GO
Avg. Price Paid:$10,327 - $15,395
Original MSRP: $21,995 - $34,195
MPG: 20 City / 26 Hwy
Search Used Listings:

2008 Subaru Outback Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Subaru Outback was new.

It's the Outback's versatile utility that's most impressive. "On the road, the Outback rides smoothly and feels sure-footed around corners," reports Edmunds. "Taken off-road, it can scamper up a rutted hillside with more gusto than just about any crossover SUV, and it's an excellent companion in snowy climates." Like many, Cars.com points out, "Whether it's snow and ice, gravel or dirt roads, the Outback is unfazed." Because of the Outback's composure in less-than-ideal conditions and its energetic powertrain, Motor Trend calls it "a Zen rally car best suited for serious loose-gravel sideways driving."

Acceleration and Power

The Outback is reasonably powerful, especially in its V6 and turbocharged incarnations, but it won't be mistaken for a high-performance sports car. The Washington Post says while "acceleration remains something less than thrilling," the Outback has "enough power to do what is needed without being totally outrageous." The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that creates 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque. A turbocharged version of the four-cylinder engine creates 243 horsepower and 241 pound-feet of torque, while a 3.0-liter V6 makes 245 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque.

The base engine garners its share of praise. Of the 2.5-liter four, AutoWeek writes, "This little guy runs out of breath at the upper end of the rev range, but most people won't be driving it like they stole it, and for everyday driving it's all good." Kelley Blue Book reports, "The normally-aspirated 2.5-liter boxer engine produces enough power to suit most non-enthusiast drivers. It also offers the best fuel economy." It gets an Environmental Protection Agency estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway when paired with a five-speed manual transmission, and 19 mpg and 26 mpg in the city and on the highway, respectively, when paired with a four-speed automatic.

The turbocharged 2.5 is the favorite. The Boston Globe calls it "a real charger, snapping a nearly two-ton automobile forward at respectable speed and moving powerfully in passing mode." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, "The wagon pulls away from stoplights smoothly, and the turbo's boost is there when you want it, with just a wee lag before it rockets you to highway speeds." But there are mixed reviews on the turbo boost. The New York Times says it "comes quickly and powerfully, especially with the manual transmission." Consumer Guide, on the other hand, finds throttle response is "dulled by annoying turbo lag." The turbocharged 2.5 gets an EPA estimated 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway with a five-speed manual transmission and 18 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway with a five-speed automatic.

Kelley Blue Book calls the V6 "strong and smooth." Forbes finds it "smoother" than the turbocharged four. The V6, which is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, doesn't quite measure up to the Outback's other available engines in the area of fuel economy, getting just 17 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway, as estimated by the EPA. The Detroit News notes, "It tends to be a little thirsty."

There are a number of complaints about the Outback's various transmissions. Consumer Guide reports the manual that comes in the 2.5 models has "imprecise, overly long shift action." U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman notes "the manual transmission is a five-speed, even with the high-output turbocharged engine," and points out, "Many performance vehicles these days come with a six-speed." Automatic transmissions don't fare much better. Edmunds writes, "Unfortunately, the Outback's automatic transmissions still leave much to be desired, as they sap power by upshifting too early." A five-speed automatic that allows manual gear selection is optional with the turbocharged 2.5 and standard on the V6, and is a reviewer favorite. The Boston Globe says the transmission "is best used for passing in manual option mode" because when it's "stomped in automatic, it takes time to gather its thoughts on whether to downshift for fastest forward momentum."

Handling and Braking

The Outback offers a ride that more closely matches its car-like underpinnings than its SUV-like styling. Consumer Guide says it "rides more firmly than a traditional family sedan," but is "always controlled and never harsh." The Auto Channel offers a similar report, claiming the Outback has "a moderately firm ride and very good cornering ability and reactions to driver inputs." Car and Driver reports, "Body-motion control is well restrained" and "the ride is supple and comfortable." Reviewers point out that the Outback's utility doesn't mean it lacks refinement. Forbes says it "rides smoothly, is balanced on the highway and offers a plush ride in the city, despite its off-road machinery."

Steering is "linear" and "predictable," according to Consumer Guide. Kelley Blue Book, however, cautions that the Outback "requires more steering effort than some drivers might find reasonable." As for brakes, the Outback comes with four-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. BusinessWeek says, "You will not overshoot your mark." Cars.com says the Outback "requires more brake pedal pressure during a panic stop," but concludes that "braking performance overall is fine."

All-Wheel Drive

Of all the Outback's features, its all-wheel drive system is most often singled out for praise. "Subaru's legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive is standard, as is the ability to go just about anywhere four wheels can travel," writes Kelley Blue Book. "This could be Subaru's number-one selling point, since no other manufacturer makes such a system standard on all models." The New York Times finds, "Subaru's overall setup is superior to the many all-wheel-drive systems that power only the front or rear wheels until slippage is detected -- and then often lag in response." Because of the all-wheel drive system, the Outback performs well in adverse conditions and holds up admirably beyond the asphalt. Cars.com reports, "I've driven it on modest offroad trails (legit ones, not just off-pavement), and it can handle more than the vast majority of buyers would put in its way."

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

Next Steps: Subaru Outback

  • Search used Subaru Outback for sale (4,054 listings)
  • Calculate monthly payment and apply for a loan
  • See Wagons rankings