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Road Impressions:Subaru Outback H6-3.0

SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide

By Andrew Frankl

There is something very reassuring about a Subaru. To me it is like a golden retriever-friendly, reliable, part of the family.

The car that awaited my arrival at San Francisco airport the other day was no different, and yet…in a funny sort of way it was. Let me explain.

I've always regarded Subaru people as, not particularly wealthy but down-to earth, matter of fact, sensible…the sort of people who did not look for fancy styling (they would be wasting their time with any Subaru) but for something rugged, a no-nonsense sort of vehicle. Precisely the reason for seeing lots of them in Colorado, Maine and the other states where getting around between November and April can become a difficult undertaking.

So far so good, but I just hope that Subaru is not about to lose the plot.

The reason? Temptation…Temptation to make more money per car, which of course is fully understandable, but will it work for Subaru?

While driving this 32 and a half thousand dollar 3 liter Outback I could not help wondering how it will cut the mustard…because the truly sensational Forrester is several thousand dollars cheaper and for my money an infinitely better value.

Subaru people don't need or want leather upholstery, and if they want a premium audio system they certainly will not buy the truly appalling McIntosh that was in the test car. The audio controls were just astonishingly cheap and nasty to look at and not particularly easy to figure out.

Memo to Subaru: Please ditch it ASAP.

All of which is not to say that the car did not perform perfectly well. The 3 liter, six cylinder engine was quiet and smooth and the Bridgestone tires showed the sort of pedigree tires gain from involvement in Formula One. There was nothing wrong with the ride or handling and the 4 disc brakes were highly reassuring and functional.

The seats were considerably more comfortable than in the BMW 3 series or in the X type Jaguar, but at the end of the day I was still left with a feeling that Subaru should have stayed with what they were and are good at…honest to goodness, no- nonsense , well priced practical workhorses.

I can understand the marketing rationale about trying to move up-market but that territory tends to belong to Volvo and even the C class Mercedes.

Are Mercedes and Subaru people similar? As a sweeping generalization I don't think so…go to Tahoe City and have a look at the Safeway car park…you might find the odd Mercedes-probably an M class SUV, but I can guarantee to you that there will be more Legacys and Forresters than anything else.

Stick to a 4 cylinder Legacy and save several thousand dollars. Forget leather seats and other unnecessary trimmings such as two-tone paint. You'll end up with a fine, rugged golden retriever and not an over shampooed, carefully manicured poodle