Engine: 2.5L boxer 4-cylinder, 3.6L boxer 6-cylinder
Power: 175 hp, 174 lb-ft (2.5)/256 hp, 247 lb-ft (3.6)
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 25 city, 32 hwy (2.5) / 20 city, 27, hwy (3.6)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 9.4 city, 7.3 highway (2.5) / 12.0, 8.7 (3.6)
US Price: Starts at $26,810
CAN Price: Starts at $29,295
It was meant to be the brand’s answer to the blossoming sport utility vehicle segment, and now after all those years, the car has not only sold 2 million units in the U.S., but it’s also Subaru America’s best selling vehicle.
Two million buyers can’t be wrong, but in case there was any doubt, the Outback does a number of things very well. Here are a few reasons why this rugged crossover has become so popular.
1. Small Tweaks Add Flash
For 2018, the Outback doesn’t get a huge redesign, but instead gets a few subtle tweaks to make it stand out and sparkle. Literally, the automaker made some adjustments to the paint job of the metallic paints to make them flashier. And at night, people will get a good look at the bright full LED lighting system that’s also available.
2. Sharp Interior
The interior has also been nicely designed. Our test unit sports creamy-looking tan upholstery and the car also features a fresh-looking steering wheel that’s borrowed right from the new Crosstrek. It features easy to read and use buttons, a theme that’s continued throughout the rest of the cabin. It’s very user-friendly.
It’s not all perfect — those tan seats were already showing some discoloration from jeans and I have some issues with forward visibility, as all the cameras from the Eyesight driver assistance system pushes the rear-view mirror down to sit smack-dab in the middle of the windshield.
READ MORE: 2018 Subaru Outback Review
3. Naturally Aspirated, Fuel Efficient
Under the hood, there isn’t a huge departure from what we’ve seen in the Outback before. Two boxer engines are available: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder. We tested the former, which outputs 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque.
It’s true that the engines aren’t aggressive or even punchy, but they get up to speed without much drama. They’re also super smooth and linear in terms of throttle feel. Subaru made some smart tweaks to keep the car feeling natural, and it really shines through.
But the best part of this car is how efficient it is. That four-cylinder model earns 25 mpg city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined, which are great ratings for an all-wheel-drive vehicle like this.
And that all-wheel-drive element is an important aspect of the Outback that gives it a certain air of capability. Not only that, but the car also gets a setting called X-Mode that will provide more surefootedness to provide additional confidence.
And for those who want more control, there are even available paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to help drivers choose between seven preset gear ratios and improve driveability.
In addition to the X-Mode and all-wheel-drive system, the Outback features 8.6 inches of ground clearance, which is above average, to say the least. I also love that part of the facelifted exterior tweaks was to bring the body cladding up to protect the fog lights.
It means you can truck over almost anything, but something I wish the Outback had was a front-facing parking camera to help with placing that big nose around, especially while off-roading. Also, a tough-looking skid plate would also be a handy addition!
While off-roading is entertaining, most drivers will be keeping the Subaru on the pavement, and fortunately, the Outback has improved its tech setup. The new StarLink infotainment system is faster and more responsive than before and also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility.
Additionally, you can get the Outback with a Harmon/Kardon sound system, which will really help drown out any off-key actors during road-trip sing-alongs.
7. Family Friendly
And for those who don’t need the added help of the sound-system while singing, the acoustics of the Outback is great, because it has such a nice, big, family-friendly cabin. There is 108.1 cubic feet of space for passengers and you’ll find 35.5 cubic feet of storage in the trunk. Fold those rear seats and the cargo capacity expands to 73.3 cubic feet.
However, the back seats are a fantastic place to be and far from a second-class experience. The outboard seats feature a subtle lever that will recline the seats to provide a laid-back relaxed feel when needed. And there is even a pair of USB charging ports back there too. Honestly, those seats are a tray table away from being ringers for a first-class airplane seat.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is always updating its criteria for is considered a truly safe vehicle, yet somehow the Outback has managed to be a top pick by the Institute for the past seven years. That continues this year too, expanding the streak by one more model year, thanks to new bright and adaptive available LED headlights.
These bolster the Outback’s already superb safety and driver assistance systems and the extra confidence afforded by all-wheel-drive. Subaru’s EyeSight system uses cameras mounted high up on the windshield to get a good view of the road and vehicles ahead. The system provides adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane keep assistance and even a vehicle departure notice when the car in front of you at a stop sign or light takes off. There’s also blind spot monitoring and a rear-automatic braking system to provide more beeping and safety in your life.
Pricing is another significant reason why the Outback is so popular and successful. It starts at just $26,810 ($29,295 in Canada) and will top out at $39,605 for fully loaded 3.6R Touring model (or for Canadians, $42,195 for the 3.6R Premier with Eyesight package) meaning there’s a model of this Sport Utility Wagon that will suit your budget.