It's been quite some time since Subaru released their new line up of cars, the Outback being one of them. I have lived with the 2013 Outback, which saved the life of someone very close to me. That car was nothing short of great, it got us from point A to point B, didn't eat up too much fuel (matter of fact, we could usually get 420 miles out of the tank if I kept my foot steady), and stored a ton of stuff. Safety is the standard with Subaru, and so is reliability, and that car never gave any issues. It was easy to work on and was more than comfortable. For this reason, it was difficult for me to see how Subaru could improve on an already amazing car, because they had quite a reputation to live up to. Now before I go on, I would like the readers to know that I'm a huge Subaru fan, not only because it saved someone I love dearly, but also because the STi was the car that got me into cars. For this reason, I'm usually especially harsh critiquing the cars they make because there's a certain standard I expect them to reach.
To start with, I would like to comment on the car's safety. Subarus have been the only cars I've felt comfortable getting into an accident in, and this Outback is no exception. The build quality is top notch, especially considering it is a non-luxury car based on a smaller chassis. It weighs in at around 3700 pounds, so it's very light for a Crossover SUV. Yet it's much heavier than the outgoing model; to put this in perspective, the lightest spec 2015 model will weight only 50 or so pounds less than the heaviest 2014 version. That being said, the car does come with more options and is safer than the previous model. The engine pumps out 170 horsepower and is a direct carryover FB25 unit from the 2013-2014 model years. It is slightly more efficient and some oiling issues have been addressed. The chassis is all new, and based on the new Legacy. This means front gets McPherson type struts, and multi-link suspension in the rear. Power steering is now electronic, and while very direct at first, the transition between turns in opposite directions can be a little numb. This is mostly due to the body roll in which only makes sense on a comfortable cross country cruiser. Taking this into account, the handling is still precise and very neutral, which is unconventional for a big AWD Crossover. See, crossovers like the Outback have a tendency to understeer like tomorrow was never planned, however the Outback can be quite literally chucked into corners with absolute confidence. Braking is better even if ever so slightly when compared to the outgoing model. Subaru installed the bigger 3.6 brakes from the previous car into the 2.5, although it could use pads with a better bite and less fade, but they do the job.
The ride is smooth and soft, incredibly comfortable for the price range it's in. The car in question is a 2.5i Premium, equipped with a power rear gate, EyeSight, blind spot and cross traffic detection. All of these goodies will set you back $1700. Other options can quickly add up to the price as well, such as an auto-dimming homelink mirror costing $300, or a Wheel Arch molding kit costing $460. There's one option that I adore so far, which is the auto-dimming side view mirrors with little LED's that look like the Subaru logo. All in all, the cost of the car is $31,000 before taxes, registration and delivery, so it is not the cheapest bargain. The power rear gate is nice, but on the other hand I really disliked EyeSight. The idea is brilliant, when it works it is a nice touch. The problem is, it does not work in rainy weather or if a bird defecates somewhere in the area of the camera, and it can even sometimes malfunction. Subaru has a recall in place for issues with EyeSight, such as when the automatic braking doesn't work when it should. I now find myself turning off the lane drift and automatic braking features in order to prevent further frustration with the system. It would be nice to have this $1700 set of features work regardless of a little mist blocking the view ahead.
I'm a big stereo guy, and the sound system in this car is one of the best I've worked with. Bluetooth works flawlessly, connection is great, voice comes through fine and no one on the other end of the call complaints. Sound is adjustable, and the library on your iPod is easily accessible. The seats have butt-warmers installed, and this can be a favorable feature during cold mornings. Traction control can be turned off with a single push, no need to hold the button for 20 minutes while performing a sacrificial ritual. Oh, did I mention there's tons of space in the car? This is by far the biggest Outback of them all, making this a perfect road trip car. The standard all-season tires work well in dry and heavy rain, although can be a little slippery in the snow. Matter of fact, not much confidence was inspired by the tires when being passed by older front wheel drive SUVs equipped with winter tires. ABS works more than well for these special snowy cases, but traction control is best left off in the event of traction loss for better control.
Overall the car is far smoother than the outgoing model. Looks do not betray the Outback family, although it does feature much softer lines when compared to the very rough edges of the previous generation car. In spite of all this, would I consider this to be worthy of an upgrade? The outgoing car is more than fine for another 5-8 years, and that's assuming you have a 2009. It will still run just fine, and unless you have the money to spare or do not yet own an outback, switching to this newer model wouldn't be worthwhile. I adored the previous generation model, and do really like this one. But there isn't much of a difference between the two to justify the switch, especially if you own a 2013-2014 version of the car, considering they share the same engine. Both versions of the car are exceptionally safe, with the current model being slightly ahead of its time as would be expected, and both cars offer a very comfortable ride and tons of space and enough power. So while it is a great start for a new Outback owner, if you have the previous model, the switch just doesn't make sense. Fact of the matter remains, had it not been for the crash that sent the last Outback to the junkyard, we would still have had the black car, and would own it for at least another 8 years before considering switching to something new.