2003 Subaru Outback Review
Just say no to SUVs.
Subaru Legacy and Outback models have much in common. Most important is their impressive stability, no matter the road conditions nor the speeds. The Legacy would be our top choice among mid-size sedans for slogging through a driving rain, a strong statement given the excellence of the Honda Accord and other cars in this class. It always feels connected to the road and ready to go faster.
The Outback is a great alternative to a sport-utility vehicle. It handles superbly on wet pavement, dirt roads, and on snow and ice, better than an SUV in all but the roughest terrain. Outback rides and handles much better than a truck. Powerful six-cylinder versions deliver strong acceleration performance yet offer much better fuel economy than SUVs. Four-cylinder Outbacks deliver very good performance and rate 28 mpg on the highway.
Wagon models offer large cargo capacity and foul-weather capability. An Outback wagon will transport you and your gear to the jumping-off location for your favorite outdoor sport. Unless you're genuinely interested in off-road driving, the Outback gives you everything you need.
Legacy is the Outback's city cousin, sharing the same body shell, base engine and all-wheel-drive in a buttoned-down package that's both lower to the ground and lower in price. Legacy costs less than other mid-size sedans that don't offer all-wheel drive, and it easily motors past those other cars when it snows. It stops much more quickly than an SUV, whether the roads are dry, wet, or covered with snow. When the roads are dry, Legacy and Outback are fun to drive, more fun than an SUV.
Subaru revised the Legacy lineup for 2003. Legacy sedans and wagons are now available in L, L Special Edition, and GT trim. Prices range from $19,495 for an L sedan to $25,695 for a GT wagon.
L models are more than adequately equipped, with air conditioning, ABS brakes, tilt steering, power windows and door locks, 15-inch steel wheels. Like all Subaru models, it comes standard with all-wheel drive. The Special Edition model adds luxury features, including 16-inch alloy wheels, 205/55R16 all-season radial tires, fog lights, a moonroof, a black leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle and wood grain-patterned trim.
GT adds sportier suspension tuning, a limited-slip rear differential, power seats with leather, side-impact airbags, and other up-market equipment. Automatic GTs have Variable Torque Distribution, which sends more torque to the rear wheels than the front wheels for a sportier feel when driving.
All Legacy models are powered by Subaru's 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine, which produces 165 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a four-speed electronically controlled automatic is optional ($800).
Outback shares its mechanical platform and much of its styling with the Legacy. But the Outback has more standard equipment, a higher stance, and a more rugged look than the Legacy. Outback prices start at $23,045 for the basic wagon, which shares the Legacy's 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Move up to Limited trim, and you can choose a wagon or a sedan.
Six-cylinder Outbacks start with the H6-3.0 sedan for $28,495. The corresponding wagon is the L.L. Bean Edition, for $29,995. Top of the line is the H6-3.0 VDC, in sedan ($30,895) and wagon ($32,395) variants. L.L. Bean Edition offers exclusive comfort and appearance features, including two-tone leather and a three-year, no-cost, extended maintenance package.
H6-3.0 VDC is the technology standard-bearer of the lineup. VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamic Control, which combines Variable Torque Distribution with all-speed traction control and dynamic stability control (DSC). H6-3.0 designates the 3.0-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. The six-cylinder is rated 212 horsepower and comes only with an automatic transmission. Six-cylinder Outbacks come standard with OnStar telecommunications.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2003 Subaru Outback, click here: 2003 Subaru Outback.