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2015 Subaru Outback: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2015

When we tell you that the 2015 Subaru Outback is the best Outback ever made, it is no exaggeration. A top seller for Subaru, the Outback has always had a rather cultlike following, but this new version is primed to go mainstream. Quirky styling and outdated audio and navigation controls were major issues, but both have been jettisoned this year. In their place is a handsome interior matched by a more reserved exterior. What hasn't changed is the Outback's ability to confidently venture off-road, a skill enhanced by the addition of X-Mode with Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist. The Outback is no Rubicon contender, but it's more than capable of competing with popular crossover SUVs such as the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.

Of course, all the above-mentioned competitors are crossover SUVs, whereas the Outback is more or less a tall wagon with a rugged-looking exterior. The advantage of the wagon design is a more carlike driving experience and a slightly lower and longer roof, making it easier to load and unload cargo and toys. For those seeking the perfect blend of safety, reliability, fuel economy, resale and impressive off-road ability, the 2015 Subaru Outback is hard to beat.

What's New for 2015?

The Outback is all new this year and features improved fuel economy, more safety and high-tech features, more mainstream styling and more interior room.

What We Like

EyeSight collision-avoidance system; integrated roof rails; new touchscreen audio and navigation system; impressive fuel economy; excellent safety and resale value figures

What We Don't

6-cylinder engine only available on Limited trim; firm ride on rough roads; helpful PIN access option only offered on most expensive trim

How Much?

$25,745-$40,000

Fuel Economy

The 2.5i base, Premium and Limited trims all have a 2.5-liter flat 4-cylinder engine teamed to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and a symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. This engine develops 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates for the 2.5-liter are an impressive 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The 3.6R Limited is equipped with a 3.6-liter flat 6-cylinder engine that produces a robust 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimates for this engine are a respectable 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

An optional Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) upgrade is available on the 2.5-liter engine only.

Standard Features & Options

The Subaru Outback is offered in four trims: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited.

The 2.5i ($25,745) includes a CVT automatic transmission with 6-speed manual mode and paddle shifters, 17-inch wheels with full covers, a 6.2-in touchscreen radio with Bluetooth phone and music streaming, Starlink telematics and USB/iPod integration. Also standard is X-Mode with Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, cruise control, manual air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a roof rack with integrated cross bars, a rear backup camera, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a rear-window defroster, a rear wiper/washer, a hill-holder feature, a height-adjustable driver's seat and seatback release levers in the cargo area.

The 2.5i Premium ($27,845) adds 17-in alloy wheels, a 10-way power driver's seat, the All-Weather package (3-mode heated front seats, heated side mirrors and heated windshield deicers), a 6-speaker audio system with a 7-in touchscreen and SiriusXM radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Options for the Premium trim include navigation radio, the EyeSight adaptive cruise control and collision-avoidance system with steering-responsive fog lights (also includes rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system and lane-departure warning), a power moonroof and a power rear lift gate.

The 2.5i Limited ($30,845) adds perforated leather seating, a 4-way power passenger seat, 18-in alloy wheels, rear-seat air vents, dual-mode heated rear seats, a 576-watt Harman Kardon audio upgrade with 12 speakers and a subwoofer, a rear vehicle-detection system with cross-traffic alert, wood-grain dash trim and a power rear lift gate.

The 3.6R Limited ($33,845) adds the more powerful 6-cylinder engine, a beefed-up CVT transmission and HID low-beam headlights.

Options for the Limited trims include the EyeSight system, navigation, keyless entry with push-button start, the PIN keyless access system and a power moonroof.

In addition to the factory packages, Subaru offers a plethora of dealer-installed accessories such as remote start, protective side molding, rear bumper protectors and speaker upgrades. Also on the list are numerous attachments for the roof rack, including bike, kayak and ski holders, as well as cargo carriers in various sizes.

Safety

Every 2015 Outback features numerous standard safety features, including front, front-side impact and full-length side-curtain airbags. Electronic traction and stability control is also standard, augmented by X-Mode, Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist. Available features include the EyeSight collision-detection and avoidance system, side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic detection with lane-change assist.

In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Outback a 5-star overall rating, with five out of five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Outback top marks in every crash-test category, plus a Superior rating for its optional EyeSight collision-avoidance system. The Outback's combined scores earn it an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.

Behind the Wheel

While the Outback's new interior and host of high-tech features make it an enjoyable highway cruiser, this car takes its off-road heritage seriously. The Outback may not be able to keep up with a full-fledged off-road SUV such as the Jeep Wrangler, but its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive and X-Mode give this rugged wagon the ability to go where most all-wheel-drive crossovers wouldn't even consider. Even when not bounding over remote areas, the Outback's design gives it superior abilities on paved surfaces that are covered with snow, ice or rain.

One downside to this redesign is the Outback's new, firmer suspension. This change improves handling but also fails to soak up hard impacts when off-roading, an attribute we greatly admired in the previous-generation car. While we found the Outback to be a delight on smooth pavement, once the road becomes choppy, its stiff suspension upsets the car's ride so much that it becomes harsh. In situations like these, we suddenly see the wisdom of driving a soft-riding SUV such as the Toyota Highlander.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk -- The Cherokee Trailhawk may be the only compact crossover that can beat the Outback at off-roading, but the Cherokee isn't as reliable, doesn't hold its resale value as well and has an anemic base engine.

2015 Ford Edge -- The Edge can handle modest off-road situations, and its ride is more comfortable than the Outback's. The Edge also offers a choice of three powerful engines, but it can't match the Outback's fuel economy, safety ratings or resale values.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -- The Santa Fe Sport has the same interior volume as the Outback but offers more features, such as a panoramic moonroof and an available turbocharged engine. The Santa Fe's base 4-cylinder engine, however, isn't very strong, and Hyundai doesn't offer any kind of collision-avoidance system.

Used Volkswagen Touareg -- A 2010-2014 Volkswagen Touareg offers excellent off-road ability, a luxurious interior and numerous engine options, including a powerful yet fuel-efficient diesel.

Autotrader's Advice

We think the best bargain in the Outback lineup is the 2.5i Premium with the EyeSight system. This model gives you everything you need in a family vehicle, offers excellent protection for everyone on board and still remains just under the $30,000 mark (less if you're really good at negotiating).

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Subaru Outback: New Car Review - Autotrader