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 SACOE on Monday, September 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 71,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfort and gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Very comfortable on the freeway, gets 28-30 on the road, eats up snow! Better driver ergo than my new BMW X3."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Jackie on Saturday, September 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I have had my Subaru for about 8 months. Overall I am very happy. The only real problem I found is the doors, especially the back door. It looks like it's closed, but isn't. This can cause the alarm to go off. When I took it to the dealership because of this, I was given a lesson in shutting it!!! Apparently two hands is best. What happens if you have groceries, or a dog, or both?? I have got better at closing the door, although now and again it happens."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Subie fan on Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,102overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Best value, reliability, comfort, spaciousness"
Cons: "Gear shift could be better"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought a 2014 Outback 2.5i Premium 6 speed a year ago, now I have little over 13000 miles on it. I can say this is the best car I have owned and for the money we paid, you cannot get anything with all the equipment it has for such a price. Subaru’s AWD system was a sell point, since I do not want any FWD cars anymore: I am sick of replacing boots and front axles. This Outback is extremely spacious, comfortable, and reliable. It handles very well on any terrain, snow or rain, sand or pavement. The finish and quality of the car is very good, I may not have ash wood like a luxury car, nor do I have Napa leather, but I did not pay three times what I paid to get them. Our next Outback – for my wife – will be a 2016 3.6R with all the goodies (Insight, power rear door, navigation, and sunroof). The mileage is ok, having into consideration I drive aggressively and fast, my revs climb to 5k – 6k quite often. I got on average 21.38 mpg for 13k miles. So far, no problems whatsoever with the car. Just oil changes, alignment and tire rotation. My dealer in Tysons Corner, VA is the best. Best price for the car and they have maintenance specials constantly, which save you money. I get a free car wash anytime I want. I can recommend this car to anybody who wants a nice ride. Not a sports car. This one, I shall have it forever, since they do not put a stick shift anymore in an Outback, it is a classic now…"
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Ryan on Sunday, September 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 66,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great in snow, good mpg, inexpensive"
Cons: "Unreliable CVT transmission, $$ maintainance"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I loved this car. It's great in the snow, comfortable to drive, and a good value. That is, until the valve body in the CVT failed at 66k miles. The dealer and SOA have told me they have no interest in helping me out with the repair since I hadn't brought the car in to have the CVT fluid inspected at 30k or 60k. The manual only states it should be inspected at those intervals, and only recommends replacement under severe driving conditions. Fluid replacement costs ~$270 cause it's not really a DIY thing! I expect that kind of crazy maintainance requirement from a high performance sports car or a vehicle used for heavy duty work but not an every day driver/commuter car. I had been told the fluid was only supposed to require early replacement under severe driving conditions, but I don't drive in the city, don't live in the mountains, and have never towed or hauled anything with this car. Silly me for thinking I could maintain the car myself and replace the fluid around 70-80k like I have with all my previous Auto transmission vehicles. They should either update the owner manual to specify CVT fluid replacement at 30k even under normal driving conditions or they should admit that this failure is unusual and help me out with the repair since I'm only 6k miles out of warranty. Otherwise, they shouldn't be surprised when I say that I don't consider the CVT to be reliable and can't recommend this car to others. It's sad cause I have really loved the Subarus that I have owned in the past."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By babette1027 on Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,300overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "great winter car"
Cons: "air-conditioning could be better"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"While I see all kinds of cars and trucks slippin' and slidin', I'm plowing past them. It's amazing how winter-friendly this car is. Whenever anyone asks, it's what I tell them "laughs through the snow"."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Anne on Monday, August 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,200overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Nice size, car like drive"
Cons: "steering is soft, lacks power, not too relaible"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"Too much hype about Subaru reliability and safety. Can't comment on safety since never been in an accident. As for reliability, I find this U.S. assembled vehicle lacks the fit and finish of those made in Japan. My vehicle was driving very erratically and actually stalled on me several times. All the lights on dash were flashing. The first dealer had no clue what was wrong, kept reprogramming my computer. Finally got a referral to a better dealer, it was the cam sensor that failed. Took 2 trips to this place to get a new one put in. Subaru's name seems bigger than the quality of cars they make. Will not buy another one. Or at least not one assembled here."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful