Subarus most popular series is the compact Legacy, which includes the Outback offshoot; the series was redesigned two seasons ago and is produced in both wagon and sedan forms. For 2001, the lineup gained new versions of the Legacy Outback that include a 212-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, in addition to the usual 165-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The bigger engine goes into new H6-3.0 VDC and L.L. Bean editions of the Legacy Outback.
Though it is similar to the regular Legacy, the Outback wagon is the most popular trim level of this model. The Outback versions have a higher ground clearance than the other Legacy iterations, as well as the styling cues of a sport utility vehicle. Launched as a 1995 model and billed by Subaru as the worlds first sport utility wagon, the Legacy Outback helped lead the Japanese automaker to a sales resurgence. Other manufacturers, notably Audi and Volvo, have followed Subarus lead by offering similar car-based vehicles with AWD and SUV attributes.
Little has changed for the 2002 Legacy Outback wagons, though a new Outback H6-3.0 sedan has joined the lineup to complement the six-cylinder wagon. The 2002 wagon group consists of a base model and a Limited version with four-cylinder power, as well as the six-cylinder L.L. Bean Edition and H6-3.0 VDC wagon. All Subarus have all-wheel drive.
Except for an increase in overall height, the dimensions are similar to regular Legacy wagons. Outback versions have 7.3 inches of ground clearance that is 1.2 inches more than the conventional models. Subaru advises that Outbacks are suited for light offroad travel, which is reasonable because they lack low-range gearing.
The Legacy Outback wagon has a 104.3-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 187.4 inches, which is about 3 inches longer than the Volkswagen Passat Wagon. The Outback differs from the Legacy wagon by having chip-resistant lower body cladding, two-tone paint, a standard roof rack and larger fog lights. The Legacy Outback also rides on 16-inch tires rather than the 15-inchers of the Legacy L wagon. A glass moonroof is installed on the L.L. Bean and H6-3.0 VDC editions of the Legacy Outback wagon.
All Legacy Outback models seat five occupants, with the usual front buckets and a three-place backseat. Each seating position has a three-point seat belt. Folding the 60/40-split rear seat down yields a cargo volume of 68.6 cubic feet.
Air conditioning and an 80-watt sound system with a cassette player are standard in the base Legacy Outback, which also has a cargo cover and tray, power locks and mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a tilt steering wheel. The Limited model adds a CD player, cargo mat, leather-surfaced bucket seats and an all-weather package with heated front seats and mirrors. The Outback H6-3.0 VDC has a 200-watt McIntosh audio system with 11 speakers.
In addition to an air filtration system, a premium audio system and automatic air conditioning, the L.L. Bean Edition includes two-tone leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel by MOMO, and special interior and exterior trim. Free maintenance for three years is included a bonus not offered on other Subaru models.
Under the Hood
Subarus 165-hp, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine goes into base and Limited models. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional.
L.L. Bean and H6-3.0 VDC versions use a 212-hp, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that also has horizontally opposed cylinders, a Subaru hallmark. VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamics Control, which is Subarus electronic stability system. VDC senses impending loss of control and then applies the brakes and apportions engine power among the wheels as needed.
Antilock brakes are standard. Legacy Outback Limited, H6-3.0 VDC and L.L. Bean models also have side-impact airbags for the front seats.
The Legacy Outback wagon and sedan add extra advantages for driving on less-than-perfect roads, without going to SUV extremes. The wagon is well-assembled and yields a solid feel on the road. On the down side, a rather stiff suspension means the Legacy Outbacks ride can become harsh, even jarring, through urban pavement, though its pleasant enough for highway travel.