2015 Outback New Car Test Drive
The Subaru Outback is all-new for 2015. The 2015 Subaru Outback isn't much bigger than its predecessor, just over a half-inch longer and wider, on a wheelbase that's been stretched less than a quarter-inch. But there's more room within, and the additional width and conservative restyling combine to give it a more substantial appearance.
And there is indeed substance to vindicate the fresh appearance. The 2015 Outback gets a higher percentage of high-strength hot-stamped steel in the unit body, increasing structural rigidity by substantial margins: 59 percent torsional, 35 percent longitudinal.
Not only does this contribute to good all-around road manners, it's also a plus for absorbing punishment on rugged dirt tracks. Augmenting the Outback's off-road usefulness is a seamless four-wheel drive system and lots of ground clearance: 8.7 inches. That matches the ground clearance of the Jeep Cherokee, allowing the Outback to better traverse rough terrain.
As with the previous generation, the 2015 Outback offers two engine choices, a 175-horsepower four-cylinder and a 256-horsepower six-cylinder. Both are boxer designs, with the cylinders opposed to each other in a horizontal plane, and both offer lots of torque, a useful trait when driving at slower speeds over lumpy terrain. Unlike the previous generation, there is no manual transmission option; both engines are paired with continuously variable transmissions, or CVTs.
Subaru has programmed the CVT with artificial shift points, operable via the paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. While it doesn't provide the sense of driver engagement that goes with a stick shift, it does diminish some of the annoying slipping clutch trait that's been a longtime drawback of CVTs. Indeed, the Outback feels more like a car with a regular automatic than does the latest Honda CR-V, which has a CVT with much more of that slipping sensation.
The stiffer structure of the 2015 Outback is heavier than that of the fourth-generation version, and acceleration with the 2.5-liter flat-four in a Premium trim level model was deliberate, a 2-horsepower gain and improved torque curve versus the previous generation notwithstanding. In other words, this latest Outback is no quicker than before.
On the other hand, fuel economy ratings are improved. The 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i achieves an EPA-estimated 25/33 mpg City/Highway. We averaged 28 mpg in four days of touring around Oregon in a 2015 Outback 2.5i Premium with the four-cylinder engine, and that included some high country. The Outback's pavement manners are hard to fault, and its off-road performance is impressive.
Beyond that, the 2015 Outback is than before. Though the exterior dimensional increases are fractional, there's more space inside for passengers and cargo. Interior noise has been reduced, infotainment elements have improved, as have safety features. The result is that there is more quiet to go along with the increased smoothness.
Visually, there are still ties to the Legacy sedan, the Outback's genetic forebear. But the 2015 Outback has evolved far beyond its first generation beginnings as a Legacy station wagon with a little extra ground clearance.
Subaru Outback 2.5i ($24,895), Outback 2.5i Premium ($26,995), Outback 2.5i Limited ($29,995) come with the 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Outback 3.6R Limited ($32,995) comes with the 256-horsepower 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine. All come with the same continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters and Subaru's Symmetrical All Wheel Drive. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Outback 2.5i comes standard with cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning with filter, six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, four-way front-passenger seat, 60/40 split folding reclining rear seats, 100-watt AM/FM/CD audio with MP3, WMA, iPod adapter, RDS, four speakers, USB port, auxiliary digital audio jack, Aha, Bluetooth, digital clock, cruise control, eight cupholders, power door locks, power windows, rear wiper, rearview camera, anti-theft alarm, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, center and overhead storage consoles, 225/65HR17 all-season tires on 17-inch steel wheels.
Premium upgrades with dual-zone automatic air conditioning, 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar, heated front seats, fold-flat rear seats, six-speaker audio, XM satellite subscription, leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for audio and phone, leather-wrapped shift knob, voice-activated audio controls, cargo area tie-down hooks and removable storage tray, illuminated consoles, fog lights, rear privacy glass, power mirrors, three 12-volt power outlets, windshield shade band, wiper de-icer, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Limited upgrades with leather-trimmed upholstery, woodgrain trim, 576-watt harman kardon audio with 12 speakers, HD, amplifier and subwoofer, front bumper underguards, aluminum door sills, upgraded instruments, power liftgate, heated mirrors with in-glass turn signal indicators, memory for seats, upgraded steering wheel, 225/HR18 tires with 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
3.6R Limited also gets HID headlights.
Options include moonroof and navigation system ($2195); Eyesight system.
Safety features on all Outbacks includes dual frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, LATCH child seat anchors, rear-door child-safety locks, tire pressure monitors, anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD), quick brake assist, torque vectoring brake system, brake override system, safety brake pedal system, traction control, Hill Descent Control, Hill Holder System, Incline Start Assist, rearview camera, all-wheel drive. Optional safety features include lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot detection.