Vital Stats

Engine:
3.6L Boxer-6
Power:
256 HP / 247 LB-FT
Transmission:
CVT
0-60 Time:
7.3 Seconds
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,810 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
73.3 CU-FT (max)
MPG:
20 City / 27 HWY
Base Price:
$24,895
"We like producing cars that are different." That's the company line trumpeted by several Subaru executives during the launch of the 2015 Outback – one of Fuji Heavy's most successful vehicles to date. Managing Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski accurately noted that while Subaru has never really found salvation with its mainstream sedans, it's the higher-riding, butcher offerings like the Outback and the Impreza-based XV Crosstrek that have been sales stars for the Japanese company. In 2013, for example, Subaru sold nearly three Outbacks for every Legacy it moved. And in 2014, the XV is on pace to outsell the Impreza upon which its based.

But Subarus have always been different, catering to unique customers that desire something a bit more special than your run-of-the-mill sedan or crossover. It's clearly worked, with Subaru having posted 30 months of year-over-year sales increases as of this writing. And even as the automaker's portfolio goes more mainstream, smoothing out its serially awkward styling and gunning for a larger market share here in the United States, that intrinsic Subaru differentiation is still baked in to each and every product.

It's that new Outback we're here to talk about today, a vehicle that's been comprehensively redesigned for the 2015 model year while not shaking up the formula that's made it successful since its inception in the mid-1990s, back when it (arguably) launched what we now know as the crossover utility vehicle segment. It's still plenty different – and plenty good, too.
2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback

The Outback's lifted, tough design is all for the sake of function.

So while there's nothing truly radical about the 2015 Outback formula, it's still all-new, with a more refined design that's less awkward than before. The shapes have been smoothed out and the revamped proportions of things like the headlamps, grille, and taillamps all work well to create a rugged, handsome package. It's still wholly evident that there's a Legacy underneath that chunky gray cladding, more prominent foglamps and roof rack, but we're guessing most of the brand's customers don't know or don't care. Besides, Subaru has always done a nice job of making the Outback look complete on its own. Nevermind its family sedan roots; nothing about this car's design gives the impression that it's simply a Legacy add-on. It's absolutely evident that the Outback and Legacy were designed side by side to make two fully cohesive vehicles.

The thing about the Outback's lifted, tougher design is that it's all for the sake of function. There's 8.7 inches of ground clearance on hand – more than any of its competitors, and as we found out during some pretty robust off-roading, that added height really comes in handy. (More on that in a minute.) Compared to its predecessor, the new Outback isn't much larger – Subaru says that it really figured out the model's "right size" in the last generation. Overall length is up by 0.6 inches and width has increased by 1.3 inches. The new Outback is a fair bit taller, though, at 66.1 inches compared to the outgoing model's 63.9. Ground clearance hasn't changed, and the Outback still rides on either 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels, so it's the added width and height that's largely responsible for the increase in interior volume – 108.1 cubic feet of passenger space compared to the 2014 model's 105.4.

2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback

The wagon configuration is good for a whopping 73.3 cubic feet of storage space.

The cabin is where differences between the Legacy and Outback really end – it is, for better or worse, the exact same interior. The layout, colors, controls, materials – they've all been carried over. Korzeniewski said of the Legacy, "Materials are of high quality, with nary a squeak or rattle to be heard" (one Subaru official saying the Outback has "the nicest fake wood you'll ever see"), "all controls are logically placed," and, "all pieces the driver interacts with feel good." We won't offer a single disagreement in regards to the Outback, and add that here, too, the interior feels absolutely huge, with no shortage of head-, leg-, shoulder- or hip-room for both front and rear occupants. It's roomy, logical and of appreciably high quality, but exactly nobody will call the new dashboard stylish or even particularly modern-looking in design.

Even so, we must commend the Outback (and Legacy) on the revamped infotainment interface, with a seven-inch touchscreen standard on all models but the base 2.5i. Finally, Subaru has designed a system that works well, is very intuitive, and looks fresh and modern. This was always a sour point with the outgoing car, but it's not a problem, here. Other bits of praise go to the optional Harman/Kardon audio system, which sounds lovely, and Subaru's third-generation EyeSight collision mitigation system. We even had the chance to sample the latter (in a controlled environment, natch), and it had no problem bringing our car to a halt from 30 miles per hour with absolutely no driver interaction.

Where the Outback offers added functionality is, of course, at the rear, where the wagon configuration is good for a whopping 73.3 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats folded flat – two more cubes than its predecessor. There's a power liftgate available on higher trims with programmable height memory (helpful for shorter drivers or low garages), and all Outback models come standard with the roof rails that feature collapsible crossbars and integrated tie-down points.

2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback

For our money, we'd just buy the 2.5 ... with either engine, the Outback's dynamics are surprisingly good.

Underhood, it's, again, all Legacy – the 2.5-liter boxer-four and 3.6-liter boxer-six engines carry over unchanged, the former putting out 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, and the latter offering up a healthy 256 hp and 247 lb-ft. Both engines are mated to a continuously variable transmission, but the 3.6-liter engine gets the "high-torque" Lineartronic CVT that's used in the WRX. That particular unit is actually quite good, with ratios that feel more like planetary gears with proper shift points – this CVT won't just drone up in the power band like most others.

Both engines are really nice, and that boxer-six is plenty powerful, but for our money, we'd just buy the 2.5. Models equipped with the four-cylinder engine are anywhere from 177 to 217 pounds lighter than the 3.6R Limited, depending on trim, and any way to save weight is good since, at 3,593 pounds, even the base 2.5i is some 170 pounds heavier than its predecessor. Besides, with the flat-six only available in Limited guise, you have to get spendy if you find six-pot power an absolute necessity. The lower weight of the 2.5 can really be felt from behind the wheel in terms of handling, and as you can probably guess, the smaller engine is way better in terms of fuel economy, too. 2.5-liter models are estimated to achieve 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg highway, while the 3.6 is only good for 20/27 mpg city/highway – that's a substantial efficiency penalty.

Of course, the 3.6R is a bit more lively out on the road, Subaru estimating a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds compared to the two-second-slower 2.5i. But with either engine, the Outback's dynamics are surprisingly good. The now-electric power steering is appropriately tuned – it's somewhat dead on-center, but serves up plenty of feedback while turning. Helping all of this is the increased steering ratio, now 14:1, up from 16:1. It won't turn with the sharpness of a WRX, but it isn't really meant to, and it's still much better than we had anticipated.

2015 Subaru Outback

Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is as blissful and invisible as always.

The 2015 Outback offers a 59-percent increase in torsional stiffness and a 35-percent increase in bending rigidity, and with its traditional front MacPherson strut-type suspension and rear double-wishbone setup, overall stability while cornering is not vastly improved, but still a bit better. There's still body roll, thanks in part to the higher center of gravity, but it's nothing absurd considering the Outback's mission. Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is as blissful and invisible as always, serving up perfect amounts of grip to all four corners. The Outback's active torque vectoring (a modified version of what's in the WRX STI) deserves some credit here, too – even at higher speeds on dirt and gravel roads, the Outback never slipped around (unless we asked it to, which we may or may not have), and remained stable and confident. But on asphalt, the Outback offers a smooth, confident ride with better dynamics than the majority of the competitive set. We'd much rather pilot an Outback than other two-row CUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Ford Edge, Toyota Venza or Honda Crosstour.

Off road, most CUVs in this genre aren't particularly capable, but the Outback really excels. Subaru's X-Mode system, first seen on the Forester, helped us trudge through some really nasty bits of trail – terrain we wouldn't have thought an Outback can handle. This Subaru was downright impressive as we traversed steep hills, deep ruts, sizable rocks and muddy streams, and its aforementioned 8.7 inches of ground clearance – identical to a Jeep Grand Cherokee in its default setting – was a real confidence builder. Of course, SUVs like the Jeep would surely do a better job in such circumstances, and more hardcore off-roaders would laugh at the paths we took to in the Outback, but they aren't necessarily as capacious or efficient, either. The best part is, with the Outback it's all one-touch: Press one button, and X-Mode alters the engine output and controls the CVT ratio positioning, while remapping the AWD logic and traction control. Other aids like hill start assist and descent control were quite helpful when the going got tough, as well.

2015 Subaru Outback

Subaru owners are 190 percent more likely to engage in outdoor activities than other car buyers.

We mentioned it before, but this off-roading prowess isn't just to woo us journalist types. Subaru offered up J.D. Power data stating that its products are driven off road more than any other brand, save Jeep and Ram. Furthermore, similar data states that Subaru owners are 190 percent more likely to engage in outdoor activities than other car buyers. And considering how many civilian Subarus we saw during our test drive, all covered in dirt and mud, with kayaks and bikes on the roof, we don't doubt those stats for a minute. (The Pacific Northwest is one of the company's largest markets – go figure.)

Pricing for the 2015 Outback starts at $24,895, not including $850 for destination. That'll get you the 2.5i, with a whole mess of standard equipment including 17-inch alloys, X-Mode, a 6.2-inch infotainment screen with Subaru's Starlink smartphone integration, and too many other features to list here. Moving up the ladder, the 2.5i Premium adds stuff like foglamps, the seven-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and more, for $26,995. The 2.5i Limited gets things like 18-inch wheels, leather seats and the power liftgate for $29,995, and finally, the top-end 3.6R Limited comes in at $32,995. Option a fully loaded 3.6R Limited like the car you see pictured here and you'll come out at $36,835.

Obviously, we don't anticipate the new Outback doing anything but good for Subaru – it's already the company's second-best-selling model, and this redesigned 2015 version is vastly improved in every way. It doesn't shake up the Outback formula, and it isn't even a departure from the outgoing version. But that's fine. The good-to-drive, ready-to-play nature of the Outback has always made friends, and this new model addresses the negative points of the outgoing model while improving upon what's made it successful. Say what you will about its non-traditional form – here, it's good to be different.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 122 Comments
      Juan
      • 5 Months Ago
      I think that Subaru builds reliable cars. I have a 2009 Forester that I'm very happy with, and with no mechanical problems what-so-ever. I just wish that Subaru would bring back the Baja, its almost impossible to find one without paying an arm and a leg for it.
        thyservant
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Juan
        Which is hysterically funny because the Bajas piled up like cord wood when they were on the market. The Baja is tied with the Aztek for the "OMG that's hideous!" award. At least the Baja serves well. Imagine if Subaru could convert either the Impreza or Legacy chassis into an AWD El Camino-type pick-up?
        FuelToTheFire
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Juan
        What an idiot. Why would anyone with a functioning brain buy a Baja lesbo mobile when they can buy a full size pickup for less?
          Adam
          • 5 Months Ago
          @FuelToTheFire
          Wow, sounds like someone is really insecure about their sexuality.
      Tom C
      • 5 Months Ago
      No you did not just use the word butch in an article about Subarus
        mogli
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Tom C
        Yes, that stands out like a water diverting structure in the middle of a desert.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Please offer the HIDs with the 2.5 engine...
      Durishin
      • 5 Months Ago
      I had one of the first H-6 VDC wagons sold in the states. I drove the heck out of it for 147k. It never skipped a beat or burnt one drop of oil. Lovely car. But, not that I am a Spec/ B driver, I want a turbo Legacy GT wagon... Or just a WRX 5-door...
      bK
      • 5 Months Ago
      Looks alot better than the last gen, I hope they bring the Legacy Touring Wagon.
        LukkyStrike
        • 5 Months Ago
        @bK
        they aren't, you will need to go to japan to get a legacy ride height wagon.
      jlafley
      • 5 Months Ago
      I like my 2014 2.5i Limited with eyesight but I can see replacing it in a couple of years for whatever the latest Outback model is if they keep making these good changes. Looks good
      JimG
      • 4 Months Ago
      Got mine last Saturday ( 2015 Outback 2.5i Premium). First week review. Negatives: ----------- Entertainment system has software bugs: Picks wrong options when selected via steering wheel switches. To make Aha work you need to use hardwired connection to your iPhone (5S is what I'm using). Data list just don't show up sometimes. I asked the service group if I can upgrade the firmware when a new release hit. Answer is no. Must return it for service AGAIN! Backup camera shows the caution lines intermittently. Not sure why. Maybe it is a feature. I'll need to read the owners manual. After day 5 of ownership the passenger door does not open from the outside. Got the door serviced and now the passenger window does not work. I assume the dealer service forgot to re-connect the window after servicing the door handle linkage. Back to service again! It came with remote start. It does remotely start and give good feedback that it started. Then you walk up to the car to get in. It shuts off. This is a security feature and how it works. Sounds strange to me. I start my car to warm it up or to cool down the interior and when I get in it shut down. Just does not seen right. There must be other ways to implement security. I use the back hatch to carry things for work. The remote open is great. Tried to find a protective cover that goes on the back bumper so I do not scratch up the paint. Nothing available yet, except some cheap clear stick on cover (did internet search and asked my dealers parts department). Cannot find seat covers yet. Must be careful based on airbags in the seats. Positives: ---------- I've driving mostly around town and have averaged over 28mpg. I believe this car will meet or beat the advertised MPG ratings (Highway is rated @ 33mpg). Very quite interior noise. Smooth ride and shifting. Good paint on exterior. Like the finish on the disc brakes. Easiest access to an oil filter I've every seen. Very simple blue-tooth pairing. See negatives. I placed nice metallic Harley-Davidson stickers on side windows to make the car look tougher (Ultra Classic rider. My Harley only get a few more MPG over the Subaru).
        Deeter
        • 3 Months Ago
        @JimG

        Same vehicle, same back-up camera issue. Line should be there all the time per dealer.

      funguy6713
      • 5 Months Ago
      Interiors of Subarus are very cheap looking and telematics are lacking...they definitely have to improve that...
        rsholland
        • 5 Months Ago
        @funguy6713
        Did you read this write up, or jut the headline?
          funguy6713
          • 5 Months Ago
          @rsholland
          I read the write-up but I also know auto juornos...they never point out weaknesses of cars they review until year later...i.e., we never really liked the cheap interiors in Subarus and now in 2017, they have improved with soft touch and premium interior materials...
          rsholland
          • 5 Months Ago
          @rsholland
          @ funguy6713 This was an intro ride write up. The writers are just getting familiar with the car. I'm sure there are some things that could be critiqued, but the take away for me upon reading this is that the new Outback is a pretty good car. Also, I drove one yesterday, and my impression was also positive.
        gary
        • 5 Months Ago
        @funguy6713
        Not cheap looking in person. New radio appears to be a stepping-stone to some sort of telematics in the near future.
          funguy6713
          • 5 Months Ago
          @gary
          Exactly, near future...that looks like a Pioneer audio head unit shoved in there...near future is not good enough when you have 2015 Hyundai Sonata and AWD is not a major advantage...
      Revis Goodworth
      • 5 Months Ago
      The official car brand of lesbians across America - when you see a Toyoduh 4x4 pickup AND a Subaru parked next to each other in the driveway, you know you've found a man-hater home. That 2015 Subaru looks like a Taurus station wagon up until the b pillar - then it gets ugly.
        GR
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Revis Goodworth
        Funny you say that. My aunts are lesbians and they had at one time an Outback and a Toyota 4x4 pick-up. I must say that they have good taste in reliable and durable cars. Also, most lesbians don't hate men. They simply just love each other. I'm a straight man and lesbians have always been cool with me.
        rsholland
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Revis Goodworth
        So I guess that makes you a "man lover," correct?
        thyservant
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Revis Goodworth
        My '13 Outback makes me a lesbian. Got it. Sent message to engine room to deliver to my penis.
        smilez1105
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Revis Goodworth
        You know, I was going to say, "Your stupidity, ignorance, bigotry and hatred can't possibly be worse than this." But I am MORE than convinced you are capable of much higher levels of each.
      FuelToTheFire
      • 5 Months Ago
      $ 36k for this? For that kind of money, you could buy a 2013 Tahoe or maybe an Expedition. More car for less money.
        bc3091
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Yes, and then pay more at the pump every time you fill up. Also, this is the fully loaded version.
        thyservant
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Depends on how you define "more car". A big, lumbering, 12 -16 mpg BOF SUV is not my idea of "more car". YMMV.
        ravenosa
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        More what than the Subaru? The Subie is going to outperform the junky cars you just mentioned with ease.
        raughle1
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        $8.99 for this six-pack of Fat Tire? For that kind of money, you could buy a whole case of Bud Light, or maybe a pony keg of Natty Ice. More beer for less money.
        rsholland
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        No. In the case of the Outback, less is more.
        FriscoKid
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        I think you meant More problems for less money. There, fixed it for you :)
      Wetstuff
      • 5 Months Ago
      Subie can get away with Toys-R-Us roof racks and go kart transmissions because their LL.Bean shoppers don't have a clue. All they know is that 4WD plays well in VT so it must be good for Florida. ..and like a Prius, they signal they neither listen to AM radio nor watch Fox TV. ...for $30k there are some honest/better choices.
        earthwateruser
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Wetstuff
        I dunno. It seems like a pretty compelling package for someone looking to buy a new car and who appreciates a capacious, comfortable, station wagon type of car that can do almost anything you need (except tow). I've been researching this (and similar) segment pretty hard for my next car and I'd like to know what some "honest/better choices" might be for $30k. Seriously.
        BB79826
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Wetstuff
        This may be the most pointless comment I've ever read here. Go take your Metamucil and lie down.
        rsholland
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Wetstuff
        @ Wetstuff: Like your screen name, your comments are all wet.
        thyservant
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Wetstuff
        Actually, it makes total sense for Florida with it's heavy rain season. Try a Subie in the rain. Quiet, competent, confident. No drama, yet subtly doing its thing like it supposed to. It took me 2.5 years of car search (25+ test drives, etc). My 3 finalists were the Audi Q5, Outback, and CRV AWD. The Audi was solid and luxurious, the Outback solid and confident, the Honda held it's own. I purposely waited for a rainy day to test the finalists, and either would have suited me fine. The Outback just seemed to check all the right boxes for me.
        ravenosa
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Wetstuff
        Being broke and petty sounds like a frustrating thing for you, Wetboy.
      Philip
      • 1 Month Ago
      I've had my 2015 Outback Limited for almost 3 months and although there's a lot to like I have to take issue with the statement in your review describing the Harmon Kardon audio sound as "lovely".  It is not.  In fact IMO the sound borders on horrible.  First,  it's not a high-end system one might expect in a vehicle with an MSRP of 34000+.  It could have 20 speakers but the way it's configured causes what admittedly is my subjective observation 90 % or the sound to pour out the center speaker in the front of the vehicle which brings me to my second issue.  There's no stereo effect at all.  What I have is a 1960's sound with a booming bass slamming out the center of the vehicle.  The third issue is a lack of adjustment options. There's back/forward/left/right.  Left and right do nothing to improve the spatial aspect of sound produced.  Adjusting the sound to the back does relieve the total concentration of sound from the front dash speaker but doesn't really improve much.  Interestingly, the Premium trim is fitted with a graphic equalizer.  Ok...done complaining. Outside of being very disappointed with the sound, the car's a lot of fun to drive and I'll probably keep it....probably.  I'm taking the VW Jetta SportsWagon for a test drive next week to check it out.     
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