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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 264 Ratings for the 2010 - 2014 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.7/10
    Quality
    8.6/10
  • Reliability
    9.0/10
    Performance
    8.4/10
  • Comfort
    8.6/10
    Styling
    8.5/10

Great all-around rig

By on Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Value, space, awd system, economy"

Cons: "Dated infotainment, stability control undefeatable"

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

"Bought this car after many years with a Ford Escape Hybrid. There is literally nothing on the market comparable in size to the Outback that can touch its fuel economy. I have not experienced any of the oil consumption issues, but did have initial problems with the tensioner pulley at 10k. Otherwise super reliable. Love that the rear seats fold without removal of headrests but wish they formed a fully flat load floor and also notice that while the cargo area is sizable, it isn't as tall as my Escape - the full-size dog kennel scrapes the roof where the 3rd seatbelt sticks out. The infotainment works well but pales in comparison to Sync from Ford when it comes to options, I'd imagine the new Starlink system introduced in 2015 is a big improvement. I would absolutely buy another Outback, especially if Ford never builds the Escape Hybrid again!"

Failed Timing Belt

By on Friday, June 3, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,000

10 1.0
overall rating 1 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
1/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
Not Rated
Quality
2/10
Performance
3/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
6/10

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

"Timing belt was worn at 50,000 miles. Replaced. 1 year later timing belt failed, and now have engine with no compression. So I would not recommend the 4-V Subaru engine to anyone. If you have one make sure you get the tensioner and all the parts associated with the timing belt changed when you change the timing belt. Also get YOUR TIMING BELT CHECKED EARLIER THAN THE RECOMMENDATION FROM SUBARU. Engine rebuild will cost me 5000."

2 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Love the room but not the oil consumption

By on Thursday, May 26, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Great value, good gas mileage, lots of room"

Cons: "OIL CONSUMPTION"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5

"I purchased this vehicle for the family since my son does travel hockey. Has a lot of room for gear and gets decent gas mileage. But every 2000 miles, I have to put a quart of oil into the engine. So to me this is not a reliable car since I have to make sure I keep a quart of oil in the car at all times. I have discussed this with the service reps and they told me it's the boxer engine. If this is true, why does my wife's Empreza does not have the same problem. I have owned numerous cars in the past and I have never had a new car with oil consumption issues. At this point, I would not recommend this car if ALL the Outbacks burn through oil. In fact, I am at the point of considering trading the car into the dealership."

3 people out of 3 found this review helpful

Best Car I've Owned

By on Monday, May 16, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000

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
9/10
Comfort
10/10

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

"This Outback has been outstanding overall for performance and reliability. The 3.6L six cyl engine is very quiet and has excellent torque -- very quick in acceleration, both from standing start and for passing on highway. At steady highway speeds easily gets 28-30 mpg. The all-wheel drive makes it very stable and secure on wet roads. At 5 years the seats are still very comfortable and interior has remained in excellent condition and appearance. Very satisfied in almost every way."

4 people out of 11 found this review helpful

Poor dealer repair service. Quality not great!

By on Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 64,000

10 3.0
overall rating 3 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
3/10
Value
3/10
Reliability
3/10
Quality
3/10
Performance
3/10
Styling
5/10
Comfort
3/10

Pros: "Good interior space. Smooth ride"

Cons: "Too many problems"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3

"Have 2010 2.5i Outback since new. The ride is smooth but my gas mileage has lowered in the last 20K or so. I don't race and keep oil changed regularly. Quality of the car is only ok probably since it's US assembly. The hatch is very hard to close. The driver head rest is extremely uncomfortable. Thrusting head forward giving neck pain. Like other owner reports, car kept stalling around 30K. Dealer didn't know how to fix it, kept reprogramming the computer. Finally after 3 try, went to another dealer. They replaced the cam sensor. This should not have happen that early. I believe is defective part. At 60K, car hesitated on acceleration and throttle intake needed cleaning. I owned many other Japanese, none of those cars needing this done and all ran smoothly. Subaru is high maintenance. Dealer requires much more work than owner's manual stated. They also do not train their mechanic properly. Sloppy oil change, spill oil all over my engine block causing bad burnt smell. I will be replacing this car soon. Hopefully resell value is ok."

Superb vehicle

By on Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,000

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
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Holds the road; high resale price."

Cons: "No focused rear reading lights; make it bigger!"

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

"The worst thing I could say about this vehicle is Subaru should have put in focused reading lights in back and shielded the front interior overhead lights from the driver. At 48000 miles the wheels are still in alignment despite bumps and curbs and the tires still have lots of tread. I have gotten up to 36 MPG on road trips, but drive it faster most of the time and the overall MPG has been 25, as Subaru claims. Nothing has needed replacing except one headlight bulb and one tail bulb. I had larger SUVs prior to the Outback (Yukon XL, Several Mitsubishi Montero Sports) and wish Subaru made one Yukon size. I remain a Montero Sport fan and recently rented one in Costa Rica. That would be my preferred vehicle, but Mitsubishi quit selling them in the USA years ago."

5 people out of 6 found this review helpful

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