If the 2012 Subaru Outback is a niche vehicle, it's a large niche, as sales have risen steadily since the latest model was launched.
Many Outback buyers never consider any other car, and there are few direct competitors.
Few wagons remain on the U.S.
market, let alone all-wheel drive wagons, and every other crossover has worse handling, less room, and/or lower gas mileage.
The car-based Toyota Venza has less room inside, though its high seating position is appealing and its fuel-saving four can be ordered with all-wheel drive.
Volvo's XC60 crossover and XC70 all-wheel-drive wagon offer a dose of Swedish style and safety, but at prices at least $10,000 higher and generally much more than that.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer, both new last year, may be the Outback's highest-volume and least esoteric competitors.
The Ford is massive inside and out, though it offers a fuel-sipping four-cylinder EcoBoost engine--but not with all-wheel drive--while the Jeep has less room inside and a range of much thirstier engines.
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|18 MPG City / 29 MPG Hwy||17 MPG City / 25 MPG Hwy||12 MPG City / 23 MPG Hwy||18 MPG City / 27 MPG Hwy||17 MPG City / 25 MPG Hwy||17 MPG City / 25 MPG Hwy|
|Gas Flat 4||Gas V6||Gas/Ethanol V6||Gas I4||Gas I6||Gas I6|
|Sport Utility Vehicle - 4WD||Sport Utility Vehicle - 2WD||2WD Sport Utility Vehicle||Sport Utility||2WD Sport Utility Vehicle||2WD Sport Utility Vehicle|
|4-Door Wagon H4 Manual 2.5i||FWD 4-Door Base||RWD 4-Door Laredo||4-Door Wagon I4 FWD LE (Natl)||FWD 4-Door Wagon 3.2L||FWD 4-Door 3.2L|
|All Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Rear Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive|
|Wagon||Sport Utility Vehicle||Sport Utility Vehicle||4 Door Wagon||5 Door Wagon||5 Door Wagon|
|Manual||Automatic w/manual shift||Automatic||Automatic||Automatic||Automatic w/manual shift|