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Subaru Outback Sedan

SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,895
Price As Tested                                    $ 26,650
Engine Type              SOHC 16-valve 2.5 Liter H4 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 150 cid/2457 cc
Horsepower                                   165 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               166 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  104.3"/68.7"/184.4"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3509 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.9 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                           225/60R16 mud & snow
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.34


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            22/27/25          
0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                          16.5 seconds @ 81.0 mph
Top-speed                                           110 mph

* Sequential multi-port fuel injection                              

Subaru's Outback line of vehicles are high-profile versions of a group of very capable all-wheel drive sedans, wagons and coupes. They sport larger tires, a taller ride height and outdoor-oriented themes. The Outback Limited Sedan is a Subaru Legacy dressed in rugged trim and ready for its owner to join the SUV craze, without going crazy. There are several Legacy models from which to choose, but the Outback Limited Sedan is a separate model that comes one way - fully loaded.

OUTSIDE - Sweeping design changes to the exterior was not Subaru's idea of "new". Rather, the company made modifications such as bolder lines and a more wedge-like profile. Also, thicker C-pillars, a higher rear deck lid and wraparound tail lamps blend a sporting flair with contemporary style. The new, more formal headlamps look like they belong but not so for the oversized fog lamps. They seem too big, too round and somewhat out-of-place. The bumpers are integrated with the rest of the sheetmetal, while a formal grille stands over a gaping air intake below the bumper. Special two-tone paint and beveled plastic bodyside cladding are standard. To make the car stiffer, Subaru engineers incorporated what the company calls its Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame, a new type of structure that helps increase torsional stiffness by 20 percent and gives two times the resistance to bending. Wide 16-inch alloy wheels and all-weather tires are part of the Outback Limited Sedan package.

INSIDE -A new, larger instrument panel has its center section angled toward the driver to make it easier to operate the controls, while its larger gauges are easier to read. There's a familiar feel to Outback's interior, with its low seating position and ample head, leg and shoulder room. Three-point seat belts have been added at all seating positions while thinner A-pillars have increased visibility from the driver's seat. The exterior's two-tone theme continues inside, where a darker tone circles the cabin and covers the dash and roof pillars. Leather upholstery comes standard, while hide also covers the steering wheel and shift knob. Some of the standard features include power windows, mirrors, door locks and driver's seat, power moonroof, tilt steering, air conditioning, cruise control, variable speed intermittent wipers and a six-speaker AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo system.

ON THE ROAD -The Outback Limited Sedan uses a 2.5 liter four cylinder engine designed in a "flat-opposed" configuration. This design helps lower the car's center of gravity and reduces vibration. It's been heavily redesigned since last year, with the main difference being a switch from double overhead cams to single units. Its 165 horsepower rating and four valves per cylinder remained the same, while its 162 lb-feet of torque is higher. All this allowed for a more efficient intake system, which improved emissions and mid-range torque. A sophisticated electronic four-speed automatic transmission is new for 2000. It is lighter in weight, has less internal friction and makes smoother gear changes. With Subaru's Active Torque Split all-wheel drive system, there's no need for traditional traction control for the best grip. And to increase traction even further, a limited slip rear differential is standard on Outback Limited Sedans.

BEHIND THE WHEEL -Like most vehicles in its class, Outback Sedan rides on unibody construction. The front MacPherson strut suspension is also traditional, although long strut travel and low friction makes it tough enough for moderate off-road work. The rear suspension is a new multi-link setup isolated on a rear subframe with rubber bushings. There's less noise and vibration, and it's also smaller, lighter and more compact than before. The variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering system has been improved, which now gives better feedback and more road feel. Overall, the handling is as capable as ever, with little body roll or understeer when pushed hard through turns. Four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.

OPTIONS - Uplevel stereo amplifier: $260; Destination charge: $495.

SAFETY - Side-impact door beams, dual dashboard and side airbags, ABS and new seat belt pre-tensioners with force limiters are standard.