2010 Subaru Outback

From Car and Driver

But if it was relatively benign on the road, the Outback came alive off-tarmac, where our path was covered with millions of softball-sized rocks and deep zigzagging ruts. Bombing down such roads, we observed little to no head toss, great wheel control-particularly on rebound-and a very stiff structure that betrayed no creaking or groaning. We also had a ton of fun with lift-throttle oversteer, which threw the Outback into controllable rally-style slides. The steering felt better here, as the sawing back and forth required to avoid larger obstacles mitigated the problem with fine-tuning inputs on pavement. A drive that by all rights should have left us dialing up our chiropractor instead had us heaping praise on the car’s light-on-its-feet feel and ability to soak up impacts without transferring them to the occupants. Credit the suspension tuning, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and the tall sidewalls of the 225/60-17 Continental ContiProContact tires.

Lots of Thoughtful Touches

Heaps of little improvements make the 2010 Outback even more livable than before. The cross bars for the standard roof rails, for instance, swing out of the way and lock into the side rails when unneeded in order to decrease wind noise and aero drag. They’re designed to work with any previous Subaru roof accessories, so folks upgrading their old Outbacks will be able to use the cargo carriers and bike racks they already own. Other nice touches include a dedicated storage place under the cargo floor for the retractable tonneau cover, standard automatic headlamps, door pulls that were designed to act as cell-phone bins, a telescoping steering wheel on all models, a new recline function for the rear seats, and standard steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise-control switches. And we already mentioned the greater interior room. We wish, however, that the hill-holder function for the new electronic parking brake-the switches for both reside to the left of the steering wheel to free up center-console real estate-would default to its position when the car was last turned off. Instead, you have to turn the hill holder on every time you start the car.


Alas, there’s one area in which the new Outback isn’t improved: exterior aesthetics. The new proportions don’t help, with the height in particular making the car look a bit as if it were perched on stilts. The previous car was much more svelte-looking, and its styling was more cohesive. We’re also not huge fans of the blocky wheel arches, although they’re more successful here than on the Outback’s sister model, the Legacy. The Outback’s interior design is attractive and makes no glaring missteps in ergonomics, fit, or materials beyond the faux wood trim in Limited models, which looks more like a picture of wood than the actual stuff.

A Features and Options Rundown

The only option on the base $23,690 2.5i model is the CVT. Moving up to the $24,990 2.5i Premium adds a power driver’s seat, 17-inch wheels and tires, and fog lamps, among other smaller items. The options here are an All-Weather package (heated seats, heated mirrors, and wiper de-icer), the CVT, a sunroof, and a 440-watt Harman/Kardon stereo with built-in Bluetooth phone connectivity. The 2.5i Limited has the CVT, the Harman/Kardon stereo, the All-Weather pack, and dual-zone climate control as standard; it costs $28,690. To the Limited you can add the sunroof and a navigation system with an eight-inch display, a rear-view camera, and Bluetooth music streaming. All 2.5i’s are available in earth-friendlier Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle spec for an extra $300.

The 3.6R starts at $28,690 and gets larger brakes and much of the 2.5i Premium’s equipment. There are no options. The $29,690 3.6R Premium adds the All-Weather package, a power driver’s seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The upgrade stereo and the sunroof are the only options. Starting at $31,690, the 3.6R Limited is equipped basically identically to the 2.5i Limited and has the same options. A fully loaded Outback will run $34,685. There are numerous port-installed options and accessories, however-stuff like an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cargo organizers and mats, remote start, wheel-arch moldings, etc.-that can add to the bottom line.

What Was Already Good Has Been Made Better

The Toyota Venza was identified by Subaru as a top competitor for the Outback (the Ford Explorer, Volkswagen’s station wagons, the Saab 9-3X, and the upcoming Honda Crosstour were among other vehicles mentioned), and although we generally like the Venza and consider it far more stylish, the Outback is actually usable off-road and is a more practical vehicle. Pricing of the Subaru falls essentially in line with that of the Toyota when comparably equipped, give or take a few hundred bucks, but for our money, we’ll take the versatility and go-anywhere toughness of the Outback. Subaru took what was already a good car and improved it without diluting or deleting any of its previous capabilities-and we’d bet that was far harder to do than it looked.

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