The 2017 Subaru Outback Is a Great Wagon, and an Even Better Subaru
Making great strides in looks and amenities; staying put in capability and utility.
2017 Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring
WHAT THE HELL IS IT? It’s the newest Subaru Outback wagon, trying to be the bestest Outback wagon out there. And it shows: plenty of leather and (simulated?) wood trim; nice, big sunroof; plenty of bells and whistles; plenty of performance; pretty good looking interior and exterior. It’s $39,000 of the wagon you’ve been eyeing all along.
WHO IS IT FOR? The Subaru faithful, snowbirds, college professors, grocery getters, soccer moms, hockey dads. Subaru tends to build for the Subaru faithful, and this Outback is no exception; it fulfills on all the usual Subaru expectations. In this trim, it’s for the young, adventurous family in Colorado or New England.
WHERE DID WE TEST IT? We took our Touring-trimmed Outback wagon through the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and then to upstate New York on interstates and back roads. We weaved it through traffic testing the adaptive cruise control in city traffic (pretty good!) and the handling out in the country (plenty of pick-up, though steering lacks feedback).
THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE IS: Subaru’s getting better and better and making really nice wagons. Looks and feels like it could be German.
THING THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO NOTICE, BUT YOU DO ANYWAY: It’s not actually German. Things like inexpensive-looking and garish instrument cluster designs and neon-blue illumination tip you off.
CAR IS GOOD AT: Acceleration, thanks to the big 3.6-liter flat-six, which delivers 256 horsepower and 247 lb. ft. of torque. In terms of comfort, there's lots of leather-upholstered room for five adults, plus trunk space for their luggage. The windows are big and the visibility is great. As for features, there’s nothing missing, including adaptive cruise control in stop-and-go traffic (although, a warning, other reviewers have noted that the EyeSight 2-camera system doesn’t work well in the rain). Starlink 7-inch touchscreen has great maps, though the rest of the interface is a little congested.
CAR IS BAD AT: Shutting up. The seatbelt chimes, the cruise control beeps, and the active safety bundle are beeping and chiming all the time—so much so that you quickly tune out the warnings, rendering them useless.
More importantly, gas mileage. I know it’s a bigger engine, I know it’s a heavy car. I know, I know. But 22 MPG combined? In 2017? C’mon, guys, do something to get some better mileage out of this thing.
RATE 1 (VERY POOR) to 5 (EXCELLENT)
HAULING PEOPLE: 5
HAULING STUFF: 5
CURB APPEAL: 4
“WOW” FACTOR: 3
WOULD YOU BUY IT? Sure would. It’s an ideal car for upstate New York winters, and a set of kayak racks make it summer-friendly, too. My girlfriend loves it, and Subarus generally, thanks to her fond memories of being in one a bunch as a kid. After purchasing one (and removing the seatbelt chime module, if possible), there’s nothing to regret.
DEEP THOUGHTS: I was trying to back over a small bush while doing a 3-point turn in my driveway and the car fully braked and stopped on me, even though I was on the gas. This is the automated reverse braking in action, and although I could have rolled straight over this bush without damage to car or creature, the car called the shots. Not sure if this is something I like or dislike from an intellectual point of view, but immediately it occurred to me that this is just the kind of safety I need for my aging parents.
PRICE (AS TESTED): $39,070
POWERTRAIN: 3.6 liter horizontally-opposed naturally aspirated flat six
MPG (CITY/HIGHWAY): 20/27; 22 combined.
PERFORMANCE: 0-60 mph in 7 or so seconds, good punch for passing.
GROUND CLEARANCE: 8.7 inches (impressive!)