Back in the days when crossovers were just something ghosts did, there was the Subaru Outback, a vehicle that looked like a wagon, but was superb off-road. Established in 1995, the Outback became the synonym for durability, ease of use, and excellent all around ability.
The styling on the other hand, was always a bit low end. That really didn’t seem to matter at the time to buyers, but in today’s world, styling goes hand in hand with all weather ability so Subaru had to make a change. Luckily, they did and for 2011, the new Outback is better than ever.
Subaru has been one of the lesser-known Japanese companies for some time now. In fact, some people think they came from Australia, but that’s beside the point. While they might not have much influence on the American industry, they are resilient and during the economic recession, the company only declined by 0.8%.
With the new Outback, Subaru looks to continue their success, but this time things are a tad different. Before, it seemed that styling was about as important as the location of the light in the glove box, but now, exterior styling has taken a front row seat. The new 2011 Outback look pretty good, words that would never have been uttered about previous generation Outbacks.
After years of criticism, certain companies can go a bit overboard, but Subaru has resisted this temptation. The flares on the hood, wheel arches, front and rear fascias and the cabin all look great, but remain quintessentially Subaru.
Step inside the new Outback and you’re greeted with something truly awe inspiring. Where as old Subaru models, and even current ones, use hard plastics like they’re going out of style, the new 2011 Outback features quality materials and a pleasing overall design. The overall dashboard design is curvaceous, with plenty of large buttons that are easy to use and understand.
For the most part, the cabin of the Outback is a job well done, but there are a few issues. On the top of the dash lies an information center that displays the time and the outside temperature. Now, most vehicles utilize some sort of dual-tier design, but when there is an eight-inch navigation screen available, why not use it? While this might a small issue, it was annoying at times having to look at numerous screens.
As we’ve seen through the years, Subaru buyers are concerned with dashboard design and the location of the clock. What they really care about is function and in this department, the Outback is brilliant. The vehicle has grown 4.1 inches in height and two inches i width, but the overall length is down by 0.8 inches. Still, the increase in the other departments was enough to net 13 more cubic feet of cabin space. This added space helps make every seat in the house comfortable, no matter the size of the occupant.
The storage areas have grown in size and quantity. The rear cargo room features a lower floor and 60/40 split folding rear seats in case one needs to haul wood or anything else that is usually long. In the front of the vehicle, the center armrest has been enlarged and there is now a place to hold your tickets, whatever they may be.
The Outback comes in three different trim levels to fit all needs and budgets. The base model comes with steering wheel controls, electronic parking brake, Hill Holder, automatic lights, Brake Assist and even Vehicle Dynamics Control. Basically, the only reason to move up the Premium and Limited models are for a moonroof and navigation system, but being Subaru buyers, they won’t need any of that fancy stuff.
Subaru offers up two engine choices in the new Outback, with three transmission choices to go along with them. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. This powerplant is connected to a six-speed manual transmission and features a new intake and exhaust manifolds that help the car return 19 miles per gallon city and 27 on the highway.
That 2.5-liter can also be connected to a CVT transmission, which is becoming more popular with the Japanese automakers by the minute. In this configuration, the Outback will give back 22-mpg city and 29 on the highway.
Our test vehicle came with the larger 3.6-liter V6 that was connected to a five-speed automatic. The engine puts out 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque, while returning 18-mpg city and 25-mpg highway.
One thing that helps Subaru stand out above the pack is the fact that every model comes with all-wheel drive and unlike most automakers all-wheel drive means just that. The power is split 50/50 at all times, not just when needed. The base model, the 2.5-liter, comes with continuous AWD, which basically means power is sent to all wheels at all times. If the buyer opts for the CVT transmission, the AWD system is upgrades to the Active Torque Split system that helps respond to various weather conditions. The five-speed automatic version comes with – take a breath - variable torque distributing planetary gear setup with electric control. This system is split 45:55 for optimum handling, but it can adapt to different road conditions.
While we would have liked a go in the base 2.5-liter, the only thing we could manage a drive in was the more powerful 3.6-liter model. Not that we’re complaining though, as the engine was very responsive and ready go whenever it was called upon. Still, it seems as though all this power went to waste and the base engine would have been just as good for everyday situations.
On the road, the ride was quiet and refined. The Outback was built on a new and more rigid platform that features a wheelbase that was extended by 2.8-inches. At the rear of the vehicle lies a double-wishbone suspension that keeps things well sorted over bumps.
Those in the market for a crossover will find the Subaru’s price just right. The base model with the manual transmission is just $22,995, while the CVT will raise that price to $23,995. The more powerful 3.6-liter comes in at $27,995, while the top of the line 3.6 Limited will take $30,995 out of your bank account.
What Subaru has done is something they’ve always done, just with a little more style. The Outback is touch, hard nosed and will likely outlive whoever purchases it. Our recommendation is the 2.5-liter, but for some extra zip, the 3.6-liter is impressive to say the least. Whichever one is chosen, it’s clear that the 2011 Outback is fantastic in that good old Subaru way.
This is an article about the model Subaru Outback