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by Al VinikourIt’s no longer necessary to travel an entire day to see the Outback. All you have to do is trot on down to a Subaru dealership. The company recently started selling the third generation of what was a crossover before anybody knew what a crossover was.
Defined in its simplest terms, the Outback is a great-looking sporty car that bears a strong resemblance to a station wagon. There the similarity ends, however. For Outback III, Subaru has infused a new level of sporty driving performance, a lighter, stronger body structure and revised suspension and steering systems to provide sharper handling response and a quieter ride.
Interestingly, Subaru has classified the Outbacks as trucks with the fuel-economy Feds. The company says it’s because buyers want more SUV-like features – but it’s also a good bet the chunky Outback would lower Subaru’s otherwise excellent fleet fuel economy, too.
Family of movers
The Outback isn’t just a single model. Rather, it’s an entire family of them. Six trim levels are available as a wagon – beginning with the Outback 2.5i and topping out with the Outback 3.0 L. L. Bean Edition and an Outback 3.0 R Sedan.
The Outback 2.5i and 2.5i Limited constitute, for lack of a better description, the entry-level Outback. Both are powered by a 2.5-liter SOHC horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder engine, producing 168 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic transmission is optional.
The Outback 2.5 XT and XT Limited are both powered by a DOHC 2.5-liter intercooled turbocharged engine that has 250 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. This is mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission. All-wheel drive is standard on all the above; optional is a five-speed automatic transmission with Variable Torque Distribution all-wheel-drive a more sophisticated and complex version that allows the drivetrain to shift power better between the four wheels to deliver more traction.