The Subaru Outback is a great alternative to a sport-utility vehicle. Offering much better ride and handling than an average SUV plus standard all-wheel drive–which is usually an expensive option on utility vehicles–the Outback will do most of what a crossover can do on a lot less gas. The continuously variable transmission is maintenance-free for the life of the vehicle and uses a chain for greater durability instead of the industry-standard Kevlar belt. We recommend the 3.6-liter engine, because the Outback is a little on the heavy side and merging into traffic with the four-cylinder can be tense as the vehicle takes its time getting up to speed. Subaru is known for its safety features. Stability and traction control are standard across the Outback line. A backup camera is included with the power moonroof option group and displays the image in the rearview mirror, so the camera is available even if you decide to forgo the navigation system. If you do opt for the navigation package, an auto-dimming rearview mirror is one of the benefits. A variety of audio changes take place for 2012, with the optional system on Premium models being the most impressive–now you can tag your favorite tracks on iTunes right from the driver’s seat. As the Outback matures, it should appeal to many more potential buyers.
Trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R, 3.6R Premium, 3.6R Limited
Body style: Wagon, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.5L flat-4, 170 hp, 170 lb-ft
3.6L flat-6, 256 hp, 247 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic, continuously variable
Passenger volume: 102.4-105.4 cu ft
Cargo space: (rear seats up/down) 34.3/71.3 cu ft
Audio changes are the big news for the 2012 Subaru Outback. Premium models now have a standard audio system with a single-disc CD player with MP3/WMA capability, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, iPod and USB connectivity, and six speakers. Available audio enhancements include a 4.3-inch LCD, iTunes tagging, XM satellite radio, and nine speakers, including a subwoofer.
Front, side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control; ABS; electronic brake-force distribution; brake assist; and tire-pressure monitoring are standard. A rearview camera is optional.
All: 18-22 mpg city/25-29 mpg highway
- Versatile hauler
- SUV ground clearance
- Carlike handling
- Cheap-looking interior
- CVT is lifeless
A taller Legacy in wagon form.
- Ford Escape
- GMC Terrain
- Jeep Liberty
- Toyota Highlander