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Test Drive: 2017 Subaru Outback

The latest Subaru Outback keeps getting better and more luxurious with a new Touring version. The Outback, which is available in both four- and six-cylinder versions, features more safety equipment, including standard reverse automatic braking and high beam assist. All versions now use a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Our test drive was in the Limited edition with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Additional options include EyeSight Driver Assist system with forward collision braking system, rear vehicle detection, cross traffic alert and lane change assist.

On the road, the 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine provides decent power and feels slightly more responsive than older models. This latest combination returns an estimated 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined. Drivers opting for the much more powerful six-cylinder engine will see fuel economy drop to 20 mpg around town and 27 mpg on the highway.

The engine itself is generally quiet unless it is pushed hard, and then there is a bit of a drone that quickly subsides once up to speed. The ride and handling are surprisingly good, even during strong crosswinds where some taller vehicles tend to wander. I wouldn’t call the Outback a sporty car, but overall the handling is very predictable.

The Outback continues with 8.7-inch ground clearance, which is higher than some sport-utility vehicles yet easy to get in and out of. Like nearly all of Subaru’s vehicles, the Outback’s all-wheel drive is further enhanced with the X-Mode system. The X-Mode, when engaged by a switch on the console, adjusts the engine output and transmission gear ratios to optimize the all-wheel-drive system. In addition, you can activate the hill control system to allow for more control uphill or downhill in loose traction situations such as snow or gravel.

Although I have never thought of Subaru models as serious off-road vehicles, the combination of ground clearance and electronics allows this Subaru to go where other four-wheel-drive vehicles can’t. For active folks who carry kayaks and bikes, step-style doorsills allow you to stand easily when securing objects to the roof. A power rear gate with memory height is available on the Outback for the first time. This latest Subaru is quieter than previous models, with very little wind and road noise entering the cabin.

The interior of the 2017 Subaru Outback shows the evolution of Subaru models. The latest models have well-crafted, stylish and functional interiors. All of the controls are simple and easy to use. The combination navigation and infotainment system is fairly simple to use and has some buttons to make it less distracting while driving.

The dual-zone climate control system is a nice touch to let both the driver and passenger find the right temperature. The front seats seem more comfortable and supportive than previous models with plenty of leg- and headroom. The rear seats are comfortable and roomy with decent head-, leg- and shoulder room. There are plenty of cupholders, bins and cubbies to carry all of the things that we seem to need today.

Safety is addressed with a full complement of airbags. An optional safety system uses Subaru-developed stereo camera technology and integrates adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and vehicle lane departure warning to help prevent collisions.

The bottom line: This latest Subaru Outback is certainly one of the best. The interior is high-quality and functional and the exterior is contemporary and stylish. Although the Outback doesn’t match the cargo capacity of some other SUVs, it offers decent fuel economy, surprisingly good off-road ability and a comfortable interior.

 

(All photos: Subaru U.S. Media Center)
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