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Subaru Outback's Ruggedness Inside and Out Satisfies Families

img1905730711 1459276778405 jpg 2015 Subaru Outback | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

CARS.COM — Many automakers have abandoned the wagon segment, but Subaru has not only maintained a presence but increased its foothold with its Outback. In 2015, Subaru sold 152,294 Outback wagons, a 9.7 percent increase over the wagon’s 2014 sales of 138,790.

Related: Research the 2016 Subaru Outback

Of course, what’s life without a little competition? Subaru will face direct competition from the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Alltrack coming to dealerships this fall. This more rugged take on the VW Golf SportWagen features standard all-wheel drive like the Outback as well as additional ground clearance.

In my test of the Outback, which Subaru refers to not as a wagon but as a crossover, I discovered a lot to keep potential owners satisfied.

Subaru is known for its standard all-wheel drive, which is a big plus when you live somewhere such as Colorado with all kinds of weather. While testing the Outback, my home state of Colorado got walloped with 12 inches of slushy snow on top of 6 inches that had fallen the previous day. I drove the Outback through this heavy, deep snow and it performed perfectly. The Outback cut through the snow like butter. It was confident; it was a blast to drive.

That may be among the long-standing pluses of the Outback: Its ruggedness and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. In addition to its real-world functionality, the allure of looking like you’re headed to an outdoor activity attracts many; it’s completely plausible that when you pull into the grocery store parking lot you’re not making the weekly food run, but instead buying rations for your camping trip. Or ski trip. Or sledding trip. 

img2029847794 1459276773030 1 jpg 2015 Subaru Outback | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Speaking of which, I drove my two kids to the sledding hill in the Outback, and their sleds and snow gear fit in the 35.5-cubic-foot cargo area without issue. Even better (and this is where traditional wagons tend to fall down) is that there’s is plenty of rear legroom — 38.1 inches — for gangly legs with snow boots without getting the front seatbacks scuffed up. Dogs fit in the Outback, hockey gear fits in there, and membership warehouse trips fit in there. Yet it’s small enough to park practically anywhere.

img 1455772876 1459276781055 1 jpg 2015 Subaru Outback | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Keeping the interior clean isn’t too tough because of the rubber floormats. I’ll confess that while the rest of the interior isn’t fancy, but it’s nice enough with faux wood and silver plastic trim. It’s neither too rugged like a truck nor too refined like a posh crossover, and it strikes a perfect note for many family consumers. In fact, three editors at Cars.com use an Outback for hauling their broods. Fresh on the heels of a conversation with my own kids about “this is why we can’t have nice things,” I like that the Outback’s interior can handle some abuse.

The Outback can be had with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which gets an EPA-estimated 25/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined. This engine isn’t the speediest, but it can hang on any urban or suburban street and get up to speed on the highway with ease. If you need more oomph, the Outback has an optional 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine rated 20/27/22 mpg. Both engines are paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

The Outback is a nameplate that’s been around for many years; it first appeared in the U.S. for the 1995 model year as the Legacy Outback wagon. It still has some of the engine noise that most learn to love, and there’s still some rugged bounce when you hit seams on the road, but for kids who grew up in a Subaru, that’s nostalgia you can’t buy from this year’s hot new crossover.

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