The 2015 Subaru Outback lives up to its name
2015 Subaru Outback at a glance
BODY STYLE: Intermediate crossover
DRIVE METHOD: Symmetrical full-time all-wheel-drive.
ENGINES: 2.5-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder boxer (175 hp, 174 lb/ft); 3.6-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder boxer (256 hp, 247 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 2.5-litre CVT, 9.3/7.1/8.3L/100 km city/highway; 2.5-litre manual, NA; 3.6-litre, 12.0/8.6/1.5L/100 km
CARGO: 1,005 litres; 2,026 litres rear seat folded
PRICING: 2.5i manual, $27,995; 2.5i CVT, $29,295; 2.5i CVT PZEV, $29,995; 2.5i manual touring Package, $31,195; 2.5i CVT touring Package; $32,495; 2.5i Touring/Technology Package, $33,695; 2.5i Limited Package, $35,895; 2.5i Limited/Technology Package, $37,095; 3.6R Touring Package, $35,495; 3.6R Limited, $38,895; 3.6R Limited/Technology Package, $40,095
ST JOHN’S, NL- It took just 600 metres for Subaru to prove the 2015 Outback isn’t just another soft-roader, but a real off-roader.
After a day of driving the new Outback through Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, we came to what was termed a “road” just outside Petty Harbour.
It was more like a granite boulder-strewn riverbed only as wide as the Outback. It ran beside sheer drop-offs straight down to the ocean and rocks about 50 metres down. My co-driver said he saw car parts including an exhaust system down there.
We were driving the Outback with its new X-Mode. By pushing a button on the centre console, X-Mode electronically manages the transmission, engine, the all-wheel-drive system, brakes and other systems such as traction control and stability control providing maximum grip along the worst roads, slippery surfaces and up steep inclines.
When X-Mode is activated, Hill Descent Control automatically helps to maintain a constant speed when the Outback is travelling downhill; the driver can focus on steering safely through any curve while leaving the braking to the Outback.
I’ll admit I was scared, but we made it and the Outback truly lived up to its name.
Now in its fifth generation, the Outback was first sold in Canada in 1995 and it has remained a cornerstone of the brand.
Outback is equipped with a choice of two engines, both based on the classic “boxer” horizontally opposed architecture Subaru has been using for as long as I can remember.
The first is the latest version of the DOHC 2.5-litre, four-cylinder with 175 hp and 174 lb/ft of torque.
The other is a DOHC 3.6-litre six-cylinder with 256 hp and 247 lb/ft of torque.
The 2.5-litre Outback comes standard with and a six-speed manual transmission with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) optional. The 3.6-litre has the CVT as standard.
Subaru’s famed Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is standard on both.
Fuel economy ratings for both engines have been improved with 2.5-litre CVT models at 9.3/7.1/8.3L/100 km city/highway combined. The 3.6-litre’s fuel numbers are 12.0/8.6/10.5L/100 km. Both fuel consumption ratings are with the new five-mode test that is more realistic. Consumption of the manual is still being calculated.
All models are equipped with Incline Start Assist and the electronic Hill Holder System that holds the vehicle in place until the driver applies the gas.
These features are especially handy when negotiating typical streets in St. John’s that are almost impossibly steep.
Both models have a new electric power steering system that provides more “feel” while lessening parasitic friction loss and thus improving economy.
New, and a very noticeable change, is the adoption of the Active Torque Vectoring first introduced on the high-performance WRX STI.
It takes Subaru’s electronic stability control (known in-house as Vehicle Dynamics Control) up a notch, that along with traction control, applies braking to the inside front wheel in tight corners, increasing stability.
Subaru addresses its own take on AWD in two ways.
On six-speed manual models, the transmission is connected to a viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential that provides near neutral handling and maximum control for the driver.
On CVT-equipped models, there is the Active Torque Split system based on an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch. It actively controls torque distribution in response to driving conditions and wheel slippage. The system can send additional torque to the rear wheels either proactively or in response to slippage at the front wheels.
X-Mode is found on CVT-equipped models, but not available on the manual.
For 2015, the 2.5-litre models use rear ventilated disc brakes instead of solids in the outgoing Outback.
While the wheel patch is nearly the same, the 2015 Outback has a larger cabin with more backseat legroom. Cargo is up from 857 litres in the 2014 Outback to 1,005 litres. With the back seat folded, cargo doubles to 2,026 litres.
Like Porsche, Subaru does things incrementally. But for long-time Soobifiles, the instrument panel has gone sporty with two-pot main gauge pods with a centre 3.5-in driver info display. Coloured bars on the ECO metre encourage environmentally driving habits.
One of the greatest areas of concern based on customer feedback was the need to upgrade the interior and this Subaru has done that with higher-grade materials including the liberal use of soft touch trim.
The base 2.5i comes with AM/FM stereo with SiriusXM satellite radio, Radio Data Broadcast System, in-dash CD player, 6.2-inch multi-function touchscreen display, Subaru STARLINK connectivity with Aha smartphone integration, rear-view camera, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, iPod control capability, a USB port and an auxiliary input jack.
The multi-touch display offers swipe and scrolling gestures, similar to smartphones and tablets.
A power rear liftgate is offered on all but the base model.
An available new rear radar system offers three functions: Blind Spot Detection that identifies vehicles behind the C-pillars and in other blind spots; Lane Change Assist detects approaching vehicles up to 70 meters away when changing lanes and Rear Cross Traffic Alert distinguishes close vehicles while reversing, such as out of a parking space or driveway.
LED indicators on the side mirrors paired with an audible warning alert the driver of vehicles travelling in their blind spot and when changing lanes.
Ride and handling, like the Legacy I drove a few months earlier, sees the 3.6-litre being a wonderful long-distance tourer while the 2.5-litre especially with the CVT is what most people will likely buy. It offers almost everything on the 3.6-litre but feels somehow lighter and nimbler.
Both were exceptionally quiet on the highway, showing the engineers did their homework on noise, vibration and harshness.
Pricing for the 2.5-litre ranges from $27,000-$37,095 while the 3.6-litre runs from $35,495-$40,095.
And when you compare what the Outback can really do in going up against against similarly priced CUVs, then you realize why Subaru continues to set sales records.
Subaru calls it Capability Mastered, and based on those rising sales, Canadians agree.