2015 Subaru Outback Review | Autonet

2015 Subaru Outback Review


By Keri Potipcoe, Autonet


New Outback proves functional is fashionable


St. John’s, NL – All I can see is sky through the windshield.


Three of my vehicle’s tires are off the ground as I ascend a steep incline. I lurch forward and jam the wheel to the right as the tires grip the rocks, and up I launch to crest the hill. Now the windshield view is all dirt, and back down I go.


I’m in Newfoundland testing Subaru’s all-new 2015 Outback, and I had no idea it could eat terrain like this. The vehicle’s 220 mm ground clearance helps, as does the X-mode, which is a braking system that allows you to remove your feet from the brake pedal, putting the system in charge. It works at speeds up to 40 km/h, and it’s what kicks me safely up and down the steeply-pitched ATV paths, and what will help you easily traverse your cottage road.


Then I’m back on the highway, and this crossover tucks away its hidden off-road talent and becomes a refined ride. Steering and handling are precise, and the telescoping and tilting steering wheel, combined with the power 10-way adjustable seat, means the driving position fits both my drive partner’s 6’4” frame, as well as my 5’2” self. Sight lines are clear, and there’s a sedan feel behind the wheel of this fifth generation Outback model.


You can choose between two engines – a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder or a 3.6-litre 6-cylinder. Happily, a manual transmission is available in the smaller engine, and Canada is the only country in North America to be given that option. Otherwise it’s a continuously variable transmission.


Subaru has done a good job eliminating noise, vibration, and harshness inside the cabin, though the 3.6 model sounds better; absent is that token CVT whine that’s present in the 2.5L.


However, at 2,200 kg it’s a heavy vehicle, so spend the additional money and bump up to the larger engine. Once the vehicle is packed with both gear and humans – which is the point of this vehicle – the extra power will be needed.


Regardless your engine choice, fuel economy has been fixed.


The outgoing Outback had a reputation for having the highest fuel consumption in its class, but Subaru has added active grille shutters, electric power steering, an aluminum hood, and plenty of high strength steel, and now both engines are leading the segment according to the automaker.


Also hugely improved is the infotainment system. It’s all-new, and while it’s not the best out there, it’s now competitive, as opposed to the former version, which was a disaster.


It’s a 6.2” colour touch screen, with some of the information replicated on the 3.5” instrument cluster screen. Use the main screen to control the standard rear-view camera, audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio or an iPod.


Navigation is bundled into the top Limited trim, which also sees the addition of rear heated seats, 18” alloy wheels, and HID headlights. It also gets a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon system running off a slightly larger 7” screen that has SMS text messaging and voice command capabilities.


Safety aids like lane departure warning and pre-collision braking assist can be added via the $1,200 Technology Package. It also includes adaptive cruise control and push-button start. I test both and the vehicle is great without these features – spend the money on the bigger engine instead.


The new soft-touch dash and higher quality leather do bring an air of class to the interior, as does the use of more upscale materials on the dash, like the matte wood trim. The standard 60/40 split folding rear seats still recline and can now be heated, and will easily transport two large humans for a long distance trip, and a third for a short one.


A clever new feature is the one-touch folding rear seats. From the trunk, pull one lever and the rear seats drop flat. Couple that with the new power lift gate, and hauling cargo just became a more fluid process, especially because there’s 33 litres more room compared to the outgoing model. The centre console has been increased to hold an iPad, and there’s a dedicated cell phone pocket beside the gear shift.


This latest-generation Outback is a good balance between refinement and utility. The company is trying to appeal to a wider audience, but here’s hoping it keeps making manual transmissions standard, not using engine covers, and remembering its function-before-fashion roots.




FACT FILE:   2015 Subaru Outback


Trim level: 3.6 L Limited

Price as tested (before taxes): $38,895

Options on test vehicle: leather seats, 18” alloy wheels, rear heated seats, HID headlights,10-way power driver’s seat with 2 memory settings

Configuration: front-engine, all-wheel drive

Engine/transmission: 3.6L 6-cylinder CVT automatic

Power/torque: 256 hp/ 247 lb.-ft.

Fuel (capacity): regular (70L)

Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 10.6 city, 7.3 hwy

Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 9.1 over 578 km

Competitors: Mazda CX-5, Ford Edge, Toyota Venza, Nissan Murano

Strengths: off-roading capabilities, one-touch folding rear seats, X-mode

Weaknesses: navigation bundled into higher trim

Report Card (out of 10):

Fuel Economy: 7 – from worst in class to best

Equipment level: 7 – Standard features list is strong, including all-wheel drive, power lift gate and rear view camera

Price: 8 – in line with competitors , $500 less than outgoing

Styling: 8 – Refreshingly both functionable-and-fashionable

Comfort (front): 8 – 10-way seats, more upscale cushioning

Comfort (rear): 8 – 2 large humans will be comfortable, ample legroom

Handling: 8 – Behaves like a beast on the trails, and like a sedan on the highway

Performance: 9 – X-mode will attack your cottage road while remaining unaffected

Storage: 7 – Sprinkled though out, dedicated centre console cel pocket is smart

Overall: 9 – A subtle and classy rendition of the original crossover