Say "good-bye" to the Legacy Outback wagon; say "hello" to the all-new Outback. While Subaru will continue to sell the Legacy Outback in Japan and elsewhere, the U.S. market will see only this new, bigger Outback crossover. But fear not: You won't miss the wagon. The new Outback is seriously good.
Riding on a new platform, the 2010 Outback is 2.8 inches longer in wheelbase and two inches broader in the shoulders than the outgoing wagon, but its front and rear overhangs have been clipped two inches each for improved approach and departure angles -- increasing this Subie's off-road cred. And while the overall package is shorter than its predecessor, interior room is up seven percent (thanks in part to a raised roof) -- and rear-seat legroom climbs by a conspicuous four inches. Cargo capacity is boosted as well: with 34.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 71.3 with the rears folded down, the Subaru is larger than many of its more "SUV-like" competitors -- such as the Chevrolet Equinox.
Near-genius design touches add real sparkle to Subaru's latest effort. For instance, many Subaru owners complained of wind noise from the unloaded roof racks on their vehicles. So, for the Outback, Subaru cooked up a brilliant solution: When not needed, the crossbars fold back easily into the side rails. Voila! No more wind whistle when your bikes aren't locked to the roof. In addition, the Outback boasts a rear tonneau cover that, when not needed, can be pulled from its rear mounting point and stowed completely away under the rear floor. If you've ever cursed while trying to load luggage with an unmounted tonneau tube in the way, you'll adore this Sube solution.
While it looks like a tall wagon, the Outback in many ways qualifies as a bona-fide SUV. For instance, ground clearance is now 8.7 inches, more than, say, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. True, the Outback lacks the boulder-climbing approach, breakover, and departure angles of the Jeep and other more serious off-roaders, but it's far too capable to dub a crossover. You could drive the Outback just about anywhere but the most formidable four-wheeling trails.
While thirsty V-8s have long been the darlings of the traditional-SUV market, the Outback, weighing just 3655 pounds, manages adroitly with four- and six-cylinder offerings. The boxer four is an updated version of last year's 2.5-liter naturally aspired mill, and now pairs with either a CVT or a new six-speed manual -- a welcome addition for enthusiasts. With the CVT, the Outback wrings out 22/29 city/highway EPA mpg -- a new Outback benchmark. Optional is a new, DOHC 3.6-liter boxer six we tested that -- using regular fuel instead of the premium required on the outgoing 3.0L -- delivers 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. The engine loves to rev, and it mates to a standard five-speed automatic with paddle shifters -- perfect for wringing the most from the flexible six.