Subaru ships the Outback in three distinct all-wheel-drive flavors. Base, manual-transmission models get a viscous-coupling locking center diff with 50/50 normal torque split and the ability to shift torque away from the slipping axle. Four-cylinder Outbacks with the CVT replace the viscous coupling with an electronically controlled continuously variable clutch. Finally, all six-cylinder editions utilize Subaru's Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) system, combining a planetary center diff with an electronically managed hydraulic clutch to distribute power as needed (the split in "normal" driving is 45/55 front/rear).
If the Outback possesses many of the talents of true SUVs, it performs without typical SUV penalties. Ride is fluid, carlike. Steering is easy, smooth, and accurate. The step-in height says "car" not "truck." The structure is tight and shimmy-free. The Outback imbibes fuel judiciously, too: EPA rating with the six-cylinder is 18/25 mpg -- compared with 13/18 for the V-6 Grand Cherokee Laredo.
There's a ton of value here. Despite the new Outback being bigger and better-equipped than its predecessor, it actually stickers for $2K less. A manual-shifter, four-cylinder base car starts at just $23,690. (For a $300 premium, Subaru also offers five four-cylinder models with a Partial Zero Emissions - PZEV -- rating that meets California's strictest air standards.) The 3.6R Limited -- with leather seats, 440-watt Harmon/Karmon audio, and dual-zone climate checks in at $31,690. Among the few extras are touchscreen navigation ($2000) and a power-glass moonroof ($995).
This new Outback is one compelling machine, equipped to satisfy the needs of nearly any outdoor warrior yet thoroughly refined for city and touring duty. It belongs on any family-car shopping list.
|2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited|
|Price as tested||$35,096|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||3.6L/256-hp/247-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve flat-6|
|Curb weight (dist f/r)||3655 lb (57/43%)|
|Length x width x height||188.0 x 84.3 x 68.9 in|
|0-60 mph||7.1 sec|
|Quarter mile||15.5 sec @ 90.5 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||131 ft|
|Lateral accel||0.74 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||28.6 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)|
|EPA city/hwy econ||18/25 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.94 lb/mile|