2015 Subaru Outback First Impression

St-John’s, NFLD — I cannot, nor will I ever, find fault in the station wagon. I can see, in my mind’s eye, Subaru people shaking their heads at the fact that I began my review of their new Outback with the words “station wagon.” From where I stand, it will always be a long-roof, however, never has the Outback looked more like a CUV than it does now.

I’ve been a fan of the Outback from the very beginning. A highly capable, versatile AWD wagon with an available manual transmission it’s a combination bred from an automotive journalist’s moist dream. Then, in 2005, it got better with the introduction of the turbocharged XT version. Although it died only a few short years later, I submit that this was the best Outback ever.

The only item the new car needs is a real engine: a turbocharged 4-cylinder. Simply put, everything else about the 2015 Outback is nearly perfect.

What is a Subaru Outback?
A trendsetter. The Outback could be credited with being the spark that set off today’s most popular segment: the crossover utility vehicle.

It was first introduced in 1994 as a MY1995, blurring the lines between the car and the SUV. It’s popularity skyrocketed in the following few years and never have more Outbacks been sold than with the previous generation car (2010-‘14).

The Subaru Outback celebrates 20 years and five generations with the arrival of its most refined, most capable, and fuel-efficient CUV alternative ever. This car is truly created around the needs of active people. Surveys have proved that few other cars/utility vehicles ignite the active outdoorsy person like the Outback.

2015 Subaru Outback Price and Specs
One of the very many attractive attributes of the 2015 Subaru Outback is its pricing. This is a substantial car and its base price is only $27,995. This price point gets you a 2.5i with a 6-speed manual box (unique to Canada). Throwing in the optional CVT transmission tacks on $1,300.

A Touring 3.6R, offered only with the CVT, retails for $35,495 or $3,500 more than the equivalent 2.5i Touring. The Tech Package (with EyeSight and smart key) can be had on most trims for an extra $1,200.

Engines are carry-overs from the previous generation, albeit both are on the receiving end of a vast number of improvements. The 2.5L flat-4, which represents 75% of all Outback sales, features new intake and exhaust components and lower friction internals. It generates 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. The 3.6L H6 puts out 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque.

As always and forever, the Outback is equipped with Subbie’s Symmetrical AWD system as well as an X-MODE traction assist system with Hill Descent Control.

Driving the 2015 Subaru Outback

The 2015 Subaru Outback has fully matured in many ways. The previous generation took refinement to a level that was initially rare for Subaru, but this time around, the gang at Fuji Heavy Industries have raised the bar, on par or better, than a number of Japanese counterparts.

This is the highlight of the new 2015 Subaru Outback. Through numerous tweaks, including a 59% stiffer structure, handling and ride comfort have improved dramatically. The same goes for NVH and the overall quality feel of the car thanks to liquid-filled engine mounts and thicker high-strength body panels.

Steering response is now more immediate which weighs in heavily in the upgraded driving experience. Let’s not forget that the Outback is a truly capable off-roader. It features 8.7″ of ground clearance, which is greater than many so-called utility vehicles, as well as X-MODE. Its job is to optimize engine control, AWD, and braking — it works flawlessly.

On the tarmac, standard torque vectoring helps keep the Outback pointed in the right direction. As far as road manners are concerned, the 2015 Subaru Outback is nearly perfect. The choice of engines is what hurts this otherwise excellent car. The CVT ‘box is an actual asset in this case.

Subaru’s FB25 flat-4 has all the will in the world to get the 1,635+ kg (3,600+ lb) going, but the fact is that with the CVT the car requires nearly 10 seconds to reach 100 km/hr. Although smooth and capable of maintaining momentum and (on paper) relatively fuel-efficient I can’t imagine the struggle or what the real-world fuel consumption would be with a trailer, gear, and four passengers onboard.

The optional flat-6 is far more torque-y, however, the downside is that I observed a more than 30% fuel consumption reading than the indicated combined 9.1L/100km.

Inside and Out of the 2015 Subaru Outback
As a station wagon, the Outback is once more faultless. Of all the car’s iterations, this 5th generation Outback looks more like a CUV than ever — I guess I can deal with that.

The 2015 Outback has received a dose of modern masculinity with the proper nips and tucks. Visibility is enhanced thanks to the “A” pillars moving forward giving a sharper rake. The presence of the large heritage fog lights and black lower rocker panels make the 2015 Outback instantly recognizable.

The positioning of the “A” pillars also gives the interior a larger more comfortable feel. These same adjectives go for the new seats. The cabin features new soft-touch materials, and a handsome steering wheel. The dash design is fresh and modern, a growing trend for Subaru that was never quite up to the task where interiors were concerned.

The 2015 Subaru Outback maintains one of its key features which is its large trunk, now a little over 1,000 litres with the second row up. The rear seat has grown slightly and gained optional heating. Among other niceties are the standard 6.2” display and available rear tailgate.

Comparing the 2015 Subaru Outback
The Outback is essentially in a class all its own, but competition is fierce and comes in many shapes and sizes. The Honda Crosstour is closest in vocation, however, its days are numbered.

The Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Venza, and Ford Edge are options but there’s no way to beat the Outback at its own game. Now, if Subaru would just drop the WRX’s 2.0L turbo under the bonnet, I could add a 3rd Subbie to my family fleet.

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