FIRST DRIVE: 2015 Subaru Outback
Paul Hogan would be proud.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: June 30th, 2014
The last generation of Subaru Outback had some room for improvement. Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) were a little on the high side, the handling was a little on the nautical side, and, perhaps most troubling, it looked pretty boring. Just as it did with the Legacy, Subaru noticed this problem and tried to address each issue with the new, 2015 model. The 2015 Subaru Outback does a great job of fixing the aforementioned issues, and the overall result is a well-put-together crossover that's worthy of the Outback name.
The interior received a much-needed boost in the character department, although it remains on the conservative side of design. That's for good reason; if you get into your Outback after a day spent kayaking and mountain climbing (or driving the kids to daycare), the car is going to get dirty, and it's far more difficult to clean a complicated interior filled with creases, pockets, and whatnot. The Outback keeps it simple. The inclusion of a dedicated cell-phone pocket in the center console is a nice touch.
The Outback boasts two extra inches of legroom in the rear, and we definitely noticed that during our time with the car. It's plenty comfy, even if both the front and rear occupants are on the tall side. There's also ample rear cargo space, and the rear seats still fold flat to give you even more room.
It's a Legacy wagon with a lift kit, essentially. The general shape of the Outback hasn't changed, but the front and rear fascia have been upgraded to match the Legacy sedan, a design that's much, much better than the outgoing generation. Everything is a little sleeker, a little more aggressive. Even the dark-colored body cladding on the lower panels looks a little less intrusive. The large, round fog lamps remind us of the early days of the Outback, when Crocodile Dundee was a thing. Makes you feel old, doesn't it?
On the Road
We were lucky enough to have time in both the 2.5 and the 3.6 models. Both cars share certain characteristics. The best improvements of all lie in the chassis, suspension, and drivetrain. The Outback feels much more like a car than the previous generation; the handling is far superior, and the Outback's heft doesn't swing from corner to corner like it used to. Furthermore, the NVH is way better; road noise is lessened, and engine noise only comes out when you step on it. You can even have a little bit of fun in it, thanks to the adoption of Subaru's torque-vectoring system, which brakes individual wheels to maintain traction.
However, the 3.6, by virtue of having a larger engine, feels just a bit duller than the 2.5. The heavier nose makes steering and turning ever so slightly slower, and so we prefer the light, almost sporty feeling of the 2.5's handling. That said, while the 2.5 is fine on power in the Legacy, in the heavier Outback, acceleration doesn't exactly come on strong. Hell, it barely comes on at all. The 3.6 has plenty of power to move the Outback, but the throttle is a little on the overeager side.
As for the infotainment, it's about mid-pack in the segment. It might not be as flashy as the systems from Ford or Hyundai, but it's intuitive, it's quick enough, and it's not so complicated you want to hurt yourself for even attempting to use it. Coupled with the Harman/Kardon premium audio, it makes for a good addition to the driving experience.
Off the Road
We also had the chance to take the Outback through its off-road paces. Granted, the car isn't capable of pulling off Wrangler Rubicon-level feats, but with almost eight inches of ground clearance and a stout all-wheel-drive system, the Outback can handle most light to moderate off-road scenarios. We went through some deep ruts, over rocks, and blasted down plenty of gravel roads, and the car took everything we gave it. The inclusion of the new X-Mode with hill-descent control is perfect for this type of terrain, as the car's computers modulate both the throttle and brake to keep the car moving once the asphalt disappears. In areas where we were sure slippage was a guarantee, X-Mode kept us crawling right along.
Subaru is looking at a wide variety of competitors in this segment. The automaker benchmarks everything from the Ford Edge to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Outback finds itself doing quite well against the competition. For its price, it's well equipped and capable. The outgoing-generation Outback nearly doubled its sales over the generation before that, and the 2015 Outback continues to improve, so we're expecting a positive reception in the market. Its efficiency is ahead of the competition, it's safe as all get out, and it's capable of doing more than you'll likely ever need it to.
Specs & Prices
Engine: 2.5-liter flat-four; 3.6-liter flat-six
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Power Output: 175 hp / 174 lb-ft (2.5); 256 hp / 247 lb-ft (3.6)
Fuel Economy (mpg, mfr. estimate): 25 city / 33 highway (2.5); 20 city / 27 highway (3.6)
Base Price: $24,895 (2.5i); $26,995 (2.5i Premium); $29,995 (2.5i Limited); $32,995 (3.6R Limited)
Destination Charge: $850
Available Features: Moonroof, power rear liftgate, seven-inch touchscreen with navigation, EyeSight, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, keyless access and start
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Subaru Outback, click here: 2015 Subaru Outback.