By Keith Buglewicz
The Subaru Outback is a midsize crossover SUV that runs against the conventional wisdom that these "soft-roaders" never venture off the pavement. To the contrary, you're far more likely to see an Outback covered in mud than a Toyota Venza, Chevrolet Equinox, or Ford Edge. Since its introduction in the late 1990s, the Subaru Outback's capability appealed to outdoorsy types, and the 2015 Outback ups the ante with an all-wheel-drive system enhanced with X-Mode for better off-road stability, and expanded availability of the latest version of EyeSight, Subaru's collision-mitigation and active-cruise technology. It's all wrapped up in sharper SUV-wagon styling that hides a roomier interior, a combination that's sure to keep the 2015 Outback as muddy as ever.
If you like going off-road to hike, snowshoe, fish, kayak, ski, snowboard, bike, canoe, camp, spelunk, or rock climb, you might already have a Subaru Outback parked in your driveway. The good news is that the Outback SUV is just as good in town as it is on the trail.
Like its predecessors, the 2015 Subaru Outback isn't much for towing, so you might need something bigger if you must tow a sizeable boat or ATVs. Likewise, it only carries five people. And while it's handy off-road, its lack of a low-range mode means it's not up to hard-core off-roading.
The 2015 Subaru Outback is all new this year. Among its many key features is the addition of X-Mode to the all-wheel-drive system, which enhances off-road capability. It also expands the availability of EyeSight, which uses two cameras for active cruise control, collision warning, and collision mitigation.
Driving Impressions The 2015 Subaru Outback SUV is designed for two opposing tasks. One is to be comfortable and quiet on the road, while the other is to be capable and dependable...... off it. Yet Subaru has managed to admirably combine these two competing interests. The 2015 Outback is quieter than its predecessor, and while the body definitely leans in corners more than the Subaru Legacy sedan upon which it's based, it's always stable and never bouncy over bumps. Neither the 4-cylinder nor the 6-cylinder engine makes the Outback quick, but the 4-cylinder can be downright pokey from a dead stop. Off-road, X-Mode works extremely well to maintain low-speed traction, even when a wheel's off the ground, and Hill Descent Control takes over the brakes on steep descents so the driver can concentrate on steering around obstacles. Active Torque Vectoring enhances traction at higher speeds by automatically routing power for better stability.
This simple button does wonders for the 2015 Outback's off-road abilities. By ensuring the Outback can maintain traction under the worst circumstances, it turns this from a high-riding Legacy station wagon into a real off-roader. Even experienced drivers will appreciate the added control of the Outback's Hill Descent Control.
PIVOTING ROOF CROSSBAR
Falling squarely into why-didn't-anybody-think-of-this-before territory, the Subaru Outback's roof crossbars pivot out of the way, stowing in the roof rails themselves when not in use. It's ingenious. Not only does it mean they're always available, but when they're stowed, your fuel economy improves.
The 2015 Subaru Outback essentially shares its interior with the new Subaru Legacy. This is a good thing. The new layout is clean and functional, and we're especially fond of the new touch-screen infotainment system's design. The seats are comfortable in all positions, especially the roomy, reclining rear seat (thanks to the Outback's tall roof). Cargo space in this SUV is obviously leaps and bounds better than the Legacy sedan. That goes double with the seats folded. It's also quieter than its predecessor, thanks in part to the way the continuously variable automatic transmission mimics gear changes at full throttle.Exterior
While the 2015 Outback's styling still favors practical over pizazz, this new Subaru SUV-wagon is definitely an improvement over its predecessor. The neatly integrated headlights and taillights blend with an upright, chunky look that incorporates Subaru's new hexagonal grille and the Outback's traditional round fog lights and rugged-looking lower body cladding. Clever touches include grille shutters that close at speed to improve fuel economy, and LED taillights. We also like the standard roof rails with their integrated stowable crossbars.
The 2015 Subaru Outback comes nicely equipped, even on the base model. Of course, there are the usual comfort and convenience features: power windows, air conditioning, power mirrors, cruise control, and so on. However, even the base Outback comes with a backup camera and advanced safety features like under-seat-cushion airbags to prevent submarining in a crash. The touch-screen audio system includes a 6.2-inch screen, Aha, iHeart Radio, Pandora and, of course, Bluetooth and USB. Every Outback also comes with X-Mode, hill-descent control, active torque vectoring, and grille shutters, the last of which helps improve highway fuel economy.
Among the most notable Outback SUV-wagon options is Subaru's EyeSight system, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, pre-collision braking, and, on some models, steering-responsive fog lights. Also available is a power liftgate with a programmable maximum height, voice-activated navigation with a larger 7-inch screen, and a Rear Vehicle Detection System that combines blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alerts. Also available is a leather interior trimmed with classy-looking faux wood on Limited models, along with an upgraded harman/kardon audio system.
Subaru uses what are known as "boxer" engines, with horizontally opposed pistons. Imagine a "V" type engine, then widen the V until you've made it into a flat line, and you have the layout of the Subaru engines. This "flat" layout lowers the center of gravity to aid handling, and it's also a design that's inherently low-vibration. In the 2015 Outback SUV-wagon, a 4-cylinder is standard, with a 6-cylinder available on Limited models. Regardless of engine choice, you get a continuously variable automatic transmission that includes steering wheel-mounted paddles to select pre-set ratios to simulate a manual transmission. All Outbacks come with all-wheel drive, a system that includes X-Mode for low-speed traction, and Active Torque Vectoring for high-speed stability in corners.
175 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
174 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 mpg
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg
A well-equipped base Subaru Outback 2.5i starts a little under $26,000. Premium models start a little under $28,000, and that can increase to more than $31,000 when you start adding options like a moonroof, power liftgate and EyeSight. $31,000 will also let you step into a Limited model with leather seats and wood trim. Add about $3,000 if you want a 6-cylinder engine. A loaded Limited with a 6-cylinder will run nearly $40,000. Note that the least expensive 6-cylinder Outback is in the mid-$30,000 range, while competitors like the Ford Edge and Chevy Equinox offer a 6-cylinder for less than $30,000. We think a 6-cylinder Premium model priced closer to $30,000 would broaden the Outback SUV-wagon's appeal. Subaru Outbacks usually hold their value better than average for the class. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying.
By susan on Monday, November 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 800overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "safety and comfort"
Cons: "quality control"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"A great car with unacceptable wind noise from the passenger side window. Ruins an otherwise beautiful car. Did not hear it on the test drive. Seems strange that Subaru is aware of the problem, but is leaving the fix up to the dealer. Would not recommend this car until the problem is resolved."
7 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By Morgan A. on Friday, October 31, 2014
I want this caroverall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"My family and I have been researching new cars for me to take to take to Colorado State University. After much research about which car is the best for mud, snow, rocks and mountainous terrain, I have discovered the Outback is the perfect wagon for Colorado. Unlike Subaru’s previous designs of the Outback, the 2015 is lean and smoothly crafted, and is available in nine different colors. Brighter and more noticeable colors are available and great for people who drive in the snow, so they can be noticed from hundreds of yards away, in the white snow. After test driving the wagon, I realized the sleek and patent design was only one of the many things that made this wagon a must buy. While driving the wagon, I noticed it absorbed most all shock which made the drive very smooth and comfortable. I might as well of been driving a cloud because the wagon felt just as smooth, even through the snow and ice. Also, the 2015 Outback has two more inches of shoulder room in the front seats. So whether it’s snow jacket season in the Rockies or I just need some space, I will never feel cramped in the Outback. Another reason why the 2015 Subaru Outback is for the mountains is because it’s all-wheel-drive. The all-wheel-drive is better than other all-wheel-drives because the Outback offers an”X-Mode”. During my test drive I was able to test the X-Mode out for myself. This mode is designed for going off-road and saves gas, keeps the driver in control of the car and prevents wheelspin. While the Subaru runs great in any terrain, I believe it runs even better on rocks, mud, snow and any other terrain your car can’t make it through. After I discovered all the amazing tricks the Outback has up it’s sleeve, I realized $24,809 is an affordable price for such a diverse and reliable mid-size wagon. There are so many great cars, but only the 2015 Subaru Outback provides everything necessary and more for driving and surviving in the mountains."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By James Dillon on Sunday, October 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great features and enhancements vs. competitors"
Cons: "bad quality control on details, experience spoiler"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I have just purchased the vehicle after a 2 months waiting period. Model purchased was the one with EyeSight which is pretty impressive. Over all the features offered on this vehicle are the best value for money compared with any other maker in its class. Now, that was the good part. The bad part is that the quality control at Subaru plant in Indiana has been poor lately. What seems to be the issue? Serious wind noise coming from the passenger side. It is so annoying that the radio needs to be turned up pretty loud to overcome the wind noise. Now, on a car on which I only put 40 miles, this is not good. Although Subaru is aware of the issue the did not released an official bulletin to get it fixed, so you are at the mercy of the dealer where you buy it from. My suggestion is to hold off buying one at this time, or make sure you do not take delivery of the vehicle until you drive test it at speeds over 60 mph on a highway. Apparently not every one had the issue, so is a hit or miss. What makes things worst it that Subaru will not admit to any faults at this time. Being a new model, is always a challenge in the real world, but trying to sweep it under the rug, is pretty bad PR. Over all, if you get one that drives ok and is not noisy, you will probably be happy with it."
35 people out of 45 found this review helpful