Months in fleet: Five
Miles to date: 8993 miles
Winter still hasn't quite yet released its grip from Michigan, but our Four Seasons Subaru Outback 3.6R doesn't mind one bit, what with its Yokohama winter tires, all-wheel drive, and lots of ground clearance.
Senior Web editor Phil Floraday faced some ominous conditions in his journey to the Chicago auto show, with forecasts predicting ten inches of snow during his trip. Once he returned safely to his desk in Ann Arbor, Floraday reported: "In deep snow, the Outback is simply brilliant. I tackled what seemed to be at least a foot of snow at the entrance to the alley near my house, and the Outback easily slogged through it. Driving on completely unplowed pavement like the third lane of I-75 during a blizzard is no different than driving on dry pavement."
But it wasn't all fun and winter games. "When the roads are clear or just icy," Floraday continued, "the car isn't as good. These Yokohama winter tires cause the Outback to wander all over, and the complete lack of steering feel made my drive home from Chicago quite tedious. I had to make too many corrections to keep the car on course at speeds only in the 70-to-75-mph range."
After his trip, Floraday had mixed feelings overall: "There's something very cool about the idea of an Outback since it can pretty much do anything you might imagine, aside from tow heavy trailers or haul extremely bulky objects. However, this Outback feels entirely too boring and generic for me to really enjoy spending time in it."
"The new Outback is one of those vehicles that highlights how sharply typical Americans can differ from us enthusiasts in their preferences," said assistant editor David Zenlea. "I find the previous-generation Outback (my mom owns a 2009) to be a much, much superior vehicle in the way it drives, and I think it already offered more than enough utility. But the sales charts indicate that this new model is far and away more popular."
Technical editor Don Sherman is also lukewarm to the Outback: "Nicely executed interior. Well laid out, high-quality plastics, credible faux wood, perforated vinyl, and textured plastic that resembles metal. Plenty of room for five plus luggage. This hauler does fulfill much of the typical family mission.
"So this is a nicely oiled, highly practical appliance," Sherman continued. "Unfortunately, the fun-to-drive gene is weak or nonexistent. Two specifics: the steering isn't sufficiently precise to laser you down the road at cruise velocity; and immediately off-center, there's a notch in the feel/effort curve when the power assist is triggered."
We'll see if the Outback fares any better once its all-season tires are reinstalled and the weather warms up.
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