New Car Reviews

2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited – Four Seasons Update – September 2010

Long-Term 2010 Subaru Outback Update: Summer 2010 ( 1 of 5 ) Miles to date: 0

Months in fleet: Ten
Miles to date: 32,650

Our Four Seasons Subaru Outback 3.6R continues to rack up the miles, even though it’s one of the oldest test cars at our disposal and will leave our garage in just two months.

The Subie recently went on a different kind of road trip — or, at least, one on a different kind of road. Accompanied two other Four Seasons cars — the Acura ZDX and the Audi Q5 — on a field trip to northern Michigan to do some off-roading, which we described last month.

The transit stages north allowed assistant editor David Zenlea to get some seat time in the Outback. “This might be the first time I’ve gotten the Subaru keys since the winter tires came off back in April, and I’d say the tire switch has made a definite improvement in ride and handling,” he said. “Nonetheless, the lack of body control remains this Outback’s biggest weakness. I also noticed a small rattle that hadn’t existed before, but otherwise this Subaru feels as good as new. The navigation system, though, is simply awful — slow, hard to use, and dated.”

These comments echoed the recent critiques of several staff members.

Associate editor Eric Tingwall: “The Subaru’s nav system left me unimpressed this weekend. On one leg of the journey, I got behind a friend who’d programmed our destination into a Garmin. I set the same address in the Subaru, and it predicted a travel time of more than an hour, which I knew was far too long. So instead of heeding the Subaru’s directions, I followed the Garmin and we arrived in less than thirty minutes. I later checked and verified that the Subaru was set to use all types of roads. Seems like there are simply very bad routing algorithms.”

Associate web editor Evan McCausland: “As a train geek, I was impressed that Subaru’s navigation display shows the defunct connection between the Ann Arbor Railroad and the Norfolk Southern (ex-Michigan Central) line next to the Huron River; I’m fairly certain that line hasn’t existed for a good ten to twenty years. Sadly, the road listings seem to be equally out of date: the map display told me that Sunset Road would prove to be a shortcut to Main Street right by M-14, when in reality, it was little more than someone’s crudely constructed dirt driveway. Whoops.”

Senior web editor Phil Floraday: “I would never buy a Subaru with this navigation system. The maps offer too much detail if you zoom in or not enough detail if you zoom out more than a few tenths of a mile. There’s no good way to see where you’re generally headed and look for an alternative route around a traffic backup without a lot of zooming in and out. Strangely, though, the Outback’s nav system works remarkably well off-road: the car can give your GPS coordinates and display your position on a map at the same time.”

Crossing the 30,000-mile mark, we took our Subaru in to the local dealer for a service. We walked out with a bill for $527.54. Ouch. What is involved for such a steep price? A tire rotation, an oil and filter change, a transmission and brake fluid change, and spark plug replacement.

This may seem like an abundance of negative commentary, but the fact that the navigation system is the biggest source of the complaints about the Outback tells you that we’re pretty satisfied overall. After all, buyers can easily skip the navigation system — part of a $2995 option package that unfortunately also includes Bluetooth connectivity, the sunroof, the backup camera, and the USB/iPod inputs.

In any case, given the Outback’s nearly 33,000 miles, the weak navigation system clearly hasn’t prevented many Automobile Magazine staff members from finding their way to numerous destinations across the eastern United States.

2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited

Base price (with destination): $31,690
Price as tested: $35,541

Body Style: 4-door wagon
Accommodation: 5-passenger
Construction: Steel unibody

Engine: 24-valve DOHC flat-6
Displacement: 3.6 liters
Power: 256 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 247 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Fuel economy: 18/25/20 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock-to-lock: 3.2
Turning Circle: 36.8 ft
Suspension, front: Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Control arms, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Ventilated discs, ABS
Wheels: 17-inch aluminum
Tires: Continental ContiProContact (all-season)
Tire Size: 225/60TR-17

Headroom F/R: 38.7/39.3 in
Legroom F/R: 43.0/37.8 in
Shoulder room F/R: 56.3/56.1 in
Hip room F/R: 54.5/53.9 in
Wheelbase: 107.9 in
L x W x H: 188.2 x 71.7 x 65.7 in
Track F/R: 61.0/61.0 in
Cargo Capacity: 34.3/71.3 cu ft (rear seats up/down)
Weight: 3658 lb
Fuel Capacity: 18.5 gal
Est. Range: 370 miles
Fuel Grade: 87 octane

Standard Equipment
Stability control
Front, side, and side curtain air bags
Tire-pressure monitoring system
Power windows, mirrors, and door locks
Ten-way power driver’s seat; four-way power front-passenger seat
Heated front seats, sideview mirrors, and wiper de-icer
Leather-trimmed upholstery
Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
Trip computer

Option Package 08 (power moonroof, voice-activated navigation system, auxiliary audio USB/iPod input, backup camera, Bluetooth audio capability), $2995
Popular Equip Group 1a (auto-dim mirror/compass, security system shock sensor), $326
Sirius satellite kit, $461
All-weather floor mats, $69