He said/She said: Subaru Outback

She ? As automotive journalists we are often asked to recommend cars.? During the 17 years we lived in Central Oregon the one car we probably recommended more than any other was the Subaru Outback.? In that area, the roads were often marginal, snow was a common winter occurrence and the Outback could comfortably handle all the conditions.? As an added benefit, we explained, it was more fuel efficient than the typical SUVs and less expensive.

With escalating cost of driving, there are now even more reasons to recommend the all-new fourth generation Subaru Outback.

He ? Subaru didn?t actually invent the term crossover but they did create the concept when they introduced the world?s first sport utility wagon 15 years ago.? The result was the first vehicle to combine the capabilities of a rugged SUV with the attributes of a car.? For 2010, they have taken that concept to the next level. ?Subaru has a tradition of doing things a little differently than other auto manufacturers.? A good example of this, out of the box thinking, is the trend toward making cars larger. ?For 2010, the Outback has a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase, nearly eight more cubic feet of interior volume and it is 2.0-inches wider.? What is different is that Subaru engineers and designers have done this, while actually shortening the Outback by one inch.

She ? I?m reserving styling judgment on the new Outback exterior because initially I thought the previous generation was better looking.? There is a strong family resemblance in the new model, but it tends to be bolder with strong fender flares, aggressive lower trims and more pronounced front-end treatment.

On the other hand, I think the new interior is a major improvement with more space, sophisticated lines and beautiful sculptured dash.? I especially like the comfortable seats and nicely designed door panels with wide storage space and separate drink holder.

He ? A 170-hp, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed SOHC four-cylinder engine is the standard Outback engine.? It comes with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional Lineartronic? Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with a computer enhanced six-speed manual mode with steering wheel paddle shifters.? Upper level models are powered by the 256-hp, 3.6-liter horizontally-opposed DOHC six-cylinder engine with a five speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.? The four-cylinder car we tested had the optional ($300) PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) which operates at a lower emissions level than the standard engine to meet California emission requirements.

Of course, like all Subaru models sold in the United States, the Outback has standard all wheel drive.? Each transmission has its own Symmetrical AWD system configuration. The manual uses a continuous AWD with viscous-coupling and locking center differential.? The CVT, which we drove, has an active system with an electronically managed continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch.? The five-speed automatic system is a Variable Torque Distribution system that divides engine power 45/55 front/rear, and adjusts the torque distribution in response to driving conditions.

All models are equipped with a Vehicle dynamics Control stability system and traction control. ?Each model also has a new electronic parking brake with Hill Holder System.?? When stopping on a hill the driver simply pushes the parking brake button to the left of the steering wheel and it will hold the car from rolling until the accelerator pedal is pressed.

She ? The Outback comes in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R, 3.6R Premium and 3.6R Limited.? Prices range from $23,690, including destination charge, for the 2.5i up to $31,690 to the top-of the-line 3.6R Limited.? Loaded, with all the extras like navigation, premium audio, moonroof and several option packages, the 3.6R Limited price can go to just over $38,000.

Our 2.5i Limited test car had a high level of standard equipment which included features like all power, All-Weather Package with heated seats, side mirrors and wiper de-icer, premium Harman/Kardon audio, Bluetooth and leather upholstery.?? From the base price of $27,995 the options and destination charge brought the bottom line price to $33,210.

He ? With the increased wheelbase, suspension upgrades including a new double-wishbone rear suspension and low center of gravity, the Outback handles and rides better than the previous models.? ?I especially liked the tight turning radius, extra ground clearance, and the digital transmission gear readout.

The 2.5i provides adequate performance for the average driver, accelerating from 0 to 60 in 9.4 seconds, but drivers who like more oomph will want to step up to the 3.6-liter engine, which makes the same run in just 7.1 seconds.? However, if fuel economy is paramount, the 2.5i with the CVT is the way to go getting EPA estimates of 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.? We actually averaged 27.5 mpg in that model.? The 3.6R is rated at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

We didn?t get a chance to take the Outback over the river and trough the woods on an off-road adventure, however previous experiences in the Subaru were always impressive.?? With the new 8.7 inches of ground clearance and improved suspension, I expect it to be even better.

She ? When it comes to SUV-style vehicle, not only would I recommend the Subaru Outback, it would be near the top of my shopping list if I were in the market.? The size, comfort, ease of access and value makes it an easy choice.

He ? Subaru takes a different approach than its competitors, but it works better than the others.? By combining a low center of gravity, advanced AWD system with outstanding engines that have a bulletproof reputation, the Subaru Outback is a natural for active lifestyles.


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