Despite extensive upgrades to the engine, drivetrain and interior of its 2013 Outback and Legacy models, Subaru has lowered the base prices by $500.
In their first major update in three years, both models get rounder contours, new wheel rims, and more forceful front end styling, including new bumpers and headlight pods.
The Legacy comes in two trims: the base 2.5i with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine, and the 3.6R Limited, with a 3.6-litre six-cylinder Boxer engine. Both have full-time all-wheel drive.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard in the base model, with an optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) and paddle shift controls, while the Limited comes with a five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts. The Limited also has an electronic parking brake with a hill-holder function.
A touring package for the base model adds 17-inch rims (16 are standard), a power sunroof, power windows, and automatic climate control. The Limited comes with 17-inch alloy rims, an upgraded interior and heated front seats.
The Legacy base model starts at $23,495, a $500 reduction from 2012, and tops out at $36,195, which includes Subaru’s new EyeSight driver assist system.
The Outback is also available in two versions, the 2.5i and the 3.6R Limited.
The base Outback has the same 2.5-litre Boxer engine with a six-speed manual or CVT transmission, and the Limited has the 3.6-litre Boxer engine and the five-speed paddle-shifted automatic.
Both Outback models have 17-inch alloy rims, but the Limited adds leather seats, power sunroof, an enhanced sound system, and a 7-inch GPS system with rear-view camera.
The base Outback starts at $28,495, a $500 reduction over last year, and tops out at $39,995 for a fully-loaded Limited model complete with EyeSight.
Both the Legacy and Outback are powered by Boxer-style engines, which is a horizontally-opposed layout compared to the more common inline vertical powerplants. This style of engine is so-named because the pistons appear to be jabbing and counter-jabbing at each other, similar to boxers in a ring.
Subaru is one of a few auto makers using Boxer engines, which offer fewer moving drivetrain parts, smoother operation and a lower centre of gravity in the vehicle, which allows for more responsive and flatter cornering.
Both the four- and six-cylinder Subaru engines use double overhead camshafts and electronic throttle control. The 2.5-litre provides 173 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque, while the 3.6-litre has 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque.
A 40-km drive north of Toronto in a base Outback provided a good mix of highway and country driving.
The 2,740-mm wheelbase provides a comfortable ride with very little body lean in corners. The steering is a little heavy but positive, and inspires confidence.
Even with the smaller engine, it accelerated from on-ramps to highway speeds with a minimum of fuss or noise. With a comfortable seating position and very little road noise, the Outback makes an excellent candidate for all-day driving.
Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist System uses in-car video cameras
“Let’s try it again, but this time try to keep your foot off the brake.”
Driving straight towards a wall at 30 km/h without attempting to use the brake is not an easy thing to do, but after several attempts my right foot did not touch the pedal on the 2013 Subaru Legacy as the car’s EyeSight driving assist took over and stopped the car quickly and efficiently without hitting the wall.
“Don’t worry, everyone does the same thing at first,” explained Subaru sales training coordinator Megan Krystal, who guided me through this demonstration of Subaru’s new driver safety and assist technology which will be available on selected Legacy and Outback models.
It’s a bit unnerving to let a car do your driving, but as she explained, the system is there to enhance driver awareness and safety.
And the new system is not just for stopping. The EyeSight system, which is comprised of a pair of cameras mounted on either side of the inside rear-view mirror processes stereo images to identify the vehicles travelling in front, as well as obstacles, traffic lanes and other items. The video information is relayed to the EyeSight computer, which is also networked with the car’s braking system and electronic throttle control.
The system provides a lane departure and sway movement feature, keeping the driver aware of maintaining position in a lane of traffic, can reduce collision damage by cutting the throttle when it senses an obstacle in front, and provides an adaptive cruise control situation which automatically adjusts the car’s speed in relation to vehicles ahead.
Other automakers, such as Volvo, Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz offer driver-assist systems, but Subaru’s EyeSight is one of the more affordable systems, offering driver assist to the mid-size segment of the market.
Subaru’s EyeSight has been four years in the making, and its engineers have developed a system that will cope with Canada’s winter climates after extensive development testing in Ontario, Quebec, and the Northwest Territories.
It is presently available as a $1,500 option on the 2013 Legacy and Outback 3.6R Limited packages.
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