Subarus Outback is a quasi-sport utility vehicle version of the compact Legacy, which is the companys larger series. Known as sport utility wagons, all of these Outback variants of the Legacy feature SUV-like styling cues and a higher ground clearance. Subaru also offers a smaller Outback Sport that is based on the subcompact Impreza.
At the end of the 2003 model year, Subaru added a base six-cylinder model, designated as the Outback H6-3.0 35th Anniversary Edition. Changes to the Outback are few for 2004.
Seven all-wheel-drive sedan and wagon versions of the Outback are available. They include the H6-3.0 sedan, H6-3.0 L.L. Bean Edition wagon, H6-3.0 VDC sedan and wagon, and three H4 Outbacks. All H6-3.0 models use 3.0-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engines that produce 212 horsepower. The flagship VDC editions feature Subarus Vehicle Dynamic Control electronic stability system and Variable Torque Distribution all-wheel drive. The three H4 Outbacks are equipped with four-cylinder engines.
Outback sedans ride a 104.3-inch wheelbase and measure 184.4 inches long overall, versus a 187.4-inch length for wagon models. The Outback sedan has 7.3 inches of ground clearance and stands 58.3 inches tall, compared to a 55.7-inch height for the regular Legacy sedan. The Outback H6-3.0 models have 7.9 inches of ground clearance.
Subaru says the Outback is suitable for light offroad travel. The Outback sedan borrows some of the Outback wagons styling cues, which include bigger front fenders, lower-body cladding, large fog lights and two-tone paint.
Seating for five people is possible with the Outbacks front buckets and rear three-place bench seat. The center rear position has a three-point seat belt. The rear seatback does not fold for additional cargo space, but there is a small pass-thru section into the trunk. Trunk capacity totals 12.4 cubic feet.
The gauges have silver trim rings. The Outback Limited sedan has a standard six-way power drivers seat, air conditioning, a CD player and dual-mode heated front seats. Outback H6-3.0 models have automatic climate control, an eight-way power drivers seat and a Momo-designed leather-wrapped steering wheel thats crafted in mahogany wood.
GMs OnStar communication system is standard for Outback H6-3.0 models. The Outback Limited and H6-3.0 models have an in-dash six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
Subarus 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine in the Outback H4 sedan sends 165 hp to a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. Outback H6-3.0 sedans use a 212-hp, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that teams only with the automatic. Subaru has three all-wheel-drive systems available, and the version used depends on the model.
Antilock brakes are standard. The Outback Limited and H6-3.0 sedans have seat-mounted side-impact airbags to protect front occupants.
Based on the smaller subcompact Impreza 2.5 TS and 2.5 RS models, Subarus Outback Sport also comes in sedan and wagon forms. All Impreza-based Subarus have been face-lifted for 2004. These revisions involve the hood, front fenders, headlights, grille, front and rear bumpers, and taillights.
All versions gain electronic brake-force distribution, an in-glass antenna and a safety brake-pedal system. Outback Sport models get new active head restraints, all-disc brakes, a new Steel Gray Metallic body color and projector-beam fog lights. These models use the same 165-hp, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine as the Legacy. Displaying SUV-like styling cues, the Outback Sport features exclusive body and interior trim and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Like the Outback sedan, Subarus Outback wagon is based on the compact Legacy. Wagons come in four forms: base, Limited, H6-3.0 L.L. Bean Edition and H6-3.0 VDC.
With its all-wheel-drive lineup, Subaru occupies a unique niche in the compact-car market. The Outbacks performance is sufficiently strong even with the four-cylinder engine, but a smooth-operating automatic transmission help provide more power. The Outback is easy to drive and is stable on the highway.
An Outback sedan or wagon adds extra advantages over the Legacy for driving on less-than-perfect roads, and it makes a satisfying alternative to an SUV. They are well assembled and yield a solid feel on the road. But a rather stiff suspension means the Outbacks ride can become harsh, even jarring, on urban pavement.