According to a wide range of reviews, the 2009 Subaru Legacy Outback does a good job of feeling sporty and athletic while remaining quite comfortable overall.
The 2009 Subaru Outback is offered in a wide range of models; at the top there's a 245-hp, 3.0-liter flat-six powering the 3.0R and 3.0R Limited. According to Cars.com, the 2009 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.
With the base engine, the 2009 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. ConsumerGuide says "non-turbocharged 4-cylinder models have enough power for most driving, but lack reserve muscle for passing and merging." The turbocharged engine in the XT is the most responsive, with none of the lag that sometimes plagues turbos, but the six is the smoothest and most refined. ConsumerGuide notes that "turbocharged 243-hp 4-cylinder models provide good power—7.8 seconds 0-60 mph in our tests." However, with these Subaru 2009 models, "throttle response is dulled by annoying turbo lag."
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 with just the five-speed automatic. ConsumerGuide reports that "some find the manual transmission to have imprecise, overly long shift action," while Edmunds complains the "automatic transmissions still leave much to be desired, as they sap power by upshifting too early." Cars.com states that "manual or automatic transmissions are available for the regular and turbocharged four-cylinders," and observes this Subaru 2009 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." 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 2009 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."
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. 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 2009 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 low center of gravity helps quell roll motions and reduce that tippy sensation you often get in heavy SUVs," asserts 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."