake Tahoe. The locals know what they are talking about.
The Outback 3.6R comes with a whole bunch of standard features that are usually optional, and fully loading it up will make this a very convenient and easy-to-use car. Back-up cameras are great in any car, but especially in a rather large station wagon. The luxurious leather and interior finish will make even the elite feel right at home. For those who wish not to listen to the engine noise, which gets a little loud when accelerating, the Harmon/Kardon sound system will thrill most any audiophile. The GPS and entertainment system display is quickly understood and accessible, making it one of the more intuitive interfaces. As you can probably tell, we really like this car. And for the money (around $30,000), this is hard to beat. We do hope, however, that Subaru will upgrade a couple of the downsides of this car, even if they’re minor. Like the fact that only the driver-side window is auto-up/down. Any cars with luxury pretense should have this function for all the windows. There should also be the option of a powered tailgate, since this is a pretty heavy gate to open upwards. Apart from these minor nits, we wouldn’t mind owning one of these. The exterior is a little beefier and the interior is a little nicer than the average auto. The 19 miles per gallon we got when driving almost only on city streets might not be the best, but it’s definitely decent if you consider the power under the hood. The superb hauling space in the back, combined with the roof racks, make this a great car for the outdoorsy family. Whoever said that a convenient and go-everywhere car can’t be fun hasn’t tried the Subaru 3.6R.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT Riding high in more ways than one. For more information about Subaru products, go to subaru.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited Price: $31,495 (base) $35,215 (and as tested with option package 08) EPA fuel economy rating: 18 mpg (city) 25 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 3.6-liter DOHC aluminum-alloy 24-valve 6-cylinder horizontally opposed SUBARU BOXER® engine with Dual Active Valve Control System. Horsepower: 256 hp @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 247 pound-feet @ 4,400 rpm Transmission type: Standard 5-speed adaptive electronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Drive configuration: Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive Steering: Engine speed-sensing variable power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension: Independent front strut suspension with stabilizer bar and coil springs, independent rear wishbone suspension with stabilizer bar and coil springs Brakes and tires: 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) 225/60 R17 98T all-season tires Dimensions Length: 188.2 in. Width: 71.7 in. Height: 65.7 in Curb weight: 3,658 lbs