Sporting its first redesign since 2005, the 2010 Subaru Outback's SUV-alternative appeal is as high now as it was when it hit the market 15 years ago. Though Outback sedans have existed over the years, the Outback has only been available as a wagon since 2007, leaving the sedan space to the Legacy, which is also all-new for 2010. The Outback has grown for 2010, adding much-needed space to the backseat, yet its mileage has improved, according to Subaru. Due for sale in the second half of 2009, it competes with wagons like the Toyota Venza, Volvo XC70 and VW Passat, as well as small SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Subaru's own Forester.
The Outback's two models, named after their engines, include the 2.5i and the 3.6R; both come in base, Premium and Limited trim levels.
The Outback's ground clearance has increased to 8.7 inches, and it shows in the new version's more SUV-like presence. Though the interior is markedly roomier, the car is fractions of an inch shorter from bumper to bumper than the 2009.
Standard on the base 2.5i are 16-inch steel wheels; 17-inch alloys come on all other trim levels, including the 3.6R. Because the turbocharged XT trim level hasn't returned, you won't see a hood scoop on the 2010 Outback. Like the Legacy, the Outback's headlights recall Nissan and Infiniti designs, but the prominent bumper distinguishes it more than the Legacy.
An innovative standard feature, the roof rack has hinged cross-members that swing 90 degrees to tuck into the side rails when not in use, which reduces wind noise and improves aerodynamics.
Subaru says suspension changes and higher-profile tires have improved the Outback's ride quality. In addition to a nearly 4-inch increase in backseat legroom, the whole car is a couple of inches wider, which helps hip and shoulder room in the front and back. The cargo space is a bit deeper and wider, but its overall size and shape aren't quite as versatile as some competing small SUVs'. The backseat is split, 60/40, and folds down to extend the cargo area forward.
The interior materials are upgraded and include metallic-look trim on the steering wheel and other surfaces. Upholstery choices include cloth and leather. A driver's seat height adjustment is standard, as is a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise-control buttons. Power driver and passenger seats, dual-zone climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel come in successively higher trim levels.
Also standard on all trim levels are keyless entry, a CD player and an audio input jack. Bluetooth audio streaming capability, which serves the same purpose wirelessly with a compatible cellular phone, comes with a premium stereo and six-CD changer on some versions.
Available mostly on the higher trim levels, options include a moonroof, a navigation system with a backup camera, and an all-weather package, which includes heated front seats and side mirrors, plus windshield wiper de-icers.
Under the Hood
Logically, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 3.6-liter six-cylinder come in the 2.5i and 3.6R models, respectively, delivering 170 horsepower and 256 hp. The 3.6-liter upgraded engine, which replaces the previous generation's 3.0-liter six-cylinder, is thirstier than the 2.5-liter, but it now runs on regular gas instead of premium, for some cost savings. A six-speed manual is standard on the 2.5i, which is also eligible for a new continuously variable automatic transmission that's expected to improve efficiency over the 2009; it includes a manual mode and shift paddles on the steering wheel. The 3.6R comes only with a five-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard, but the sophistication increases as you make the jump from the manual to the CVT to the 3.6-liter's five-speed.
Safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, and an electronic stability system is now standard on all Outbacks. Standard airbags include frontal, front-seat side-impact and side curtains that cover the side windows along all seats.
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