Months in fleet: Two
Miles to date: 2788
The first month with our nicely loaded Four Seasons Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited was quite pleasant. Winter weather held off through November, and the staff of Automobile Magazine took a liking to the vehicle's extreme comfort and expansive space but registered some complaints about the Subaru's technology interfaces and somewhat floaty suspension.
Associate editor Eric Tingwall noted in the car's logbook: "The Outback's strength is comfort. The ride is absolutely wonderful, isolating Michigan's cruel road surfaces with beautiful dampening. I still think Subaru is a bit behind with regard to interior styling, but the seats are quite plush and the driving position is comfortable."
Executive editor Joe DeMatio echoed Tingwall's comments on the Outback's comfortable confines: "Additional rear-seat room, versus the previous Outback, is most welcome. It allowed me to squeeze my 87-year-old mother, my 18-year-old nephew, and an 89-year-old aunt into the back seat with relative ease, leaving room for my 65-year-old cousin to ride shotgun. And thus our multigenerational clan set off for lunch at the Willow Tree Restaurant in West Branch, Michigan."
DeMatio drove the Outback to West Branch on the Subaru's first weekend with us, and the five-hour round trip gave him plenty of time to appraise the car's behavior on the highway. He wasn't completely pleased, writing, "The Outback wanders slightly on the freeway. A bit more body control and steering feel would be welcome, and the car could be more tied down in the handling department, too. It's shod with Continental all-season tires, not some off-road-ready knobby things, so this is somewhat puzzling."
Since then we've outfitted our Subaru with Yokohama Ice Guard iG20 winter tires in stock size. The tires perform great in the snow and ice but do nothing to help the Subaru's floaty feel on the highway.
During his family weekend with the Outback, DeMatio also made use of the car's standard Bluetooth phone connection. "The sound quality was very good," he noted. "I called my sister in Texas, and my mother--who was sitting in the back seat--had no problem carrying on a conversation with her."
Tingwall was perplexed by the car's Bluetooth audio connection, though. "The Bluetooth systems are quite wonky," he offered in a lengthy diatribe. "Connecting a phone and making calls is fairly straightforward. But if you want to stream Bluetooth audio (because iPods are so 2008), you'll have to connect your phone a second time. Moreover, every time you get into the car, you'll have to make two connections if you want to stream audio and talk on the phone."
Before other Ann Arbor staff members could log any more comments on the Outback, senior editor Joe Lorio drove it home to New York under cover of stormy night in early December. Check back next month to find out how the Outback fared on its wintry trips out east and back.
2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Base price (with destination): $31,690
Price as tested: $35,541
Body Style: 4-door wagon
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
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: Yokohama Ice Guard iG20 (winter)
Tire Size: 225/60R-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
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
Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
Option Package 08 (power moonroof, voice-activated navigation system, auxiliary audio USB/iPod input, backup camera, Bluetooth audio capability), $2995
Popular Equipment Group 1a (auto-dim mirror/compass, security system shock sensor), $326
Sirius satellite kit, $461
All-weather floor mats, $69