Is the Subaru Outback a tough and brawny station wagon or a lean, mean crossover? In the past we might have said wagon, but now the Outback’s changed.
The Outback is new this year, but it doesn’t look all that different. The front end is a little more swept back with a somewhat more upright , blunt grille. You’ll note the side view mirrors have been moved to the doors for better aerodynamics and to help with blind spots, and Subaru’s ditched most of the body cladding. Subaru says it’s a more elegant look, and we agree.
Inside the Outback is also an evolution rather than a radical rethink. Gone is that upright instrument panel, replaced with a more squared-off, high end-audio look with smooth curves. This trim and dashboard feel substantially nicer than the previous model pushing the Outback further upmarket.
The cabin’s a good place to sit for long trips. The front seats are very comfortable—they have longer bottom cushions this year, for better support. Upholstery has been upgraded across the model line. Subaru does a good job at laying out the controls cleanly, and the Outback is no exception.
Back here in the rear seat you’ll find plenty of space for adults. While legroom isn’t abundant, there should be enough for most passengers, and thanks to the additional width, you can definitely sit three-across in back without feeling too crammed.
At the business end of the Outback, the cargo floor is low and easy to access if you have a cartload of Costco goodies. Need more space to haul your camping gear? The setback release levers are now back in the cargo area and folding the seats down is now a one-hand task.
That’s all tried and true Subaru, but how does the Outback perform? There’s a choice between our tester’s 2.5-liter flat four, which makes 175 horsepower, or a 3.6-liter flat six rated at 256 horsepower. We think the four’s more than adequate, and a better fit with the Outback’s practical personality. No matter which engine you choose you’ll find a continuously variable transmission sending power to all four wheels, and of course, standard all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is very good, at up to 33 miles per gallon with the four-cylinder.
On the road, the Outback is smoother than ever. Both the steering and suspension have been revised and it tracks well on the highway. It still can tackle a dusty trail when it needs to, or a snowy road to the slopes. Give credit there to Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system and its new X-Mode borrowed from the Forester. It changes the shift pattern, makes the accelerator pedal less touchy, and makes the all-wheel-drive system much more proactive and eager to send power to the rear wheels.
The Outback has a great reputation for safety and that’s not about to change. It’s already been named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS and there are new standard safety features such as Subaru’s Eyesight system which has auto-brake capability. There’s also blind-spot detection and a backup camera.
Prices for the new Outback start at just under $25,000, and for that you get standard power features, air conditioning, cruise control and all-wheel drive. Load up a Limited model beyond $37,000 and you’ll add leather, heated rear seats, a power tailgate, and a bigger touchscreen with a much better infotainment system that can stream audio and control smartphone functions by touch or voice.
So what’s the bottom line with the 2015 Subaru Outback? It’s the same tough, safe family wagon it’s always been—it’s just better at disguising its brawn.
For more information be sure to read our full review of the 2015 Subaru Outback here.