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SAFETY | 8 out of 10
'Good,' frontal offset; 'good,' side impact; 'good,' rear impact; 'good,' roof strength; Top Safety Pick
Four stars overall; four stars, frontal crash, side crash, rollover
The first and most important safety feature on the 2012 Subaru Outback may be its full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, one of the distinguishing features of the brand. It is backed up with stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes, and a Hill Holder feature that keeps the car in place on slopes of 5 percent or more (the welcome return of a Subaru feature from the Eighties and Nineties).
Those features are supplemented by six airbags, along with seatbelt pre-tensioners. Our only complaint is that the blockier styling of the latest Outback impedes rearward and rear three-quarter vision, although Subaru will sell you a navigation system that includes a good backup camera. An alternative to that is a rear-vision camera that displays in a small section of the rear-view mirror, although it's offered only in cars fitted with the Power Moonroof Package.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2012 Subaru Outback its top "Good" ratings for front, side, and rear impact crashes, and the same for its new roof-crush test. These results led the institute to designate the Outback an IIHS Top Safety Pick. But the Outback did slightly less well on revised, and more stringent, crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency gave the Outback four of five possible stars for frontal, side, and rollover protection--good, but not the highest marks.
It's no longer at the top of the NHTSA's charts, but the 2012 Subaru Outback is one of the safer picks among wagons and crossovers.