2017 Subaru Outback

PHOENIX — I’ve always thought the Subaru Outback to be the Centaur of vehicles. It didn’t start out that way when it was first introduced back in 1995 and marketed as a Legacy Grand Wagon in Japan. That was long before the crossover utility vehicle craze came on the automotive scene. Through the years Outback has morphed larger, away from a station wagon and in the direction of a crossover utility vehicle.

In 2015 when the fifth generation of the model debuted at the New York Auto Show Subaru announced it as the world’s first Sport Utility Wagon, an all-wheel drive vehicle with 8.7-inches of ground clearance.

Over the years Subaru has earned an excellent reputation for reliability, value and functional utility resulting in month-to-month sales increases for seven straight years with double-digit sales increases for the past four years. In fact, Subaru has one of the highest owner loyalties among major automakers in the U.S. and has a “cult like” following of Subaru owners.

Little has changed with the 2017 Outback tested here from the 2015 model when it was given a major overhaul. The Outback remains a four-door five-passenger all-wheel drive wagon/SUV.

Outside, the overall appearance while pleasant and inoffensive isn’t the kind of style that will turn heads or have anyone follow you home to find out what it is you’re driving.  Of course, it does have the standard roof rails with tie downs, which explains why nearly half the Outback’s I see have a bike, kayak, canoe, or some other form of active lifestyle equipment affixed to the roof.

Inside, the Outback’s cabin décor is identical to the brand’s Legacy sedan with its upscale appearance. While far from a luxury interior, the materials are of high quality and build quality impressive. The door panels and center console are constructed of soft touch material, the steering wheel is covered in stitched leather and the overall layout is functional, intuitive and pleasing.

Seats in our Limited model are trimmed in leather with both front and rear heated. There’s also a standard power moonroof, push-button start, 60/40 fold-down reclining rear seats and, a power rear liftgate. There’s ample room up front and for three average sized adults in the rear seat.

Quiet, composed and smooth, the Outback is a joy to drive. Our Limited trim level came with the 175-hp four cylinder engine and while a bit noisy under heavy acceleration it provided plenty of power for passing and handling always felt composed and confident.

Weather conditions didn’t lend it to testing the Outback on muddy or snowy roads but we were more than impressed with the miles we accumulated with suburban and urban driving in a mix of road conditions. With the excellent AWD that now includes “X-mode” we’re confident it will perform excellent in those conditions as well.

The Outback comes standard with advanced safety features like blind spot detection and lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and a full complement of airbags. Our vehicle also included the optional Subaru EyeSight Driver-Assist System with pre-collision automatic braking; adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and lane sway warning.

Outback is offered in six different trim levels, four with the 2.5-liter 175-hp four cylinder and two with the 3.6-liter 256-hp six-cylinder engine. Both engines are paired with a CVT automatic transmission.

Overall the Outback is a stunningly good vehicle that affords a lot of cargo and passenger room, advanced technology and safety features, excellent on road performance and fuel economy all at a very reasonable price. That’s something that can be said for the Outback along with the entire line of Subaru product offerings.

If you’re shopping for a crossover or sport utility vehicle or just need room for kids and cargo we highly recommend the Outback.

Vital Stats

Price: $25,645 - $38,195
Price as Tested: $35,260
Seating: 5
Engine: 2.5-liter four cylinder
Horsepower: 175
Fuel Economy: 25-MPG City  - 32-MPG Highway

Fab Features

Superb off-road, snowy X-Mode road assist system
Roomy, comfortable and loaded with standard equipment and features
Excellent fuel economy, value, reliability and resale
Top Safety Pick +

Competes With

Audi Allroad
Fiat 500L
Ford C-Max
Toyota Prius V
Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Volvo V60

— Jim Prueter