2009 Outback New Car Test Drive
The Subaru Outback benefits from revised styling, enhanced performance, and interior upgrades for 2008. The changes improve upon a roomy and comfortable wagon that can go almost anywhere. The Outback offers premium drivetrain technology, composed handling and all-weather capability, lots of active and passive safety features.
The revisions to the engines for 2008 make them look less powerful on paper because of changes to rating standards, but they work just as well, and the base engine carries the oxymoronic government certification of Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle. Electronic stability control is offered on more models. The rear suspension has been retuned for more ride comfort without sacrificing any handling.
Styling changes for 2008 feature new front sheetmetal, a larger grille opening, new bumper fascias, and new headlights and taillights. The sedan model has been dropped, yet there are still seven Outback models from which to choose. Inside, fabrics and the dash are revised for 2008, the steering column now tilt and telescopes, and all models are pre-wired for satellite radio.
The Outback philosophy is similar to that of the Volvo XC70, a wagon with a bit more ride height, body protection and traction-oriented tires. However, the Outback costs less than the Volvo and, with 8.4 inches of ground clearance, can go much farther into the outback than most owners realize. Reasonable prices, operating economy and a penchant for charging through snow make Outbacks a favorite in wintry weather. But they also do very well with potholes in the Midwest and deserts in the Southwest.
Three engines are available, 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine a 243-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter, and a 245-hp 3.0-liter six-cylinder. All use Subaru's horizontally opposed engine design, like that employed by the old VW Beetle and most Porsches. Subaru's engines are mounted low and are compact, keeping the weight low for good center-of-gravity dynamics and a low hood line for great forward visibility.
All come with all-wheel drive, and three different systems are used, depending on the transmission and engine chosen. The end result of good snow-climbing traction and all-weather confidence remains the same for all. None requires any driver action.
Inside, Outbacks are practical and can be quite simple or quite sophisticated, with a range of seven trim levels. All have five seats, useful cargo area and the majority of amenities and features offered in compact SUVs.
Outdoors people like its capability and utility. The Outback is a great companion for outdoors activities, fishing, hiking, skiing, kayaking. Apparently, L.L. Bean noticed this and three Outbacks come in L.L. Bean trim. It offers secure handling and traction on icy mountain passes. It handles well on gravel roads and holds up to rugged terrain. It can haul a lot of gear and it can accept a nine-foot rigged fly rod.
The Outback goes off the pavement better than many SUVs yet performs as well or better on the pavement. If you think you need an SUV, an Outback is infinitely better suited 90 percent of the time.
All Subaru Outbacks come with all-wheel drive. All are wagons.
The Outback ($21,995) base model comes with the 170-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder and five-speed manual, a four-speed automatic is available ($1000). It includes cloth upholstery, AC, CD/MP3/WMA audio system, cruise control, trip computer, power locks/mirrors/windows, rear wipe/wash, tilt/telescoping steering column, roof rails, split-fold rear seat, 16-inch steel wheels and tire pressure monitors.
The Outback 2.5i ($23,995) adds heated front seats and power driver seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rack cross bars, fog lights, heated mirrors, limited-slip differential, cargo cover/tray/power outlet, splash guards, and windshield wiper de-icing. The automatic is optional ($1000).
The 2.5i L.L. Bean Edition ($26,295) comes standard with the automatic and upgrades with a navigation system, a 6CD in-dash player, dual-zone climate control, roof rack cross bars, alloy wheels, cargo tray, and L.L. Bean mats and badging. VDC electronic stability control is optional.
The 2.5i Limited ($27,395) comes with the automatic and adds to the 2.5i leather upholstery, 6CD changer, body-colored door handles and mirrors, dual-zone climate control, and woodgrain trim. VDC is optional.
The 2.5i Limited L.L. Bean Edition ($28,995) combines the L.L. Bean and Limited trim and further upgrades with two-tone perforated leather upholstery with Bean logo embosses, a power passenger seat, the navigation system, rear center armrest, and the floor mats and wheels.
The 2.5XT Limited ($30,995) features a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder and five-speed manual; a five-speed automatic is optional ($1200). The XT comes equipped with VDC electronic stability control, traction control, and SI-DRIVE. The XT comes with all the Limited features plus a functional hood scoop, body-color mirrors with turn signals, electroluminescent gauges, aluminum front door and cargo area sill plates, and a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, cruise, and SI-DRIVE controls. The automatic comes with a MOMO steering wheel. Navigation is optional ($2000).
The 3.0R L.L. Bean ($32,495) features a 245-hp six-cylinder and five-speed automatic. VDC, SI-DRIVE, VTD are all standard, as are an auto-dimming inside mirror, sport-design gauges, and Bean-style wheels. Navigation is available.
Options include a variety of cargo nets, one of which attaches to the rear seatbacks and ceiling-mounted hooks separating the passenger and cargo compartments, especially useful for dogs. Other options: 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 for manual transmissions ($339); a Momo shift knob; and a trailer hitch ($369).