Car names can sometimes be an odd thing. Take for example the “Alero” or the “Lumina”; then there was the “Diplomat”, “Achieva” a “Thing” and even a truck known as “Luv”. None of these names seemed to have had much to do with the actual vehicle, except of course maybe the Aztek which kind of looked like those funny little pyramids in South America, which in truth look a lot better than the actual vehicle itself.
There is a great deal of thought that goes into vehicle names; marketing types, who conduct intensive research, bring together focus groups, that sort of thing. Of course looking at some of the names, we could argue that all it takes the marketing types is a few shots during happy hour to come up with ideas scrawled on a wet napkin.
Either way it seems to be the exception that a car matches its name. Subaru has just such an exception with the Outback. Introduced back in 1994, the Outback wagon has morphed into a modern day SUV crossover but unlike anything else on the road. Never having driven one when we recently got one for a week we didn’t know what to think.
Offered in four trim levels, the 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited. As you would imagine the numbers refer to the engine size. The basic 2.5 liter 4- cylinder boxer puts out 173 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The 3.6-liter six-cylinder powerplant produces 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. The 6 banger though is only available in the top of the line 3.6R Limited. Below that you get the four cylinder engine; we had the 2.5i Limited for the week and truth be told the 2.5 liter engine was just fine. Two transmissions are available; the CVT or a six speed manual.
For 2014 Subaru changed very little. The outside still has the same shape and the interior remains virtually untouched. Subaru did add a few things such as the EyeSight driver assistance system once only available for the Limited and now optional on Premium; Adaptive cruise control is now standard on all CVT transmission models. A new Alloy Wheel Package for 2.5i model includes 17-inch alloy wheels, 225/60 R17 all-season tires and fog lights and a rear vision camera is included with the Power Moonroof Package on Premium and Limited. The electroluminescent illumination instrument cluster with the center mounted color LCD display is also now optional on the 2.5i Premium model with the Eyesight system.
The first clue that this isn’t your mama’s station wagon comes when you notice the ground clearance. The Outback sits 8.7 inches off the ground. With that kind of ground clearance and given the all wheel drive, this is a crossover that isn’t afraid to head off road if need be, something that not all crossovers can boast. The interior is cozy but not uncomfortably small; and given the fold down rear seats there is more than ample cargo room. The dash is well laid out and easy to read and the infotainment system is uncomplicated and has all the features including smartphone integration and a navigation system.
The Limited we had for the week came equipped with the CVT transmission but oddly had paddle shifters as well showing just how far the technology has come. A CVT transmission was once akin to driving a golf cart; but now it can actually mimic an old fashioned gear changing transmission and that’s a very good thing. Especially when it comes to fuel savings: EPA fuel economy estimates for the four-cylinder with the CVT are 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined.
On the road the Outback behaves quite well. The 2.5 engine delivers able power and the symmetrical all wheel drive combined with the vehicle dynamics control holds the pavement respectfully. Whether in city traffic or on the highway the Outback can more than meet the challenges of everyday life. But the great thing about the Outback is the ability to go off road should a situation call for it. No, you won’t be entering any rally events or following any Jeeps up a steep mountain, but going off the pavement isn’t a problem. After a week that’s what made us realize that the name Subaru gave to this wagon fits perfectly. With an off ground stance, a somewhat quirky look and such odd things as the Eyesight system which puts two strange looking appliances on either side of the rear view mirror, the Outback is unlike any other vehicle in its class.
Having lived in Australia on the edge of the real Outback for two years we can see that this vehicle has a name that fits perfectly. It’s sort of like the country where the name originated; somewhat odd, quirky but doing its own thing regardless of what anyone else might think. Good on ya’ Subaru, good on ya’.
The 2014 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited
MSRP (as tested w/options special appearance package, navigation, Aha infotainment package, EyeSight driver assist system) $35,260
Drive type all wheel drive
Transmission cvt or 6-speed manual
Base engine size 2.5 l
Horsepower 173 hp @ 5600 rpm torque 174 ft-lbs. @ 4100 rpm
Epa mileage est. (cty/hwy) 21/28 mpg combined 30mpg
Mpg (as tested mixed conditions) 29
Width 5 ft. 11.7 in. (71.7 in.)
Height 5 ft. 5.8 in. (65.8 in.)
Length 15 ft. 9 in. (189 in.)
Ground clearance 0 ft. 8.7 in. (8.7 in.)
Wheel base 8 ft. 11.9 in. (107.9 in.)
Front head room 40.8 in.
Front hip room 54.5 in.
Front leg room 43.0 in.
Front shoulder room 56.3 in.
Rear hip room 53.9 in.
Rear head room 39.3 in.
Rear leg room 37.8 in.
Rear shoulder room 56.1 in.
Curb weight 3423 lbs.
Maximum cargo capacity 71.3 cu.ft.