Until very recently, Subaru has been a niche player in the auto industry, catering to the adventure seeking customer. Things have changed however, with the Japanese carmaker going more mainstream (while still retaining what makes their cars world-famous) and setting sales records.
My first experience with Subaru vehicles was through watching WRC racing and playing Gran Turismo video games. I’m sure most of our readers have fantasized about owning the legendary Subaru WRX STi. Another vehicle I distinctly remember from the 1990’s is the Subaru Outback; with commercials featuring Crocodile Dundee, calling it the “world’s first sport utility wagon” and slogans like “transferring power from wheels that slip to the wheels that grip”. Oh the good old 90’s.
But that was then and this is now. The Subaru Outback is no longer a wagon, it has grown quite a bit since its introduction in 1994 and it now looks distinctively different from the Legacy, which it’s based on.
Last week we had the opportunity to spend a full week reviewing the 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited Package. Below you’ll find our experience with the Outback.
The 2015 Subaru Outback is offered with two engine choices and a variety of packages, for a complete list of packages, check out Subaru Canada’s website. The two engine choices include a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine and a 3.6 liter 6-cylinder engine, both in the “boxer” configuration. Outbacks with the 2.5 liter engines start at $27,795 for the 2.5i model and top of line 2.5i Limited with Technology starts at $37,095. The 6-cylinder equipped Outbacks start at $35,495 and the range topping model has a starting price of $40,095. We were provided with the 2015 Outback 2.5i Limited Package, with a starting price of $35,895, plus PDI & Freight.
The Outback has very distinct styling and it will not be mistaken for another vehicles, its shape is something between a wagon and an SUV. The front of the vehicle features the family grill that is found on the Legacy and other models and it’s equipped with plastic trim pieces at the bottom of the front and rear bumpers and on the sides, to protect the metal bodywork from getting damaged when the vehicle is taken off-road. The Subaru Outback also comes standard with roof racks, for carrying canoes, bicycles, and other gear one might need when they’re out in nature.
Our test vehicle was equipped with the 2.5 liter 4-cylinder boxer engine, which produces 175 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 174 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed manual (standard on the 2.5i and 2.5i Touring Package) or a CVT transmission with 6 simulated shift points and paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The second engine offered is the 3.6 liter boxer 6-cylinder, which produces 256 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 247 pound feet of torque at 4,400 rpm, mated to a CVT transmission; manual transmission is not available with the 6-cylinder engine.
Driving the Outback
The Subaru Outback is quite a large vehicle and I was wondering how the 4-cylinder engine would cope with all its weight and the AWD system. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Outback performed, don’t get me wrong, this is no STi, but the 4-cylinder engine didn’t have me asking for more.
The Outback has more than enough grunt to get you off the line in a respectable manner; driving around town, the car easily keeps up with traffic and there’s plenty of passing power. The Outback is also very capable on the highway, with plenty of passing power. You do need to downshift a gear or two for highway passing due to the Continuously Variable Transmission. I found the 175 HP to be more than enough and don’t think you need the 6-cylinder, unless you’re towing heavy objects or lots of gear.
The CVT transmission was another surprise; this is the best CVT I’ve driven so far. But then again, Subaru should be quite experienced with the technology because they had the first mass produced vehicle with a CVT, the Subaru Justy.
I recently reviewed the Corolla and Civic with CVT transmissions and I thought they did a good job, but the CVT on the 2015 Subaru Outback is in a league of its own. If you were to let the average person drive this vehicle, they wouldn’t know it wasn’t another automatic transmission. The CVT is really smooth and the simulated shift points do really give it the automatic transmission feel. Under normal driving, the transmission isn’t as whiney (drone-y) sounding as some of the other CVT’s I experienced a few years ago, but under hard acceleration you do feel the whine or “CVT-ness”, as I like to call it.
The ride quality on the Outback is very soft; it almost feels like a luxury car. The suspension is soft and soaks up bumps on the road and is very comfortable off road.
Subaru vehicles are probably the only vehicles that are actually used on non-paved roads by a majority of their owners, so we took the opportunity to find some gravel roads and drive the Outback on them. The vehicle was very stable with the AWD system and Torque Vectoring doing their job. I sped through gravel covered unpaved logging roads with ease and always felt in control, I didn’t once feel any of the wheels slipping. It’s no wonder so many Subaru vehicles are taken off road and you’ll find more Subaru vehicles at any camp site than any other brand.
According to Subaru Canada, the 2.5 liter equipped Outback with the CVT transmission should consume 9.3 Liters/100 km in the city and 7.1L/100 km on the highway. According to the computer, my average number for the 7 days we had the car was 9.7 L/100 km, which is not bad considering most my of drives are short and in congested traffic, with only about 20% highway driving. The vehicle’s lifetime fuel consumption number was 8.2 L/100 km.
The interior on the 2015 Subaru Outback is quite a nice place to spend time in. The interior is comfortable and very quiet, there isn’t much engine noise making its way into the cabin under normal load, you do hear the engine whine when put under heavy load but that’s true with pretty much any car. The cabin is just as quiet on the highway, with very little road noise and a tiny bit of wind noise around the A-pillar. I think I noticed this noise only because the rest of the interior is so quiet.
The dashboard has a very simple layout with a 7” touchscreen front and center, below it is a narrow LCD screen displaying time, temperature, and climate control information, and below that is a section with buttons and knobs to control the HVAC system. The 7” touchscreen displays information on the entertainment system, navigation, and acts as a screen for the backup camera. I would’ve preferred an 8” or larger screen, but it’s not too big of a deal (I prefer large screens on larger vehicles). The dashboard is covered with soft plastics and the doors panels have soft-touch materials, making it a nice place to rest your arm when you’re on a long highway trip.
Our review Outback came with the Ivory leather package, giving the interior a nice two-tone finish. There are strips of fake wood on the dashboard and door panels, they looked real enough to me. There’s also a strip of brushed aluminum (real?) separating the top and bottom of the dashboard, giving the interior a bit more luxurious feel.
All trims on the 2015 Outback come with heated front seats and our Limited Package equipped vehicle also added heated rear seats. All models also come with 10-way power driver seats and our test vehicle was equipped with 4-way power passenger seat.
The front seats are very comfortable; these seats are some of the softest front seats I’ve ever sat in. The back seats are also comfortable with enough room for three occupants and there is a lot of head and leg room, and getting in and out of the back is very easy.
The trunk on the Outback is huge, with 1,005 liters of cargo space with the seats up and a heck of a lot more when you fold the rear seats. The seats fold 60/40 easily with the pull on levers located on each side of the trunk.
Subaru vehicles are famous for their safety features, their AWD system being the most well-known and of course our vehicle came with this system. Other safety equipment on our test vehicle included 4-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and Vehicle Dynamic Control with traction control and torque vectoring. Air bags, a whole lot of airbags, including front driver/passenger, side curtain front and rear, seat-mounted driver and front passenger, and front seat cushion airbags; in the unlikely event of a serious crash, you’ll surely be protected from serious injury by all these airbags.
Subaru also offers their new “EyeSight” system on the Outback, but our vehicle wasn’t equipped with this system; we do however have it on our Legacy review car, which we’ll publish next week. So be sure to check it out and read our thoughts on the system.
Our 2015 Outback 2.5i Limited Package came with keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free phone, voice command (more on that below) for navigation, radio, and climate, Media Hub USB/iPod connectivity, dual zone automatic climate control, power rear gate, blind spot monitoring, auto-dimming side mirrors, and active grill shutter.
The voice command was hit and miss for the navigation system, I had about 50% success rate with trying to enter a desired destination. This system definitely needs improvement or I need more time with the system.
I was pleasantly surprised by the 2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i, this is the perfect vehicle for someone who’s looking for a vehicle that can be driven throughout the year no matter what type of weather condition mother nature throws at you. The vehicle should perform well in the winter with its AWD and torque vectoring system, and offers lots of space for your passengers and all their stuff. If you’re an outdoorsy type of person, the Outback will take you where most other SUV’s can take you, with better fuel economy and a smaller size.
What I would have liked on the vehicle is automatic folding mirrors, especially useful for tight parking spots and if you’re on a tight trail. Other than the complaint about the voice command, I don’t think I have anything else to request; this vehicle is that good.