Test-Driving The All-New Subaru Outback

The turbocharged utility vehicle offers toughness, capability and reliability in an affordable package.
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Subaru Outback (2)

Subaru always had a varied identity. While some automakers struggle to find and maintain an identity, the makers of the Outback are comfortable snuggling up to families and outdoor adventurers, hippies and soccer moms.

Their appeal to this diverse family of enthusiasts is as constant as a northern star and clear as the mountain streams they invite their drivers to ford. Subaru sells toughness, capability and reliability for a price tag within reach of the general consumer.

The new Outback is built to master the winding roads, dirt paths and rock-lined creeks making up a landscape. Powered by an almost entirely new, 2.5 liter, four cylinder engine, the Outback produces 182 horsepower atop all-wheel-drive and strut front/multilink rear suspension. Buyers can also buy up into trim levels packing a turbocharged, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder power plant for an extra boost.

All of the above classes have ample power and Subaru’s traditionally strong build quality, giving drivers the confidence to take their Outbacks out well into the wild.

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From backpackers to surfers and kayakers to climbers, active folks are Subaru’s denizens. While its designers and engineers work to keep the brand’s arms open and welcoming to any buyers, the automaker always appeals most to free spirits and the keepers of the fringe. They’re the cars of both the granola lovers and the rally racers. These are vehicles made to carry mountain bikes, canoes and plenty of those multi-symbol “Coexist” bumper stickers. No one is commuting home with a trunk full of MAGA hats in a Subaru.

Now, this new Outback slots into that company nicely, kicking up a cloud of dirt with a friendly whisper of “namaste."

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If there’s an area where the new Outback seems out of touch with the current marketplace, it’s styling. Subaru is always conservative in its external presentation, forgoing the basking grilles and sharp angles of Japanese rivals like Toyota, Honda and Mazda in favor of more functional designs. Still, from some angles, this Outback hasn’t evolved significantly from its first generation in 1994. From the outside, it’s safe to figure Subaru is thinking along “…if it ain’t broke…” lines.

It’s the same thinking applied to the price that makes the Outback a legitimate competitor for pricier, more elaborate all-purpose rides from Land Rover or Mercedes-Benz. While those European luxury SUVs will cruise over any off-road obstacles before gliding along civilized roads back to the estate, owners can’t sniff a properly equipped, new model for less than $70,000.

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With standard factory options, the Outback can handle the same rough terrain in modest comfort for little more than $37,500. While the Outback might not pack as many comfort-obsessed, high-tech bangs and whistles as a Discovery or a G-Class, it will stay wheel to wheel with those bigger machines in the wilds.

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