Long before crossover utility vehicles were all the rage, there was Subaru's Legacy-based Outback. Offering the space and road manners of a traditional station wagon rugged styling and a higher ride height, the Outback became the defacto family cars for outdoorsy folks. Since its launch 22 years back, the Outback has been a fixture in the Subaru range and has grown to be one of its top sellers.
Last redesigned for model year 2015, the Outback is still a fresh design. Despite having grown in size and height, it's still more wagon-like than most modern crossovers like the Nissan Murano or Ford Edge. Exterior cladding and roof rails with integrated cross-bars hint at the wagon's functional abilities off-road. A spacious and airy cabin provides comfortable seating for five, while the rear cargo area is surprisingly voluminous. All drivers are sure to appreciate the Outback's thin pillars and an elevated ride height, which provide excellent overall visibility, bucking the usual crossover trend.
Though the Outback may be car-based, its off-roading abilities surpass most of its rivals. Generous ground clearance, all-terrain tires, and symmetrical all-wheel drive with X-Mode traction management will take the Outback well off the beaten path to the best campsites and through the slickest of ski-hill parking lots.
The standard engine on the Outback is a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder which produces 175 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque; a six-speed manual is available on the entry level trims, while all others use a CVT. So equipped, the Outback uses just 9.4 L/100 km city and 7.3 L/100 km highway.
A 3.6-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder is the upgrade engine, and it's exclusively offered with the CVT. Its 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque improve acceleration significantly and help the Outback tow a modest 1,224 kilos. Fuel economy for the six-cylinder is rated at 12.0 L/100 km city and 8.7 L/100 km highway.
For 2017, Subaru has updated the Outback Touring's infotainment display to feature a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen, with Starlink smartphone integration, Siri Eyes Free, USB ports, and a text-messaging assistant. Limited trims gain a standard heated steering wheel.
There's also a new Premier trim level which features a dark-finish grille, 18-inch wheels, low-profile silver-finish roof rails, plus unique side sills and door handles. The Premier trim level is also available in a new colour, Brilliant Brown Pearl, while the interior is offered in exclusive Java Brown leather. It should hide dirt well.
All models with the Technology Package receive Subaru's EyeSight active safety technology that includes radar cruise control, emergency autonomous braking, lane-departure warning, and, new for 2017 automatic high beams, and Reverse Automatic Braking. Think of it as emergency autonomous braking when backing up.
Pricing for the updated 2017 Outback starts at $27,995 for the 2.5i and tops out at $38,595 for the 2.5i Premier with Technology Package. You'll need to shell out $35,595 for the base six-cylinder 3.6R Touring. The top-of-the-line 3.6R Premier with Technology Package sells for $41,595.
The Outback occupies a unique niche in the world of crossovers. Its closest wagon rival is the new VW Golf Alltrack, but the Volkswagen is a class size down. The closest wagon-style rival in size is the Volvo XC70, which is older and has a starting price that's greater than the most expensive Outback.