With the birth of the SUV/CUV/Crossover vehicle, consumers have been subject to a plethora of different models, styles and options, along with going the classic route of the minivan. All of these vehicles were made to increase the versatility of a conventional car. Yes, it would get you to and from with a bigger body and you could jam more people and things in the vehicle. Road trips were more enjoyable, you could funnel multiple shopping trips into one, the birth of parental (read: kids with lots of sports gear) car-pooling arrived and moving days without a moving truck became more efficient.
With this evolution of vehicle design, the original people mover somehow got left behind. And that, friends, is the good ol’ station wagon. The original vehicle that prioritized passengers and cargo and was often troubling to park due to its length.
Thanks to the folks at Subaru over the past 20 + years they’ve kept the spirit of station wagons alive and kicking, thanks to one of my favorite vehicles on the road, the Outback.
Subaru dubs the Outback as “the midsize SUV alternative” and they’re bang on with that. It’s got the cargo space, ground clearance and comfort of an SUV coupled with the driving feel of a car.
The 2016 model, one year removed from its latest refresh, is a tremendous, utilitarian vehicle that gives plenty of practical solutions to the North American “I want something bigger than a car” driving market.
I had the top of the line, fully loaded, 3.6R Limited with Tech model, in Wilderness Green Metallic for a week and absolutely enjoyed it.
The two automatic engine options are a 2.5L 4-cylinder BOXER engine with 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft. of torque or the larger 3.6L 6-cylinder BOXER engine with a healthy 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. of torque. And while I’m fairly certain the 2.5L would do the trick just fine, the 3.6L option is the better one if you’re going to take advantage of all that space and ground clearance.
Thankfully, there are two manual transmission options (2.5i and 2.5i Touring) for those who don’t mind doing a bit of extra work. It’s too bad there’s no manual option on the 3.6L engine.
Fuel efficiency for the 3.6L chimes in at 12.0 and 8.6 (city & highway) for L/100 km so expect it to be a tad higher in real life driving. And those figures aren’t bad at all for moving around a differently shaped SUV. Weight wise, the 2.5L engine is 1,665 kg and the heavier 3.6 is at 1,744 kg, which gives solid power to weight ratio considering its class.
With smooth lines and a handsomely athletic design, the Outback has the initial appearance of a traditional station wagon. But thrown in high ground clearance (8.66”) optional 18” wheels on the Limited package and a taller stance and the result is a strong yet clean looking vehicle.
And with the high ground clearance, Canadian seasons (winter, construction, construction, and construction) will easily be handled by the Outback. Whether on city based asphalt, unpaved rural roads and most things in between, know that you’ll be in the right vehicle to keep you moving forward.
A nice touch is the roof rail system, which features “swing-in-place” crossbars and cargo tie-down hooks.
The rear crossbar can be moved back to secure larger items such as Ikea furniture for the city folks and canoes/kayaks for the outdoorsy folks.
The power tailgate offers a memory function if you don’t have the garage space to have it retract fully, which helps tremendously if you’re living in a condo or have a smaller garage, along with an auto-stop function if anything gets in the way.
Another nice touch is the steering responsive fog lights…well done, Subaru.
It’s easy to see why it won the 2015 AJAC best new SUV/CUV under $35,000.
Personally, as a fan of the wagon, I’m quite attracted to the shape of the Outback. I’m all about utilitarian-esque vehicles and this is one of the best ones out there. Also, with a longer body, it’s surprisingly easy to park, contrary to what some may say.
On the road, acceleration is smooth, handling and responsiveness is impressive for its class of vehicle. And of course, having one of the best all-wheel drive systems is always a plus.
And the Outback maintains its “car-like” driving feel on both city and highway conditions. The “X-Mode” (automatic gearbox only) offers controlled torque distribution to better handle rocky ascents. The Hill Descent Control and Hill Holder System are aptly named to keep you stable and safer as you test the limits of Subaru’s SUV alternative.
Tech-wise, my tester was equipped with the innovative EyeSight technology, including adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and throttle management, lane keep assist and sway warning. It’s no wonder they received the IIHS’ highest front crash prevention rating.
Additionally, available the rear/side vehicle detection technology includes blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert is a great feature to keep you extra safe while you’re carrying plenty of cargo. How much cargo, you ask? 1,005 litres with seats up and a monstrous 2,075 with the rear seats down.
The heated leather seats in my tester were quite comfortable and as a treat to rear passengers in a Limited trim, there’s available rear heated seats along with advanced, voice activated dual climate controls for the front passengers.
With roominess galore in the cabin, there was never a cramped feeling in the Outback and the available sunroof only added to that.
An available 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system (standard size is a respectable 6.2”) is responsive and helps power the booming 12-speaker Harman Kardon, 576-watt sound system.
While not nearly as popular as a conventional SUV/CUV/Crossover, the Subaru Outback offers just as much, if not more, to the Canadian consumer. With great looks, plenty of functionality, loads of cargo space, two engine and transmission options, along with not being afraid of unpaved roads, there’s a convincing argument to be made for putting this on your shortlist. And the safety and AJAC awards only add to the allure.
Subaru isn’t attempting to bring back the classic wagon. Instead, they’ve refined it, strengthened it and made it appealing for those who want something that truly stands out and an alternative to the SUV in a competitive market segment.
2016 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited with Technology Package: $40,195
Yay: Rugged good looks, functional, ready for any road ahead, EyeSight Tech and strong safety ratings, comfortable
Nay: Would like a manual option on the 3.6 and to see EyeSight standard on all models. It’s wagon-esque design may be too “out there” for some buyers
Yes, I realize you can’t have a manual gearbox AND Eyesight. But perhaps under the current EyeSight offering where it’s a buy-in option, a manual transmission could be available without EyeSight
Note: The US doesn’t offer a manual gearbox so Canadian manual enthusiasts, rejoice!