Subaru is celebrating its 50th year in the U.S. market carving out a unique niche by highlighting the all-wheel drive capability of its vehicles. In that vein the 2018 Subaru Outback not only fits in with the all-wheel drive theme, but also distinguishes itself by being more wagon than crossover. Not that its success is going unnoticed by rivals like the Buick Regal TourX, Audi Allroad and others. Micah Muzio runs the 2018 Outback through its paces in this Video Review and Road Test.

2018 Subaru Outback Video Transcript

The Subaru Outback is already the de-facto choice for active, outdoorsy types. How can you possibly improve on such a popular formula? With the most exciting two and a half words in the English language. Hmm, we might have oversold that. Nevertheless, the Subaru Outback offers a range of simple yet substantive improvements.

The exterior's rugged attitude has been lightly amplified with reworked headlights and body cladding. More meaningful updates can be found inside. We already loved the Outback's pre-update interior with its extendable sun visors, soft touch door panels, and well cushioned armrests. Post-update our affinity has only grown stronger.

Subaru has improved material quality throughout the Outback lineup, but they've also made numerous subtle changes. For example the clock readout is slightly larger, the climate control indicator has moved to a more logical spot in the center of the dial, and I'm told the air-conditioning cools the cabin more quickly. Though I will take them at their word because I'm not going to rip out the ducting...or am I?

Okay, none of these updates are life changing but they come affixed to an already well-sorted cabin. The front seats are contoured for comfort, though depending on how you drive a little more lateral support would be nice. In back, legroom is plentiful with reclining seat backs and sculpted knee cutouts adding to passenger comfort.

Whichever seat you occupy, the Outback's Goldilocks ride height means you don't have to climb up or drop down to come aboard. I'd feel even better about the interior if you didn't have to buy one of the higher trims to get rear AC vents. I'm not gonna do anything funny. It's just vents.

Of course the Outback's ability to carry gear endures as a major strength. Total cargo volume is essentially identical to the Ford Edge but with the added benefit of a low 28-inch load-in height. The cargo area also features an underfloor storage box and handy rear seat fold-down levers. Flip the rear seats up and a healthy 35.5 cubic feet of storage space remains. For stashing smaller items there's a deep center console compartment and a concealed storage bin.

Besides a penchant for gathering fingerprints, the Outback's infotainment offerings are great. An updated 6.5-inch unit comes standard but get? the available because it's bigger. Because it uses swipe and pinch gestures just like a smart phone. Sweet familiarity. On that note, Subaru offers modern smartphone integration on both systems with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and on higher trims embedded TomTom navigation and a pair of USB ports for rear seat passengers.

On the go the fifth-generation Outback is outstandingly civilized, offering refined ride quality, a quiet cabin aided by insulated front side glass, and stellar visibility in all directions. In addition to a commanding SUV-like view the driver's seat affords its occupant a super comfortable driving position. At the same time the Outback navigates tight spaces with car like agility, thanks to well-calibrated steering and a reasonable 36-foot turning circle.

Power comes from one of two sources, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder or a 3.6-liter 6-cylinder, each sporting a horizontally opposed cylinder layout. For reference the horizontally opposed engine layout means you can have a flatter engine and consequently a lower engine, giving you a lower center of gravity, which is good for handling and all sorts of stuff. It also sounds kind of cool if you have a dumb exhaust on it. This car does not.

While efficient, the 4-cylinder struggles to propel the Outback's more than 3,600 pound curb weight with authority. Naturally, the heartier 6-cylinder is a more satisfying pairing but it's also less efficient and it is only offered on the high end Limited and Touring trims. Interestingly, the Outback is rated to tow a modest 2,700 pounds with either engine.

Both engines also share a continuously variable transmission, though it's beefed up when teamed up with the 6-cylinder to accommodate all that extra torque. Despite an absence of actual gears, the continuously variable transmission does its best to emulate an automatic transmission with fake gear changes as you accelerate and a manual shift mode. All you need to know, as an average driver, is that it feels like the transmission is doing what a transmission should do. Nothing to see here...except everything in all directions. Wow! Look at that visibility! Whoa!

For slippery roads or, do we dare, actual off-roading, the Outback offers standard all-wheel drive with an electronically managed hydraulic transfer clutch that sends torque to the front or rear tires as needs demand. For more serious off-road frivolity, the Outback's X-Mode alters CVT, engine and, stability control settings to reduce wheel spin while also activating Hill Decent Control, which as its name implies lets the vehicle automatically control its speed when descending a hill.

For less than $27,000 including destination, a basic Outback comes equipped with an electronic parking brake, roof rails, a USB port, and a backup camera shown on the previously mentioned 6.5-inch touchscreen. Spend more and you can enjoy a power tailgate, blind spot warning, adaptive LED headlights, power and heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a system that'll automatically hit the brakes if the driver's backing towards danger, and Eyesight, a camera-based active driver assist system that incorporates lane departure warning with steering assist, dynamic cruise control, and forward collision alert.

While it really is a wagon, compared to five-passenger crossovers like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano the Outback is a great value with its standard all-wheel drive, above average residual numbers, and $3,000 cheaper base price. Stick with all-season wagons and the VW Golf Alltrack is worth a gander, though it offers less space than the similarly priced Outback.

Truthfully the Subaru Outback's popularity is unsurprising. It's a versatile value-rich wagon with an upscale interior and more than enough capability for most outings. Plus, that distinct wagon shape puts out a vibe of adventure more effectively than most SUVs. Whether canyoneering or hauling provision home from Whole Foods the Outback is a fundamentally excellent ride that Subaru keeps making better and better.

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