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 coffeelude on Saturday, March 21, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "all wheel drive, roomy"
Cons: "rust, drives average"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Got a brand new 2014 Subaru 15 months ago, mostly satisfied initially with the ride. Have about 12000 miles on it so far. Some minor issues include uneven acceleration in the morning and weird jerking when changing from reverse to drive. A few months after I bought the car I noticed that the bottom exterior of the car was rusting. A few searches online and seems like we were not alone. Neither the dealer or Subaru customer service were interested in acknowledging the problem. They claim that it is normal for a 5 month old car to start rusting. I live in the Washington dc metro area where the winters are not extreme."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Fanojag on Tuesday, March 17, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Value and power for money"
Cons: "Auto gear changes could be smoother."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Traded in a Miata. Needed a vehicle with easier access egress and got that. Test drove similar sized SUVs, but none had more than 200HP. I like having extra under my right foot. Outback is roomy, drives quiet and smooth, even on long trips - longest to date Richmond - Denver in 2 days. Fuel economy not fantastic, 22-25mpg. Haven't had chance to test the 4WD aspects of it. Interior well appointed, sound system great. In my 17,000 miles, no reliability issues. I highly recommend this vehicle over its competitors."
By Sparz on Sunday, March 08, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"No temperature guage. These vehicles have a tendency to overheat Oil warning light not reliable. Roof rack useless"
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By karlrad on Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,852overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Safe, comfortable, reliable, rides great."
Cons: "Not the best shifter"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We bought this Outback Premium 2014 on August 2013, a 6 speed 2.5 liter and after 16000 miles it runs better than the day we took it; has averaged 21.54 mpg so far, I have a heavy foot, always revving it to 5000+ rpm. The Outback is great on the highway, on rough roads and on snow. NO complaints. It has had all of its oil changes and revisions, all wheel alignments and filter changes. It has never visited the dealer with a problem. It is extremely comfortable, lots of room (we brought home from Sears our elliptical) and the rear seats recline. I have never been without enough power when passing on a mountain climb on the highway. We are so happy with it, we are going to buy the new 3.6R with 6 cylinders for my wife, all the whistles. She prefers a Levorg, but we cannot buy it here and importing it from Japan is too expensive and right hand drive... If you want a comfortable, safe and reliable car, get an Outback. If you want a sports car, get a BRZ. Then, this car is assembled in the USA. A bonus."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By pj on Monday, February 23, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Had charcoal katskin leather interior added by dealer on new purchase last year. Thinking about trading in on 2015 model. Red Venetian Pearl exterior. Just added trailer hitch receiver."
By defLinux on Tuesday, February 03, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Safe, stable, fun and comfortable"
Cons: "Bluetooth integration needs work"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've thought hard about it, and except for the area of Bluetooth integration, I can't think of anything I don't like about my car. It feels secure and stable, it's comfortable (but not cushy), and it carries an amazing amount of stuff with the rear seat down. I have been very impressed with the design of this vehicle, both exterior and interior. Materials are well chosen and things just fit together well. The only two areas that didn't get a 10 rating (I gave them 9), are driving dynamics and convenience. As far as driving goes, this car is fantastic right up to its limits - and then it gets a little wild. But if you are driving reasonably you will never see this, and the all wheel drive is great. The only other thing is the sound system. The Bluetooth setup takes a while. Only one phone can be a music source via Bluetooth - and it's a pain to change it all the time. You do have the option to plug in via USB though, so it's not a fatal flaw. The voice recognition, at least on my car, is a bit spotty. It often takes me two or three tries to successfully navigate the menus via voice, and dialing by voice (name or number) works only half the time. It is easier to put the number into the phone by hand and dial, then the speakerphone will take over. Overall, this is probably been the best car purchase I have made in 44 years of driving."
7 people out of 12 found this review helpful