The Subaru Outback has always been beloved by outdoor enthusiasts, but the newly designed 2015 Outback will urge them to wander farther, thanks to copious improvements. The Outback, which Subaru has always called the world's first sport/utility wagon, has been completely made over with a new look, improved cargo room, enhanced driving dynamics, and better fuel efficiency.
Although the Outback keeps the same 2.5-liter H-4, Subaru says it's been enhanced for lighter weight, improved efficiency, and quieter operation. It produces slightly more power (from 173 horses to 175), while peak torque remains at 174 lb-ft. The 3.6-liter H-6 engine that makes 256 hp also carries over, dispelling the rumor that it would be dropped in favor of the 250-hp 2.0-liter H-4 turbo from the 2014 Forester. Both engines will be paired with a CVT. (Six-cylinder models get a high-torque version, meaning the five-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions are out of the picture.) Four-cylinder models also come equipped with a new active grille shutter system that helps improve efficiency.
That means those who do wander farther won't have to worry about getting stranded, as the 2015 Subaru Outback's fuel efficiency takes a huge leap. Subaru estimates the 2.5i model will achieve 25/33 mpg city/highway, a major improvement over the outgoing model's 24/30 mpg. The same goes for those equipped with the more powerful boxer-six, which is estimated to achieve 19/27 mpg versus its predecessor's 17/25 mpg. Subaru makes a bold claim by saying those numbers best some of those from the Outback's front-drive rivals, but we'll see if those claims ring true once official EPA numbers are revealed and we get a chance for our Real MPG partners to test the 2015 Subaru Outback.
In terms of appearance, the new 2015 Subaru Outback looks to be about the same size as its predecessor. It sits on an all-new Legacy-based chassis, and its dimensions have grown slightly. The wheelbase has been stretched 0.2 inch, resulting in a 0.6-inch increase in length and a 0.7-inch increase in width. Ground clearance remains at 8.7 inches. Even these smallest of changes make a world of a difference inside, where passenger room jumps from 105.4 cu-ft to 108.1 cu-ft. Rear cargo space now welcomes extra gear, going from 71.3 to 73.3 cu-ft. If that's not enough, folding down the seats won't pose an extra struggle, as new rear seatback levers have been added to make the loading process easier. The Outback also sports a power rear gate for the first time.
Even though it's not that much larger, the 2015 Subaru Outback stands out more than its predecessor thanks in part to a bolder front fascia that combines the hexagonal front grille and bumper into one smooth piece. The windshield is more sharply raked, having been pulled forward 2 inches at the base. The windshield -- in addition to higher hip points, new front partition windows, and side mirrors that have been moved to the doors (Limited models get integrated turn signals) -- help improve visibility all around. While crisper lines on the sheetmetal make the Outback look more athletic, certain enhancements underneath the skin help it walk the talk.
A number of factors help should make the Outback more delightful to drive. An aluminum hood reduces weight at the front end, which Subaru says contributes to increased steering response. Thanks to the heavily revised MacPherson front strut suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension, Subaru says the Outback returns a smoother ride and improved handling. All models get ventilated rear discs to help stopping distance, while the Vehicle Dynamics Control also gets enhanced Active Torque Vectoring to "foster more neutral cornering." A newly refined version of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive comes standard in all models, as does X-Mode, which optimizes engine and CVT settings for better traction in more extreme off-road conditions. Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist also complement the AWD system.
In terms of safety, the Outback gains new front seat-cushion airbags, a standard rear camera, and a new rollover-prevention sensor. Welcome Lighting, which illuminates the cabin when the driver approaches, is standard on certain trims, as are keyless entry and a stop-start button. Also new is a Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection system that bundles blind-spot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. The 2015 Subaru Outback also features the newest version of the automaker's highly regarded EyeSight system. The system has been an IIHS favorite, so it's poised to achieve an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation. The updated system now features adaptive foglights that independently illuminate the direction in which the steering wheel is turned.
Inside, Subaru says the Outback gets premium with more soft-touch materials and a quieter cabin. The instrument panel looks sportier, and one-touch lane-change signaling is also new. Subaru has never been ahead of the game when it comes to infotainment systems, but the 2015 Subaru Outback takes it up a notch with a new system that features a touch screen with single-touch gesture control, plus smartphone integration with Aha, Pandora, and more. The new screen also doubles as the rearview camera. Higher trim levels get a 7-inch screen that has swipe and scrolling gestures. It's much quieter inside now that Subaru has added a new acoustic windshield, liquid-filled engine mounts, thicker panels in certain areas, and floor damping material.
With all these improvements, the 2015 Subaru Outback is poised to maintain its status as the automaker's best-seller. The 2015 Subaru Outback will roll into dealerships this summer.