2012 Subaru Outback Review

We drive the 2012 Subaru Outback

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June 25, 2012

2012 Subaru Outback Review

After all, not all Outback buyers will be hitting the trails--most will be trucking to Whole Foods.

The Basics
Subaru is known for being quirky and outfitting just about all of its cars with horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engines and all-wheel drive. It's also become known for its Outback, a raised wagon/crossover, which still holds a strong appeal among the active lifestyle set.

Our idea of an 'active lifestyle' seems to involve the sofa and pizza more than the great outdoors, but hey, isn't making a beer run an activity? When an Outback showed up at our offices, we knew we weren't going to be loading it with skis and snowboards, so instead we set about attacking the suburban jungle of Chicago's North Shore. After all, not all Outback buyers will be hitting the trails--most will be trucking to Whole Foods.

2012 Subaru Outback Features & Prices Our tester came standard with: A/C, a CD player, 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio controls, a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, carpeted floor mats, a cargo mat, cruise control, an electronic parking brake, keyless entry, power windows/mirrors/door locks, roof rails, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, among other features. Options included an Upper Midwest friendly All-Weather Package (heated front seats, heated side mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer, premium audio system, Bluetooth streaming audio, satellite radio, AM/FM/HD radio with 4.3-inch color display, a power moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror with rearview camera and Homelink; $3,240) and a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT) with six-speed manual mode ($1,000). Floor mats were an additional $69. Our tester also qualified as partial zero-emission vehicle. The base MSRP clocked in at $25,095, while the options and $775 destination fee brought the as-tested total to $30,179.
2012 Subaru Outback On The Road The Outback never lets you forget its mission as a tall wagon. It's about hauling stuff, not hauling ass, yet it has enough kick to keep up with Chicago's cut-and-thrust traffic, thanks to the 2.5-liter 'boxer' four-cylinder (170 horsepower, 170 lb-ft of torque) under the hood.

Push the Outback on a twisty road and it's a bit heavy and floppy, with more body roll than we'd like. It's not terrible, by any means, but it's clear that winding roads aren't the Outback's natural environment. This is a car that might be more suited for a gravel road somewhere in New England than it is for our favorite stretch of curves.

Back it down to normal speeds, though, and the Outback shines with reliable competency. Its ride is well-suited to around-town driving, and it's comfortable enough on the freeway.
2012 Subaru Outback Interior Best described as functional over interesting, the cockpit practically screams 'utility.' It's roomy enough, comfy enough, and everything works as advertised, but it won't win any design awards. We get the sense that most Outback buyers probably won't care.
2012 Subaru Outback Exterior Like the inside, the outside is styled in a manner that puts function way ahead of form. That's not to say the Outback is ugly (it isn't), but it is a little plain. Again, we suspect that this is preferred among Outback buyers.
2012 Subaru Outback Fuel Economy & Safety In addition to the standard all-wheel-drive system, the Outback has the usual complement of air bags, ABS, a rollover sensor, a brake-assist system, and an antiskid system.

Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
2012 Subaru Outback Wrapping Up SUV shoppers who don't need seven seats or the full-on SUV experience (really high seating position, gulps gas) will find a lot to like about the Outback. It offers decent EPA fuel economy numbers, the seating position isn't much higher than that of a regular car, and there's plenty of space. It's not quite as sporty to drive as we'd like it to be, but it still outshines the typical SUV when pushed.

Plenty of Outback buyers will take their tall wagons to points distant, laden with snowboards and surfboard and whatever other detritus that young, active adults take with them. For those Outback buyers who's most exotic cargo includes the ingredients for a spicy curry dish (purchased at Trader Joe's), the Outback will do just fine in the suburban outback.

As for us, we'll be on the couch, pizza in hand.

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