Fair or Best Powertrain? What sets the Outback apart from the competition is its standard all-wheel drive. Some trims include an elevated ride height and a more advanced all-wheel-drive system, enabling the Outback to go places few competitors other than the Jeep Cherokee would dare to go.

The engine choices, though, make a difference, especially on the open road. The standard 2.5-liter flat-four is slow, tuned to optimize fuel efficiency. A better choice is the 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four that delivers a brisk response under full throttle. Both engines work with a continuously variable transmission that mimics shift points. Thanks to copious sound-deadening materials, the inevitable engine drone noise is minimized, more so on the higher trims.

Out to the Wilderness. New this year is the Wilderness edition. This model raises the Outback’s off-road capabilities a notch thanks in part to its Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires. Almost an inch taller than other Outbacks, this may be the most capable crossover in its class.

Add the available skid plates and the Wilderness may be found trekking in the vicinity of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Toyota 4Runner, and Ford Bronco, each of which are true off-roaders. With its 20-degree approach angle, 21.2-degree breakover angle, and 23.6-degree departure angle, the Outback Wilderness is buff. The flip side, though, is that it loses 2 mpg in its efficiency, so consider the trade-off.


Super Safety Scores. Subaru is a leader in all matters of safety, beginning with the design of their vehicles and extending to the equipment offered. No vehicle is perfect, but Subaru ranks with Volvo in building the safest mass-production models on the planet. Excellent crash-test scores from the federal government and the insurance industry’s safety arm.

Subaru backs it all up with standard automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Throw in the standard all-wheel-drive as that system makes a noteworthy difference in the handling department, especially on slippery roads. Most trims offer blind-spot monitoring. An available 180-degree front-facing camera makes it easier to park the vehicle.

The only demerits of note are related to the rear roof pillars as they limit outward vision. But with the judicious use of mirrors and tech equipment, that’s a challenge easily overcome by the astute driver.

We Have the Features. Only the standard four-speaker audio system is a disappointment. As for the rest of the Outback, there are many features included that would cost you extra elsewhere. Things like adaptive lighting, all-wheel-drive, superior safety equipment, and alloy wheels. Yes, the Outback can get pricey, but for about $30,000 you can equip one better than its competitors.

If the standard audio system is disappointing, 6- and 12-speaker choices are also available. The latter is an exquisite Harman Kardon system that delivers exceptional sound quality throughout the cabin. Other features appear once you move away from the Base trim. These include a Wi-Fi hotspot, two additional USB ports, and a big 11.6-inch touch-screen display with sharp graphics.

A Qi-compatible wireless charging pad isn’t offered on any trim or package. Instead, it is an accessory item installed at the dealer level.

Final Thoughts. Is the Outback a utility vehicle or a wagon? Does it even matter? This model shares its underpinnings with the Subaru Legacy sedan and both are midsize models. We think the Outback blends the best of a wagon with a utility vehicle to create an exceptionally compelling model. The new Wilderness version keeps it ahead of the crossover curve and immediately behind the robust purpose-built off-road vehicles.

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