Refreshed for 2013, the Subaru Outback remains an incredibly functional vehicle, though is moving back towards its car origins with softer edges, a slight up-tick in fuel economy and improved driving dynamics. Plus it gains some impressive new safety technology.
|1. With AWD standard, two engine options are available, a 2.5-liter boxer 4-cylinder with 173 hp and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder with 256 hp.
2. Fuel economy for the 4-cylinder equipped with a CVT transmission now rises to 24/30 mpg (city/hwy) and 26 mpg combined.
3. New for 2013 is Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance system with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and an auto-brake feature.
4. Starting at $23,495 for the base 2.5i, 3.6R models range from $28,295 to $32,095.
NOW WITH 30-MPG HIGHWAY
Equipped with two Boxer engine options, the Outback offers convenient packaging and efficient power output. With a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 173 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, the Outback 2.5i is a modest package with a mild bump in output, while those looking for more can opt for the Outback 3.6R. It’s engine rating remains the same, with the 3.6-liter six-cylinder continuing to make 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque.
Moving from the straight-forward engine options, the transmission and drivetrain become more confusion. Base 4-cylinders come with either a 6-speed manual or optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, while 3.6 models are available only with a 5-speed manual.
Known for equipping its models with all-wheel drive (AWD), the Outback gets a different grip system based on the transmission you choose. In the 2.5i models using a 6-speed manual, power is distributed 50/50 from front to rear, sending more power to the grip wheels when one set slips. Models mated with a CVT use what is called an Active Torque Split AWD where a clutch regulates power distribution based on driving conditions and wheel slip. And finally, 3.6R models gain a Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) AWD system that is rear biased (45:55) to deliver better handling.
Fuel economy for six-cylinder is a middling 18/25 mpg (city/highway), while manual transmission equipped 4-cylinder models climb to 21/28. The real fuel economy champ, however, is the CVT 4-cylinder, which gains a few extra miles per gallon for 2013, rising from 22/29 to 24 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined.
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SHARPER EYES, SOFTER LOOK
While hawkeye headlights help add some aggression, overall the new look is smoother with rounded-off edges. Continuing the more car-like design are new wheels and added chrome accents.
Roof rails continue to be a stand-out feature, while modifications made for 2013 allow the cross bars to be moved, allowing for greater flexibility with cargo.
ADDED TECH, FEATURES
With some subtle changes inside the cabin, the 2013 Outback continues to have all the familiarity of stepping into a classic cottage.
The Outback 2.5i model is set up with base, Premium and Limited grades. Standard features include steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat (with a great recline feature) and a Hill Holder System, to name a few. The standard audio system in the 2.5i models has also been upgraded to include new tech like iPod control capability and a USB port.
The Premium grade sees added components such as a 10-way power driver’s seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Also available to the Premium trim are three custom packages: All-Weather, Power Moonroof and an advanced tech package with a Harman/Kardon audio system. Separating the Outback 3.6R model from its 2.5i counterpart is that it is only available base or Limited trim.
On the next level, the Limited grade encompasses perforated leather, dual zone climate control with rear A/C outlets and a 3.5-inch display screen in the instrument cluster. The Limited grade also has exclusive additions like touchscreen/voice-activated navigation, backup camera display and satellite radio, among some of the solid features.
EYESIGHT AUTO-BRAKING FEATURE
A final option is perhaps the biggest piece of news surrounding the 2013 Outback: Subaru’s EyeSight system. Similar to Volvo’s City Safety feature, EyeSight uses two cameras mounted behind the rearview mirror to watch the road ahead. If a person or car enters into the path being traveled, warning lights and an auditory signal alert the driver and if no action is taken the car will can autonomously slow itself when traveling at speeds above 19 mph. At speeds below 19 mph, the EyeSight system is capable of fully applying the brakes to bring the vehicle to a stop.
Also incorporating a lane departure warning system, EyeSight even includes an impressive convenience function, namely, Adaptive Cruise Control. Working at speeds of 1 to 87 mph, it’s capable of locking-on to the vehicle ahead and can assist in a smooth commute in stop-and-go traffic, even stopping the car completely if necessary.
We took our 3.6R tester onto a closed course to test out the EyeSight’s response against test crash panels and it proved to be impressive and less abrupt that we expected.
For now, the EyeSight system is available exclusively as an option on 6-cylinder Outback and Legacy models.
MORE CAR-LIKE HANDLING
It’s behind the wheel and on the road where the Outback’s continued transformation back towards being more of a wagon becomes apparent. Numerous suspension adjustments reduce body roll by a significant 40 percent, meaning it feels more planted, more agile and is just more friendly around town. Still, it remains softly-sprung and thanks to its 8.7-inch ground clearance remains a capable back-roads machine.
Another major change is a new electronic power steering. Helping the Outback achieve its new fuel economy numbers, it’s about as precise as it needs to be, and is slightly stiffer giving a better feel of responsiveness.
After essentially growing into a crossover for its current generation, the Outback is looking to get back to its historic roots, and does so with considerable success.
Unfortunately it does feel dated in other areas and while everything from a 30 mpg rating to improved driving feel help keep the Outback in the game, it’s not at the top. It’s sure to maintain the attention of faithful buyers and apart from a few who will be swayed by the new EyeSight safety tech, there’s little to draw the attention to those outside the Subaru fold.