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Subaru Outback Performance

The 2016 Subaru Outback feels composed during cornering and has excellent traction on slippery terrain, according to test drivers. The base engine has adequate power in most situations, critics say, but it can feel underpowered when the Outback is loaded with cargo or climbing steep hills.

  • "Even when the roads turned nasty, we were impressed by our 2016 Subaru Outback crossover SUV's quiet cabin, its car-like driving characteristics (it is based on the Legacy sedan, after all) and its stable composure even in the most inhospitable driving conditions." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "How's it drive? Like an Outback, only quieter -- well sorted and appropriately tuned for its job; in other words, it does just about anything anyone might demand of an automobile except maybe logging track time." -- AutoWeek (2015)
  • "The best of both worlds, the 2015 Subaru Outback combines the comfort and driving dynamics of a sedan with the space and off-road capabilities of an SUV." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • "In fact, there's little the 2015 Subaru Outback doesn't handle with ease. If anything, it's so capable and refined as to be a bit boring." -- Automobile Magazine (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Subaru Outback comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 175 horsepower. The 3.6R Limited model has a 256-horsepower, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine. A continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is operated like an automatic, is standard in all 2016 Outbacks. According to the EPA, the base 2016 Subaru Outback gets 25/33 mpg city/highway, which is good for a wagon or crossover with all-wheel drive. The 3.6R Limited model gets 20/27 mpg, which is typical for a six-cylinder vehicle in this class.

Auto writers agree that the 2016 Outback's base four-cylinder engine doesn't feel very powerful. They say it performs adequately when you're merging onto the highway, but strains when the Outback is on steep inclines or loaded with passengers and cargo. The six-cylinder is more potent, according to test drivers. Reviewers often complain that CVTs are noisy and make vehicles less fun to drive. However, they say the CVT in the Outback is better than most because it mimics a conventional automatic, which helps reduce engine noise.

  • "The base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is no powerhouse, but it isn't a slouch either and the fuel economy is outstanding. The 6-cylinder provides a more robust driving experience and is recommended for anyone who needs to tow, but it is available only on the top-line Limited trim, which doesn't come cheap." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "No one will call the 2.5i Premium ‘quick,’ and Subaru's claimed 0-60-mph time of 9.3 seconds confirms that feeling. It has just enough power for safe highway merging, but load the thing up with people and gear and it's going to feel overwhelmed, especially if elevation gets thrown into the equation." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "The base 2.5 isn't buzzy and delivers adequate thrust for typical driving on relatively flat roads. It's close to underpowered on inclines and at altitude at the edge of Oregon's Cascade range -- and if we accept Subaru's pitch, such locales are exactly where many Outback owners drive their vehicles." -- AutoWeek (2015)
  • "CVTs can still be hit or miss these days, but Subaru's is one of the better rubber bands 'boxes on the market. Part of that is down to pre-programmed ‘shift’ points, which cut down on annoying engine drone." -- Left Lane News (2015)

Handling and Braking

Unlike most wagons, the 2016 Subaru Outback comes standard with all-wheel drive, and critics report that the Outback performs well on steep and muddy terrain. Test drivers write that the Outback feels composed when going around corners, and some add that it feels unexpectedly sporty for its size. Auto writers also praise the Subaru Outback's comfortable, quiet ride.

  • "This version has a stiffer body and revised suspension tuning that has made it a competent handling wagon once again. … The plentiful suspension travel endows the Outback with a plush ride, and we found the tires to be quiet even over coarse surfaces." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Handling is better than before, and the interior is remarkably quiet even at highway speeds." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "Body roll is kept in check, and there's surprising sportiness to the Outback that belies its size and tall-aspect-ratio tires. We can give those big, unfashionable sidewalls some credit for the supple ride." -- Car and Driver (2015)
  • "This Subaru was downright impressive as we traversed steep hills, deep ruts, sizable rocks and muddy streams, and its aforementioned 8.7 inches of ground clearance - identical to a Jeep Grand Cherokee in its default setting - was a real confidence builder." -- Autoblog (2015)
Review Last Updated: 7/28/15

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