Subaru's trusty flat-4 pairs up with a new CVT
By Ron Kiino

For the 2010 Outback, Subaru has made significant upgrades to its tried-and-true 2.5-liter flat-4. Peak horsepower and torque are now realized 400 rpm sooner than before, and fuel economy with an automatic, at 22/29, is superior to that of the 2009 model's 20/26. A chain-type continuously variable automatic dubbed Lineartronic replaces the old four-speed torque-converter unit and represents the world's first longitudinally mounted CVT for an all-wheel-drive production car. Our $28,690 2.5i Limited tester (a base 2.5i with six-speed manual starts at $23,690) displayed smooth acceleration and, in true CVT fashion, a knack for instantly finding the engine's sweet spot. Plus, it features standard paddle shifters for rowing through six preset ratios. Compared with the 3.6, which hits 60 in 7.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 15.5 at 90.5 mph, the 2.5 CVT is leisurely, delivering 9.7 and 17.4 at 82.0, respectively. More important, though, the 170-horse Outback is competitive within its class. A Honda CR-V EX-L AWD needs 9.5 ticks to reach 60 and 17.2 at 79.0 to nab the quarter. Thus, the 2.5 CVT is more about A-to-B impeccability than stoplight-to-stoplight bragging rights, and is perfectly happy leaving the pink-slip battles to the 3.6R.

2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited
Base/tested price $28,690/$32,446
Engine 2.5L/170-hp/170-lb-ft SOHC 16-valve flat-4
Transmission Continuosly Variable Auto
Curb weight (dist f/r) 3562 lb (54/46%)
Length x width x height 188.2 x 71.7 x 63.9 in
0-60 mph 9.7 sec
Quarter mile 15.5 sec @ 90.5 mph
EPA city/hwy econ 22/29 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.79 lb/mile

The look says "Soccer Mom." The numbers say "Indiana Jones."

Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4WD Subaru Outback 3.6R Toyota Venza AWD V6
Engine SOHC, 12-valve 3.7L V-6; 210 hp/235 lb-ft DOHC, 24-valve 3.6L flat-6; 256 hp/247 lb-ft DOHC, 24-valve 3.5L V-6; 268 hp/246 lb-ft
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 15/20 mpg 18/25 mpg 18/25 mpg
Transmission 5-sp auto 5-sp auto 6-sp auto
Wheelbase 109.5 in 107.9 in 109.3 in
Track, front/rear 62.0/62.0 in 61.0/61.0 in 64.2/64.2 in
Length x width x height 188.0 x 84.3 x 68.9 in 188.2 x 71.7 x 65.7 in 189.0 x 75.0 x 63.4 in
Load-floor height 33.4 in 33.9 in 27.2 in
Step-in height 20.2 in 16.5 in 15.3 in
Ground clearance 8.2 in 8.7 in 8.1 in
Approach angle 35.0 deg 18.9 deg 15.6 deg
Departure angle 27.5 deg 22.2 deg 17.4 deg
Breakover angle 21.3 deg 19.5 deg N/A
Headroom, f/r 39.7/39.3 in 38.7/39.3 in 39.6/39.3 in
Legroom, f/r 41.7/35.5 in 43.0/37.8 in 40.2/39.1
Shoulder room, f/r 59.1/58.5 in 56.3/56.1 in 60.0/59.0 in
Fuel-tank capacity 21.1 gal 18.5 gal 17.7 gal
Cargo room (rear seat up/down) 34.5/67.4 cu ft 34.3/71.3 cu ft 34.4/70.1 cu ft
Tow rating 3500 lb 3000 lb 3500 lb
Base price $33,200 $28,690 $29,250