When you think of iconic off-road brands, where does Subaru fall on your radar? Somewhere in the middle? Perhaps near the bottom? Don't worry, you're not alone. Until recently spending some time in Bend, OR, where we drove the all-new 2015 Subaru Outback, we never really pegged the Japanese automaker to be a highly lauded brand among off-road enthusiasts, despite many of the company's products actually being quite capable when the going gets rough.

But the data says we're wrong. According to a 2013 J.D. Power study, Subaru vehicles have some of the highest use off road compared to other brands – of course "off road" here just means anything not on a paved road, so even gravel trails and tame two-tracks count in these statistics. Nearly 29.5 percent of its cars are used on trails and dirt roads, with only the Ram and Jeep brands besting that statistic, at 30.2 and 31.0 percent, respectively. Said another way, Subaru sold 424,683 vehicles in the US in 2013, meaning that some 125,281 saw off-road use. Mainstream brands like GMC, Ford and Chevrolet all trail Subaru, and even Land Rover comes in at less than 20 percent.

Some 34.7 percent of Outbacks are taken off paved roads, according to J.D. Power data.

With the Outback, specifically, similar 2013 J.D. Power data shows that the tall wagon has the highest use on unpaved roads compared to its entire competitive set. Some 34.7 percent of Outbacks are taken off paved roads, compared to its next-closest competitor, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, at a distant 21.1 percent. Trailing further behind those two are classmates like the Volvo XC70, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Toyota Venza and Audi Allroad.

Subaru owners are "190 percent more likely to do outdoor activities than other brands," Michael McHale, Subaru's director of corporate communications, tells Autoblog. And in Subaru's top markets – places like the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain regions and New England – it's extremely common to see Outbacks and Foresters covered in mud with bikes or kayaks on the roof.

This sort of data absolutely shows in the company's sales figures. Look at 2013, for example – the marque's three best-selling products were the Forester, Outback and XV Crosstrek, in that order. The butch XV handily outsold the Impreza on which its based. The Outback outsold the Legacy nearly three to one. The Forester outsold the Impreza, Legacy, WRX and WRX STI combined. 2013 marked Subaru's sixth consecutive year of record sales, and through June 2014, the company has posted 31 straight months of year-over-year sales increases.

Of course, that's easy to do when you're still a smaller automaker like Subaru. But "we like being small," McHale tells us. Straying from its strong suit has proven problematic for the automaker (see: SVX, Tribeca), while staying focused on its core models has proven successful, especially as the broader market has really come to embrace the crossover lifestyle. With strong new products like this Outback on the horizon, the momentum is sure to increase.


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  • 73 Comments
      Solarmike
      • 6 Months Ago
      I have a Beetle tdi with a 2" lift kit, 1"taller than stock truck tires and engine chipping and I do live in Bend and my Beetle (SUB) has seen way, way more miles off road than ANY SUV! It has also towed 60 cords of firewood in its life time, hauled away a chimney and pulls my camper better than my friends Rover. Did I mention 235,000 on the odo and 40mpg tank average? When Subaru comes to America with a diesel they will pull me away from my VW. I have videos on you tube to prove it. Mines the green one.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Solarmike
        Somebody actually makes a lift kit for a Beetle?
        normc32
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Solarmike
        Subaru does nothing any other car could do. The marketing makes people think they are outdoorsman or something.
        FuelToTheFire
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Solarmike
        It's OK that you're gay, LMFAO.
        Basil Exposition
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Solarmike
        Sounds interesting, and certainly unique. I kinda want to see pics - do you have a link?
      Robert.Mauro
      • 3 Months Ago

      Loving my Subaru Outback... loving off-roading in it... and I'm not talking about gravel roads... 


      ...onto the trails and beach for me. :-)


      On the beach with my Outback

      Zack
      • 6 Months Ago
      Is there a link the full list anywhere?
      Kevin Chen
      • 5 Months Ago
      Wait, Land Rover had less than 20 percent? Must be those gravel driveways ...
      AcuraT
      • 5 Months Ago
      This is not surprising. Subaru in their promotions targets the offroad people, and in their marketing to existing customers, hightlight that aspect. The only cars they build not intended for offroad are the BRZ (a decent selling small sports car) and the Tribeca (a too small crossover three row SUV that does not sell).
      wilkegm
      • 5 Months Ago
      Not really a revelation- the #1 Brand only sells SUV. The #2 Brand only sells trucks. Most of Subaru's volume is in the Outback and Forester- both SUV/SUV-ish. Not having seen the JDP study, GMC is probably also close, since they don't sell cars. The real sad sack here is Land Rover- every one of its vehicle having acclaimed off-rad prowess, which is heavily marketed.
      Robert.Mauro
      • 3 Months Ago

      Loving my Subaru Outback... loving off-roading in it... and I'm not talking about gravel roads... 


      ...onto the trails and beach for me. :-)


      On the beach with my Outback

        Myface Yourbook
        • 2 Months Ago
        @Robert.Mauro

        Sucker kicks ass off-road too,My wife's 4runner kicked my ass in the woods but in the end I trashed the 4runner getting out of the woods. Light and fast on the Crosstrek.

      Myface Yourbook
      • 2 Months Ago
      I compare Subaru to Apple. Apple people are so closed minded that when Apple introduces an upgrade "appledone"'  go crazy not knowing the technology was there years ago. My point. I owned Toyota's ( My Apple) for ever and that is a great vehicle!! but now own a Subi (Windows) and so far I love it. Why did I switch ? Try something different. But thus far.... Love that Subi, 
      FuelToTheFire
      • 6 Months Ago
      I don't understand why people consider Land Rover an off road brand. Their "SUVs" re nothing more than sedans with an loft kit. I'm pretty sure nobody that off roads takes them seriously.
        _I_I_II_I_I_
        • 6 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        you really do not know what you are talking about
        Jmaister
        • 6 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Land Rover is the only luxury brand that has usable offroad SUV.
        smilez1105
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Man you are stupid
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        [blocked]
      vwkid4life
      • 6 Months Ago
      Lesbians love camping
      godwhomismike
      • 6 Months Ago
      I am on my third Subaru now, which is a 2014 Crosstrek Limited. 4 months of ownership, 5800 miles, carry my kayak out to the local lakes, muddy hiking boots and gear when I go hiking, and just added a trailer hitch for my bikes and jet ski. I guess I fit the demography.
      Jesus!
      • 6 Months Ago
      Unless it counts every single person who purchased a certain vehicle for a certain model year, this means nothing. Why surveys etc are done makes zero sense to me when a whole party has not responded or even been asked.
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