The Legacy, Subaru's most popular model line, has a new design with larger dimensions and evolutionary styling changes for 2000. All Subarus come with all-wheel drive, and the Legacy line includes sedans and wagons, with the latter capturing the bulk of sales.
The Outback wagon is the most popular Legacy model, combining all-wheel drive, the driving ease of a car and sport utility vehicle styling cues. Launched as a 1996 model and billed as the "world's first sport utility wagon," the Outback has led a sales resurgence at Subaru and encouraged other manufacturers to offer similar car-based vehicles with all-wheel drive and SUV attributes.
As a new perk for 2000, Subaru provides 24-hour roadside assistance the first three years of ownership.
Wheelbase increases less than an inch to 104.3 inches, and overall length grows about 2 inches to 187.4. The Outback separates itself from the Legacy wagon with chip-resistant lower body cladding, two-tone paint, a standard roof rack and larger fog lights. The Outback also rides on larger tires, 16-inch diameter instead of 15. The Outback has 7.3 inches of ground clearance (1.2 inches more than the Legacy wagon), and Subaru describes it as suited for "light off-road travel."
All models seat five, and the center rear position has a three-point seatbelt. An integral safety seat for children between 20 and 40 pounds is optional on the base Outback. Cargo volume is 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat. Folding the 60/40 split seat doubles the volume to 68.4 cubic feet.
The new instrument panel is larger and the center section is angled toward the driver for an easier reach. An 80-watt sound system with a cassette player is standard on the Legacy wagons and the base Outback. The Outback Limited adds a standard CD player.
Under the Hood
All Legacy models use Subaru's 165-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with horizontally opposed cylinders (instead of inline or V-configuration). A five-speed manual is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional on all models except the Outback Limited, which comes with automatic only.
Subaru expects to add a six-cylinder engine, also with horizontally opposed cylinders, for 2001.
In addition to all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes are standard on all models. The Outback Limited also has side-impact airbags to protect the front seat occupants.
The Outback is a capable wagon that offers great traction and better fuel economy than any truck-based SUV. It lacks the room and off-road ability of a full-fledged SUV, but it costs less and rides and handles like a car, not a truck.