By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.9
Though it was originally promoted as the "world's first sport utility wagon," the 2013 Subaru Outback is more SUV than wagon, and that's a good thing. It's as spacious and capable as a conventional mid-size SUV, but delivers the fuel efficiency and driving characteristics of a sedan. The Outback also provides the all-weather mobility afforded by Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive and an elevated seating position for a more commanding view of the road. Competing vehicles such as the Toyota Venza, Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox each excel in particular categories, but the 4th-generation Outback's balanced blend of on- and off-road proficiency offers a unique flavor in an otherwise well-defined category.
Few vehicles on the market can equal the Subaru Outback's ability to conquer tough terrain while simultaneously delivering carlike fuel economy. Safety buffs will appreciate its perfect crash test marks and the availability of the segment-exclusive EyeSight driver assistance system.
Those who wish to tow more than 3,000-pounds or frequently carry more than five passengers should begin their search for a new vehicle with a conventional mid-size SUV like the Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Highlander or the Honda Pilot. And if all-wheel drive is of little importance in your next SUV, consider the smaller, less expensive Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5.
The Subaru Outback receives a fairly significant mid-cycle refresh for 2013. Chief among the changes are a modified body structure and suspension, which result in less body roll and reduced interior noise. Additional refinements include new audio systems, a restyled front end, and a new 4-cylinder engine that is both more powerful and fuel efficient.
Driving Impressions If fuel economy takes precedent over quick acceleration, the 2013 Subaru Outback's 2.5-liter four with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is your best bet. The 173-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 discernible 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 30 mpg highway and an 18-gallon fuel tank, the Outback can cruise well 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.
CONTINUOUSLY VARIABLE AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION (CVT)
Subaru's take on the popular, fuel-saving transmission-without-gears features a paddle-shifted manual mode that mimics the shift points of a manual transmission without needing a clutch pedal. Best of all, the Outback CVT's estimated 24 city/30 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 five degrees, for easier takeoffs without unwanted rollback.
The roomy, versatile 2013 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 the upscale Limited and Premium trims 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 Outback – 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. The Outback's exterior styling looks even sleeker for 2013 thanks to new headlights, a redesigned front bumper and a more prominent grille.
The 2013 Subaru Outback is offered in five trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R and 3.6R Limited. Base 2.5i models feature all-wheel drive, a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-inch steel wheels with covers, roof rails and a 4-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and a USB port for portable music players. Moving up to the Premium trim adds alloy wheels, fog lights, a 10-way power driver's seat, and two additional speakers, while range-topping Limited versions include leather seating, dual-zone climate control and 440-watt harman/kardon sound system. Safety equipment consists of six airbags, all of the expected electronic stability controls, and Subaru's new EyeSight driver-assistance system, which includes an adaptive cruise control system that automatically maintains a preset distance between the vehicle ahead, pre-collision braking, and lane-departure warning to alert drivers of an unintentional lane change.
Most options for the Subaru Outback are dependent on trim level. The CVT automatic transmission is the lone option on the base 2.5i, with Premium and Limited models offering a Power Moonroof Package comprised of an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear backup camera and – you guessed it – a power moonroof. Limited models offer voice-activated navigation, the aforementioned EyeSight safety system and a Special Appearance Package with metallic gray exterior adornments, wood-grain-style interior trim and keyless access with push-button start. Given the standard audio system's marginally adequate sound quality, we suggest upgrading to the available 9-speaker harman/kardon setup.
Subaru offers two boxer engines in the 2013 Outback. What's a boxer engine? Glad you asked: It's a low-profile and naturally balanced design in which the pistons lay flat in a horizontally opposed configuration. The new 2.5-liter four delivers 173 horsepower, not best-in-class but enough muscle for satisfactory performance. Matching 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 3.6-liter 6-cylinder and its conventional 5-speed 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 24/30).
173 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
174 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg (manual), 24/30 mpg (automatic)
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 mpg
By UTAH_OUTBACK_Owner on Thursday, August 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,550overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "CVT mileage and uphill on snow performance"
Cons: "Cold air leaks into Driver foot well on -10 days"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"After putting 11K on a lightly used 2013 OB including one severe winter storm and many trips to the ski resort on a 2.5i Premium with CVT, I am glad I can downshift on the steering wheel mounted paddles...you don't need to be in manual to downshift or up shift either so you can use a hybrid approach to gear changes...the system takes 3-4 seconds to revert back to automatic after you have shifted with the paddles...most users don't know this...but you can down shift or up shift at any time in D...if you don't get why down shifting in an AWD is such a big deal you should try it with snow tires on icy roads...you can decelerate into and then immediately accelerate out of corners better on slippery surfaces than with the same tires on a manual transmission; because it finds the gear and engages the ground faster. Manual gear selection on a CVT isn't Fake, Its selecting pre calculated gear ratios that don't change when you return to them, 2nd is always second gear as far as the ratio and power application is concerned. Going uphill with a CVT in Auto on steep slippery terrain is a HUUUGE advantage over owning a MT, because you have hundreds of ratio's between 2nd and 3rd gears, when you push the peddle down on steeper grades the CVT maintains the power band automatically while ensuring the appropriate ratio...I pass bigger trucks and SUV's loaded with ski gear and people that have V8's who have to bounce back and forth between 2nd and 3rd gear on snowy steep roads all the time in the winter, and I do it in a lower HP 4 cylinder CVT wagon loaded with people and gear. I have also driven on Snowcat groomed roads between Park City and Brighton Estates on the guardsman's pass road (for snowmobile and 4WD access) on Stock Continental tires at normal inflation, and it never got stuck once, the whole time it displayed smooth power transfer to the snow with stopping and braking for switchbacks on the 2.5 mile snow pack covered road. MT users like to bash the CVT, but with a commuter vehicle on snow its very similar to the slip clutch on a snowmobile if you ever look at one...the power transfer also surges oddly similar but can be quite enjoyable in the power band when you know what to look for and when to punch the gas...E.G. 2nd-3rd gear roll on acceleration, it becomes punchy and feels slingshotty out of corners!!!"
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Ricky on Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 75,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"If you live in the snow belt, the Outback is the best car you will ever have. Solid, reliable, drives like a dream. Interior and Comfort are not luxury, but not bad. I've gotten mileage greater than advertised on the sticker. My only dislike is summer driving, when I'd like to have something a little smaller / sportier."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By speedballjet on Saturday, August 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,200overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "versatile, fun to drive, extremly comfortable"
Cons: "always wishing mileage were better; no blind spot"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought 2014 Outback Limited Dec. 2013 and have 6200 mi. The leather seats are awesome....my first car with leather. Extremely supportive and comfy. Excellent driving position. I removed rear seat head restraints to improve visibility since Im the only one usually in the car. Mileage is pretty much as stated...without air conditioning on I average about 24 in town and 30 highway. The red color is gorgeous. Its a classy looking vehicle IMHO. The only issue Ive had is when the air conditioning is running the gauge that tells you your MPG goes down, down, down to about 12mpg but then when I fill up the actual mileage is down only about 2 mpg.....will have this gauge checked in Sept when I go in for regular service."
By Frank Lazirini on Saturday, August 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent handling"
Cons: "Gas mileage could be better"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Had this car for 2 years, test drove 3 others and the Outback was the best car for what I needed, I carry a lot of gear and do mountain biking as well as skiing. The car handles really well, feels very solid and safe, my wife drives during the week and she loves it. The only complaint is that the gas mileage is not so good, I get about 25 combined. I wish Subaru would make a Hybrid version of the Outback."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Jack on Saturday, August 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent value; ultimate traction & safety"
Cons: "Design is best for small to medium driver sizes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Terrific car for many reasons. Comfortable, convenient features and the most dependable car we've ever owned. Most importantly - it protected us when we were struck broadside by an enormous truck. During the collision, its responsiveness allowed me to avoid other cars and a rock wall while reducing speed. We finally hit a tree, but the crumple-zone absorbed most of the impact. We survived unharmed."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Baldy11 on Monday, July 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,700overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great - safe, dependable, efficient, comfortable"
Cons: "Smallish cup holders-fixed in 2015 model"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My wife had been wanting an Outback for a long time, I was a little skeptical at first. Research found this to be a very well built, safe, dependable and efficient car. Subaru's parent company is a manufacturer of heavy duty construction/manufacturing equipment and the Subaru line definitely falls inline with their dedication to quality. We have had our 2013 Outback 2.5i Limited for over a year and absolutely love it. It is even better than we had expected. Great efficiency and very solid overall. I like to perform my own maintenance and have found it very easy to change the oil, filters, etc. Only downside we have found is that the cup-holders don't fit all large drinks (PowerAde, etc.). In looking at the 2015 models it looks like they have given the Outback larger cup holders. After seeing our experience, my parents purchased a 2014 Outback and one of my wife's clients have purchased one as well. You will not be disappointed with this vehicle."
20 people out of 26 found this review helpful