Never let it be said that users don't read our reviews with an eagle eye. Reader Keith Siegel shot us a note this morning, asking the following question:
I was surprised to see a score of "8" for Features in your 2010 Subaru Outback review. The only negative was the failure to offer memory seats for driver/passenger. If that was the only noted feature that wasn't offered, shouldn't it have been awarded a "9"?
Good question, Keith. Our reasoning is that other vehicles in the crossover category offer a wider set of features, albeit some without the practical versatility of the Subaru or at a higher price.
Our ratings are comparative, although Features isn't just matching one vehicle's list against another's. We look at anything functional that doesn't directly affect comfort: storage cubbies, how the seats fold, etc.
Price also factors into Features rating. In our 2010 Subaru Legacy review, Subaru's $20,000 base model sedan earned a "9" for features because it's better equipped than competitors at that level. The Outback costs more and competes with pricier vehicles, so it has to be measured accordingly.
The base Toyota Venza, for instance, includes dual-zone climate control and a steering wheel that not only tilts and telescopes (as does the 2010 Outback's) but has audio controls built in. We rated its Features at "9".
While the 2010 Volvo XC60 is $15,000 pricier than the 2010 Outback, it includes HD Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio with six months' service, and a large moonroof. Moreover, the XC60's first three years or 36,000 miles of maintenance are included at no extra cost. There, too, Features got a "9".
We rate the 2010 Outback highly on value for money, but it's worth noting that the lowest-cost $22,995 Outback 2.5i model doesn't even have electric seats. Most Outback buyers are likely to end up spending the better part of $30,000 to get the Premium or Limited level, providing a set of features comparable to competitors.
Frankly, Subaru has never been particularly aggressive in fitting new features to any model. It wasn't until 2006 that any Subaru offered a navigation system; the high-volume Outback didn't get it until this year.
Meanwhile, other 2010 Outback features like Bluetooth and a USB port are offered even in economy compacts like the $14,000 2010 Kia Forte. So they hardly set the Outback ahead of the pack.
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