Subaru's Outback Wagon has been redesigned and re-engineered for 2000. The new one is a bit longer and wider than the previous model. A fresh interior is sportier and more conveniently laid out for the driver.
Yet the Outback retains its versatility: part sport-utility, part car. Subaru's Outback is a hybrid that handles both on-road and off-road situations with style.
It's arguably the best of its type. The Outback provides more power and better handling than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It is smoother and more pleasant on the highway than truck-based sport-utility vehicles. A brilliant all-wheel-drive system offers sure-footed traction in all conditions. A generous ground clearance makes it a good vehicle for venturing off paved roads. And there's plenty of cargo space for long treks into the backcountry.
The market is flooded with four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicles. But most are based on trucks and trucks do not make good cars. Compared with cars, they are slow, don't handle as well and are harder to stop. Because of this, industry observers predict future SUVs will be based on cars. Subaru is a forward-thinking company. Several years ago it decided to fit all cars sold in the U.S. with permanent all-wheel drive. The gamble paid off. Subarus have become increasingly popular, even in warmer parts of the country. Not just for snow, Subaru's all-wheel-drive system provides stable handling on wet and dry pavement.
The newest version of the Outback is slightly longer and wider than the previous model. The Outback Wagons are by far more popular than the Sedan.
The Outback Wagon has a high roofline and an integrated luggage rack. All the door windows are pillarless, which is unusual for a wagon or four-door sedan and it gives the car a sporty look. The big front grille and flush-fitting headlights enhance the sporty theme. Heavy cladding along the sides gives it a more rugged look while offering protection from shopping carts and flying gravel. The designers may have gone overboard, however, as the thick body cladding makes it look like there's a dent where it is recessed for the doors to open.
An attractive new design gives the sedan a European flavor with a high trunk line that improves aerodynamics and increases cargo capacity. The hood line tapers to a low profile that gives the sedan a wedge-shaped stance. The cabin is long with decent sized doors and a fairly low belt line.
The interior of the 2000 Outback has been substantially redesigned with a much sportier cockpit-type environment for the driver. Switches and controls are all within easy reach of the driver without stretching. However, there is not a lot of knee room on the driver's right for those with short legs. Ironically, tall drivers sometimes find the cockpit environment roomier as their right knee is farther back.
Four round instruments include a tachometer, a speedometer, a smaller fuel gauge and water temperature gauge. They are well shaded making them easy to read in all lighting conditions. The dash is covered in a nice black and gray plastic trim with a heavy grain finish and imitation wood paneling as well. The climate and radio controls fall to hand conveniently in the center. The sound system worked well, as did the climate control.
Apart from the slightly cramped cockpit feel for some drivers there is plenty of leg and headroom in the front. Rear-seat passengers will also be pleasantly surprised by the generous legroom for a compact station wagon, it is better than many in its class. The headroom in the wagon is greater than in the sedan due to the higher roofline. The moonroof, which is standard on Limited models, reduces headroom by an inch.
The usability of the storage space in the rear has been improved as the suspension has been redesigned and the suspension parts do not intrude into the floor space any more. The rear seats can be split 60/40 to provide a variety of seating/cargo options. A retractable cargo area cover is standard, as are cargo hooks and a cargo tray. There is also a 12-volt power outlet in the rear.
The first thing one notices about the Outback is its handling. Unlike a truck-based sport-utility vehicle, the Outback is sure-footed and never feels tippy. The ground clearance on the Outback is about 1 inch higher than in the Legacy. It has a raised suspension with heavy-duty components for off-road use. Coupled with higher profile tires the Outback does not handle quite as well as the Legacy but it's amazingly close. The good handling comes from a combination of suspension design, all-wheel-drive and a low center of gravity thanks to the horizontally opposed flat-4 engine. Subaru is in unique company: Porsche is the only other company with this type of engine layout on the market.
The all-wheel-drive system ensures power is distributed to all four wheels. This is especially helpful when the road surface is slippery. Unlike the more common part-time off-road four-wheel-drive systems, Subaru's system only adds a few pounds in weight, and the all-important viscous coupling limited slip unit is only the size of a grapefruit. This effectively replaces the hefty transfer case you'll find in a truck or SUV.
The four-cylinder engine produces 165 horsepower, which is pretty good for this size of vehicle. More important, it generates good low-end torque, which is what helps make a car feel faster than just the maximum horsepower rating. The engine is more powerful than the four-cylinder engines in the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The Outback fits nicely in between these small SUVs and bigger models, such as the Toyota 4Runner or Chevrolet Blazer. However, those other SUVs are all available with optional six-cylinder engines.
The manual transmission shifts smoothly and is pleasant to use. As in all four-cylinder cars it helps get the most out of the engine. With an automatic, the car's performance suffers somewhat. With its new notched-gate pattern, you need to make sure you don't select third gear instead of drive.
In regular driving on smooth, dry roads it is all but impossible to tell the Outback has all-wheel-drive. It is transparent to the driver, which is as it should be. The steering feels good but it is not as precise as in the Legacy because of the higher profile tires. The added ground clearance also makes the car feel slightly less stable, though in reality it is caused more by the tires. All told there is only a small difference that will not concern most drivers.
Overall, the Outback offers a driving experience that is much more pleasant than in an SUV in everyday use. That is unless one needs to creep through old riverbeds with two-foot boulders on a regular basis. However, the Outback is more than capable of traversing the primitive roads and two-tracks that you encounter in the backcountry.
If you enjoy driving, take a test drive in the Subaru Outback. It is much more pleasant for highway use than a sport-utility vehicle. Yet it offers the utility and cargo capacity of similar-sized SUVs. With its all-wheel drive system it has little trouble venturing off the highway.
Build and price your dream Subaru Outback in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2014 Subaru Outback$25,377 | 3,621 mi
2014 Subaru Outback$26,488 | 1,730 mi
2014 Subaru Outback$26,988 | 2,418 mi
2013 Subaru Outback$22,780 | 9,336 mi
2013 Subaru Outback$24,488 | 27,907 mi
2013 Subaru Outback$24,981 | 4,484 mi
2013 Subaru Outback$25,488 | 33,401 mi
2013 SUBARU OUTBACK$25,494 | 17,419 mi
2013 Subaru Outback$26,477 | 16,487 mi
2013 Subaru Outback$26,577 | 22,228 mi
2013 Subaru Outback$26,977 | 16,699 mi
2012 Subaru Outback$19,995 | 35,212 mi
2012 Subaru Outback$21,477 | 56,933 mi
2012 Subaru Outback$22,970 | 41,291 mi
2012 Subaru Outback$25,995 | 27,678 mi
2012 Subaru Outback$26,000 | 43,156 mi
2012 Subaru Outback$26,488 | 46,027 mi
2011 Subaru Outback$17,995 | 83,469 mi
2011 Subaru Outback$19,997 | 62,430 mi
2011 Subaru Outback$20,999 | 34,676 mi
2011 Subaru Outback$21,990 | 25,636 mi
2011 Subaru Outback$22,988 | 26,901 mi
2011 Subaru Outback$23,819 | 50,592 mi
2010 Subaru Outback$12,995 | 145,553 mi
2010 Subaru Outback$17,540 | 59,005 mi
2009 Subaru Outback$19,991 | 40,465 mi
2005 Subaru Outback$6,787 | 172,747 mi
2005 Subaru Outback$7,996 | 113,364 mi