2015 Subaru Outback Limited
By Ken Glassman
Since nearly 25% of Subaru's total vehicle sales, or around 120,000 copies, comes from the Outback model, Subaru understood that radical changes would be a risky proposition. Outback buyers are a fiercely loyal group, and that’s because they have been happy with the package that Subaru has been offering for many years. So while the 2015 model is based off the new Legacy sedan, the Outback changes have been evolutionary, not revolutionary. The result is a better vehicle, with mild styling changes, and improvements.
Two engine options are available, and while the basic engines are the same as the last model, they’ve been retuned, and operate through a smooth CVT transmission, so gas mileage has been improved a bit. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel will take the driver through “six speeds”. Our test car came with the standard 2.5-liter flat-four with 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. You can anticipate zero to 60 times at around the 9 second mark, but the torquey engine feels much peppier than the numbers would indicate.
Only under hard acceleration will the flat four get a bit noisy. And keep in mind that the Outback weighs 3,633 lbs. which, despite a weight shaving aluminum hood, still makes the 2015 model 170 lbs. heavier than last year’s model. And this year, mileage ratings put the 2.5 liter at 25 City and 33 Highway – an increase of 1 mpg City and 3 mpg Highway. Not bad. The Outback never felt ponderous or slow. And it can still tow 2,700 pounds.
About 20% of Outback customers choose the 256-hp, 3.6-liter flat-six. The 6-cylinder engine comes in at 20 mpg city and 27 highway but is only available top Limited model. By trading off gas mileage, you’ll probably shave 2 seconds off zero to 60 times. Towing capacity is bumped up to 3,000 lbs.
All Outbacks feature permanent four-wheel-drive, a feature Subaru has been touting for decades. This wagon, (and yes, it is a wagon – which shouldn’t be considered a dirty word) has a generous 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which can handle most off-road trails and excursions. So while the Outback sits higher than most sedans, it also is lower than most small SUV’s. That means you won’t have to climb up and into the car, yet still have a great view of traffic going down the road. It also means that you don’t get that too-tall, tippy feeling when cornering.
The ride is fairly plush, soaking up pavement irregularities and large bumps with ease and composure. Subaru claims the new model is 59% stiffer in torsion rigidity, and 35% in bending, and we won’t dispute their claims. The Outback feels very solid. A quicker steering ratio aids in the crisp handling, too.
The cabin is nice, but unremarkable. The new Outback is slightly longer in overall length and wheelbase, but Subaru has managed to add 2 inches of shoulder room for the front passengers. The dash layout is clean and everything is easy to reach and use, with two large analogue gauges in front of the driver, and a large Nav screen on the center stack. Nothing is cluttered or fussy. Beneath the Nav screen sits a row of HVAC controls with large easy to use dials and push buttons.
A good size cubby, which closes to keep things hidden, has all the necessary plugs and outlets and is large enough to store phone, music device or other incidentals. The perforated heated leather seats are comfortable and supportive. The steering wheel has the redundant controls to toggle the info screen, control the radio, phone, and adaptive cruise control. Subaru seems to have upgraded the interior, with soft touch materials where they should be, and in general a higher quality look and feel overall.
Rear leg and headroom is generous, so even large adults will find happiness on long trips. And the rear seats get the heated treatment, so passengers won’t feel like second class citizens to the front occupants. Cargo space with the rear seats folded is 73.3 cubic feet, which is more than a Nissan Rogue SUV. The cargo floor is relatively low and easy to lift items into. The Limited model has a power liftgate, with memory height settings. The rear split folding seats can be lowered from the cargo area for convenience. And Subaru has one of the best roof rack systems in the business, which is perhaps why you see so many of them going down the road, with bike racks, or kayaks, or other roof mounted storage bins.
The exterior changes are subtle, but significant. Subaru has dialed back the plastic lower body cladding, which improves appearance significantly. A new grill and metallic chin spoiler gives the front fascia a fresh clean look. The rear keeps the same basic tail light styling, but is freshened up a bit. Wheel wells are not as flared as before, so the whole design look is a bit more elegant, but still retaining a bit of the rugged look folks want in an off-road capable vehicle.
Check out the full Outback color palette in this animated colorizer article.
2015 Subaru Outback COLORS