For the second time in two years, we welcome a dapper, Sport/Utility of the Year-winning Subaru crossover to our long-term test fleet. Per our protocol, the victor receives an invite to take a hotly coveted spot in our garage and, as usual, has signed up for a full year of real-world testing courtesy of MT's adventurous editorial squad.

This time around, it's the 2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited whose 3.6R sibling, as you may know, represented the line at this year's SUOTY competition. Given the choice of vehicles to add to the fleet, we purposely checked off the box next to the 2.5i in order to better evaluate the model that Subaru claims will be its volume-seller.

As the top of three 2.5i trim levels, Base and Premium being the others, the Limited adds such conveniences as leather, 440-watt nine-speaker harman/kardon audio, heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, and iPod/USB inputs. Our long-termer, which opens at $28,990, came replete with a $2995 moonroof/nav package that includes voice-activated navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio, backup camera, and power moonroof. Even so, the Premium, to which the Limited adds or substitutes equipment, is anything but a paltry package. Features like an electronic parking brake with Hill Holder, power windows with driver's auto up/down, cruise control, integrated roof rack, and a tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel compose the amenities list. A $461 Sirius satellite radio kit brought our vehicle's grand total to $32,446.

Engage the CVT's right "upshift" paddle, plant the right foot, aim straight ahead, and the 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower flat four sends the 3562-pound Outback from 0 to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds. It takes 17.4 seconds at 82.0 mph to trump the quarter mile and 129 feet to get to a standstill from 60 mph. Thanks to its symmetrical all-wheel drive, the 2.5i gripped the skidpad with an honorable 0.78g average.

Not at all awe-inspiring numbers, but considering the new 2.5i's improvement in fuel economy (22 mpg city/29 mpg highway versus 20/26), extra rear-passenger legroom (up 3.9 inches), and maximum cargo volume (up 5.9 cubic feet) compared with last year's rendition, we're fairly amped to get our Outback running amok in the muck. That is, when we're not passively trudging along on the pavement.


Our Car
Base Price $28,990
Price as tested $32,446
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 2.5L/170-hp/170-lb-ft SOHC 16-valve flat-4
Transmission Cont variable auto
Curb weight (dist f/r) 3562 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 107.9 in
Length x width x height 188.2 x 71.7 x 65.7 in
0-60 mph 9.7 sec
Quarter mile 17.4 sec @ 82.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 129 ft
Lateral accel 0.78 g (avg)
MT figure eight 29.1 sec @ 0.56 (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 22/29 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.79 lb/mile
Total mileage 3287 miles
Average fuel economy 24.4 mpg