Crossover SUV Comparison: 2010 Subaru Outback, 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander, and 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Just over a year ago, Subaru was a niche automaker known for quirky vehicles that often lacked direct competitors. Led by the Forester for 2009 and then with the Legacy sedan and Outback wagon for 2010, Subaru's product offerings have recently fallen in line with mainstream markets. Sales are still small in comparison to Honda, Toyota, and Nissan, but the company's products have proven to have serious appeal. While the auto industry hemorrhaged sales in 2009, Subaru's volume and market share increased.

Subaru's recent and rapid ascension to the big leagues has undeniably brought the company success, but it also threatens Subaru loyalists craving something unique. To examine how Subaru has evolved, we collected the compact crossover segment's two farthest outliers, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Suzuki Grand Vitara, to pit them against the Subaru Outback. We had two questions: Do Mitsubishi and Suzuki have something to learn from Subaru's success? And has the Outback's move toward the mainstream undermined individuality and character?

All of our test vehicles were top-trim models with six-cylinder engines and all-wheel drive, and were equipped with leather, navigation, and keyless ignition. Each had the badge of a low-volume Japanese automaker on the tailgate, yet philosophically, these are three very different crossovers.

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bob_adams
I love that the Outback is still basically a wagon. It would fit my needs for a family hauler, flyrod holder etc. And you don't have to step up on footboards to get into the thing. But when I got into one, looked at the dashboard and asked the saleman where the temperature gauge was ..... and he said there wasn't one but it had this nifty MPG gauge! Needless to say I was dumbfounded. No temperature gauge on a $25-$35,000 car? I get miffed getting into pickup trucks without voltmeters, oil pressure gauges and transmission oil temp gauges. Idiot lights are for idiots. Subaru design management must think I'm an idiot. Sorry Subaru, sale lost.
etingwall
@bob_adams I agree that the lack of a temperature gauge is a significant oversight on Subaru's part. I also agree that analog, instantaneous MPG gauges are largely useless. In fact, they're a distraction.
bob_adams
I've been shopping for a replacement for my 1992 Volvo 240 S/W. I love this rear wheel drive car with room enough to put a 9 ft flyrod in without breaking it down everytime a drive to a new spot on the river. But she's getting long in the tooth. And even though I drive her everyday to work but I want something I can absolutely trust to use on long trips with the family.So I was interested in the Outback. But I won't buy one. You know why? Subaru doesn't put a temperature gauge in any of their cars. They put this instantaneous MPG gauge in its space. Inquirying minds might want to know. Since this test mentioned how soft the ride is on the Outback maybe Subaru put that MPG gauge in there for the soccer mom. They might be the only type of driver that would be interested in that sort of thing. Are the moving away from their original target market and headed mainstream?

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