<strong>Months in fleet: Ten
Miles to date: 29,648
The northern reaches of Michigan are no Australian Outback, but our Four Seasons Subaru Outback has recently proven to be a popular companion for visits to the region that Michiganders affectionately call "Up North."
Associate editor Eric Tingwall was highly impressed with the Subaru's ability as a support vehicle for Michigan's recent Great Lakes Relay, a three-day, 270-mile running race that took ten-person teams from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. "The entire weekend is practically a Subaru commercial," Tingwall observed, "as the cars leapfrog the runners down dirt roads, through narrow two-tracks, and into a few fields getting from exchange to exchange. After three days, the Subaru was coated in a thick layer of dust inside and out. The interior was littered with Gu packets, empty water bottles, and sweat-soaked clothes.
"Over washboard dirt roads," Tingwall continued, "the Subaru's soft suspension really shined. On these nasty road surfaces, the Outback did a great job damping the violent vibrations. While our two other (older) support vehicles rattled like paperclips in a blender, the Subaru felt composed and solidly assembled. My friend Scott had brought along his mid-2000s Ford Explorer but was more often found behind the wheel of the Outback going on about how much he liked the Subaru's driving position and comfort.
"Also, the Outback easily swallowed four sleeping bags, four small duffels, a large water cooler, and a box of food every morning with room for more. As much as my colleagues and I might complain about the Subaru's floaty demeanor, it actually makes for an excellent road-trip car. On Sunday night, four of us made the four-hour trip home in complete comfort. My passengers had each run between 30 and 50 miles in the previous three days, so the generous legroom and pillowlike seats were much appreciated. Drama-free miles were soaked up quickly as the relaxed ride and the potent engine worked in surprising harmony. The only complaint was the lack of air vents for rear-seat passengers. We frequently lowered the temperature up front to uncomfortable levels so the rear occupants weren't too warm."
Tingwall concluded his recap by revealing plans to return north the following weekend - this time with kayaks mounted to the roof of the highly useful Outback.
Not long after Tingwall finally relinquished the keys, senior web editor Phil Floraday found himself driving our Subaru back to northern Michigan, where he and some coworkers tested the off-road abilities of the Subaru and its Audi Q5 and Acura ZDX Four Seasons fleet mates.
"I found the Outback to be the most comfortable of the three crossovers we tested off-road," Floraday reported after returning to Ann Arbor. "That soft suspension does a lot when the road becomes a pair of ruts. I appreciate the simplicity of Subaru's all-wheel-drive system but really wish that Subaru would let drivers disable all electronic supervision. Nonetheless, a pair of ATVs showed up while we finished our photo shoot, and the riders looked very surprised to see an Outback on the trail. For that reason alone, I'd be happy to drive an Outback if I regularly needed to tackle light off-roading and Michigan's seasonal roads to get to remote recreational areas."
Appropriately, Automobile Magazine's long-term Subaru Outback has carried us to all manner of recreational hotspots in its first ten months with us, and it is highly unlikely that the compact SUV will sit idle during its final weeks in our garage.
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, $2995
Voice-activated navigation system
Auxiliary audio USB/iPod input
Bluetooth audio capability)
Popular Equip Group 1a, $326
Security system shock sensor
Sirius satellite kit, $461
All-weather floor mats, $69