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Out here in the boonies of rural southwest
These traditional Subie selling points are what made the original Outback such a smash hit when it appeared way back in 1996. (Has it really been ten years already?) The "world's first sport-utility wagon"—as Subaru advertising christened it—was an ideal choice for people who wanted a rugged, go-anyplace family vehicle that was easier on gas and had much better road manners than a kludgy SUV.
Since then, however, other automakers have taken the Outback concept and run with it. Crossover wagons and all-wheel-drive sedans are no longer relative rarities. The original needed updating.
It also needed to be upscaled—at least, that's Subaru's thinking. The first Outback wagon, and Subarus in general, have always been a little on the "woodsy" side. But the corporate mission now is higher and higher up the prestige scale, witnessed by the new B9 Tribeca.
The power of choice
The new Outback is still essentially true to the concept of the '96 model, with standard go-anyplace AWD, more ground clearance (8.7 inches vs. 7.3 for the '96 model) and plenty of the original's snarky attitude. But the stance is noticeably sportier. Two-tone body cladding, wagon wheels and whitewalls are out — monochromatic paint schemes, smoothed flanks, fancy-looking alloys, and blackwall tires are in.