2015 Subaru Outback Test Drive – Ruge’s Subaru – NY Daily News

16 Sep


Monday, September 15, 2014, 11:44 AM
The 2015 Subaru Outback is one of the best cars you can buy. There, I said it, and I mean it. The new Outback is reliable, practical, safe, comfortable, affordable, and now, thanks to a complete redesign, pretty stylish inside and out. One of the only reasons you’d cross the Outback off your crossover shopping list is because it doesn’t offer a third-row seat.

Still, having spent a week driving the “Wilderness Green” Outback 2.5i Limited ($30,845 as-tested) my enthusiasm for this crossover SUV has waned. Outbacks have always been loud inside, their boxer-type engines thrumming away and sending a subtle vibration to the cabin – I’ve always thought this contributed to the vehicle’s quirky personality.

But in this latest model, Subaru has mainstreamed the styling at the same time that it has quelled the flat four’s noise and vibration. The characteristic hum of the engine is gone but, in its place, there is a thrum from a new continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s this combination of changes that have dampened my usual zeal for the Outback.

If you’ve never known a previous Outback, however, then you’re going to love this one. That is, unless you have plans to drive fast. That’s because the 2.5i model’s 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine struggles a bit to motivate this Subaru’s 3,600-pound curb weight. Part-throttle acceleration is lively enough, but when you want to merge onto a freeway, or pass somebody, the Outback 2.5i quickens your pulse for all the wrong reasons.

You can resolve this problem by upgrading to the available 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer engine, but that’s offered only in the 3.6R Limited model, which commands a $3,000 premium. Plus, that engine isn’t as fuel efficient, rated to return 22 mpg in combined driving, or six fewer miles per gallon than the 2.5i models.

The 2015 Subaru Outback comes standard with a 175-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine.CHRISTIAN WARDLAWThe 2015 Subaru Outback comes standard with a 175-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine.

Still, the added cost might be worth it, especially if you live at elevation, where Outbacks have always proved popular. Thinner atmosphere in high-altitude regions noticeably reduces power output for engines without a turbocharger or a supercharger. So if I thought my 2.5i test model was slow at California sea level, mountain dwellers might be inspired to ask passengers to get out and push.

Had I achieved fuel economy numbers anywhere close to what the EPA led me to expect, I could forgive the Outback 2.5i its leisurely acceleration. Instead, during a week and 500 miles of driving, I averaged 23.7 mpg, a full 4.3 mpg below the combined-driving estimate of 28 mpg. I didn’t even match the Outback’s 25-mpg city rating!

Personally, I think Subaru ought to ditch the 3.6R model’s 6-cylinder engine in favor of the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine it installs in the Forester and WRX models. Turbocharged engines help create Rocky Mountain muscle cars, and since the 250-horsepower Forester 2.0XT – which also weighs 3,600 lbs. – is rated to get 25 mpg in combined driving, offering that same engine in the Outback makes a lot of sense. It would probably restore plenty of the crossover’s personality, too.

With this griping out of the way, there’s little to criticize about the 2015 Subaru Outback. Ventilated front seats would be nice, especially since this model is gaining in popularity in Sunbelt states. Along the same lines, parents of babies and little kids sure do like manual rear side window shades to help keep Mr. Sun’s blinding rays out of brand-new eyeballs, especially after they’ve snapped up an Outback thanks to its “Top Safety Pick” crash-test rating.

Comfortable and spacious, about the only thing missing from the cabin of the 2015 Subaru Outback is an optional third row of seats.
Comfortable and spacious, about the only thing missing from the cabin of the 2015 Subaru Outback is an optional third row of seats.

If Subaru missed surprise-and-delight opportunities in these areas, it sure nailed the Outback’s new Starlink infotainment system. In fact, it might be my new favorite, because in addition to its ultra-slick appearance, intuitive operation, and pleasing graphics, the screen doesn’t collect fingerprints.

You could be stuffing your face full of French fries, cringe when a Milli Vanilli song starts up on SiriusXM’s 80’s on 8 channel, stab one of the station pre-sets on the screen with a greasy fingertip, and scarcely detect evidence of the action. Subaur even went to the trouble of providing an actual, old-school volume knob. Thank you!

Look down at the bottom left corner of the dashboard, and an array of buttons offers the driver direct control over the Outback’s new Rear Vehicle Detection System and upgraded EyeSight technology. The former includes a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a lane change assist system that tells the driver when fast traffic is approaching from behind in order to keep him from cutting someone off or potentially causing an accident.

EyeSight gets new camera technology for 2015, and the result is a dramatic improvement in how the Outback’s optional adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems work. EyeSight also includes pre-collision braking, but I wasn’t inclined to test its effectiveness.

The 2015 Subaru Outback has passed safety tests with flying colors. If safety is a serious buying concern, this could be the crossover for you.
The 2015 Subaru Outback has passed safety tests with flying colors. If safety is a serious buying concern, this could be the crossover for you.

In any case, while driving the Outback up scenic Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu, EyeSight’s adaptive cruise control worked beautifully, adjusting speed in smooth and sophisticated fashion. Later, while following other vehicles on arrow-straight farm roads, EyeSight brought the Outback to a full stop at a traffic light, and the system’s display, nestled within the gauge cluster, even shows when the crossover’s brake lights are illuminating to let motorists behind the Subaru know the Outback is slowing down.

It really is too bad that the Outback 2.5i suffers accelerative lethargy, because it is otherwise quite pleasing to drive. The steering doesn’t feel electrically assisted, though it is, and thanks to bigger front brakes and ventilated discs at all four corners, an Outback has no trouble slowing down.

Equipped with a softer ride than before, the suspension deftly balances comfort with capability, soaking up bumps while simultaneously providing a good feel for the road. Plus, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance – or more than a Jeep Grand Cherokee with 4-wheel drive – an Outback effortlessly plows through snow and standing water. Theoretically, anyway. I couldn’t actually test that during a parched California summer.

The Outback’s interior is super comfortable, too, with big, broad, supportive seats, lots of rear legroom, and a sizable cargo area measuring 35.5 cu.-ft. with the rear seat raised, and 73.3 cu.-ft. with it folded down. My wife wished for a front passenger’s seat height adjuster, and it would have been nice if our compact folding stroller had fit into the cargo area wheels first. Yet these complaints reflect the fact that I need to look hard to find anything wrong with this Subaru.

My family’s got an aging 5-passenger crossover SUV that needs replacement soon, and now that we’ve spent a week with the redesigned 2015 Outback, it easily makes the short list of vehicles we might park in our own garage. If it had a turbocharged engine option, however, it could easily vault to the top of that list.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/latest-reviews/driven-2015-subaru-outback-redesigned-widespread-appeal-article-1.1939994#ixzz3DUEnoW3j


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