2006 Outback New Car Test Drive
The newly redesigned line of Subaru Outback models has been further improved for 2006. The four-cylinder engine on 2006 Outback 2.5 i models is more powerful than last year's models. Also, two new models have been added to the lineup: a four-cylinder Outback sedan and a less expensive version of the six-cylinder Outback wagon.
The Outback was completely redesigned for 2005, so 2006 represents the second model year for this latest generation of rugged wagons and sedans, the sweet spot for buying a new car, according to some. It's bigger and offers more interior space than the previous generation Outbacks. The new cabins are more comfortable, more luxurious, and better looking, and the styling was refined, so the Outback doesn't look as boxy as before. More important, it was re-engineered with a lower center of gravity for improved handling and stability, even though it already boasted those attributes in spades, especially when compared with sport utility vehicles.
The Outback features the latest in Subaru's premium technology, with one of the world's best all-wheel-drive systems paired with boxer-style engines that help it achieve a low center of gravity. As a result, the Outback delivers excellent all-weather capability. It feels secure and confident in a driving rain and is our first choice for gravel roads. Yet it also delivers responsive handling on dry, winding roads and is a comfortable, versatile car for everyday driving.
Though mechanically similar, the Outback offers slightly more ground clearance than the Subaru Legacy and has underbody protection that makes it better suited to gravel roads and deep snow. These cars are truly well suited to the sort of outback you find in America. Whether on paved or unpaved roads, the Outback's handling is vastly superior to that of a sport utility, yet it can stand up to a fair amount of abuse. Outback wagons are an excellent choice for outdoor activities.
Safety is enhanced with dual-stage frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and full coverage side curtain airbags. Active front-seat head restraints are standard. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution come standard. Add those safety features with the stability of Subaru's all-wheel drive, and the Outback is at the top of our list for when the weather turns nasty and roads turn slippery.
The Subaru Outback comes in wagon and sedan body styles. They come with a choice of three engines. All-wheel drive, a Subaru feature, is standard across the line, but it comes in three versions, each matched to a specific combination of engine and transmission.
The 2.5 i Wagon and 2.5 i Limited Wagon and the new 2.5 i Limited Sedan come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower. The 2.5 i models are available with five-speed manual as standard, or four-speed automatic transmission ($1000).
The 2.5 XT models feature a turbocharged and intercooled version of the same four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower. The five-speed manual transmission is beefed up to handle the additional power, and a five-speed Sportshift automatic is available ($1200).
The 3.0 R models, the L.L. Bean Edition and the VDC Limited come with a six-cylinder engine rated at 250 horsepower and the five-speed Sportshift automatic. For 2006, the VDC model (for Vehicle Dynamics Control, an electronic stability control system) comes standard with the navigation system, an option on the other Outback models ($2,000).
The base 2.5 i ($24,795) comes standard with an eight-way power seat, tilt steering wheel, auto-off headlights and cruise control, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, and remote keyless entry. Air conditioning comes standard, along with durable-looking fabric upholstery and 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.
The 2.5 i Limited Wagon ($27,595) and 2.5 i Limited Sedan ($27,395) add leather-trimmed upholstery, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, fog lamps, and dual-panel power moonroof.
The 2.5 XT ($30,995) 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 manually adjustable lumbar support for the front-seat passenger, sport front seats and leather trim for the brake handle and shift lever. (It does not come standard with the moonroof, however.) A leather-wrapped, Momo-brand steering wheel has integrated Sportshift control buttons if the optional five-speed automatic is ordered. The XT Limited ($30,995) adds perforated leather seat trim and the power moonroof.
The 3.0 R L.L. Bean Sedan ($31,295) gets the L.L. Bean logos, 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 mahogany-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel has integrated audio controls. The 3.0 R L.L. Bean Wagon ($32,495) also gets an auto-dimming inside mirror with electronic compass, L.L. Bean floor mats and leather-trimmed seats and a removable cargo tray. The 3.0 R VDC Limited wagon ($35,395) gets the outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, the dual-pane moonroof, and the navigation system, a three-frequency, programmable remote HomeLink transmitter, and upgraded audio with an MP3 player and rear subwoofer.
Options include the navigation system, packaged with other amenities including dual-zone climate control, and a six-disc in-dash CD changer ($2,000). A variety of cargo nets is available, one of which attaches to the rear seatbacks and ceiling-mounted hooks separating the passenger and cargo compartments, a must-have feature. Other options include an auto-dimming/compass rearview mirror ($183), an upgraded security system with perimeter alarm ($98); a cargo area spotlight ($65); a subwoofer/amplifier ($273); a hood protector ($85); a front bumper underguard ($136); all-weather floor mats ($55); locks for alloy wheels ($41); a short-throw shifter fo.