2013 Subaru Outback Comfort & Quality

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Comfort & Quality

This latest Subaru Outback has grown much taller and wider (by about 2 inches) than the last version. But though its wheelbase is also up by nearly 3 inches, its overall length is nearly the same as the previous generation.

As a result, the Outback provides good front and rear legroom. The Outback's front seats have good support, but could use a little more cushion under the legs.

A spacious interior with ample cargo space and flip-fold rear seats makes the Outback a mid-size station wagon in all but name.

In back there are wide doors and tall openings for easy access, and good leg room. The rear seats can accommodate nearly any adult comfortably, although there is no third-row option. (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 seats also recline, a feature becoming more common in crossovers.

The rear seatback is split 60/40 and, of course, folds flat to extend the load bay. The wagon back provides an excellent cargo bin of more than 34 cubic feet, and all-weather floor mats are on the options list. 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.

It's even well-sorted on its roof, where the rail system has been designed to accommodate an enormous variety of third-party accessories--ski holders, kayak mounts, storage boxes, bike racks, and more. The crossbars pivot to lie along the rails when not in use, reducing aerodynamic drag, wind noise, and fuel consumption.

Interior materials of earlier models weren't particularly luxurious, with scuffable hard plastics on high-contact points like the lower door panels and center console, but they reflected the Outback's utilitarian, built-to-be-used side. For 2013, the company provides new, more comfortable seat fabric--the old stuff looked like your grandmother's brocade curtains--and a new "light matte wood grain" trim to give the interior a bit more sophistication. Subaru build quality has historically been good, with all parts screwed together well and few rattles or other glitches.

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 latest Outback is acceptably refined for comfortable travel, if hardly church-quiet.

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