2005 Outback New Car Test Drive
The Subaru Outback has been redesigned for 2005. Exteriors are sharper, more stylish, less boxy. More important, the new models are larger outside, and roomier in many dimensions inside. The interior design is more contemporary, more attractive, more comfortable and more luxurious than before.
The cars are lighter and more stable than before. They handle well on winding roads, yet the ride is smooth and soft. The headlamps are higher tech, more upscale in appearance, and the lighting is better managed, with improved coverage. All come with a full complement of safety equipment, including curtain-style airbags and all-wheel drive. In short, these are terrific cars when the weather turns nasty and roads turn slippery.
New to the Outback lineup is the XT, powered by a new, 250-horsepower, turbocharged intercooled four-cylinder engine. It's designed for people who like to drive. The engine surges with power at high rpm making the car fun to drive on winding mountain roads.
The top models are still powered by a 3.0-liter flat six, but horsepower has been increased to 250. The six-cylinder delivers strong torque, giving it plenty of power on mountain roads without having to work at it. It's designed for people who like to travel, to get where they want to go with minimal fuss and bother, but want upscale trim and plenty of power.
Continued is the base 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine, now with 168 horsepower, a slight increase over last year's base model. These are the most popular models due to their price point. They deliver adequate power but are geared more toward frugality and practicality than performance.
The Outback offers slightly more ground clearance than the Legacy models and is better suited to gravel roads and deep snow. Yet the center of gravity has been lowered on the 2005 models for improved handling and safety. Wagons are most popular by far and are the best choice for venturing into the Outback with a load of outdoor gear, but there is a well-trimmed sedan available. The 2005 models cost more, and not just a little bit. But there's a good argument they're worth it.
Subaru builds its Outback in two body styles, sedan and station wagon. Two four-cylinder engines and one six-cylinder engine are available. Standard across the line is Subaru's all wheel-drive, which comes in three versions, each matched to a specific combination of engine and transmission.
The 2.5i and 2.5i Limited, both wagons, get a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission ($1000).
Next up are the 2.5 XT and 2.5 XT Limited, again, both wagons, with a 250-horsepower, turbocharged and intercooled version of the same four-cylinder engine. The five-speed manual transmission is beefed up to handle the additional power, and a five-speed Sportshift automatic is available ($1200).
The top of the line 3.0 R comprises three iterations: the sole sedan wearing the Outback badge and two wagons, the R L.L. Bean Edition and the VDC Limited. The standard powertrain in these three is a 250-horsepower six-cylinder engine coupled to the same five-speed Sportshift automatic that's an option in the XT. The VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamics Control, an electronic stability control system.
Buyers of the base 2.5i ($23,995) get a respectable feature set. The driver enjoys an eight-way power seat, tilt steering wheel, auto-off headlights and cruise control. There's the usual complement of power windows, outside mirrors and door locks and remote keyless entry. Air conditioning comforts occupants, who sit on durable-looking fabric upholstery and listen to a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo. The cargo area has its own light, carpet (including on the back of the rear seats, which are 60/40 split fold-down units), grocery bag hooks and a retractable cargo area cover. The rear bumper is protected by a full-width step pad, and the roof rack comes already fitted with cross bars. With the 2.5i Limited ($26,995) come fog lamps, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, dual-zone automatic air, leather-trimmed upholstery and dual-panel power moonroof.
Stepping up to the 2.5 XT ($27,995) forfeits the moonroof but adds body-colored outside mirrors with integrated turn signals and decorative door sill and rear liftgate sill plate covers, along with a four-way power seat with manual lumbar for the front-seat passenger, sport front seats and leather trim for the brake handle and shift lever. A leather-wrapped, Momo-brand steering wheel has integrated Sportshift control buttons if the optional five-speed automatic is ordered. The XT Limited ($30,695) brings perforated leather seat trim and restores the power moonroof.
The 3.0 R sedan ($30,995) gets a tire pressure monitoring system, a rear-seat center armrest with trunk pass-through and a single panel power moonroof but trades the turn indicator-equipped outside mirrors for the base units. A Momo-brand, mahogany-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel has integrated audio controls. Wagon lovers opting for the 3.0 R L.L. Bean Edition ($32,195) enjoy an auto-dimming inside mirror with electronic compass, L.L. Bean floor mats and leather-trimmed seats and a removable cargo tray. Turn indicator-equipped outside mirrors return on the 3.0 R VDC Limited ($33,395), as does the dual-pane moonroof. A three-frequency, programmable remote opener system joins a stereo upgraded with an MP3 player and rear sub woofer.
Standard safety equipment across the line comprises dual-stage frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and full coverage side curtain airbags. Active front-seat head restraints are standard, too, as are anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.
All-wheel drive remains standard across the line, but 2005 sees three systems, one more than in 2004, maintaining the trademark capability but at reduced cost and complexity. The automatic transmission now houses five speeds and comes with Sportshift, a manual-type shift function allowing drivers to select individual gears but without using a clutch peda.