2014 Subaru 3.6R Limited Review
Subaru's off-roadable wagon still makes sense.No Comments
Because the Outback is a car and not an SUV, it behaves like one. It's maneuverable, it's fast, and even with the faster and far-more-fun 3.6-liter engine, it achieves mileage-per-gallon numbers that won't force you to alter your driving style just so you
The Subaru Outback put on a few pounds back in 2010, in what we can only guess was an attempt to make it less of a station wagon and more of a crossover. That's too bad, because, despite what most people seem to think, wagons are actually the perfect blend of utility and sportiness, when done right.
But despite the increased size and the few tweaks that came with this new 2014 model, it's still a wagon at heart, even if it's a rather large one. And that's a good thing, because its wagon-ness is the reason the Outback has remained a popular choice since its introduction 20 years ago.
The standard Outback comes with a 2.5i engine making 173 horsepower and either a 6-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The model we drove was the 3.6R Limited, which adds 83 horsepower and features a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. While that's a step up from the fun-killing CVT, we'd really love this car if it had this engine with a 6-speed manual. But we're reviewing the car we drove, not the car we want to drive.
You do notice the extra size, however. Or maybe you just sense it. This will appeal to those looking for a crossover, but it's rather vexing to those of us who actually feel safer in a smaller car (mostly because we are).
For the 2014 model, Subaru re-jiggered the engine in order to lower the center of gravity, which helps give the Outback that 'I'm driving a car' feeling that you want, as opposed to that 'I'm driving a piece of farm machinery' feeling you usually get from SUVs and crossovers.
Because the Outback is a car (we won't use the 'w' word again) and not an SUV, it behaves like one. It's maneuverable, it's fast, and even with the faster and far-more-fun 3.6-liter engine, it achieves mileage-per-gallon numbers that won't force you to alter your driving style just so you can afford groceries.
To this end, the Outback has a rugged front fascia, to indicate that this car means business, while the rest of the car settles down into the kind of soft, understated simplicity that is Subaru's trademark.
Like all Subarus, the Outback is instantly recognizable, but almost as instantly forgettable. This doesn't mean that it's a bad looking car - far from it - it's just that Subaru is a brand that projects an image of sensibility, which translates into a very minimal approach to styling.
Again, the only issue is the size, although the 2014 Outback does a remarkably good job of somehow looking smaller than it actually is. It definitely feels bigger form behind the wheel than it does from outside the car.
There's ample leg room in back row, but not so much storage room in the back if you have passengers in the rear seat. Put the seats down, however and the Outback is brilliant for hauling just about anything you need to haul. A large family on vacation will probably want to avail themselves of the roof rack, however.
Transmission: 5-speed automatic (optional)
Power Output: 256 horsepower / 247 lb.-ft. of torque
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg (city) / 25 mpg (hwy)
Price: $32,920 (base)
Features: moon roof, navigation, USB ports, infotainment system featuring 4.3-inch screen, 6 speakers, and SiriusXM radio.