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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
output ranges from 170 to 245 hp with the six-cylinder
Non-turbocharged models lack reserve muscle
automatic transmissions still leave much to be desired
very direct responses to the helm
Cars and Driver
ride comfort leads the list of benefits
Kelley Blue Book
The 2008 Subaru Legacy Outback comes in an array of trim levels that boil down to three engines, three transmissions, and standard all-wheel drive.
The 2008 Subaru Outback is offered in a wide range of models now ranging from the basic 2.5i up to the sporty XT Limited and luxurious L.L. Bean Edition and VDC Limited. The 2.5i and 2.5i Limited models get a 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("flat") four, while the 2.5 XT and XT Limited upgrade to a high-performance turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four making 243 horsepower. And at the top there's a 245-horsepower, 3.0-liter flat-six powering the 3.0R, 3.0R L.L. Bean Edition, and 3.0R VDC Limited.
With the base engine, the 2008 Subaru Outback has adequate power with a light load, but if you plan on hauling a lot of stuff or driving in the mountains, the engine can feel taxed. The turbocharged engine in the XT is the most responsive, with none of the turbo lag that sometimes plagues turbos, but the six is the smoothest and most refined. According to Cars.com, the 2008 Subaru Outback offers "either a four- or six-cylinder engine," and "output ranges from 170 horsepower in the base four-cylinder to 245 hp with the six-cylinder." ConsumerGuide says "non-turbocharged 4-cylinder models have enough power for most driving, but lack reserve muscle for passing and merging," but "turbocharged 243-hp 4-cylinder models provide good power--7.8 seconds 0-60 mph in our tests." However, with these Subaru 2008 models, "throttle response is dulled by annoying turbo lag." Nonetheless, Car and Driver says "the new 2.5-liter engine is indeed amazingly smooth and quiet," and "boasts other advantages"--namely, it is more lightweight than similar engines.
Subaru models with the base engine have either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, while XT models have either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, which comes with Sportshift paddle shifters. At the top, the six-cylinder engine comes just with the five-speed automatic. Cars.com reports that "manual or automatic transmissions are available for the regular and turbocharged four-cylinders," and observes this Subaru 2008 transmission "could use a fifth gear; in many cases you can press the gas pedal halfway down without inducing a downshift, which doesn't help your passing confidence." ConsumerGuide reports that "some find the manual transmission to have imprecise, overly long shift action," while Edmunds complains that the "automatic transmissions still leave much to be desired, as they sap power by upshifting too early." Across the line, the Outback models get all-wheel drive and have up to 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which may prove very useful in deep snow or mud.
Models with the turbocharged four or the six-cylinder engine get SI-DRIVE, a system that has three different modes that allow throttle response, transmission shift, and other characteristics to change from smooth to sharp as desired in the 2008 Subaru Outback. SI-DRIVE works by “mapping accelerator response and shift points according to three settings,” Cars.com reports. “Subaru says Intelligent mode yields up to a 10 percent increase in gas mileage, while Sport mode nets quicker accelerator response for better performance. Finally, Sport Sharp modifies the accelerator and transmission for maximum performance.”
ConsumerGuide testing shows that "a 2.5i L.L. Bean averaged 23.5 mpg in mostly highway driving," while an XT Limited with manual transmission "averaged just 15.5 mpg in mostly city driving." The same 2008 Subaru Outback with automatic "averaged 18.3 mpg in city/highway driving, 23.5 with more highway use." The six-cylinder 2008 Subaru Outback 3.0 R "averaged 21.6 in mostly highway driving that included gas-eating performance runs." Fueleconomy.gov posts a range from 10 to 17 mpg in city driving among the various trims of 2008 Outbacks and 24 to 26 mpg highway.
Despite having the heavy-duty suspension, Outback models handle very well on the road, with crisp, rather communicative steering and not much body lean; ride comfort is quite good as well, but road noise can be an issue inside. "The low center of gravity helps quell roll motions and reduce that tippy sensation you often get in heavy SUVs," according to Car and Driver, adding "thanks to a steering rack bolted securely to the front suspension subframe, the Outback has very direct responses to the helm." ConsumerGuide reports "all Outbacks have linear, predictable steering...[and] brakes feel strong on all." According to Edmunds, "firm suspension tuning along with responsive steering and the grip afforded by the all-wheel-drive system give the Outback a nimble feel through the turns while still providing a comfy highway ride," while Kelley Blue Book comments that "ride comfort leads the 2008 Subaru Legacy Outback's list of benefits," though "on rougher surfaces...the suspension tries its best to maintain a level attitude but some occupant-tossing may occur."
The performance of the 2008 Subaru Legacy Outback straddles the line between comfort and sport fairly well.