Powell Butte, Oregon ??The middle of Oregon was the perfect spot for the introduction of the 2015 Subaru Outback because it was just like going to a family reunion — everywhere you looked there were more Subaru Outbacks of all ages. We don?t know the actual numbers but after spending a few hours in the Bend, Oregon area one day, we would guess that the Outback has to be the most popular car in the area.
It?s easy to see why so many people in Central Oregon are Outback drivers. This is a major outdoor recreation area with world class skiing, white water rafting, fishing, golfing, rock climbing and a multitude of other activities. The Subaru Outback is a perfect vehicle for these active people because of its utilitarian features and all-weather/terrain abilities, plus it?s a great everyday driver so owners can always be prepared to partake of the outdoors.
Starting with a revised and significantly stiffer (51 percent) chassis, Subaru engineers have added a smoother, more efficient transmission, Active Torque Vectoring for greater agility and enhanced all-wheel drive with new X-Mode technology to expand its off-road prowess. They packaged it in a stylish new body, with more interior space and luxury appointments. Then for the crowning touch they equipped the Outback with a couple of state-of-the-art safety technology packages.
We experienced the 2015 Subaru Outback in real world conditions, driving the on- and off-road in the Cascade Mountains near Bend and Sisters, Ore. The first thing we both commented on was how quiet this new car is. The new acoustical windshield, thicker acoustic panels, foam insulation and liquid-filled engine mounts created an extremely quiet interior space at all speeds. The quiet was accompanied by a very accommodating car-like ride and handling with none of the roughness often experienced in many SUV/crossover style vehicles.
Most 2015 Subaru Outback buyers will opt for the base 175-horsepower four-cylinder Boxer engine with its horizontally-opposed cylinders. The double overhead cam engine, which is about 80 percent new, propels the Outback from 0 to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds according to Subaru tests. Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. The numbers are impressive when you consider that all models are all-wheel drive. The only available transmission is Subaru?s efficient Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). The transmission is designed to electronically simulate six shift points and can be shifted manually with the console mounted shifter or using the steering wheel mounted shift paddles. While we found this to be a very nice drivable combination, it cried out for a turbocharger ? which would have been especially helpful at the higher elevations.
We both preferred the Outback 3.6R model which has a 256-hp six-cylinder Boxer engine that produces a significant increase in performance. Zero to 60 mph takes only 7.3 seconds, making this a much better road car. Fuel economy is estimated at 20/27/22 mpg. The 3.6R also has a high-torque version of the Lineartronic CVT, derived from the Subaru WRX performance model. It electronically shifts with even more noticeable shift points, making it feel more like a six-speed automatic. It also has steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and gated manual shift linkage on the center console. The CVT was especially impressive in off-road and on rough dirt roads where the unlimited ratios helped keep the power delivery smooth and at peak performance and efficiency. We also liked the precise, positive feel of the new electric assist steering system.
All Outbacks are equipped with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive with its new Active Torque Split. The system measures acceleration, steering angle and yaw rates and based on the driving conditions and wheel slippage, adjusts clutch controls to distribute torque to the wheels with the best traction.
On our drive we encountered a section of about 15 or 20 miles of extreme washboard roads covered with pea-size gravel. The extremely slippery surface proved to be a great demonstration of the Active Torque Split system. It passed with flying colors providing excellent stability and control even at higher speeds than we would normally have felt comfortable with.
Another new standard feature on all Outbacks is the new X-Mode system, which debuted on the 2014 Subaru Forester. Engaged by pushing a console-mounted switch, the system optimizes engine output and CVT ratio position, increases Active All-Wheel Drive engagement and uses enhanced control logic for the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system to reduce individual wheel spin. X-Mode also activates the new Hill Descent control system which uses engine braking to control downhill speed. There is also a new Incline Start Assist system that briefly holds the Outback from rolling backward when the driver moves his/her foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
Through the magic of engineering and design, Subaru was able to increase the interior size of the new Outback with very little change in the exterior dimensions. We appreciated the roomy front seats, plus we had a chance to spend time in the rear seat which was very spacious with excellent leg and headroom. It even had enough width for three adults. Cargo space is 35.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat back and 73.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.
The 2015 Subaru Outback EyeSight? system is one of the best electronic safety systems on the market. The system uses a dual color camera system mounted at the top of the inside windshield to control the Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking and Lane Departure Warning systems. Subaru set up an eye-opening test of the system for us to see the Pre-Collision system in action. Driving at nearly 30 miles per hour toward an inflated barrier, we would simply take our foot off the accelerator and the car would ?see? the obstacle and make a full stop a few feet short of the barrier. If you should happen to touch the brake, however, the system won?t work and assumes you want to be in charge. The EyeSight package also includes a new Steering-Responsive Fog Light system that illuminates the areas to the side to provide better turning visibility.
The new Outback has an improved Infotainment system with a 6.2-inch high resolution multi-function touch screen display complete with rear backup camera. It includes AM/FM stereo and HD Radio?, Radio Data Broadcast System, single-disc in-dash CD player and integrates with a smartphone to access other features like Aha? Infotainment, Pandora? and iHeart? Radio. Another optional system adds a larger seven-inch screen, 576-watt high amplifier and harman/kardon? speakers.
The 2015 Subaru Outback is available in two models, the 2.5i and 3.6R. The 2.5i has three trim levels including the 2.5i, 2.5i Premium and 2.5i Limited with prices, after the destination charge, of $25,745, $27,845 and $30,845 respectively. The 3.6R is only available in the Limited trim and is priced at $33,845. Option packages include various combinations of Moonroof, Power Rear Gate, Navigation System, EyeSight, Blind Spot Detection & Rear Cross Traffic Alert and add from $1,695 to $3,390 (for all the features).
Subaru has been something of an MVP in auto industry statistics the last few years showing unprecedented annual sales gains while much of the industry struggled to survive. Subaru has succeeded because they?ve been doing most everything right from their outstanding commercials to building the products consumers want. We think the 2015 Subaru Outback is the next step in an even brighter future.