Take the Subaru Legacy platform, put a crossover SUV body onto the frame and you have the makings of the Subaru Outback. Introduced in 1994 as a station wagon variant of the Legacy, by 2000 the all-wheel drive Outback was restyled and assigned its own place in the Subaru universe. Over the years it has become a more distinct vehicle and one of Subaru’s best-known models.
2015 to Present: Subaru Outback
The current Subaru Outback made its debut for the 2015 model year. As before, it is underpinned by the same platform as the midsize Subaru Legacy sedan. The latest model is more efficient, quieter and more upscale than earlier versions, providing an ideal blend of sedan comfort with SUV utility.
The Outback features a new front fascia with a hexagonal grille that’s flush with the front bumper. This model also receives an aluminum hood, as well as a more raked windshield and expressive profile markings, including crisper, sculpted lines. At the rear, there are wraparound combination lamps, reflectors and available underbody cladding. All models feature 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Towing capacity ranges from 2,700 to 3,000 pounds, depending on the model.
Inside, the latest Outback offers the most room to date. Passenger volume measures 108.1 cubic feet, providing generous room for five. Supportive bucket seats are up front and a 60-40 split-folding seat is found in the rear. This model has 35.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, which expands to 73.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.
USB connectivity, Bluetooth and a touch-screen audio system are standard in all models. Popular available equipment includes navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system, satellite radio and dual-zone automatic climate control.
A number of driver assistance features are available, including adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning. All models are equipped with a rearview camera.
Beginning in 2016, Subaru added new safety and security features on select trims. These include automatic collision notification, a monthly vehicle report, stolen vehicle recovery service, remote lock and unlock and a remote vehicle locator.
Two engine choices are available. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque is standard. A 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine making 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque comes only on the 3.6R Limited model. Both engines come paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Competing models include the Audi Allroad and Volvo XC70 as well as SUVs like the Ford Edge and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Retired models such as the Toyota Venza and Honda Crosstour might also be compared.
Earlier Subaru Outback Models
The first-generation Subaru Outback was introduced in 2000 following a six-year run as the Subaru Legacy Wagon. It was built through the 2004 model year and was composed of sedan and wagon body styles. The sedan style was discontinued after 2007.
Upon its introduction, the Outback was powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s paired with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. In 2001, a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine was added and paired only with the automatic.
Subaru introduced the second-generation Outback in 2005 with the same powertrain lineup, but with two exceptions.
First, a turbocharged version of the four-cylinder engine was brought out and paired with a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. That upgrade increased performance from 168 to 250 horsepower. Second, the six-cylinder engine was now paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The third-generation Subaru Outback was produced from 2010 to 2014. The turbo was gone, but the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine remained, making 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual or a CVT were available with this engine. A new, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine that generates 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque was introduced and paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
A 2013 update brought in several technology features absent from the Outback to date. That year, Subaru added a USB charging port along with Bluetooth connectivity.