2018 Subaru Outback Reviews in Boise, ID

No more ugly duckling--the Subaru Outback sport utility wagon has come into its own

In the early 90's, the "Outback" nameplate wasn't actually the wildly popular, standalone vehicle that is today--it was just a trim level, a wagon configuration option of the popular Legacy sedan. This new vehicle rode like a car, handled like a Subaru, but could offer as much cargo space as the Forester, which allowed Subaru to easily expand their offering of utility vehicles as America's thirst for SUVs began to grow. The vehicle was called the "Legacy Grand Wagon" in Japan, but in the US--in a nod to the rugged places in Australia that Subaru hoped to evoke in their new design--it was called the Legacy Outback.

It wasn't until the year 2000 that the Subaru Outback got to step out as its own model, but it still didn't fully shake the trim-level usage--there was an Outback sedan for a few years, and a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (the hatchback that we know today) that stuck around until 2011. It was really within the last two generations that the Outback came into its own, and claimed its single right to the nameplate.

Since then, it's grown considerably into the Outback name, offering bold off-roading capabilities, impressive performance, and a rocky, rugged look and feel that makes its comfortable and premium interior a genuine surprise. It's not the sportiest or the most powerful crossover/SUV/wagon/enigma in its class, and it's not the cheapest. But the deep, genuine siren call of the Subaru Outback has helped it maintain its standing as one of the top-selling wagons in the country, and arguably the most popular model in the entire Subaru lineup.

The timeless wagon

The Outback may be called an "SUV" now, but they're not fooling anyone: it's still the same, long-backed, hatch-draggin' wagon that it's always been. And that's not a bad thing. There's a reason that the Outback has been dominating sales records for years, and why you can't turn in a circle in New England or the Pacific Northwest without seeing at least a dozen of them. It's because the wagon body style is one of the more versatile options that you can drive--with the massive interior space of an SUV, but the low-slung aerodynamics and lighter driving feel of a car.

While the Outback is still inarguably a wagon style, it's a lot more mature, sleek, and modern than it used to be. The first models were boxy, stretched, and a little awkward. But this ugly duckling has grown up, and the new generations of the Outback are truly nice to look at. Some recent changes to the Outback include grille openings that are wider and lower, giving it a fierce new face and a crouched look; headlights have been gently redesigned in the style of "Konoji" with daytime LED running lights to provide illumination at all hours. A newer feature of the Subaru Outback will actually keep the headlights on for about a minute after you've turned off the engine and removed the key--likely to shed some light on your path for your walk to the door.

The Outback, like most all Subaru cars, offers a very natural color palette: Crystal Black Silica, Crimson Red Pearl, Dark Blue Pearl, Ice Silver Metallic, Magnetite Grey Metallic, Twilight Blue Metallic, Tungsten Metallic, Wilderness Green Metallic, and Crystal White Pearl. You won't find any of the enigmatic yellows, oranges, or Caribbean blues on this wagon--it's a little too down-to-earth for such flash and flair.


The cabin of the new Outback has been treated to a really nice, premium upgrade--possibly to justify the rising price of every subsequent model-year. Fortunately, the feel of the interior is absolutely worth the money. All trim levels (2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 3.6R Limited, 3.6R Touring) enjoy a new outfit of soft-touch materials throughout, a redesigned center console, and an upgrade touchscreen infotainment system supporting STARLINK. Unless you choose the very base model--which you might if you're looking to save some money--you'll get stitching details all across the dashboard and a stitched leather-feel steering wheel with ergonomic molding. Choose Limited or Touring trims for an even more premium cabin: accented stitching on seats, door panels, and glossy new trim options.

Knowing that its drivers can be found in all elements, all environments, and on all terrains, Subaru put an impressive amount of work into the temperature controls and settings for the newest Outback. The improved A/C system can circulate air more efficiently, allowing it to cool the entire cavernous cabin faster than usual. The controls now integrate the set temp right on the dial, so you can see exactly how warm or cool your preferred temperature is as you adjust. Dual-zone A/C comes standard starting on Premium trims, so you and your passenger can customize comfort levels. As part of Subaru's legendary All-Weather Package, heated seats also come standard on Premium up, providing three levels of available heating for personalized warmth.

Interior color options include Titanium Gray, Slate Black, and Warm Ivory--all offered in cloth or leather upholstery. The Java Brown leather interior is available only on Outback Touring trim levels.

Cargo storage and convenient stowaway options

It wouldn't be a wagon without ridiculous cargo space--and the Outback has it. 60/40-split fold-down rear seats come standard on every new model, letting you adjust and configure the cargo area for up to 73.3 cubic feet of interior volume with the full back seat folded down. Even with five passengers seated, though, the Outback gives up a whopping 35.5 cubic feet of cargo space in the hatch space. While these specs are similar to those of the Forester, the Outback's storage area is better suited for moving equipment and sports gear than just for shopping bags and luggage. The updated center console is larger, with easy room for a small purse and tons of space for spare tools. A small sliding compartment holds change, house keys, or small items.

One of the coolest features for the most recent Outback generation, though, might be its standard roof rails with integrated cross bars. If you're carrying a lot of cargo--or you do outdoor sports--there's a good chance that you'd want to store that stuff outside of the vehicle. Sturdy cross-bars unclip and swing across the roof to latch into place onto the opposite rail; fold it back away when you don't need it to cut down on wind resistance and noise.

The only real question about that great system is: why hasn't Subaru introduced these fold-away cross bars for their other crossovers?

All-Wheel Drive capabilities

Surprised that Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive comes standard? If you know anything about Subaru, you shouldn't be. The Outback is one of the most capable wagons on the market because of its intelligent and exclusively-built system, which is actually unlike anything else offered. Almost every other brand with a car/SUV-based AWD system took a FWD or RWD system and then jerry-rigged some equipment together to send power to the other set of wheels. They'll talk about torque distribution, intelligence, and efficiency, but only Subaru can say that they offer a system that's built from the ground up to send power to all four wheels, all the time.

Add in 8.7 inches of ground clearance (one of the highest in its class, and even outside of its class), Subaru X-MODE capabilities that help with grip and traction at low speeds by optimizing performance on slipper surfaces, and you can see why the Outback boasts such a high model loyalty--people who buy or lease one of these tend to keep coming back.

Video killed the radio star--CVT killed the manual

While it's nothing new that the Outback doesn't offer a manual transmission, there are still those shopping for a crossover who might still yearn for the extra effort, required muscle, and additional thought power that goes into managing a stick. You're out of luck--Subaru's continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) comes standard on every new model. CVT killed the manual, at least when it comes to Subaru's heftiest model.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though: most models offer a "manual mode" and use the paddle shifters located at the back of the steering wheel to let you mimic the basic feeling of shifting by yourself. If you loan your car to a friend who wouldn't know RPMs from EDM, the manual mode will override and guide its own gearshift in the event that the driver can't keep up.

Under the hood, the Outback offers two engine options--the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is a little underpowered for the size of the Outback, creating just 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, but it does return up to 32 mpg on the highway even with AWD standard, so it's an acceptable trade-off. After all, who's really buying a basic Outback and expecting sports-car performance? If that's you, you'll have to shell out for 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine with 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. You'll take a hit to fuel economy, but if you need that kick of power--and some added towing strength--you should probably opt for the six-cylinder.

How is it to drive?

When you look at the new Outback, the word "light" might not really come to mind. But, you might be surprised. While the Outback wasn't designed to be the graceful, turn-on-a-dime option that some luxury brands offer, it's actually pretty light on its feet. The steering is quick, responsive, and smooth. It can be easily guided without too much effort, avoiding the typically heavy, hard steering required from some other similarly-sized SUVs.

The most pleasant part of the Outback's new updates, though, is in the major reduction of cabin noise. Loud interiors, especially on the highway, were a fairly common complaint around Subaru cars. But, thanks to retuned suspension dampers, the smoother, more comfortable ride helps to quiet road noise. The rear wheel-well liners have been thickened and driver and front passenger doors see new insulated glass for the windows--with the new additions, the new Outback is quieter, and more relaxing, than ever.

Subaru tech and connectivity

It's not just the biggest, most comfortable, and most stylish new Outback ever--it's also got serious connections. The newer model now offers a standard 6.5-inch screen for the updated STARLINK system, with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Upper trim levels upgrade to an 8.0-inch touchscreen, which is large enough to offer tablet-like performance and usability. You can use apps like Pandora, Aha, iHeartRadio, and SiriusXM Radio.

Bluetooth and USB and auxiliary inputs--the Outback offers two USB ports ahead of the cup holders, and two more behind the center console for rear-seat passengers. The Outback also boasts multiple 12 V DC connectors--one at the front, and one in the rear of the cargo area for assistance powering small accessories that aren't close at hand. You'll never have to share chargers again.

Safety and EyeSight systems

The Subaru Outback has been an IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick + for many of the last few years--a record which speaks to Subaru's legendary reliability, security, and durability. Now with expanded new safety systems available on a larger selection of Outback models, it's the safest wagon yet.

SUBARU STARLINK™ Safety and Security comes standard on every new Outback, with select features available as a trial or extended subscription; it includes Automatic Collision Notification, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Recovery, and Remote Services that let you lock/unlock your Outback from a distance.

Subaru's rear-vision camera comes standard on all models, a trend that's spreading across the full lineup of vehicles. EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology expands on the use of practically-placed cameras all over the vehicle's exterior to offer features like Blind-Spot Detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and Reverse Automatic Braking. Equipped with LED Steering Responsive Headlights and High Beam Assist, and Active Torque Vectoring, this is a Subaru that's looking out for you.

It's the top wagon in town--and it's not hard to see why

It's an icon. And whether you love the wagon or you could do without, you have to admit that the Subaru Outback has a lot to offer. If you're in the market for a capable off-roading daily driver, don't count out the Outback until you've gotten to know it a little better.

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