If there’s one carmaker not hurting for business, it’s Subaru.
According to an article in Automotive News, the industries global newspaper, Subaru plants are struggling to keep up with the strong demand for the Outback wagon. Why? Well for starters, the 2010 Outback is extremely attractive and practical. It has been stretched a bit for more interior space since the wheelbase is now 2.8 inches longer, two inches wider and 2.5 inches taller than previous models. It has grown from a compact size (as was my wife’s ’96 Outback) to a midsize wagon. Gone, however, is the Legacy designation, which comprises the sedan version.
Outback’s cargo space has grown accordingly. Space behind the split rear seat has gone from 33.5 to 34.3 cubic feet. Flip the rear seats and there’s 71.3 cubic feet, up from 65 cubes. Putting it in more meaningful terms, the cargo area measures 41 inches deep, 44.5 wide, 29.5 high and 77.5 with the seats stowed.
Despite Outback’s obvious new size, I checked the specs on my wife’s ’96 and her cargo area measured 44 inches deep, 48 wide, 31.5 high and 72 deep with the seats folded. One nicety our ’96 didn’t have though, was the 2010s storage area beneath the cargo floor. A handy feature when you want to hide important items.
Slip into the cabin of a 2010 Outback and the space is easily apparent. The seats are wider and there’s four inches more legroom in the back. And the rear seatbacks now recline which they didn’t’ on my wife’s car. Ingress and egress is easier and as customary for an Outback, step-in fore and aft is a comfy 18 inches.
Outback is available with two engines. A 2.5-liter, 170-hp four-cylinder Boxer engine with 170 lb/ft of torque, and a 3.6-liter, six-cylinder Boxer with 256-hp and 247 lb/ft of torque. The 4-cylinder can be coupled to a 6-speed manual or CVT automatic transmission, while the six gets a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual that was in my test car.
Since I didn’t test the four, my six was EPA rated at 22 city, 29-highway mpg. The six-cylinder with the 5-speed auto is rated at 18/25 and the four-cylinder with manual trans at 19/27 mpg. I’d sacrifice and opt for the automatic as the 6-speed manual, although more economical, was notchy and not fun to shift. The clutch was quirky and engaged at mid-travel.
In its defense, the 6-cylinder is peppy and would be needed if towing is a consideration. Otherwise, the four would be more economical and serve admirably.
Outback’s’ ride is much better than my wife’s ’96. It’s feels substantial, heavier and planted. The ride is soft and quiet but turns do produce some body lean. I sports car it’s not.
My only complaint with this popular crossover is that the rear headrests block visibility. Subaru should consider low profile ones, which is helpful when backing.
Suby’s AWD system is legendary as is its ample undercarriage clearance, which has been upped from 8.4 to 8.7 inches on 17-inch Continental tires. A small but important gain when traversing deep snow.
Outback prices start at $23,690 for a 4-banger with manual trans and jump to $34,685 for a top-line Limited model that is fully loaded including a voice-activated GPS nav and rear camera system.
As Outback sales soar, more folks are realizing they’re getting more for their money when comparing it to a Honda Accord, Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima, the top three midsize competitors. Proof of this is that Subaru has enjoyed, according to Automotive News, the highest percentage of U.S. sales increase of any brand last year. For what it’s worth, I’d buy another.
For detailed specifications check www.subaru.com. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” box atop this page.
All photos by the author.