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Go In Snow - Car Review: 2017 Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring Review By John Heilig

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By John Heilig
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2017 Subaru Outback Touring
ENGINE: 3.6-liter H-6
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 256 hp @ 6,000 rpm/247 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm
WHEELBASE: 108.1 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 189.6 x 72.4 x 66.5 in.
TIRES: P225/60R18
CARGO CAPACITY: 33.5/73.3 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
ECONOMY: 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/26.6 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 18.5 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,856 lbs.
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Mazda CX-5
STICKER: $39,070 (includes $875 delivery)
BOTTOM LINE: The Subaru Outback is a smooth, well-handling comfortable riding station wagon with everything one could want.

You can best judge a vehicle when it’s under strain. The Subaru Outback endured several hours of agonizing traffic on I-95 around Washington, DC, and I still didn’t feel like taking a sledgehammer to it. In fact, the more time we spent in the Outback, the more it endeared itself to us.

Honestly, though, we were still glad when our endurance test was over.

The Outback is a station wagon. There, I said it. In this world of SUVs and CUVs, the Outback is unabashedly a wagon. The styling reflects this rather than a UV. Still, it has a high road clearance to take advantage of the asymmetrical all wheel drive that Subaru is famous for. As a wagon, and therefore more sedan-like, the Outback has great cargo capacity without sacrificing comfort.

Ride quality under all circumstances is very good to excellent, depending on road surface. Operation is virtually silent, and almost no road noise intrudes into the cabin. We took the Outback on asphalt, cement, and gravel-and-tar covered dirt with no serious reduction in ride quality. Only Pennsylvania roads presented a challenge, but that’s another story.

Power is outstanding from the 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six. It is rated at 256 horsepower, which is more than enough for the 3,856-pound vehicle. We spoke with an owner of an older (by a couple of years) Outback and she said she rejected the 2.5-liter H-4 because it felt underpowered.

The optional 3.6-liter H-6engine is quiet, even when provoked under hard acceleration. And even with our tortuous Interstate experience, economy was very good at 26.6 mpg, almost matching the EPA estimated highway figures. 

Maneuverability is also very good. The low-mounted Boxter engine and AWD contribute to good handling on winding roads and (ugh!) Interstates. We took the Outback over our favorite hillclimb course and totally enjoyed it.

Brakes are very good and not tacky. At one point in traffic, the Outback didn’t think I was braking fast enough and warning lights came on at the base of the windshield. This “crash avoidance” feature is useful. In all situations so far, I have had my foot on or near the brake pedal when the lights come on, but still it’s a great safety feature. Many times, a driver can be distracted for a short period and something in front can happen that requires fast action. 

Other safety features include adaptive cruise control and lane departure alerts. The cruise control worked perfectly. It was one of the best we have encountered, although all are great. The LDA, on the other hand, can be annoying. I looked in the owner’s manual to figure out how to turn it off, but it took a visit to Google to find the answer. 

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Styling of the Outback is conservative, but an improvement over the previous generation. Our tester wore an interesting exterior color - Brilliant Brown Pearl - that we felt was outstanding. In addition, the center stack and dash have been redesigned for the better. All the buttons and switches are within easy reach of the driver.

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All interior surfaces were black and soft to the touch. There was tasteful wood trim on the dash that matched the dark brown seats and, of course, the brown exterior color. Visibility's great all around with a lot of glass. There are even “wing windows” to give visibility in the difficult corner at the base of the A-pillar. They don’t move, but could have been attached to the door window. I’m certain the designers chose to make them non-moving for a reason.

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Front seats are comfortable on long rides. Rear seats offer excellent leg room. The rear seats lower easily to more than double cargo capacity with a flat floor.  The trunk in our tester had a rubber-like floor insert that is good for containing spills. Other interior cargo spaces include a cubby at the base of the center stack with a pair of USB outlets and the requisite number of cup holders.  

Few vehicles have intrigued my wife and me as much as the Subaru Outback. It could have been the exterior color, but just a short time behind the wheel showed me that the ride quality was excellent and the performance matched the looks. The bad news? My local dealer told me that the exterior color has been discontinued...oops! 

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate

The Most In-Depth Subaru Vehicle Shopper's Research - Anywhere!

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