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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

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2012 Subaru Outback Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.5
Out of 10

Based on 204 Ratings for the 2010 - 2015 models.

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

Pleasantly Surprised

By on Saturday, October 18, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
6/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Great gas mileage, responsive on highway"

Cons: "handling -- bouncy in rear"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"Bought 2011 premium with CVT transmission with 35,000 miles in March of 2014. Car currently has over 41,000. I have taken it on a two out of state road trips with each trip averaging over 500 miles round trip. Car handles really nice on the road. Super responsive when you need it to be. Great gas mileage. I am still getting used to the sound and behavior of the cvt transmission. My only gripe with this vehicle is the handling in corners. The rear end is bouncy and at times just seem plain unstable. I don't know if it is fair to compare the handling to my volvo, but the handling just doesn't compare."

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

Incredible for a 4 banger!

By on Friday, September 26, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,202

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Big back-up camera screen; incredible leg room"

Cons: "None!"

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

"Just a very fun SUV for Oregon mountains. Handles exceptionally well (I've had many sports cars and like this better on curvy mountain roads). Only complaints are inadequate interior lights; Zero/20 motor oil which disappeared at 1 quart each 3000 miles until I changed to 5w20. I own bigger 4wd vehicles but none approach this drive ability or comfort. Dual power heated leather seats are nice too. I get 31 mpg overall but My wife gets only 25! Crash test ratings have been exceptional as well."

6 people out of 7 found this review helpful

Piece of junk

By on Saturday, September 20, 2014

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

10 2.0
overall rating 2 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
2/10
Value
6/10
Reliability
2/10
Quality
4/10
Performance
1/10
Styling
2/10
Comfort
1/10

Cons: "too many blind spots, needs a GPS, front camera"

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

"transmission problems when I took it home from dealer (new car) . Blind spots make it dangerous to drive on freeway. Lights on dash cannot be seen in daylight needs a camera on front or some warning light to tell you when you are close. Second row seats SHOULD fold down to make cargo area flat but they don't, hence lost cargo space. I won't buy another Subaru"

5 people out of 17 found this review helpful

Go anywhere rain, snow or ice

By on Monday, September 15, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 71,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Comfort and gas mileage"

Cons: "Non"

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

"Very comfortable on the freeway, gets 28-30 on the road, eats up snow! Better driver ergo than my new BMW X3."

6 people out of 7 found this review helpful

A good car!

By on Saturday, September 13, 2014

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

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
9/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"I have had my Subaru for about 8 months. Overall I am very happy. The only real problem I found is the doors, especially the back door. It looks like it's closed, but isn't. This can cause the alarm to go off. When I took it to the dealership because of this, I was given a lesson in shutting it!!! Apparently two hands is best. What happens if you have groceries, or a dog, or both?? I have got better at closing the door, although now and again it happens."

2 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Reliability problems with the CVT

By on Sunday, September 07, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 66,000

10 4.0
overall rating 4 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
4/10
Value
4/10
Reliability
4/10
Quality
4/10
Performance
7/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Great in snow, good mpg, inexpensive"

Cons: "Unreliable CVT transmission, $$ maintainance"

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

"I loved this car. It's great in the snow, comfortable to drive, and a good value. That is, until the valve body in the CVT failed at 66k miles. The dealer and SOA have told me they have no interest in helping me out with the repair since I hadn't brought the car in to have the CVT fluid inspected at 30k or 60k. The manual only states it should be inspected at those intervals, and only recommends replacement under severe driving conditions. Fluid replacement costs ~$270 cause it's not really a DIY thing! I expect that kind of crazy maintainance requirement from a high performance sports car or a vehicle used for heavy duty work but not an every day driver/commuter car. I had been told the fluid was only supposed to require early replacement under severe driving conditions, but I don't drive in the city, don't live in the mountains, and have never towed or hauled anything with this car. Silly me for thinking I could maintain the car myself and replace the fluid around 70-80k like I have with all my previous Auto transmission vehicles. They should either update the owner manual to specify CVT fluid replacement at 30k even under normal driving conditions or they should admit that this failure is unusual and help me out with the repair since I'm only 6k miles out of warranty. Otherwise, they shouldn't be surprised when I say that I don't consider the CVT to be reliable and can't recommend this car to others. It's sad cause I have really loved the Subarus that I have owned in the past."

4 people out of 7 found this review helpful

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