<strong>Months in fleet: Nine
Miles to date: 25,916
As the Outback enters the homestretch of its stay at Automobile Magazine, it continues to be a viable workhorse. Senior web editor Phil Floraday was impressed with the Subaru's ability to haul three dogs of varying sizes plus himself and his better half.
"We buckled the pug in the back seat and let the coonhound and the Rottweiler lie down in the cargo area," Floraday noted after his trip. "The rubber mat came in handy back there to minimize the amount of dog hair that needed to be vacuumed up. Cargo space disappeared pretty quickly with the dogs loaded, but the two larger pooches had enough room to sleep comfortably. Subaru's Dog Guard accessory would have been a nice feature to help secure the big dogs in case of an accident, though."
"The wagon allows for long cargo, like fishing poles, to be carried easily by placing them in the middle of the car and using the full, dash-to-tailgate length. Sadly, though, the Outback's handling isn't much different from any comparable crossover's. I know I'm one of the few people in the world who wants a Legacy wagon, but it would fit my wants and needs better than an Outback. If you want a jacked-up ride, why not get a Forester?"
Well-chronicled identity crisis aside, the Outback suited associate web editor Jeffrey Jablansky's human-hauling needs as well.
"Last night, I shuttled four friends between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, " he reported, "and came away impressed with how much room is in the back. Subaru has done a commendable job of producing a larger Outback while keeping proportions in check. There was no problem for the three guys sitting in back, in terms of comfort. Plus, they were aching for cold A/C after two rounds of laser tag, and they claimed that the cold air reached all areas of the back seat."
Jablansky was less enamored of the view out: "I'm not a huge fan of the outward visibility. The D-pillars are far too wide for easy reversing, and the combination of blacked-out rear windows and thicker-than-necessary B-pillars make it difficult to judge by sight. The backup camera is helpful but lacks trajectory assistance. Perhaps we've become spoiled ..."
Editor-in-chief Jean Jennings felt pretty spoiled in the Outback, during a recent trip to New York City. "Having just stepped off a flight from Paris only to jump into the Subaru for the 650-plus miles to NYC, I can say that the passenger seat reclines flatter than the Airbus's business-class seat and is 100 percent more comfy to snooze in," she wrote after her husband Tim chauffeured her through Ohio and into Pennsylvania. "I took the wheel in the Allegheny Mountains in the dark, and it took a while to adjust to the steering, though. It's hard to keep in your lane without focused attention and has annoying off-center nonlinearity.
"No, this isn't a tossable, fun buggy," Jennings continued, "but at 80 mph, a quick call for passing power on an uphill grade is rewarded with a big dose of power with no hesitation -- a great feeling when you're swimming in a sea of semis."
Hauling stuff or hauling ass, the Four Seasons Outback 3.6R has been a pretty fine companion through its first three seasons with us. We'll see what the next few months bring.
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: 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
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 Equip Group 1a (auto-dim mirror/compass, security system shock sensor), $326
Sirius satellite kit, $461
All-weather floor mats, $69