Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback can stake its claim as one of the industry’s original crossover SUVs, and it’s still thriving with good reason: It does just about everything well. More of a tall wagon than a boxy traditional SUV, the 2018 Subaru Outback is nevertheless one of the more capable models in its segment, thanks to a very generous 9 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive.

Available with a 2.5-liter flat four or a 3.6-liter flat-six engine paired to a continuously variable transmission, the fifth-generation Outback is a pleasant daily driver with a good amount of space. Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system has made great strides, but still isn’t among our favorites, and Subaru’s well-calibrated EyeSight driver assist technologies aren’t standard on all models. Even so, the Outback is packed with intrinsic goodness, from the $25,895 base 2.5i model to the $35,395 3.6R Limited (all prices subject to taxes and destination fees).

Editors' Review

If you're a Subaru fan of a certain age, you'll remember when the Outback was the Legacy wagon's slightly ruggeder, taller flavor. Now, almost 20 years later, you can't even buy a Legacy wagon in the US: The Outback pulled half an Oedipus and killed its father with its own popularity. And so it's time to welcome an even taller vehicle to stake its claim as the king of Subaru wagons. It's called the Subaru Outback Wilderness and, though it may look a bit awkward perched 0.8 inches taller than its brethren, it has the rugged looks, moves and features to make it a real candidate -- even if you never cross a trail more rugged than one to the shops.

So what's new? The big story is that lift. The Wilderness Outback offers a healthy 9.5 inches of ground travel. If you need context, as my colleague Steven Ewing pointed out in his Wilderness first drive, that matches the clearance offered by the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Few would question that thing's stance.

Mind you, performance after the asphalt ends has as much to do with drivetrain, and the Wilderness makes do with largely the same setup as the regular Outback. That is, open front and rear differentials driven from a continuously variable transmission and a clutch-type center differential. However, a shift to a 4.44:1 final drive ratio compared to the 4.11:1 in the standard Outback means more torque for low-speed rock crawling. Sadly, it also means fuel economy reduction: 22 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined compared to 23, 30 and 26, respectively. In my testing those figures proved accurate, with a 24.2 mpg average in mixed driving.

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The Good ~ Improved off-road capability ~ Unaffected on-road manners ~ Great value

The Bad ~ Slightly reduced fuel economy ~ A lot of copper

The Bottom Line With more features for minimal cost, it's hard not to like the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness.

Editors' Rating
  • Performance 8
  • Features 9
  • Design 8
  • Media 8.5

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