The lengthy wheelbase and tall roof make the 2012 Subaru Outback remarkably spacious inside, more so than most of its competitors. The back seat is especially large, even for tall adults who will find ample headroom and legroom, but front-seat occupants too enjoy lavish legroom. The Outback doesn't come with a third-row seat, so it's limited to five passengers. (The seven-passenger option is restricted to the aging Subaru Tribeca, which has never enjoyed anything near the sales success of the Outback).
Five adults can travel comfortably in the Outback, and six-footers will find the back seat comfortable even with the front seats pushed all the way back. The rear seatback is split 60/40 and, of course, folds flat to extend the load bay. But it also reclines, a feature found in very few mid-size crossovers. Subaru has worked hard to make the load bay usable, ensuring it was wide enough to fit two mid-size dog carriers side-by-side. Liftover height is less than 34 inches, and cargo volume is 34.3 cubic feet with the rear seat up, 71.3 cubic feet with it folded down. The roof-rail system has been designed to accommodate an enormous variety of third-party accessories--ski holders, kayak mounts, storage boxes, bike racks, and more--and the crossbars pivot to lie along the rails when not in use, reducing aerodynamic drag, wind noise, and fuel consumption.
Inside, plenty of cubbies, trays, and bins offer enough space for the many mobile devices, glasses cases, toll tickets, bills and change, and sodas that are now an inevitable part of car travel. The interior is somewhat plain, albeit very serviceable, but the materials and build quality suit the car's practical, no-nonsense character. That's more obvious in the upmarket Limited models, which offer a nice array of features but are nowhere near luxurious. We worry a bit about the scuffable plastics used in some high-impact areas like the lower door panels, but it's a built-to-be-used vehicle for families...and adventurers too.
Engine noise isn't too obtrusive under most circumstances, though you'll be well aware of it on full acceleration. Subaru still hasn't tamed the wind noise around its door mirrors, but the 2012 Outback is suitably refined for comfortable travel if hardly church-quiet.