The 2015 Subaru Outback is easy to call the best family wagon in America. Let’s look at what makes this crossover such an amazing vehicle in any season.
It is only fair that I tell readers up front that I have owned two Outbacks. One from the first and one from the second generation. So I am biased in favor of the car. Good luck finding anyone that has owned one who isn’t a big fan. One thing that may not be apparent to casual shoppers is that the Outback has changed a lot over its five generations. The early cars were basically all-wheel drive (AWD) Legacy wagons with plastic cladding glued to the sides. Something about the marketing and the affordable AWD of these cars struck a nerve in the snowy places in the U.S. Fuji Heavy industries parlayed that initial wagon into what is now a thinly disguised family crossover. To say that Subaru built its brand around the Outback in the U.S. is accurate.
The test Outback in this review arrived in my driveway two days before a family summer vacation to Cape Cod Massachusetts. We head to the outer Cape. Amazingly, the National Parks Service will let you drive in the dunes around Truro if you carry the right gear. I’ve spoken to Subaru owners exiting the trails. They report the cars handle very well in the sand without any modifications. The owners simply lower the air pressure in the tires a bit and head in. The trails have air pump stations at the exits so drivers can pump back up.
Those wimps that don’t brave the dunes (like me) still appreciate the Outback on the way to a vacation spot. The Outback now has even more space in which to cram wacky noodles, flip flops, fishing gear and all that jazz compared to prior generations. Its rear cargo area is huge in part because the Outback is longer than most crossovers in its peer group. The roof is higher too, adding volume. On top is a nifty new roof-rack system. Instead of having the cross-bars pushing back against the wind and reducing your gas mileage, the racks now fold to the sides when not in use (say, 51 weeks per year).
All that stuff that went in dry comes home wet and sandy. Subaru was one of the first companies to offer a standard waterproof cargo mat that can be easily removed and shaken. Clever things like that are found throughout the Outback. The cupholders are in places you may want to put a cup. The dash is simple and easy to use. My tester did not have Nav, but I had an Outback late last year that did and it was very simple to operate. If LL Bean built a car, it would be the Outback. One of the novel features of the Outback is that you can get one with cloth, heated power seats, no giant glass moonroof (not exactly compatible with roof-top cargo) and every single safety feature known to man. Subaru’s Eyesight forward collision prevention system is the best in the business by many accounts. My tester had it, and I am a big fan of such systems (read why here). The cross traffic alerts and rear view camera work great together when backing up a car loaded to the gills and two kids jibber-jabbering causing distraction. The Outback I tested semed like a screaming bargain at just $30,111.
In the past, the penalty for all this practicality was a frumpy driving experience. That has changed. The new CVT transmission and engine updates to the boxer 4-cylinder have added some verve to the Outback. It is almost too jumpy off the line it is so eager to get you moving. The old Outbacks I owned were gas guzzlers. That has come full circle. The 2015 Outback 2.5i gets 3 3MPG highway and 28 MPG in combined driving. Over 400 miles of mixed driving, with about 60% highway miles, my mileage was 32 MPG. Like the Impreza we highlighted in a prior story, Subaru improved the fuel economy of the Outback fully 40% in just 10 years (read how Subaru did it). That is frankly amazing for a vehicle this size with this much get up and go. The Outback ties the class-leading Honda CRV AWD for combined and highway fuel economy.
We could go on for days about the positive aspects of this excellent car. The Outback has won the New England Motor Press’ “Winter Car of The Year” so many times NEMPA booted it to its own special category to let other cars have a chance to take home a trophy. But what about the negatives? Engine noise is one. The boxer engine sounds a lot like an angry sewing machine when you accelerate. Subaru needs some active noise cancellation, a “sound inductor tube” a.k.a. fake engine noise machine, a thicker firewall blanket, or all of the above.
Quality: Subarus once had a reputation for shedding parts, but since Toyota took part ownership of the company things seem to be headed in the right direction quality-wise. Toyota even lets Subaru build Camrys for it in a Subaru plant. That’s trust.
Safety: Family cars have to be safe, and no vehicle its size is safer than the Outback. IIHS rates it a Top Safety Pick Plus when it is equipped with the Eyesight system.
Conclusion: The 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium offers a great mix of features without some of the costly ones you won’t miss. Be sure to get the Nav and Eyesight systems in yours. Nobody regrets buying an Outback. You’ll love it all year round, and when it snows you are in the best car at any price. That the price is about $30K makes it all the sweeter.