2016 Subaru Outback Review


2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited Road Test Review

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An intelligent choice in the mid-size CUV segment

Now in the second year of its sixth generation the 2016 Subaru Outback receives a few new updates including standard Starlink touchscreen infotainment, wiper-linked auto on/off headlamps, and rearview camera parking guide customization, whereas other trims can now be had with Lane Keep Assist, a Subaru first.

These are the types of features normally found in premium branded cars, a theme that will continue throughout this review. My test car also included Subaru's advanced Eyesight front crash prevention system that includes pre-collision braking, brake assist and throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lead vehicle start alert, and adaptive cruise control, which together with its standard active and passive safety features qualifies the car for coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus status. Also new, Limited models' standard seven-inch infotainment touchscreen now includes Siri compatibility, SiriusXM advanced audio features, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link capability, and access to the Subaru map update program.

The rest of the car continues forward mostly unchanged, which will be just fine for its legions of diehard fans. Call it mutual respect or a unique subculture, but there's a fraternity of Outback drivers that nod to one another when passing by, displaying true camaraderie.

What they know that you don't (unless you're already an Outback owners) is just how good this beefed up wagon is. First of all they're aware there's no need to pay big money for a premium brand in order to get the latest luxury, convenience, emissions and safety features, nor top-tier quality, while unlike many supposed luxury brands that merely dress up variants of mainstream models with luxe equipment, the Outback includes an entirely original, wholly capable and highly reliable engine and drivetrain combination.

As you may already appreciate, Subaru marches to the offbeat rim shot of a very different albeit perfectly syncopated drummer when it comes to powertrains, both its four- and six-cylinder engines being horizontally opposed rather than the usual inline-four and V6 configurations. Few manufacturers have dabbled with "boxers", but the names of those that have include Porsche and even Ferrari. One of its merits includes shorter than average height and therefore the ability to be laid lower in a car's chassis, resulting in a reduced centre of gravity and better handling.

I don't know if the 2.5i four-cylinder's compact dimensions help the Outback iron out corners as much as it enhances the BRZ sports car's capabilities, but this largish mid-size CUV sure feels confidence inspiring through sharp, quick curves. While taller than the average car and therefore delivering great visibility all-round, the Outback is one of those rare vehicles that feels smaller and lighter than it actually is, an attribute that helps on the open road as much as amid inner-city congestion or when negotiating confined alleyways (that are oftentimes as treacherous to deal with as less traveled wilderness trails).

Along with its agility comes a level of comfort that's hard to beat, the car's fully independent suspension and multi-adjustable seats combining for an overall relaxing experience, although don't mistake relaxed for slow, the 2.5i tested providing 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque for quick takeoff and brisk highway passing performance, but it's probably best described as smooth and linear rather than outright fast. If you require or want more an available 3.6-litre six produces a formidable 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque.

Mated to the powertrain is a six-speed manual gearbox in base trim or optional CVT with sequential manual mode and paddle shifters for extremely efficient operation, the model tested being five-cycle rated at 9.3 L/100km city and 7.1 highway.

Even base $27,995 Outbacks come standard with Subaru's acclaimed symmetrical full-time AWD with active torque vectoring as well as an X-Mode setting that lowers the gear ratios, deactivates the transmission's lock-up clutch, speeds up the traction control system's response time and engages hill decent control, all in the name of providing increased surefootedness on steep, slippery terrain, features that when combined with the model's 220-mm (8.6-inch) ground clearance result in better off-road capability than most of its more SUV-looking competitors.

Of course AWD and its many standard active safety technologies make for better on-road stability too, my Limited model's machine-finished 18-inch alloys on 225/60R18 all-seasons doing likewise over the standard 225/65R17s, whereas its towing capability is a bit better than average at 1,224 kg (2,698 lbs).

Over and above the features already mentioned my $37,195 2.5i Limited included HID headlights, a garage door opener, text messaging capability, navigation integrated into a seven-inch capacitive touchscreen, a fabulous sounding 576-watt audio with 12 Harman/Kardon GreenEdge speakers, a subwoofer and amp, two-position driver's seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger's seat, leather upholstery, heatable rear seats, and much more, while features pulled up from lesser trims include auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, a windshield wiper deicer, an electromechanical parking brake, one-touch turn signals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, dual-zone auto HVAC, a reverse camera, Bluetooth hands-free with audio streaming, satellite radio, aux and USB ports, a powered moonroof, heatable front seats, a 10-way powered driver's seat, reclining rear seats with one-touch flat-folding functionality, a powered tailgate, side and rear vehicle detection, a hill holder, plus more.

It all resides in a cabin that nears premium levels of quality, fit and finish, the Outback Limited including fabric wrapped A-pillars, an upscale soft touch dash top that wraps right down to the lower part of the instrument panel, around the centre stack, and even to the left side of the primary gauges. Subaru also covers the door uppers in the same high-quality pliable synthetic, both above and below the woodgrain inlays, while that matte finished wood is authentic-looking and trimmed just below with satin metal. The door inserts are padded and covered in a perforated leatherette, while the armrests just below are even more plush and covered with a solid leatherette that's also French-stitched, this continuing over to the centre armrest as well. The seats are the real leather deal, with perforated inserts and excellent support, especially in the lower back where power lumbar adjustment enhances their already inherently good design.

Other niceties include electroluminescent gauges with cool purple blue glowing around their edges, plus a large colour multi-infotainment display at centre. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped, its spokes filled with high quality switchgear for adjusting the audio system, scrolling through infotainment system on the centre stack, answering the phone, and setting the adaptive cruise control, while just below and behind the left side spoke is a set of three pull toggles for accessing the multi-information display just noted.


The infotainment system is a real thing of beauty, completely integrated into the centre stack with a glossy black panel boasting touch-sensitive buttons to each side and a fully-featured Starlink interface within that incorporates navigation and mapping, audio, media, phone controls, apps, an info section with sports, weather, stocks, a vehicle monitor, Eco monitor, maintenance, and another one displaying your own music.

There's ample room for large bodies up front and the rear seating area might even be more accommodating. I had about eight inches ahead of my knees when the front seat was positioned for my five-foot-eight medium build frame, plus plenty of room for hips and shoulders and another four to five inches above my head, therefore tall passengers should fit well. A flip-down armrest provides a comfortable place for both rear passengers' arms plus two cupholders, while outboard passengers also benefit from two-way seat heaters.

The rear seatbacks are split 60/40 so two rear passengers can't enjoying those heaters simultaneously after a day on the slopes when skis are down the middle, which could cause some arguments, but on the positive the one-touch flat-folding functionality mentioned earlier speaks of inner door handle style releases to each side of the cargo wall that lower those rear seatbacks without forcing a trip around to the side doors, expanding its already commodious 1,005-litre (35.5 cubic-foot) cargo capacity to a sizeable 2,075 litres (73.3 cubic feet). My tester was fitted with an accessory cargo mat and even rubberized plastic backings to protect the seatbacks. Gaining access comes by a powered rear liftgate, while extra gear can be stowed atop two of the most over-engineered ultra-robust roof rack side rails in the industry when equipped with available cross members, all good reasons why Outback buyers continue to be so incredibly loyal.

Of course it doesn't hurt that the car delivers legendary dependability, Subaru placing second overall and first amongst mainstream volume brands in Consumer Reports' highly regarded 2016 report card on reliability, while that IIHS rating mentioned earlier gets joined by a five-star NHTSA crash test rating for all Outback trims.

There are so many reasons to praise the latest Outback 2.5i Limited that a single review can hardly do it justice; it really has no notable faults. I'd be a fool not to recommend it, and you'd be wise to consider it.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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