The roomy, versatile Outback cabin is stylishly functional and remarkably roomy. Of particular note is the rear seat – we were able to fit three 6-foot adults in the rear seat, everybody was comfortable and none had knees touching the backs of the front seats. Equally comfortable are the wide front seats, which clearly are configured for adults, a reclining rear seat further improves 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.
The Subaru Outback is admittedly not the most stylish thing on the road, but it is clean and purposeful. The high roofline promises (and delivers) ample interior space, the generous ride height (with 8.7 inches of ground clearance) announces its off-road and bad-weather capabilities, while the sturdy black roof rails provide secure mounting when carrying extra stuff on the roof (and the roof-rail crossbars stow away when not in use, to reduce aerodynamic drag and wind noise). Up front, the headlights, front bumper and prominent grille give a sleek appearance that blends well with the overall rugged character.
Notable Standard Equipment
For 2014, the Outback is offered in four trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited. Base 2.5i models feature all-wheel drive, a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails and a 4-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and a USB port. The Premium trim adds alloy wheels, fog lights, a 10-way power driver's seat, the All-Weather Package and the display audio system, while Limited versions include leather seating, dual-zone climate control and a 440-watt harman/kardon sound system. Safety features include six airbags, electronic stability control, and Subaru's EyeSight driver-assistance system (includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane-departure warning).
Notable Optional Equipment
Most options for the Outback are dependent upon 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 with a power moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror and rear backup camera. Limited models offer voice-activated navigation, the 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. The standard sound system has been upgraded for 2014, but audiophiles may want to choose the optional 9-speaker harman/kardon setup.
Under the Hood
The Outback is available with a choice of two "boxer" engines. "Boxer" means the cylinders are horizontal and opposed to each other, so the pistons go back forth somewhat like a boxer's fists, and the engine is low and flat, which reduces the height of the center of gravity – which in turn aids handling. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder 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
For 2014 Subaru is holding the Outback pricing to 2013 levels for most models. The Outback starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $24,000 for the 2.5i and tops out north of $36,000 for a loaded 3.6R Limited. Pricing is on par with the majority of compact SUVs, such as the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, and undercuts the Toyota Venza by roughly $3,000. Everyone wants a great deal on a new car, and KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price can help by revealing what buyers in your area are actually paying for the 2014 Outback. The 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.
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