The 2015 Subaru Outback isn’t just a crossover, or a wagon. It’s a lifestyle, and it’s far better described or classified by the types of people who will be buying it than by its dimensions or competitive set.
The Outback has always been that way, and it’s always been the vehicle to have when you don’t want an SUV—and you actually prefer cars over trucks—yet you really do need the ruggedness to get down dirt roads or forest trails, as well as the versatility to carry outdoor gear...whether that’s along the lines of crampons and carabiners or just some boogie boards and a picnic basket.
And the completely redesigned 2015 Subaru Outback improves on a familiar formula in virtually every way. Design-wise, the Outback is a careful, measured evolution of the last-generation version. Like the Legacy sedan on which it’s based, it takes the upsized exterior that these models got with their last major overhaul, five years ago, and adds a lot more nuance, sculpting, and detail. There are no engineering revelations under the hood, but it drives better, handles with more grace and control, and somehow manages to keep washboard surfaces and coarse pavement out of your conversation. And of course it has excellent all-wheel-drive traction and nearly 9 inches of ground clearance.
The Outback also breaks past bigger, pricier, and heavier crossover models with respect to what matters to a lot of active families: safety and value. That’s what really nudges it well ahead of some other models like the Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC70, and Audi Allroad—helping it achieve its excellent overall rating in our full review and Best Car To Buy nominee status.
Besides being more functionally better, it isn’t nearly as frumpy in appearance as it was in some earlier generations. Most notably, Subaru has worked to slim down the body-side cladding, and has even eliminated it around the wheelwells. But we still see it as having a form that would look prettier (and sportier) if it were to ride a few inches lower or live a little more up to the promise of the show cars that teased this design. For that reason, we do find the Legacy sedan a little more elegant and at ease with itself.
This 'cleaning up' of the look and feel is just as much the case inside, where the Outback cabin has been given more of an elegant, squared-off look that is a little more charming but also has functional upgrades like better seats and a little more space in back. Despite the temptation, Subaru has left the Outback a five-seater, and we think that’s a smart choice; cargo versatility, and the ability to fit all form of gear and odds and ends back there makes this, again, an impressive gear locker.
Yes, you get much-improved infotainment systems for 2015, but the real value is again in the feature set, where a rearview camera system is now included, and Subaru's EyeSight suite of active-safety systems (top-rated by the IIHS) is available on most of the model line. It includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, and Vehicle Lane Departure Warning, as well as Cross Traffic Detection and Rear Vehicle Detection, all for less than $30,000, in four-cylinder form.
And with all that safety and technology gear—plus all the potential for stowing gear, and getting to those out-back places with your family and that gear—we think that in a lot of ways, the Outback exemplifies what the personal automobile can be, moving forward.
Read our full review of the 2015 Subaru Outback here, then check in on all of our 2015 Best Car To Buy Nominees—and vote on which you think should win. And look out for our winner this next Monday, November 10.This year there are 11 nominees ranging from family sedans, crossovers, a pickup truck, and even ... in The Car Connection Polls on LockerDome This year there are 11 nominees ranging from family sedans, crossovers, a pickup truck, and even ... in The Car Connection Polls on LockerDome