By Mary Lowry
The love between the Pacific Northwest and the Subaru Outback is strong and long-lived. The two met each other 20 years ago when the Outback arrived as a version of the Legacy wagon. Later, Outback became a separate Subaru model unto itself.
Car buyers in the Northwest fell hard for Outback’s many attractive qualities: a sporty, fuel-efficient compact-sized car with standard all-wheel drive, stable in rain and snow, capable of handling rough roads off-highway, refined enough for comfortable driving around town and on freeways. The Pacific Northwest is one of Outback’s best-selling regions.
For 2015, there’s an all-new Outback, a fifth-generation remake delivering the roomiest interior Outback has ever had, the best fuel economy in the all-wheel-drive crossover class, added driver-assistance technology, a quieter cabin, and increased off-highway capability thanks to AWD enhancements and a new feature called X-Mode.
The model lineup includes the Outback 2.5i, powered by a 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine and available in Standard, Premium and Limited trims; and the Outback 3.6R Limited with a 256-horsepower six-cylinder. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard with both engines and includes paddle shifters.
Fuel economy ratings for the 2.5i are 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Numbers for the 3.6R are 20/27 mpg.
X-Mode is standard equipment on all models. Activated by the touch of a button on the center console, it optimizes engine output and transmission ratio position, and boosts AWD and VDC (vehicle dynamics control) performance. It also engages the new hill descent control system that automatically keeps vehicle speed constant and maintains stability during steep, slippery conditions.
Some of the many other features added to the new Outback (standard or optional, depending on model) include incline start assist, electric power-assist steering, active torque vectoring, rear vision camera, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and welcome lighting, which illuminates the side ground when the driver approaches the car or gets out of it.
The optional Subaru EyeSight crash avoidance system has been improved to provide a 40-percent greater range, and higher speed capability: from 19 mph to 30 mph.
In the all-important infotainment department, Outback has been embellished to offer all the stuff technology and connectivity obsessives want in their new car, as well as an assortment of audio systems up to a 576-watt Harmon/Kardon.
In the decidedly low-tech roof rack department, people who haul outdoor equipment will appreciate Subaru having added an extra hole to Outback’s rack so things such as larger kayaks can be accommodated. And, to make accessing the roof rack a bit easier, doorsill steps are wider.
Base pricing is $25,745 for the 2.5i Standard; $27,845 for the 2.5i Premium; $30,845 for the 2.5i Limited; and $33,845 for the 3.6R Limited. These figures include an $850 destination charge.
The 2015 Subaru Outback is built in Lafayette, Indiana. It’s scheduled to arrive at local dealerships in mid August.
This overview of the 2015 Subaru Outback is based on an introductory event held by the manufacturer. Although the vehicle was driven during the event, automotive reviews that include driving impressions and other opinions appear only after a vehicle has been given the standard weeklong test-drive.