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Weidel on Wheels: This Outback gets bigger

Subaru gives its popular wagon its first major redesign in five years
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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Although every vehicle in its fleet is equipped with all-wheel drive capability, Subaru continues to resist the obvious temptation to produce a sport utility vehicle. Some may question that decision, but the folks at Subaru figure they have a very suitable SUV substitute in the Outback. Even with its first major redesign in five years that makes the popular Outback taller, wider, roomier inside and adds a more powerful engine, critics still bag on Subaru for not offering a true SUV while sticking with this versatile five-passenger wagon. In getting larger (the Outback still weighs nearly the same, thanks to its use of lightweight steel) and trying to emulate crossover SUVs, Subaru gave up some of its appeal because the Outback does not possess the same agility that gave it an edge. Car buyers will come to find out that the Outback now drives like many of the crossovers that everyone seems to be producing these days. But many Outback fans probably won’t be too bothered by its driving capability. The top reason people buy the wagon is for all-wheel drive. Subaru says more than 20 percent of its owners take the vehicle off road at least once a month. One change that might be regrettable is no longer offering a turbocharged model, a popular choice for off-road enthusiasts. The Outback should still be accommodating for off-road adventures, providing dependable all-weather traction and additional interior space, most notably with four inches of new legroom that makes seating in the back seat much more comfortable. This Subaru also has terrific cargo capacity (71.3 cubic feet with the back seat down), increased its ground clearance to 8.7 inches, and has added adjustable roof rails that can also be used as cross rails and help reduce wind noise. Driving the Outback Limited, one of six trim models, the performance was surprisingly strong thanks to a 3.6-liter (the 2009 model with a 3.0-liter), V-6 engine with 256 horsepower. The standard model is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder with 170 horsepower. While the lowest priced Outback is a very affordable $22,995, the Limited model jumps up much higher with a $30,995 sticker price. The Outback gets 18 to 25 miles per gallon. __________ 2010 Subaru Outback Limited Price: $30,995 Power: 3.6-liter, V-6 engine with 256 horsepower Mileage estimate: 18 mpg city; 25 mpg highway Standard features include: All-wheel drive; stability and traction control; brake assist; vehicle dynamic control; anti-lock brakes; independent raised suspension; automatic headlights; adjustable roof rails and cross bars; nine-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary audio jack; rear privacy glass; 10-way power driver seat, four-way passenger seat; heated seats; dual-zone climate control system