Subaru has made some strides forward in cabin tech, giving the new Outback an iPod connection and Bluetooth cell phone support, but the car really stands out for its all-wheel-drive and general practicality.
The Subaru Outback has evolved through the years from a wagon to the current crossover-sized vehicle. Comfortable for five passengers, the Outback sits up high, allowing clearance for offroad situations.
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Subaru's styling language has evolved gradually. Currently, it shows itself in the tight grille, high fenders, and pronounced wheel arches of the Outback.
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This Outback came with a 3.6-liter flat six-cylinder engine. Subaru and Porsche are the main proponents of the flat, or boxer style, engine configuration. The Outback is also available with a 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine.
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The Outback has retained some of its station wagon looks, with a low, carlike hood. But the suspension and cabin height give the car its utility credentials.
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We found the suspension very soft in the Outback, with a lot of travel. This tuning leads to body roll in the corners but allows extension at the wheels for negotiating rocks and other obstacles.
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The Outback offers a reasonable amount of cargo space, but as it does not have its origins in a truck, don't expect room for 4-foot-by-8-foot plywood sheets.
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This Limited trim Outback gets leather seats and wood trim, some nice touches, but the cabin never quite feels luxurious.
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Paddle shifters are mounted behind the steering wheel spokes to manually shift the five-speed automatic transmission.
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A fuel consumption gauge on the instrument cluster shows when the car is getting good and bad mileage.
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The five-speed automatic has a manual mode, useful for hill descents.
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The navigation system is only available on the highest trim vehicle.
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Because the navigation system is DVD-based, you have to make sure the correct region of the country is chosen before entering a destination.
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The Bluetooth phone system includes a recent calls list and a phonebook.
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Subaru has modernized its cabin tech a bit, now including iPod integration and Bluetooth streaming as audio sources.
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The iPod interface is easy to use, but the car does not let you make music selections when it is moving.
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The car includes an excellent set of surround presets, but these are not all that useful, as there is not a rear-seat DVD system.
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The Harman Kardon optional audio system includes nine speakers and a 440-watt amp.