2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R LTD
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2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R LTD

Automobiles
-GM, Chrysler and even Honda and Toyota tumbled in a market blowout but good old reliable Subaru tucked its shirt into its dockers and delivered the best, and damn near only sales growth in the industry. What are they doing to make so many of you part with your unemployment checks? Let's take a look at the 2010 Outback 3.6R Limited and check the tech. Now I know what you're thinking, this is a Subaru but it's not a Forester. This is the venerable Outback wagon which just keeps getting bigger, but it also promises to provide a lot more in the way of creature comforts and, for 2010, a lot more in the way of tech. Let's see if it delivers. Now, the base audio on this car is actually not too bad. It's a 440-watt nine-speaker Harman Kardon rig and you've got your standard sources, your FM, AM, disc--six-disc or one-disc changer, depending on your packages, we'll get to that later--and then auxiliary and satellite, you can get either Sirius or XM on this car. Apparently, this is the last year that they're gonna do that. Here's a good tip for you. You're gonna be in map view standard and not be able to figure out how to change your radio presets. It turns out, you press this button and then you have an interface for doing that on the eight-inch touchscreen here. Now, to the base system, you can add Subaru's media hub option. That will give you a USB and iPod input on one package or a USB and audio input plus Bluetooth streaming for $50 more on a separate package. I don't really know why. Now, we have the full navigation option on this car. That includes the USB and iPod connectors and the Bluetooth streaming, although it takes your disc count down from six to one. Again, I don't know why. The nav option also adds an eight-inch touchscreen here. It's a DVD-based navigation system which is a little bit stale these days because most people are moving to either a hard drive-based or USB-based nav system. And when I say stale, I mean stale. I think this might be the clunkiest GPS interface I've ever seen. It appears to be based on hieroglyphics, somehow. It's kind of baffling to figure out how you enter a destination because that's not part of the touchscreen, you have to press the destination button here. Eventually, it gets around to letting you enter a destination. You kind of hit this address button and then it's, you know, figure it out from there. There's various buttons and annoying beeping and it's pretty obnoxious. Once you've entered a destination, by the way, you are hard pressed to know if it's actually started navigating. It hasn't. It took me a few button presses to realize that you have to choose these things and then calculate and then start and then off you go. And, once your navigation is going, it's impossible to figure out how to make it stop. I mean, really. What do these buttons mean? What-- It's awful. Subaru is also one of the few car makers to offer an in-car internet router. It pulls in 3G and turns the car into a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot. It's an autonet router that costs $500. Now, the first 90 days are free, then it costs $348 a year for one gigabyte a month or $708 a year for 5 gigs a month. The more you exceed, the slower your connection. I bet that feels great. Just get a smartphone with tethering. In fact, get an Android phone and then you'll also have some decent navigation. Inside the car, Subaru's bare bones legacy is starting to recede a little bit. The seat leather is a little nicer than it has been in the past. The Outback has always been a high trim car so you're gonna get wood accents and things like that, but it doesn't feel as plasticky and stripped down as some Subarus have a tendency to feel. Although I will say, it has that same Subaru issue I've always had with these cars which is that even though it's a very big wagon, it feels cramped, both in the front seat and the back seats. Of course, all of that room has apparently been distributed into the hatch where you can fit most of the furniture in your house. Since this car is a 3.6R, we get two more cylinders stuck on the Subaru's more common flat four. A 3.6-liter flat six that does 256 horsepower and 247 foot-pounds of torque. That's good for about a seven-second run to 60 and delivers 18 to 25 miles per gallon from a 3700-pound car. Unfortunately, emission ratings are just about middle of the road. There's one transmission on the 3.6R, a five-speed automatic with paddles. There's no continuously variable transmission or a manual available. Now, Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive is a big selling point for these guys but a lot of people don't realize that varies depending on the transmission. With this five-speed automatic, symmetrical all-wheel drive includes viscous limited slip rear end and a torque bias that normally sends about 55% of the power to the rear wheels. It's sort of a performance setup, but when things start to slip, the computer moves power around to make this guy a good mud slugger, too. You know, your basic Subaru. Driving the Subaru is about what you'd expect. It's pretty pedestrian. There's not a lot that's fun about it. I mean, I will say, a manual mode with paddle shifting on a Subaru station wagon is, you know, a little touch of fun, but that's as close as you're gonna come to actual driving enjoyment. The brakes, in particular, feel downright spongy and the whole thing kinda feels like you're just driving around underwater. I guess the one positive is that you're driving quickly underwater. That 256-horsepower engine does give you plenty of power so, you know, you'll drive around a lot faster than the other moms. This top of the line Outback starts at a little over $32,000. As much as it kills me, you probably do want the nav option for $3000, even though the nav tech is more than a little bit dated. The combination of the power moon roof, the audio connection upgrades, and the back up camera make it a little bit of a value. But if you do decide to skip that nav system, make sure you at least get the media hub option with Bluetooth streaming for $350 and whatever labor charge will be added on to that, and make sure you bring your smartphone.

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