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2012 Subaru Outback

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2012 Subaru Outback Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.0

The 2012 Subaru Outback wagon is the perfect anti-SUV and one of the best-selling wagons in America. It's as agile and efficient as most mid-size sedans, but offers much of the off-road and cargo capability of a larger vehicle. It also offers a raised seating position that some consider a just-right balance between that of a car and an SUV. New from the ground up in 2010, the fifth-generation Outback remains true to its original concept yet enjoys major improvements in refinement, cabin room, fuel economy and flexibility. As with every Subaru, the Outback comes standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, a proven system that allows this rugged wagon to conquer tough terrain and deep snow as confidently as any SUV, while taking to the open road with sport-sedan manners.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you value the capability of an SUV to handle cargo and rough roads, but appreciate high ratings for safety, fuel-efficiency and driving enjoyment, the Outback wagon is likely the best mix of these virtues on the market. Subaru's flat "boxer" engine and all-wheel drive lower the car's center of gravity, for more stable handling.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you need a third-row seat or tow heavy loads, a traditional SUV might be a better fit. If you prefer more carlike styling, consider a Volvo XC70 or Toyota Venza. Not everyone likes the Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that is offered with the 4-cylinder, but it is among the best of its kind.

What's New for 2012

The 2012 Subaru Outback offers a wide range of equipment among its six trim levels. The popular mid-level Premium wagon models add an improved 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth phone and wireless audio streaming plus an iPod connection. The clever standard roof rack with foldaway crossbars is mildly revised.

Driving the Outback

Driving Impressions If fuel economy takes precedent over quick acceleration, the 2012 Subaru Outback's 2.5-liter four with the CVT is your best bet. The 170-horsepower engine has to work a bit, but...

once up to speed the CVT finds and holds the engine's peak torque, providing a good balance of response and efficiency. The CVT does take some getting used to, as there are no discernable gearshifts like a traditional automatic. The standard steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, however, allow the driver to simulate manual gearshifts, for quicker passing and merging. With an estimated 29 mpg highway and an 18-gallon fuel tank, the Outback wagon can cruise over 500 miles before refueling. On the road, the Outback demonstrates an impressive sedan-like feel, in part because the low center of gravity of its powertrain more than offsets its tall bodywork. Steering is precise and predictable, and only some slight wind noise around the roof racks intrudes on the quiet ride.

CVT Automatic
Subaru's take on this fuel-saving transmission uses a metal band instead of a rubber belt, which it claims to improve durability. A paddle-shifted manual mode mimics the shift points of a manual transmission without needing a clutch pedal. Best of all, the CVT's estimated 22 city/29 highway mpg is better than with the 6-speed manual.


Electronic Parking Brake with Hill-Holder Function
The traditional parking brake handle is replaced by a soft-touch push/pull switch on the dash. The electronic brake system includes a feature that holds the brakes for a moment on inclines greater than 5 degrees, for easier takeoffs without unwanted rollback.

2012 Subaru Outback Details
Interior

The roomy, versatile 2012 Subaru Outback cabin is stylishly functional. Responding to owners' desires for more rear-seat room, Subaru added four inches of legroom and nearly three inches of headroom with the 2010 redesign. During our test drive, we comfortably fit three 6-foot adults in the back seat without their knees touching the front seatbacks. Wide front seats and a reclining rear seat further improve comfort, while upscale models offer power driver's-side lumbar support and leather seating. A dash-mounted electronic parking brake frees up console space for water bottles and latte cups. Automatic-transmission models also feature steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Exterior

While previous Subaru Outback generations seemed more like a jacked-up, fender-flared Legacy, the newest models - including the 2012 Outback wagon – take on more personality of their own, with a 3-inch-higher roofline and a better-integrated look of ruggedness. Thick plastic cladding, a raised ride height and 8.7 inches of ground clearance reveal its off-road capability, while beefy black roof rails conceal fold-out crossbars that stow away to reduce drag when not in use. Frameless windows, a former Subaru styling cue that led to some complaints of wind noise, are replaced by fully framed glass, a design that also helps improve body rigidity.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The base Subaru Outback 2.5i features all-wheel drive, a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-inch wheels, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary jack, manual air conditioning, power windows/locks, height-adjustable driver's seat, front side and side-curtain airbags, keyless entry and stability control. A 6-cylinder 3.6R version is similar, though with a 5-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a cargo cover. The 2.5i Premium adds an automatic transmission and 17-inch wheels, while both 2.5i and 3.6R Premium models include a 10-way power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 6-speaker audio with Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity. The 2.5i and 3.6R Limited trims add a front underguard, an All-Weather Package (heated front seats, mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers), plus leather, a power passenger seat, dual-zone climate control and 9-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system.

Optional Equipment

Most options are offered according to trim. The base 2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i offers the CVT automatic, All-Weather Package (heated seats, mirrors and wiper de-icers) and an alloy wheels/foglight package. The 3.6R base trim offers almost no options, not even heated seats (all 3.6R models include a 5-speed conventional automatic). The 2.5i and 3.6R Premium trims offer the harman/kardon audio, All-Weather Package and a moonroof /rearview camera package. Limiteds offer voice-activated navigation with rearview camera and auto-dimming mirrors. Subaru dealers also have a generous selection of accessories, from cargo carriers to a rear-seat entertainment system.

Under the Hood

Subaru offers two boxer engines in the 2012 Outback wagon, a low-profile and naturally balanced design in which the pistons lay flat in a horizontally opposed configuration. The 2.5-liter four delivers 170 horsepower, not best-in-class but enough muscle for satisfactory performance. Equipping this engine with the CVT automatic will produce the best fuel economy, but the 6-speed manual offers sportier performance. The most refined choice for the Outback is the 6-cylinder and 5-speed conventional automatic, whose strong acceleration and passing power come at the expense of fuel efficiency: an estimated 18/25 mpg city/highway (versus the 4-cylinder CVT's 22/29).

2.5-liter boxer-4
170 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
170 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (manual), 22/29 (CVT automatic)

3.6-liter boxer-6
256 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm
247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25

Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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2012 Subaru Outback Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.6
Out of 10

Based on 216 Ratings for the 2010 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.7/10
    Quality
    8.8/10
  • Reliability
    9.1/10
    Performance
    8.5/10
  • Comfort
    8.7/10
    Styling
    8.6/10

My 1st Subaru, certainly not the last!

By on Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 92,500

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Easy to drive, relaxing"

Cons: "Blind spots in rear view mirrors"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"This vehicle does better on wet/snow/ice roads than any I have ever owned. Changing lanes on an interstate in snow is not a gut wrenching experience. Excellent handling in all adverse conditions."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

Great quality and value for the price

By on Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Amazing gas mileage, smooth drive"

Cons: "HD radio does not always work great."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I was a little skeptical buying a Subaru since I have never owned one and ended up at a Subaru dealership from a recommendation from a friend who had family that worked there. I had not done my research like I usually like to do but somehow still ended up buying this car. Best decision I have made. I get AMAZING gas mileage, drives well and I have been nothing but happy since I bought this. HD Radio is a little finicky at times and I do wish it was a little bit bigger for my growing family but both of those are pretty minor complaints. I do wish Subaru made a larger SUV since I seeing myself needing something larger in a few years but maybe by then they will have something like that. I have a very large car seat in the middle of the back seat and 2 adults can still sit comfortably beside it if needed. I see this Subaru lasting a very long time and even my husband who is very picky really loves driving it."

2 people out of 3 found this review helpful

Great Car.

By on Friday, December 05, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 62,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Rugged and reliable!"

Cons: "Cup holders."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Super reliable. Never had a problem. Love how much I can stuff inside this car and it actually seems to love hills, snow and back/dirt roads. Super reliable heated seats. Starts without a hitch in zero temps. Great AC too for summer months. Awesome sun roof. Great for sporty types who want a good looking car but also want to stuff it with gear. Came with two sets of mats, rubber (washable) and rug like. Could use better center-console cup holders, they are hard to access when driving and the sound system is good but not great."

3 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Exceeds expectations in all categories

By on Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "See complete review above"

Cons: "See complete review above"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Attractive vehicle to look at; like it better than the 2015s. Exceeded EPA estimates of city/highway mileage of 22/29-was able to get 24/32 using synthetic oil. Very roomy interior and cargo capacity is enormous especially with rear seats folded down. Worst feature is the ride is somewhat soft and floating, but easy enough to become accustomed to. Heated seats are wonderful in the cold weather or if you have lower back issues."

3 people out of 5 found this review helpful

Solid and reliable

By on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Little or no additional costs to operate"

Cons: "2.5 L engine could use more acceleration."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Had this car for almost 3 years. Plan on keeping it for at least another 5 years. 2 gripes. Wish I had gone with the 6 cyl for more power and driver convenience space around shifter could be increased for placement of wallet, phone etc. Still would highly recommend to anyone."

8 people out of 11 found this review helpful

Love my Outback!

By on Monday, November 03, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"We just traded in 2 Toyota's, after owning Toyota's for over 30 years, to get the Outback. We LOVE this car. I feel like Toyota's quality has been declining over the past few years and we finally decided to make the switch. My husband had leased an Outback on a trip last year and was determined that was going to be our next car. I can't tell you how many recall notices I've received the past year or two on the Toyota's. Plus, the interior is far more impressive on the Outback than it was on either one of our other Toyota's. Looking forward to driving this car for a long time!"

14 people out of 18 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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