June 1, 2012

2012 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

The Outback first debuted in 1994.  As a teenager I mocked it, but secretly would have been cool with one for a first car; any port in a storm.  For years I’ve smugly looked at the Outback with an “I’m so much cooler than that car” smirk.  Turns out, I’m not…
The Outback is based at $23,295, which is right around brand new Volkswagen GTI money, but the Outback comes standard with the cargo capacity of a small freight train and the assuredness of all-wheel drive.
The Outback has always been the funny little station wagon that wanted to be an SUV.  Now that I have kids; strollers, diaper bags, and all the other crap, so much poop, that comes with offspring; I get the Outback.

Base Price: $23,295
As Driven: $31,730
Engine: 2.5L flat 4-cylinder, 170 horsepower
Transmission: Continuously Variable-Speed Automatic
Curb Weight: 3,538 lbs.
Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
MPG Rating: 22 city/ 29 hwy

                The Outback has a spacious interior with great visibility.  You don’t have to pull the rear headrests to see out the back.  There are really nice leather seats, not whale skin, but nice.  The best thing about the leather is how easy it is to clean mud, formula, barf, fast food, and kid puke off of the seats. 
They wipe down so easily.
The driver’s seat has the most room that I’ve ever experienced in a not-truck.  The steering wheel tilts and telescopes allowing the driver to stretch his/her legs to a comfortable position.  The driver’s seat will get so far away from the instrument panel that it feels like the hood is in the future and you struggling to keep up.
                The rear seat legroom is listed by Subaru at 37.8 inches.  This is definitely a spacious back seat.  This is the kind of legroom that allows a giant me to sit comfortably behind even the tallest drivers.  Shaq would be more comfortable in an Outback, but I don’t know if his ego could take it.  Plus Buick is already paying him…
                The Outback has 34.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity with all of the seats in place.  When you drop the rear 60/40 split seat and really maximize your cargo space the numbers jump to 71.3 cubic feet.  That’s almost half a baby elephant…  More importantly who’s cutting baby elephants in half?!?! I totally Googled how many cubic feet is a baby elephant and this came up.

                The styling of the Outback has gotten better with age.  The lines are not as horrible station wagon as they used to be.  The two tone color scheme with the painted upper body and the matte gray rocker panels help to improve the look.  There are not a lot of guys that want to tell people they drive an Outback based on looks alone.  If you are a “dude” and you’re extolling the virtues of your ride, it probably has more to do with cargo capacity, all-wheel drive, and the lovely hippie chicks you met in the woods last weekend.  Beware of unshaven pits!

                The roof rails are a nice feature.  When they are not needed the rails can be stowed in line with the car, but when it’s time to lash something to the top, possibly the aforementioned hippies, then the roof rails easily unlatch, span the roof, and create a roof rack.
                The 8.7 inches of ground clearance tell everyone that you’re the kind of guy ready for anything: snow, ice, sleet, rain, typhoons, or the occasional rocks that are smaller than 8 inches.  The new Explorer only has 7.6 inches of ground clearance and the Jeep Wrangler has 8.8 inches.  One of the original Outback TV advertisements listed the car has having the same ground clearance as the Explorer.  The Outback has stayed pretty consistent here, while the new Explorer is less of an off-road vehicle.
                Subaru offers a number of optional extras for the exterior of the vehicle.  Different badges, caps, covers, carpets, mats; all of it can be changed in your Outback.  There are almost as many components that can be changed as you can change on a Scion.

                The Outback comes with Bluetooth and an auxiliary jack for mp3 devices.  There is an upgrade to include a USB port as well.  I love the USB ports since they can also be used to charge devices: cameras, iPods, and phones.
                My test vehicle came with the 440 watt 9 speaker Harman Kardon stereo.  This stereo produced a gorgeous sound.  It was full and sounded better than a live concert.  If I actually owned annoying music, then everyone around me would have suffered in crystal clear clarity.  I have good taste in my audio choices, so everyone was able to enjoy this great stereo.
                The infotainment system is controlled by a smallish touch screen.  The Dodge Charger’s is close to nine inches diagonal and the Subaru’s is only 5.8ish…  I like that it is a touch screen, but feel that the size could be upgraded drastically.  Go figure, a guy complaining about the size of something…

The 2.5L Boxer engine does its best to be “torquey,” 170 ft-lbs at 4,000rpms.  The Boxer engine is laid out sideways instead of the standard vertical inline four.  By Subaru laying the engine horizontally it helps lower the center of gravity for the engine bay.  This point is moot for a car that has almost nine inches of ground clearance.  For the Ipreza’s, Legacies, WRX’s, and STi’s; we get the lowered center of gravity, but the Outback is already not a performance vehicle.  It is a very capable and reliable engine.
The 0 to 60 time is not why you buy an Outback, 9.4 seconds according to Edmunds.  The 2.5L does produce 170 horsepower.  This isn’t the best amount of power out of a four cylinder engine, but it is adequate.  I would like to see the WRX’s turbo charger offered with the Outback.  I know that Subaru won’t do that, but I still want it.
The mileage is good.  The 2.5L averages 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.  I was closer to 23 on my test drive, but I did a lot of stopping and starting with aggressive acceleration.  While on the highway, the mpgs were over 30 for most of the drive. 
                The suspension on the Outback was able to smooth out most of the bumps.  Having a long wheelbase helps the Outback glide over most road surfaces.  There were a couple sections of surface that were like getting punched in the tail bone quite rough, but I figured that it didn’t matter what car I was in; the road was just the worst, like a South Dakota highway (I drove across SD back in the 90’s and every 8 feet there was a seam in the interstate.  You felt every seam…). 

                I would not use the Outback to win any road races.  I would love to see an Outback rally car, though.  Please, Subaru, make that a reality, or give me one and I’ll race it.
                If you’re in the market for something that will hold all of your kids’ crap, make room for two kid seats, and still have room for some of your stuff, then this is definitely a car for you.  The all-wheel drive builds confidence.  Remember, it’s not how fast you can go, but how fast you can stop in crappy bad weather.
                I still don’t think the Outback looks all that cool, but it definitely performs better than it looks. For mid 20’s, the Outback is a really great deal, but you might lose your “man” card.

A special thank you to Van Subaru for loaning me the Outback.  These guys were gracious, polite, and believe in their product.  Give them a call if you're interested in an Outback, BRZ, or any other Subaru.


  1. While I would love to own a Subaru crossover, the price is not yet flexible enough for my finances to take it. So I ended up with a very cheap Kia Sportage. Who wojuld not want this Outback? The comfort of a sports car and the performance of a rugged SUV. In the sports car side, I love the Subaru Impreza and the Subaru BRZ.

  2. Good thing that Van Subaru helped you in loaning for your Outback. Subaru Outback is definitely a good choice for a family car.

  3. FOr an SUV of that range, I think the outback has just the right features for that kind of price range. It's got the standards other SUV makers should follow on.

  4. That interior is definitely something to consider when buying a family vehicle these days, especially when you demand space and some unobstructed views. I think this should work as a sort of reference for other car makers when they put out their next line of SUV's and crossovers.

  5. SUVs will always top my list when it comes to vehicle models I prefer. I just like the space, the sleek design and the aura it has the moment you drive it on highways and roads, the most reliable type, I must say.