2017 Subaru Outback Review

The stoic all-wheel drive wagon that does it all

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Positives: Easy to drive, easy to live with. The Outback is powerful, spacious, comfortable, reasonably attractive, and it has generous cargo space, ground clearance and AWD for when you're feeling frisky.
Negatives: About as boring as it gets, can suck down the gas if you get on throttle often, interior materials are nice but not luxurious.
Bottom Line: If you're looking for a good, sturdy family wagon with all-wheel drive the Outback is one of the best choices out there. This is the car for people who love to go out and do things and bring their family with them. It's capable in a number of driving situations, tough as nails and plenty powerful enough for most people. The only downside (if you could call it that) is that the Outback feels like a tool or appliance. It's comfortable but not wildly so. If you're after a plush cruiser or fast racer, this is one of the last cars you want.
 View Our 2017 Subaru Outback Overview
The exceptionally vanilla Subaru Outback will never set your hair on end. The only people it excites are moms and dads in dry suburban landscapes who want a vehicle that is near bulletproof because they don’t want to think about driving or maintaining a car. They see the car as an appliance. As appliances go, the Outback is about as good as it gets.

Calling the Outback an appliance, though, doesn’t really do the vehicle justice. It’s the kind of car you fall in love with because it makes everything so darn easy. We love it like we love our favorite wrench or bottle opener. The one we’ve had in the junk drawer for years. In our short, week-long experience with the Outback, we came to learn that simplicity and ease of use equals love. The kind of love that Subaru talks about in its advertisements. We never really understood what the company was going on about with its whole "Share the Miles Loved on Your Subaru" advertising campaign, but now we get it. This car’s easier to love than a puppy.

Driving Experience



The Outback drives smooth. The 3.6-liter 6-cylinder is a nice mill that hums along complacently no matter what you do to the gas pedal. It handles the same way with a kind of confidence a car at this price point shouldn’t be allowed to have. As good as it is, it’s not exciting. Even when you really hustle the Outback along it feels like a solid, stoic workhorse and makes you completely confident in almost every situation (probably overconfident in some cases) and even a little bored.

Ride Quality: Smooth over bumps and cracks in the road. We didn’t find any terrain that upset the Outback much at all. Even extremely rough patches of pavement did little to disrupt driver and passengers.

Acceleration: The Outback isn’t going to win any drag races, but it does feature smooth and quick acceleration off the line thanks to the nice engine and surprisingly good CVT.

Braking: Brakes feel strong and progressive with decent pedal feel. They’re as good and boring as the rest of the car.

Steering: Steering is well weighted and calibrated, without being very sporty. You can easily place the car on the road, but it’s not the quick tight steering you’ll find in a sports car.

Handling: The Outback corners pretty flat and has good road manners in the curves. It doesn’t balk at being pushed, but it doesn’t revel in it either.




Subaru does a good job with technology but not a great one. Like the rest of the car, the Outback has everything you need in an easy to access location, but nothing jumps out as being exceptionally good. The model we drove came equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, STARLINK smartphone connectivity, a 7-inch infotainment system with HD radio, Sirius XM, navigation and more.

Infotainment System:The 7-inch screen works well but is a fingerprint magnet and can be prone to glare. Much of the system is touchscreen based, so you’re constantly filling up the screen with fingerprints.

Controls: There is a nice mix of buttons, knobs and touchscreen controls. This makes Subaru’s system easy to use but it’s not the best system out there. We feel Mazda’s dial/joystick system is better.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone is quick and simple and we noticed no issues.

Voice Call Quality: Calls were clear and loud on both ends.




The Outback isn’t ugly, but it’s not beautiful either. There’s a nice mix of dark black trim and a kind of dull silver. We like that Subaru didn’t go with anything too flashy. Chrome – beyond the chrome on the window sill – would have looked out of place on this vehicle.

Front: Subaru’s signature grille dominates the front end. The next thing you notice are the high-intensity discharge headlights and the large, low fog lamps integrated into the bumper. Not a bad looking front end.

Rear: The rear has black trim on the bottom of the bumper and a reasonably large rear window and taillights.

Profile: In profile, the Outback almost has the look of a CUV due to its high ride, but it’s still a little sleeker and lower than a crossover.

Cabin: Subaru isn’t known for artful interiors and the Outback is no exception. It features a simple design and dash layout. The materials for the model we drove were of higher grade (the Limited is the second highest trim level) but still not on the same level as many luxury brands.




First off, the ergonomics in the Subaru Outback are almost perfect. The steering wheel, pedals, infotainment controls and just about everything else is right where you want it. You’re not reaching or stretching for much of anything. Beyond that, the materials feel good and solid and the seats are exceptional for a car at this price point, though a little flat.

Front Seats: The leather-wrapped seats offer a good mix of cushioning and firmness. While we found them comfortable every time we sat in them, a little more bolstering would be nice to keep you from sliding around on the soft leather.

Rear Seats: The rear seats are very similar to the front. They have nice material and good padding. There’s also a lot of legroom. Rear seat passengers can stretch out without issue.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): This is a quiet, solid car. You hardly hear road or engine noise and can easily have a conversation with anyone in the car.

Visibility: Seeing out the back can be a bit difficult, though the rear window is larger than many vehicles. The rearview camera and sensors make backing up easy. Front and side visibility are good. The Outback has relatively thin A, B and C pillars.

Climate: The climate control system cools down or heats up the cabin easily and is assisted by heated seats.




The 2017 version of the Outback has not been tested by the IIHS, but the NHTSA awarded the vehicle 5 stars. In 2016 the Subaru Outback earned the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, so we’d bet the latest model is as safe if not safer.

IIHS Rating: This vehicle has not yet been rated by the IIHS.

Standard Tech: Rear vision camera, blind spot detection and land change assist, rear cross traffic alert, Subaru advanced frontal airbag system, side curtain airbags, front seat cushion airbags, ABS, anti-theft alarm and immobilizer system.

Optional Tech: EyeSight Driver-assist system: pre-collision braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and lane sway warning, pre-collision throttle management system.




Have a lot of stuff to carry? Need to make a Home Depot or Lowes run? The Outback isn’t as good as a pickup truck for hauling stuff, but it’s at least as good as any CUV. The rear cargo area is spacious and the rear seats fold down, offering a lot of room to slide in whatever you need to carry. If you don’t have enough room back there, the model we drove had roof rails, making it easy to add a roof rack.

Storage Space: The center console has a couple cup holders and some bins and cubbies to store your things. The armrest storage compartment was also rather large and door pockets generous and easy to get to.

Cargo Room: The Outback has a cargo capacity of 35.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 73.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

Fuel Economy



The first half of the week, we drove the Outback conservatively and noticed about 24 miles per gallon in mixed highway and city driving conditions. We thought that was very impressive for the sizable, 6-cylinder powered wagon. The second half of the week, we pushed the car a little more and saw mileage numbers drop significantly, so we switched back to a conservative style of driving and ended the week just under the EPA estimates for the vehicle’s combined city/highway rating of 22.

Observed: At the end of the week, we made about 21 miles per gallon on average.

Driving Factors: We tried to drive equal amounts on the highway and in the city and in a mixture of aggressive and conservative driving styles.




The 12-speaker, 576-watt stereo system functions well and offers a good range of sounds. It’s good, but the Harman/Kardon speakers aren’t any better than the other premium systems out on the market. The system is easy to use and allows you to connect your phone or music player easily and operation is very smooth.

Overall, the Outback is a wonderful vehicle. It has a lot of merits and is definitely a car you could own for many years and still be satisfied with. However, if one of the things you need to be satisfied is excitement, this vehicle probably won’t do. It’s very good at a lot of things, but you’re going to have to get your excitement from the activities at your destination.

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