TO THE POINTWhat’s New? Subaru redesigned the Outback for 2005, and for 2006 the 2.5i models get standard 17-inch alloy wheels, an air filtration system, and an engine immobilzer anti-theft system. DVD-based navigation is now offered on upper trim levels, and there’s been a re-shuffling of L.L. Bean and 3.0R trims. Selling Points: Terrific power/economy balance; standard all-wheel-drive; giant sunroof; handsome design; upscale interior; reputation for durability Deal Breakers: Cramped interior; tight cargo space; no stability control on lower trim levels Our Advice: One of our favorite weather-beaters is still a charmer.
Subaru shares credit with Toyota for starting the modern crossover utility vehicle (CUV) trend. Ten years ago, about the same time that Toyota debuted the RAV4, Subaru took its Legacy Outback station wagon, placed it on a raised suspension, added big fog lights, oversized white-letter tires, and two-tone paint, and used the result to steal some sales in the burgeoning SUV marketplace.
A decade later, CUVs are among the fastest-growing vehicle segments, and have proven popular with a wide range of consumers who want the look of an SUV but the ride comfort and handling performance of a car. But in today’s CUV marketplace, the originals have been overlooked. Both the Outback and RAV4 got saddled with a “chick car” label, and neither have been blinking brightly on consumer radar screens, though Sube loyalists in the Northeast, Northwest, and Rocky Mountains continue buying them in droves.
Subaru redesigned the Outback for 2005, adding muscle under the hood in the form of a turbocharged engine impervious to elevation changes, and moving the car upscale in terms of design and features. Commensurate with going upscale, the price tag rose, too. We’ve driven the six-cylinder L.L. Bean Edition and the turbocharged 2.5 XT and come away thinking that the Outback has lost it charm and appeal in the move toward entry luxury and $30K+ sticker prices. But a recent stint behind the wheel of a 2006 Outback 2.5i Limited with the standard engine, a manual shifter, and a price well south of the $30,000 threshold proved that one of our favorite weather-beaters is still a charmer. And the best news is that our favorite Subaru Outback is also the least expensive one.