By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
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 Outlook 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 2BoysMom (CA) on Thursday, May 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Gas mileage, reliable, fun to drive"
Cons: "Doors don't automatically lock once started"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned several cars in my life and this is by far the best car I have had. It's reliable, comfortable and so much space for taking my kids and all their stuff to sporting events and vacations. I would highly recommend this car. It's gets awesome car mileage and is fun to drive."
By tnNavyMom (TN) on Thursday, May 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "dependable, stylish, comfortable"
Cons: "high blower setting when heat or a/c comes on"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the 3rd new Outback I have purchased in the past 7 years. Each one has been an excellent vehicle, with no problems. My 2012 is fully loaded and extremely dependable. If the "new car smell" doesn't get me, I could easily drive this car, comfortably, for the next ten years. Subaru makes a high quality, technically superior car, at a reasonable price. The dealership where I have purchased the three Outbacks has been the best car sales facility my husband and I have ever encountered. I don't know what Subaru could do to improve the vehicle that I now own. It will be exciting to see future models, just to see their latest innovations, while they maintain their high degree of quality and safety."
By Tweetie (MA) on Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I own this car
Reason: lack of floor heat and Subaru did not care - My approximate mileage is 12,000
Pros: "Loved the car EXCEPT for con below"
Cons: "Heat should not be a luxury"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I bought my car brand new in March, 2012. The first day driving, I noticed my feet were cold. Asked the dealer's service manager who said air vent was open. Summer came, did not notice until heat was needed again. While on Floor Vent only, more heat comes out of dash/defrost than on floor; there is no heat from back seat floor vents so my 93-year old and 84-year old passengers feet were freezing. I have to wrap their legs up to keep them warm. This past winter I drove with quilt on my legs/feet and jacket stuffed into defrost vents as hot air is suffocating with so much heat blowing out of dash/defrost vents even though on floor vent. Again, climate control is on floor vent only and face is windblown from volume of hot air from dash/defrost and feet/legs are freezing from lack of volume on floor vent. Several trips to two different Subaru dealers, I was told this is how car is designed to run. One Service Manager agreed there was more air out of defrost vent than one would expect then said "continue doing what I had been doing to keep warm." Really, the service manager told me to continue to drive with blanket on feet. Other dealer, mechanic told me I was not the first to complain and 2013 cars were same. I had dealer show me other Outbacks and climate control heat setting performed same. While I love, love this car, I need floor heat for myself and my passangers here in New England. This car will be sold in August and I will NOT be freezing or driving hazardly this winter. Strangers who asks me about my car are as disappointed as I am once I show them there really is no heat. Subaru, you blew it!"
8 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Mike (PA) on Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 62,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Value, fuel mileage, ride."
Cons: "Radio, lack of power"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Great car for the price. Rides and drives very comfortably. AWD system is incredible. I had a full size 4wd pickup prior to this vehicle and there is no comparison in the snow. The Subaru is stabile and secure in the snow, going places a car has no business going. Fuel mileage is incredible for an AWD. I average 26 mpg. Radio is mediocre at best. Power from the 4cyl won't win ANY races but I'll take the fuel mileage any day."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By brizz (MA) on Friday, April 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "roomy, great in snow,good gas mileage"
Cons: "push the key fob 20 times before it opens all doo"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned many honda and toyota cars always thought they were the best. when we wanted a car that could tow our boat but still maintain good gas mileage the previous mentioned had little to offer in 4 cylinder power. we decided to give the boxer engine a whirl. acceleration and pull with the boat are amazing paddle shifts are fun too."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By fw (NV) on Monday, April 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This is our 3rd Subaru. This car is close to perfect! The mileage is great--27 (with studded snow tires) to 32 summer. The only thing I would change is where the seat warmer buttons and the flasher buttons are...it's easy to accidentally turn them on. We expect to keep this car for a long time. Not tons of immediate power, but worth it for the great gas mileage."