By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 8.7
Despite outward appearances, the 2017 Subaru Outback is much more than a high-riding wagon version of the Subaru Legacy sedan. Chief among the differences are the Subaru Outback's X-Mode off-road-assist system and 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which help back up the Outback's visual suggestion that it really can tackle tough off-road situations. And it can; unlike competitors like the Chevrolet Equinox or Nissan Murano, the Outback's all-wheel-drive system is designed to tackle more than just snowy roads and dusty trails. Yet inside, the Outback is downright luxurious, especially in the new Outback Touring model, which adds unique leather and exterior trim. Technologies, like the EyeSight collision-mitigation and active cruise control, elevate the Outback to the realm of many premium-luxury SUVs.
The 2017 Subaru Outback excels when it comes to resale, fuel economy, safety and family friendliness. Yet it's also a solid choice for those looking to take their families into deep snow, backwoods off-road trails or other out-of-the way places.
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The 2017 Subaru Outback sees the addition of a whole new model, the Outback Touring, which includes every single option and adds unique leather and exterior trim. Other improvements include Reverse Auto Braking and high-beam assist.
While the 2017 Subaru Outback Touring is loaded with every option, adding special leather and model-specific exterior trim to appeal to luxury buyers, one thing remains true: Regardless...
... of model, the Subaru Outback can handle just about anything. Sure, there's the quiet cabin, car-like driving characteristics thanks to sharing its underpinnings with the Legacy sedan, and a comfortable around-town and highway ride. But when the roads turn nasty, the Outback keeps going. The standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is no powerhouse, but it's plenty adequate for the task, and it offers very good fuel economy. The 6-cylinder has more power, but not quite as much as you might think, and it's only available on more expensive models. The real hero is the standard all-wheel-drive system, which uses Active Torque Vectoring to enhance traction at higher speeds by automatically routing power for better stability, and X-Mode and Hill Descent Control to bolster off-road ability.
X-Mode is a standard feature of all Outback models. It's designed to help this crossover SUV maintain its composure even under difficult off-road circumstances. On top of that, it includes Hill Descent Control, which takes over braking duties during steep descents.
PIVOTING ROOF CROSSBAR
The Subaru Outback makes exceptionally clever use of its roof rails. Normally, they're lengthwise with the car, but when you need crossbars to actually carry something on the roof, the rails pivot outward, snapping into place on the other side. They even adjust fore and aft.
Part of the new 2017 Outback Touring's upgrades is new Java Brown perforated leather upholstery, with contrasting ivory stitching. It also includes a unique woodgrain and piano-black interior trim. Otherwise, the interior is very similar to the Legacy sedan’s, no bad thing, as the clean and functional layout benefits from good ergonomics and the latest touch-screen infotainment system's design. All seating positions are comfortable, but we especially like the roomy, reclining rear seat. There's plenty of cargo space in this crossover SUV, of course, and that goes double with the seats folded. It's also notably quiet inside, whether accelerating or cruising.
The Outback Touring for 2017 adds some visual flair to what is already a solidly handsome crossover SUV. There's a unique-to-the-model Brilliant Brown color that looks good, even though "brilliant" is an odd adjective for brown. We also like the silver finish on the roof rails. But it's all frosting on an already tasty cake. We like the shape of the Outback, which looks purposeful and stylish, one of those cars that still looks classy when it's caked in mud. The rugged lower body cladding and round fog lights would be passé on another car, but here they're signature styling elements.
All 2017 Outback models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive with X-Mode and hill-descent control. Other features include standard grille shutters, which close at highway speeds to improve fuel economy. Inside, you'll find the usual things like power windows, door locks and mirrors, cruise control and air conditioning. The standard infotainment system uses a 6.2-inch touch screen, and includes compatibility with iHeart Radio, Aha and Pandora, and of course also comes with USB and Bluetooth inputs. Safety features include a standard rearview camera, and airbags under the seat cushions to prevent submarining in a crash.
Chief among options for the Subaru Outback are the company's EyeSight system, which uses cameras to add adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, pre-collision braking and even steering-responsive fog lights on some models. Available for the first time are Reverse Automatic Braking and automatic high beams, available on Sport models as part of the EyeSight system. The available power liftgate has a programmable maximum height, and there's a voice-activated navigation system with a larger and sharp 7-inch screen. Also available is a leather interior trimmed with classy-looking faux wood on Limited models, along with an upgraded harman/kardon audio system.
Subarus use an engine configuration known as a "boxer," where the pistons are parallel to the ground; 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 layout lowers the center of gravity, which aids handling. There are two engines available. The 2.5-liter standard 4-cylinder offers up 175 horsepower, while the 6-cylinder version has a much more robust 256 horsepower. However, while the 6-cylinder is definitely quicker than the 4-cylinder version, neither is what we'd call quick. Both send power through a continuously variable automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is standard. The all-wheel drive system 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: 25/32 mpg
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on an Outback 2.5i is about $26,500. For the Premium model you'll pay about $28,500, and the Limited starts around $33,200. The new Touring model starts a little below the $37,000 mark, and that's with the 4-cylinder. If you want the 6-cylinder engine, you'll add about $3,000 to the price of an Outback Limited or Touring, the only models where the 6-cylinder is available. Note that while the 4-cylinder Outback is decently priced, its 6-cylinder models are notably higher than competitors like the Ford Edge and Chevy Equinox, both of which offer V6 models for less than $30,000; maybe a 6-cylinder Premium model priced closer to $30,000 could 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.