Subaru Outback gets a grip

January 23, 2004|by KEN CHESTER, JR./Motor News Media Corporation

Based on the third-generation Legacy sedan platform, the Subaru Outback is the wagon that ignited the trend in "crossover" type vehicles - blending the attributes of a passenger car with that of a sport-utility vehicle.

Built by Subaru-Isuzu Automotive in Lafayette, Ind., the Subaru Outback evolved into a brand in its own right - spawning the H6-3.0 six-cylinder models launched in 2001, Outback Sport models and the addition of a four-door Outback sedan for the four- and six-cylinder product lines.

The Outback wagon is powered by a 2.5L SOHC "boxer" engine and transfers power to the ground via the standard five-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional. The Outback wagon is offered in base and limited models.

Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive provides safe, sure traction on a variety of road surfaces. Outback models equipped with the manual gearbox feature a viscous locking center differential that splits power 50/50 front to rear and ensures the wheels with the best traction receive more power.


Models with the optional four-speed automatic transmission feature an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch housed in the transaxle tail shaft. This system actively manages the power split based on acceleration, deceleration and available traction. Both systems power all four wheels all the time.

On the road, the reliable four-cylinder engine delivers a solid flow of power that is nimble and responsive. Subaru's all-wheel-drive system does not add drag or interfere; instead it adds to the wagon's goodness, providing a level of uncommon grip.

The four-wheel-drive system is combined with a standard viscous limited-slip rear differential, heavy-duty raised suspension and 7.3 inches of ground clearance to give the Outback wagon recreational off-road capability.

The Subaru Outback wagon starts with a stiff body structure that serves as the basis for the fully independent, heavy-duty raised type suspension system. Front suspension hardware includes struts with coil springs, internal rebound springs and lower L-arms with liquid-filled rear bushings and a stabilizer bar.

Rear suspension pieces consist of a multi-link setup with a stabilizer bar mounted to a rubber-isolated sub frame, enhancing handling response, improving ride comfort and reducing road noise inside the car.

Inside the cabin, an airy compartment is achieved with dual power moonroofs (on the Limited) with sunshade. Well-placed displays and controls greet the driver while heated front leather seats make the Subaru a cozy place in poor weather.

Rear seating is also very accommodating, with decent leg room and rear cupholders to make traveling a pleasant adventure for two adults. The 60/40 split rear-seat bottom flips up and the seat back folds down with headrest removed to increase available cargo space. The cargo floor is level with the rear bumper. A standard rubberized cargo tray is a major plus for consumers who enjoy an active lifestyle and wish to protect the floor of their Outback.


Wheelbase: 104.3; overall length: 187.4; width: 68.7; height: 76.3 - measurements in inches

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder - 165 hp at 5,600 rpm and 166 lbs-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic

EPA fuel economy: 21 city/28 hwy., (manual); 22 city/28 hwy., (automatic) using regular gasoline

Cargo capacity: 34.3 cubic ft., (rear seat up); 68.6 cubic ft., (rear seat down)

Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds

Safety features

Dual front air bags, side-impact door beams, viscous limited slip rear differential, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, daytime running lights, fog lights, and remote keyless entry. Limited adds front-seat side-impact air bags.


Basic: 3-year/36,000 mile

Powertrain: 5-year/60,000 mile

Corrosion: 5-year/unlimited

Roadside assistance: 3-year/36,000 mile, 24-hour


The base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2004 Subaru Outback wagon starts from $23,345 for the base wagon up to $26,895 for the Outback Limited. Destination charges add $550.

As tested:

2004 Subaru Outback wagon

Exterior color: White Frost Pearl/Titanium

Interior color: Beige

Tires: Bridgestone Potenza

Size: P225/60R16

Base price: $23,345

Freight: $550

Four-speed automatic transmission $800

Rear window dust deflector $105

Auto dimming mirror/compass $183

Tweeter speaker kit $100

Rubber floor mats $55

Total as tested: $25,138

© 2004, Motor News Media Corporation

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