By infusing all-weather cars with SUV attitude and ground clearance, wagons have become cool. There isn't a major manufacturer not working on its own interpretation of this Subaru-proven formula. While the trend-setting Outback blazes a market segment path wearing body cladding and dripping Aussie attitude, the Legacy platform had not been known for performance until this year.
With competitors coming on strong, Subaru has added almost 30 percent more power to the Outback from a new 3.0-liter boxer engine for 2001. Offered only in two new top-of-the-line models, the flat six produces a respectable 212 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. The increased output handily bests the BMW 325i, Volkswagen Passat, and even the Volvo Cross Country. Both the top-range Outback H6-3.0 VDC and the Outback H6-3.0 L.L. Bean Edition are equipped with a four-speed automatic, though these premium models differ in AWD systems and content.
Both versions have the upscale amenities of the Outback Limited, plus exclusive design alloy wheels, auto climate control, eight-way power driver's seat, rear-seat center armrest, and Momo-designed mahogany and leather steering wheel. The H6-3.0 VDC features an audiophile-caliber McIntosh AM/FM/WB/CD/cassette head unit and 11 premium speakers. With the exception of the audio system, the H6-3.0 L.L. Bean Edition shares the VDC's features and adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, air filtration, security system, L.L. Bean logo two-tone leather/floor mats/exterior badges, plus an exclusive three-year scheduled maintenance plan.
Our first drive of the Outback H6-3.0 VDC was on the curvy back roads of coastal Maine, where commonly seen Subarus carry seasonal rooftop cargoes ranging from kayaks to snow skis. Power delivery is smooth with a distinct intake noise as the engine gulps air, though exhaust is nearly silent. The boxer engine is very smooth under part throttle or highway cruising, where it is eager to accelerate. Off the line, the Outback is competent, but the flat-six really comes to life north of 3500 rpm, perfect for passing maneuvers.