2002 Outback New Car Test Drive
Having released a six-cylinder Outback last year, Subaru has further expanded the line for 2002 with two additional six-cylinder models. Four-cylinder Outbacks continue nearly unchanged.
With either engine, Outback offers an attractive alternative to a bulkier, truck-based sport-utility. Even the powerful six-cylinder versions rate 20/26 mpg city/highway, and while that's not exactly economy-car territory, it's significantly better than the 15/20 mpg you can expect from even a mid-size SUV. Four-cylinder Outbacks deliver more than adequate performance, and get 22/27 mpg.
An Outback won't wring your wallet dry, and it it'll ride and handle much better than a truck. Yet it will give you a tall seating position, large cargo capacity, and foul-weather capability. In other words, the Outback will give you most of the positive attributes of an SUV. Unless you're genuinely interested in serious off-road adventure (and most SUV buyers are not), the Outback gives you everything you need. It works great on wet pavement, dirt roads, and on snow and ice. It's even fun to drive on dry pavement. And isn't that really where you drive most of the time?.
The Outback lineup for 2002 includes the four-cylinder Outback Wagon ($22,895), Outback Limited Sedan ($25,995) and Outback Limited Wagon ($26,295); plus the six-cylinder H6-3.0 L.L. Bean Edition Wagon ($29,495), and the H6-3.0 VDC Wagon ($31,895). New for 2002 are the H6-3.0 Sedan ($27,995) and the H6-3.0 VDC Sedan ($30,395).
The H6-3.0 VDC is the technology standard-bearer of the lineup. VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamic Control, which combines Subaru's electronic Variable Torque Distribution with all-speed traction control and dynamic stability control (DSC).
The L.L. Bean Edition offers exclusive comfort and appearance features, including special L.L. Bean identification, plus two-tone leather and a three-year, no-cost, extended maintenance package. (Tire rotations and oil changes are covered for three years, at the manufacturer's recommended service intervals.) The Bean-mobile costs less than the VDC because it does not have traction control, and comes with Subaru's Active All-Wheel Drive rather than the more sophisticated Variable Torque Distribution.
VDC, L.L. Bean, and all Outback Sedans are built only with automatic transmissions. A five-speed manual is standard on base and Limited Outback Wagons, with the automatic offered as an $800 option.
Buyers of base Wagons may also order a $500 All-Weather Package, which adds heated seats, heated mirrors, and windshield wiper de-icers. This equipment is standard on Limited and H6 models.
(Subaru also manufactures a smaller wagon called the Outback Sport, and NewCarTestDrive.com reviews it separately.).