<b>Months in fleet: Three
Miles to date: 5260 miles
At the end of the last update on our Four Seasons Subaru Outback 3.6R, senior editor Joe Lorio commandeered the vehicle and took it home to New York. Ten hours of seat time followed by three weeks in his driveway gave him lots of time to evaluate the car.
"With the Yokohama winter tires installed, steering precision is wanting and there's also a fair bit of body motion," Lorio noted, echoing driver comments from when the car wore its stock all-season Continental rubber. "I suspect it's a consequence of the relatively tall ride height and the long-travel suspension. Buyers who aren't headed off-road (the vast majority, I imagine) would benefit from a lower-riding-suspension option with firmer dampening, one that would be more buttoned-down during highway use. But I suppose one could argue that Subaru tried that before--offering a Legacy wagon alongside the Outback--and people were too dumb to buy it."
"Anyway," Lorio continued, "the driving position is pretty good, and outward visibility is better than in most crossovers. The boxer six may be a bit much for this car, but it is nice to have power to spare, and I prefer the six's conventional automatic to the CVT that comes with the standard four-cylinder. That said, a sixth gear seems like a given in this price class, so Subaru is one gear short. I'd also prefer shift paddles that can be used without first moving the gear lever to manual mode."
Once the Subaru settled into the Lorio household, Joe found it to be an appropriate wintertime companion. "New York had its first snow of the season - wet, greasy stuff - and the Yokohama winter tires proved very grippy," Lorio wrote in the Outback's logbook. "It's hard to get them to break traction even when you're trying. That was very reassuring given the steep hills around here."
"In this part of New York State," he added, "Subaru Outbacks are everywhere. Most are the previous-generation car. Park next to one, and you can really see the difference from the last Outback. The new one is a lot taller (4.1 inches) and wider (2.0 inches). It's hard to notice, but it's not quite as long as the old Outback (0.8 inch shorter). In this part of the country, wagons are still popular, even prestigious. The Volvo Cross Country, Audi Avant, and Mercedes-Benz E-class wagons are widely seen. The previous Outback was clearly a part of the wagon set; physically at least, the new one tends to blend into the crossover crowd."
As December wound down, the Lorio crowd headed back to Michigan. "Three weeks after driving the Outback to New York, I drove it back to Michigan," Joe noted. "This time, I had two passengers as well as a hefty load of luggage and Christmas booty: three roller bags (one regular, one compact, one kid-size), one monster duffle, one six-bottle wine box, one laptop box, one briefcase, four shopping bags full of gifts, and a partridge in a pear tree. Everything fit, but there was some double layering. Still, I could see out the windows, so it was a pretty impressive performance."
"On the drive itself, I again wished for more steering precision and better body control, particularly when we got caught up in the holiday rush and were cranking along at 85 to 90 mph on the rolling hills and curves of I-80 in western Pennsylvania. The flat six, though, never wanted for power, and the transmission never hunted for gears. We averaged an indicated 22.5 mpg for the all-highway trip."
"My rear-seat passengers loved the generous legroom and the comfortable, reclining seats. Whereas last time I found the driver's seat awkward, this time I sat for hours without squirming. Big enough but not too big, not enthralling to drive but not a penalty box, either - the Outback overall is certainly an able road-trip machine."
Now that our Subaru Outback 3.6R is back at Automobile Magazine's headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we'll see how it does on shorter trips and in the dead of winter.
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: 225/60RR-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 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 Equip Group 1a (auto-dim mirror/compass, security system shock sensor), $326
Sirius satellite kit, $461
All-weather floor mats, $69