2018 Outback New Car Test Drive
A five-passenger wagon, the Subaru Outback is a compelling alternative to taller SUVs, offering excellent capability in all types of weather and brilliant handling on unpaved roads. Outback blends features of compact crossovers, SUVs, and small wagons.
Its superb all-wheel drive and long-travel suspensions were developed while winning world rally championships. Its Porsche-like horizontally opposed engines lower its center of gravity for improved handling dynamics, while a generous ground clearance allows quick travel on primitive roads and capability in rugged terrain. On paved roads, it feels smooth and refined, on wet roads it feels safe and secure.
The current Outback is in its fifth generation and was last redesigned for the 2015 model year.
The 2018 Outback features revised styling, with new headlights, grille, bumpers, and mirrors. An updated infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. A new safety system locks doors when the 2018 Outback reaches 12.5 mph. Subaru claims reductions in wind, road, and engine noise. Improvements may be modest in scope, but they boost the refinement of a vehicle that's already impressive.
Four trim levels are available: base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. Most Outbacks have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, horizontally opposed (flat) engine, making 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. We've found
A more powerful, smoother-running 3.6-liter flat-six is optional for Limited and Touring models. Developing 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet, the six-cylinder engine consumes more fuel.
All Outbacks use a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Outbacks are based upon Subaru's midsize Legacy sedan. An elevated suspension, hefty roof rack, and unpainted black body trim raise its stature in terms of perceived capability.
An impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance helps boost the utility factor. Outbacks are not meant for serious off-roading, but they're capable of conquering quite a few obstacles and inclines after the pavement ends.
Every Outback has eight airbags and a rearview camera. Subaru's EyeSight suite of advanced safety technology is standard on the Touring edition and optional for Premium and Limited. It's not available with base trim. The EyeSight group includes such features as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and lane-departure warning. Subaru installs forward-facing cameras inside the windshield, where they're less likely to be impeded by debris or snow/ice.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2018 Outback Good scores on each crash test. When fitted with the EyeSight group, it earned a Top Safety Pick Plus award, and was rated Superior for front crash prevention.
In crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2018 Outback earned five stars overall and for frontal- and side-impact. Only the rollover rating (a calculated score) dipped to four stars, which is typical for taller vehicles.
Outback 2.5i ($25,895) comes with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, and roof rails. The 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Outback 2.5i Premium ($27,995) adds a power driver's seat, heated front seats and mirrors, 8.0-inch touchscreen, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Two option packages include the EyeSight safety suite.
Outback 2.5i Limited ($32,695) includes perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, Harman Kardon audio, 18-inch wheels, blind-spot monitoring, power front seats, heated rear seats, pushbutton start, power liftgate, and moonroof. An option group adds EyeSight and navigation. Outback 2.5i Touring ($36,490) features black cladding, dark gray wheels, Java brown leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, lower-profile roof rack, woodgrain trim, and EyeSight safety group.
Outback 3.6R Limited ($35,395) and 3.6R Touring ($38,690) get the 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $915 destination charge.).