Reviews

2011 Subaru Outback Walk Around

The Subaru Outback looks something like the other SUVs, in its D-pillar and rear window post. It's taller and wider than the previous-generation version, ending in 2009. It has a longer wheelbase, but the body is about an inch shorter overall.

Long, hawk-eye headlamps are mounted higher than the upright grille, leading to an alert, bold look. Functional side cladding and rocker panels remind this Subaru is intended to be completely at home on gravel roads. (And, indeed, it is.) At the rear, compound tail lamps blend into a broad rear hatch with a large rear window, integrating the design and helping to define the high beltline that keeps the Outback from being visually top-heavy.

A roof rack is standard. The rack's crossbars are stowed in the roof rails for reduced wind noise, and can be swung into position when needed. The rack is designed so that the existing line of Subaru roof-rack accessories will still fit. The roof rack adds about two inches of height to the Outback. The optional Power Moonroof subtracts about two inches of front headroom.

Outback 3.6R models are visually identified by 17-inch wheels and larger, 225/60R17 tires, although four-cylinder Outbacks can be upgraded with the same wheel/tire combination by selecting Limited or Premium trim.

Interior

The current Outback is roomier than pre-2010 models. Added roof height makes the new Outback roomier, with an additional 8 cubic feet of passenger space, and another 5.9 cubic feet of cargo area with the seats folded. Front legroom, still ample for taller drivers, has actually been trimmed slightly in favor of making the back seat more comfortable for long trips. Rear legroom is extended by 4 inches, and the use of curved front seatbacks adds knee room as well.

The Outback models we drove had Premium trim and the better, 10-way driver's seat. The standard seats, four-way adjustable, might not be as adjustable, but they are well designed and there is lots of legroom and headroom. The cabin feels roomy, even after a long day of driving. There is a standard cargo tray, under floor storage, and grocery bag hooks behind the rear seats.

Past Subaru interiors might have been considered quirky, but the current Outback incorporates mainstream design and content characteristics. The dash and cockpit are built around a sporty, four-dial instrument panel and a contemporary upswept center stack. The instrument panel includes a multi-information display that indicates outside temperature, fuel consumption, time, and warning functions for seatbelts and passenger air bags. The transmission gear readout is digital. The steering wheel, a three-spoke design, has four large buttons to control the audio system and cruise control. When equipped with an automatic transmission, paddle shifters are located behind the wheel. Taken as a whole, the interior is clean and contemporary, without being excessively ornate.

The parking brake is controlled electronically via a button to the left of the steering wheel, and has a Hill Hold feature. Higher trim levels offer voice activated GPS navigation, rear backup camera, Bluetooth, USB/iPod input and other amenities.

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