2012 Outback New Car Test Drive
The Subaru Outback wagon is a superb vehicle on dirt and gravel roads, in the snow, heavy rain, or anything that calls of traction and sure-footedness. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the Outback is ready for active outdoor use.
Outback was redesigned for the 2010 model year. Changes since then have been modest. 2012 Subaru Outback models offer an Alloy Wheel Package with fog lights and cold-weather equipment. Audio systems have been upgraded on 2012 Outback Premium and 2012 Outback Limited models.
The Outback suspension, transmission and all-wheel-drive system are geared for control, comfort and stability on gravel roads and in inclement weather. All Subaru models are all-wheel drive, aiming for sure handling and traction in marginal conditions. They are most popular in the New England, Pacific Northwest, and Rocky Mountain states. The engines feature horizontally opposed pistons, the so-called boxer layout that Porsche also uses. This results in strong torque for accelerating up hills while helping maintain a low center of gravity for improved handling.
We found the Outback to be an exceptionally capable car on unpaved forest roads. Extensive driving on Montana's back roads revealed that its tough, supple suspension could handle rough roads, and its all-wheel drive performed well in all sorts of slippery conditions. Out on the open highway the Outback is smooth and comfortable and feels like a regular car. During a week of nasty Pacific Northwest winter, and it gave us a sense of security like few cars can, confident that with the Outback under us we could breeze through whatever weather we were dealt.
Two engines are available, balancing efficiency and performance. Best government-rated fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 22/29 mpg City/Highway for the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). For maximum performance, a 256-hp 3.6-liter six-cylinder is available, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Neither engine uses forced induction or turbocharging to achieve its rated output, and both run on regular unleaded fuel.
Four-wheel independent suspension is standard, with MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones in the rear. The wishbone suspension delivers a smooth ride and enables a larger rear cargo area than would be possible with a strut-type rear suspension.
The Outback emphasizes cargo carrying, with large doors that swing open wide, and good interior dimensions for cargo room.
The 2012 Subaru Outback is available with a choice of two engines, three transmissions, with Base, Limited or Premium trim levels.
Outback 2.5i models ($23,295) come with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission or CVT ($24,295). Standard equipment for 2.5i includes cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning with air filter, six-way manually adjustable driver seat, four-way manually adjustable passenger seat, 100-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with four speakers and auxiliary jack, remote keyless entry, power locks, power windows, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, three power outlets, anti-theft alarm, 16-inch steel wheels, and 215/70R16 tires. A new alloy wheel package ($995) also includes fog lights and an All-Weather Package (two-stage heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer).
Outback 3.6R ($28,295) comes with the 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission. Aside from the larger engine and automatic transmission, standard equipment on the 3.6 R is similar. It does come standard with 225/60R17 tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, and a few more interior amenities. No options are offered.
Premium trim for the Outback 2.5i manual ($24,795), 2.5i CVT ($25,795) and 3.6R ($29,495) upgrades each of them to a 10-way power driver seat, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/60R17 tires and other features. New for 2012 is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS), Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free phone connectivity, iPod control capability, and a USB port in addition to the auxiliary input jack. Options include the All-Weather Package ($500), also available bundled with a moonroof ($1,945). Also available is the new harman/kardon stereo from the Limited (see below), but it must be combined with the All-Weather Package ($1,795), a moonroof ($1,945), or both ($3,240).
Limited trim for the Outback 2.5i ($28,695) and the 3.6R ($31,695) includes leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, power passenger seat, woodgrain interior trim, Bluetooth, heated mirrors, heated seats, and a windshield wiper de-icer. The CVT becomes standard, too, on the 2.5i. For 2012, the existing 440-watt harman/kardon AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio with nine speakers loses its CD changer (it still plays single CDs) but gains HD radio, RBDS, Bluetooth audio streaming, XM Satellite Radio, a 4.3-inch LCD display, and all the connectivity features of the new Premium-trim system. The moonroof becomes available as a stand-alone ($1,445) or packaged with navigation ($2,995).
Safety features include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, quick brake assist, traction control, VDC electronic stability control, all-wheel drive, LATCH child safety locks, rear-door child locks.