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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 Subaru Outback

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Expert's Rating


MPG 20 City / 27 Highway
  • Many transmission choices
  • Large cargo area
  • Many standard safety features
  • Ample leg room in back seats
  • Styling may not be for everyone
  • No turbocharged engine offered
, Automotive Editor -
With surprisingly good fuel economy, the Outback is for families that need a little more space and cargo capacity than their Forester.


The Subaru Outback has long been a 'tweener type of vehicle, as it is too small to be an SUV, yet too utilitarian to be a station wagon. This firmly plants it in the classification now known as the crossover market. Despite the confusion, the Outback remains one of Subaru's best-selling vehicles.

Using extreme care not to rock the boat too much, the 2013 Outback arrives with only basic changes from the 2012 model year. The front fascia has been slightly revised, giving the Outback a smoother nose. Subaru also revised the Outback’s standard 2.5-liter engine to get an additional 2 mpg in the city and 1 mpg on the highway, along with a revised constantly variable transmission and suspension. A few extra optional features also make their debuts in 2013, including remote start, adaptive cruise control and a collision-avoidance system.

For the 2013 model year, the Outback comes in five trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R and 3.6R Limited. The 2.5i trim levels feature the fuel-sipping 2.5-liter engine that nets the Outback 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The 2.5i includes only the most basic standard features, like cloth interior and a quad-speaker sound system. The 2.5i Premium adds two more speakers and a set of alloy rims. The 2.5i Limited adds in all of the luxury features, like a premium stereo and leather seating. The 3.6R trims feature a less economical, but more powerful, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine that gets 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The 3.6R trim comes with just basic amenities, just like the 2.5i, and the 3.6R Limited is loaded to the gills, like the 2.5i Limited. Something that has always set the Outback apart from the competition is the fact that every trim level comes standard with Subaru’s famed all-wheel-drive system.

When it comes to competition, the list is a little thin, but there are some out there. One of the Outback’s closest competitors is the 2013 Toyota Venza, which comes standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with 181 horsepower, cloth seating, and 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Next up is the 2013 Volvo XC70, which features a standard 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, cloth interior, and 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Another alternative is the 2013 Audi Allroad, which comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, loads of standard features, like leather seating, and gets 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Lastly, is the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox, which is a little bit of a stretch, as it’s closer to an SUV than a wagon. It includes a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 182 horsepower, cloth seating, and get 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.

As you can see, competition is not easy to come by for the Outback, hence its success. However, there are still some options out there, so Subaru needs to keep advancing its Outback to keep it ahead of the curve.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 Subaru Outback
Starting price

2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i

Recommended for: Buyers that want a basic AWD wagon at a fair price

The Outback 2.5i is the base trim level for Subaru’s wagon model. This model starts off with adequate performance from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower and mates to a standard six-speed manual transmission. The 2.5i’s exterior is pretty basic, as it comes with 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps keeping things slightly stylish. It does feature standard projector headlights, which put out a more direct headlight beam for better night vision, but the rest of the exterior features a rather basic, like b lack mirrors, two-speed wipers and body-colored door handles. The interior features more of just the basics, as a relatively common four-speaker audio system with a CD player, auxiliary input, iPod control and Bluetooth connectivity keep you entertained, and the seats are wrapped in cloth.

2013 Subaru Outback
Starting price

2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

Recommended for: Buyers that want all of the premium features, but still need good mpg

The 2.5i Limited trim level is the highest you can get with the fuel-sipping 2.5-liter engine. This trim level starts off with replacing the standard six-speed manual transmission with a Subaru’s Lineartronic constantly-variable transmission with six-speed manual mode and paddle shifters. There’s not much that the Premium trim level left off on the outside, so there are only minor exterior additions on the Limited package, like windshield wiper deicers for cold-weather buyers. The interior is where the 2.5i Limited really takes hold, as it starts off by adding a four-way power passenger seat to the mix, as well as heated front seats and full-leather upholstery, giving the Impreza a luxury-car-like interior. Adding a little extra class to the inside is woodgrain-pattern accent trim and an LCD multi-function display allows you to clearly read the information it displays. Last, but certainly not least, the 2.5i Limited pleases everyone inside the cabin with dual-zone automatic climate control and a 440-watt, nine-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system.

2013 Subaru Outback
Starting price

2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium

Recommended for: Buyers that want some premium options, but still need to same money

The 2.5i Premium trim level starts adding a little more class to the Outback, starting with the addition of 17-inch aluminum wheels and standard fog lamps. The 2.5i Premium also does away with the black mirrors, which are eyesores, and replaces them with body-colored ones. The 2.5i Premium retains the cloth interior, but adds in a 10-way power drive seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth and cruise control for added convenience. Along with the integrated controls, the steering wheel also gets wrapped in leather, giving it a more luxurious feel. Lastly, the 2.5i Premium eliminates the four-speaker radio and replaces it with a more eardrum-friendly six-speaker unit.

2013 Subaru Outback
Starting price

2013 Subaru Outback 3.6R

Recommended for: Buyers that are willing to sacrifice mpg for additional power

The 3.6R trim level acts as the base trimming for the performance model Impreza and it adds in a 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Helping add to the sportiness of this model, Subaru also installed four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, replacing the 2.5i’s solid rear discs, plus the discs are slightly larger. Keeping with the sporty theme, Subaru includes projector-beam headlights, fog lights and body-color side-view mirrors on the 3.6R trim level, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels. The interior, much like on the base 2.5i model, is kept rather simple, featuring cloth interior, manual seat adjusters, manual climate control and a four-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls.

2013 Subaru Outback
Starting price

2013 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited

Recommended for: Buyers looking for a cheaper alternative to luxury crossover SUVs

The 3.6R Limited is the top-line trim for the performance variant of the Impreza wagon. The exterior is nearly identical to the base 3.6R, but it does add in windshield wiper deicers for folks living in cooler climates. Inside the cabin is where the Limited trim level really shows its colors with its standard leather upholstery, power driver and passenger seats, heated front seats and woodgrain trimming. The Limited trim level takes things to a new level by tossing in standard dual-zone climate control and a Harman Kardon audio system that features nine speakers, 440 watts of power, HD radio and much more.

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