Subaru Outback maintains its versatility
By JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media June 22, 2012 5:09PM
2012 SUBARU OUTBACK 2.5I
ENGINE: 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable transmission
DRIVETRAIN: symmetrical all-wheel drive with active torque split
FUEL ECONOMY: 22 city/29 highway
BASE PRICE: $25,095
AS TESTED: $30,179
While the American Motors Corp. invented the crossover in the late 1970s with the four-wheel-drive Eagle compact wagon, Subaru established the template for the contemporary crossover in 1995.
The current-generation Outback refines the melding of passenger car and SUV attributes that today’s crossover buyers prefer. The 2012 Subaru Outback is the fourth generation of what Subaru calls “the world’s first sport utility wagon.”
With the exception of the 2013 BRZ, all Subaru models feature standard symmetrical all-wheel drive. Subaru offers three different symmetrical AWD systems in the 2012 Outback line, each tailored to the type of transmission. My test car was an Outback 2.5i model equipped with the automatic Lineartronic continuously variable transmission and employing an active torque split AWD.
An electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch actively controls power distribution in response to driving conditions. Further traction enhancement is achieved via standard vehicle dynamics control, which combines stability and traction control functions. The electronic hill holder system holds the vehicle in place until the driver presses the accelerator pedal to pull away from a stop.
Getting the wheels in motion for my 2012 Outback 2.5i was accomplished by a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine.
Backing the engine is Subaru’s chain-type CVT, a longitudinally mounted CVT system for AWD vehicles. For those not familiar with CVT, it provides infinite variability between the lowest and highest available ratios with no noticeable shifts points. The Outback’s CVT came with a manual mode that uses six pre-set ratios to allow the driver to “shift” manually using steering wheel paddle controls when desired. For best fuel economy just let the CVT do its job.
On the road the AWD system and VDC system keep you glued to the road without a choppy drive experience. Nimble handling and a tight turning radius help you negotiate urban driving obstacles. Taking the Outback off-road I found the wagon to be extremely capable.
Consider that Outback’s minimum road clearance is a substantial 8.7 inches, followed by an 18.9 degree of angle of approach and 22.3 degree of angle of departure. These figures meet or beat a few body-on-frame SUVs. While the Outback is not suited for rock climbing or slogging up a steep muddy hill, it’s very capable for back woods camping and light trail blazing.
I spent a pleasant week behind the wheel of this crossover; I would expect the experience to continue for any ownership period.
My 2012 Subaru Outback came with comfortable heated seats, full instrumentation and all the typical comfort and easy-to-reach/use convenience features.
Rear seat passengers have a decent amount of leg room, and seat comfort is good for kids or two average size adults. The 2012 Outback doesn’t have all the technology gizmos like other cars/SUVs on the market, but if you need those the new 2013 model will be better equipped. Think of the Outback’s interior as durable and good looking rather than luxurious, as the materials used (plastic) are great for active adventures or families. With folding seats, compartments and interior design, the Outback has 71.3 cubic feet of cargo space with rear seat backs folded.
Being an innovator doesn’t mean you’ll own the market and Subaru has plenty of competition from the likes of Toyota’s Venza, the Jetta wagon and the Dodge Journey. Other more SUV-type competitors include Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Jeep’s Patriot.
The 2012 Subaru Outback may not be a hot sports sedan, but for families or people with active lifestyles it is versatile, passenger friendly and comes with a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
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