By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.8
Subaru’s 2016 Outback crossover wagon is one of the few crossover SUVs that can actually fulfill the promises made by its rugged exterior. Unlike the Toyota Venza, Chevrolet Equinox or Nissan Murano, the Outback’s all-wheel-drive system is designed to tackle more than just snowy roads and dusty trails. Its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and X-Mode off-road assist speak volumes about the Outback’s ability. The Outback’s luxurious trappings coupled with the latest driver-assist technology, such as Subaru’s EyeSight collision-mitigation and active cruise control, elevate the Outback to the realm of many premium luxury SUVs. The Subaru Outback for 2016 delivers a comfortable ride, precise steering and, with the 2.5-liter under the hood impressive fuel economy.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly vehicle that excels in the areas of resale, fuel economy and safety, the 2016 Subaru Outback wagon is it. If you’re looking for a roomy family vehicle that can also tackle deep snow and off-road trails, the 2016 Subaru Outback can do that, too.
If you’re thinking of taking your Outback down the Rubicon trail or towing anything heavier than 3,000 pounds, think about a Jeep Wrangler or used Nissan Xterra. Subaru’s 2016 Outback lacks a 3rd-row seat option and can cost more than many comparably equipped compact-crossover SUVs.
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Subaru’s Outback for 2016 sees only minor improvement over last year’s model. A new Starlink safety and security package is added to the Premium and Limited trims, while the EyeSight system gains Lane Keep Assist. Steering feel has been enhanced, and the Limited trim has its suspension recalibrated for a smoother ride.
Even when the roads turned nasty, we were impressed by our 2016 Subaru Outback crossover SUV’s quiet cabin, its car-like driving characteristics (it is based on the Legacy sedan, after...
... all) and its stable composure even in the most inhospitable driving conditions. The base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is no powerhouse, but it isn’t a slouch either and the fuel economy is outstanding. The 6-cylinder provides a more robust driving experience and is recommended for anyone who needs to tow, but it is available only on the top-line Limited trim, which doesn’t come cheap. On the road, Subaru’s Active Torque Vectoring enhances traction at higher speeds by automatically routing power for better stability. Off-road, the 2016 Subaru Outback’s true brilliance is revealed. Standard X-Mode bolsters low-speed traction while Hill Descent Control does all the braking on steep descents, allowing the driver to focus on piloting the vehicle.
Relatively new to Subaru, X-Mode bolsters the 2016 Outback crossover-SUV’s ability to venture off-road by making sure the vehicle retains maximum traction under the worst circumstances. Besides ensuring that the wheels with the best grip receive maximum power, X-Mode’s Hill Descent Control feature takes over braking duties during steep descents.
PIVOTING ROOF CROSSBAR
Why someone didn’t think of this sooner is one of life’s many mysteries, but we’re glad Subaru figured it out. When not in use, the Outback’s roof-rack crossbars pivot to stow in the roof rails, thus reducing wind noise above the roof. The crossbars are also adjustable fore and aft.
The Subaru Outback crossover SUV for 2016 essentially shares its interior with the 2016 Subaru Legacy sedan – a good thing. The layout is clean and functional, and we especially like the latest 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 quieter than its predecessor, thanks in part to the way the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) mimics gear changes at full throttle.
While the 2016 Subaru Outback's styling still favors practical over pizazz, this Subaru crossover-SUV wagon is definitely an improvement over the last-generation Outback. 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.
Subaru’s 2016 Outback wagon 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 rearview 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 options is Subaru's EyeSight system, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, 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 2016 Outback crossover-SUV wagon, a 4-cylinder is standard, with a 6-cylinder available on Limited models. Regardless of engine choice, you get a CVT automatic transmission that includes steering-wheel-mounted paddles to select preset 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 with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) a little under $26,000. Premium models start just over $28,000, and that can increase to more than $31,000 when adding options like a moonroof, power liftgate and EyeSight. For $31,000 you can 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 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.