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
The 2013 Subaru Outback starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $24,000 and tops out north of $36,000. Pricing is on par with the majority of compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and the Ford Escape, and undercuts the Toyota Venza by roughly $3,000. Everyone wants a great deal on their new car, and KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price can help by revealing what consumers in your area are actually paying for their 2013 Subaru Outbacks. The Subaru Outback is expected to retain higher than average residual values over a 5-year period, besting the Ford Escape and the Nissan Rogue, but falling just shy of the Venza, CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.
By Quartermaster on Tuesday, March 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Overall value, adaptability, design, utility,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the vehicle we take on long trips and use for heavy loads and that my wife uses to transport clients (easy getting in/out). It's been very "driveable" as well as reliable -- as well as elegant in design, prompting routine inquiries at the gas pump. Gas mileage is not as good as my Prius (duh!), but it gets 25-28 mpg on longer trips. Very responsive to driving cues. Relatively quiet and nicely appointed. Very satisfied. Unfortunately, this car was rear-ended last week and may be totaled. We will hate giving it up but will definitely replace it with a newer model of Subaru Outback."
By obx'er on Monday, March 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good all around car, pretty fun to drive"
Cons: "rides a little firm. engine a little loud"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"bought a new 2013 with 4-cyl and the 6-speed stick. i like the car a lot. it rides harder ( more harsh) than my friend's 2012 Outback. it could use a little more power, but it does pretty good. gas milage has been 25 mpg on average. it's fun to drive. feels light and nimble. good road car. just drove from ohio to florida with a full load of people and luggage with no complaints from anyone. it's been great this year with all the snow we've had."
By chris on Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 64,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "AWD and fun to drive anywhere"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"this is a huge step up from my ford ranger I had before. both my Whitewater kayaks fit in easily. I love this thing"
By PC Limited Outback on Sunday, February 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,200overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Beats the competition, limited seats are great"
Cons: "I would go with the 6 cyl and avoid the CVT tranny"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"What a great car. the 6 cyl, is more powerful up the steep hills than other models with more HP. 2200 rpm up Parleys canyon. While others scream and cry at 3000+. I have driven many other brands....So quiet and nice to drive. Seats comfy, lots of back seat legroom. Summer MPG 29/30, winter mpg 26/27. Mostly highway."
7 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By joe on Sunday, February 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "AWD is a +, good price for what you get"
Cons: "gas mileage in winter, 2.5 is a little slow"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I bought my 2012 Subaru Outback Premium almost fully loaded with 9k miles on it, currently at 29K. I got almost all the options better sound system, heated side mirrors, auto dim rear view, heated seats, all weather package, back up cam, blue tooth, CVT, 2.5 engine. Fun to drive, good handling and spacious. Took on a couple road trips with 3 friends and had enough room for cargo and no one was cramped. AWD and the heated seats and mirrors are a must especially driving in the snow, I in Chicago. The 2.5 boxer engine is OK. It's a little laggy could use a little more power. CVT transmission seams to downshift on hills and struggles some times when your trying to cruise. Biggest complaint is the gas milage during the summer I averaged 24-25 mpg, about 22 city and 27 HW. However, during the winter months I average 21-22 I get about 18 city and 24 HW."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By troutman on Friday, February 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good value - nice design"
Cons: "terrible winter city mpg"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"Overall I liked this car a lot when I bought it. Good mid priced, sporty vehicle with decent cargo space and good clearance for mild off-roading. The MPG I got at first was great - very happy, then winter rolled around and it dropped to 14-15 mpg which is WAY less than advertised. This is city driving only, mostly 10-15min commutes, no idling to speak of during a very cold winter(MN). The vehicle only has 5M miles on it so may still be breaking in a bit, but come on...14.5 mpg. I could be driving a suburban and doing better. One long hwy trip in milder weather I took the mpg picked back up and I expect the same this spring, but they should tell you this upfront. I really dislike the false advertising of the sticker MPG."