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Photos: 2008 Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback, ride of choice for the fun-loving family-laden driver, gets spruced up for the 2008 model year. Inside, it gets an elegant cabin with plenty of interior technologies, including touch screen GPS navigation and an impressive-sounding audio system. Meanwhile, its SI Drive system gives drivers a useful choice between performance and fuel economy.

Kevin Massy

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The Outback features Subaru's SI Drive, a three-mode engine-management system that lets drivers select between economical or performance-optimized driving dynamics. Intelligent mode relaxes the car's throttle response and reduces maximum power. Sport mode gives the Outback more linear acceleration and quicker throttle response, while Sport Sharp mode gives the car "lightning-quick throttle response," according to Subaru, and delivers more power sooner.
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Drivers can play their digital audio libraries directly from an iPod or other portable player via the Outback's auxiliary input jack located conveniently in the center console.
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Despite its 3600-pound bulk, the Outback whips along when called into action, thanks to its 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine, which--with the aid of a turbocharger--puts out an admirable 243 horsepower.
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In addition to the rotary control in the central column, a paddle on the steering wheel can be used to switch between SI Drive modes.
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The Outlook features a highly stylized stereo head-unit arrangement, incorporating a six-disc in-dash CD changer with the ability to play MP3 and WMA discs, as well as the option of XM or Sirius satellite radio. The car's 100-watt six-speaker audio system delivers surprisingly good sound quality, thanks to its audio enhancement sound-processing technology.
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As part of its makeover, the Outback gets a new front-end arrangement with a chrome-trimmed radiator.
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Perforated leather seats come as standard equipment on the Outback XT Limited model.
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We like the circular four-way rocker switch to the right of the stereo's display that enables drivers to switch between audio sources at the push of a single button.
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In addition to the navigation maps, the in-dash touch screen LCD can be used to display information for the the trip computer and maintenance monitors. Curiously, it can also be used as a calendar and a calculator.
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The centerpiece of the cabin gadgetry is an as-standard in-dash GPS navigation system with touch screen LCD display. We like the bright, colorful maps that this system presents, and the simple array of hard buttons along the bottom of the screen makes it easy to switch between maps and information screens.
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As a wagon, the Outback delivers plenty of cargo room, with more than 65 cubic feet of space when the rear seats are folded flat. The Outback XT Limited also comes standard with roof rails and crossbars in case you want to take your canoe or a couple of extra bikes.
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The Outback XT Limited comes with GPS navigation, a six-disc CD changer, satellite radio prewiring, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, and leather seats, all as standard.
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The Outback is a wagon-only model for 2008. While its hood scoop suggests performance, the Outback's raised suspension leads to an elevated ride height somewhere between that of a car and an SUV.

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