Long blurring the line between SUV and Wagon, and arguably starting the "crossover wagon" trend almost 20 years ago, the Subaru Outback has long been one of the brand's best-sellers. At one time applied to variants of the Impreza and even strangely to the Legacy sedan, the Outback moniker is once again exclusively reserved for Subaru's popular tall wagon. Exterior changes for the 2013 model are limited to a new grille, headlights, front bumper and fog lights.
For 2013, the Outback gets a new base engine. At first glance, it doesn't seem like much has changed, as it is still a 2.5-liter, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder. But it's based on the all-new FB engine architecture that's shared with the new Impreza's engine. On paper, improvements in power are modest, with horsepower going from 170 to 173, and torque going from 170 to 174. But the biggest gains are in low-end torque, where the new engine produces more torque over a broader RPM range for greater responsiveness. But even bigger news than the small gain in power is the improved fuel economy. The 2013 Outback equipped with the Lineartronic CVT is projected to get 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, improvements of 2 mpg and 1 mpg over the 2012 model. If you're feeling sporty, the CVT comes with paddle shifters for shifting through six "gears" or ratio settings, simulating the feel of a conventional geared automatic.
For those seeking more power, the 256 hp 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder remains available, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Other than the new base engine, the biggest changes to the Outback are in the addition of new safety features and interior amenities. Headlining on the safety front is Subaru's new EyeSight driver-assist system, integrating adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and a vehicle lane-departure warning system. EyeSight employs a stereo camera system to provide a wider detection angle than comparable radar-based systems at a lower cost. All 2013 Outback models include a new brake override system as part of this suite of safety features.
Standard across-the-board for 2013 are Bluetooth hands-free calling, audio streaming, iPod connectivity and control and a USB charging port. The Premium trim level adds a 10-way power driver's seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
Stepping up to the Limited trim gets dual-zone climate control, rear-seat HVAC vents, and a 4-way power adjustable front passenger seat. Optional on the Limited trim is the Special Appearance Package which includes keyless access & start, and a driver's memory seat. The Limited also offer an available voice-activated navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen and integrated backup camera display.
Finally, all 2013 Outbacks feature a redesigned roof rack cross bars that can be moved further back for greater outdoor gear-hauling versatility.