There was a time when Volvos…and especially Volvo wagons…were the “official vehicle” of the flannel-wearing, comfortable-shoe crowd….and safety-conscious soccer Moms everywhere.


So why are we talking about Volvos in a Subaru Outback review?


Because Subaru has kinda’ moved into the turf that Volvo once occupied.


Don’t misunderstand…..Volvo still makes a great vehicle.   It’s just that as they’ve moved upscale, Subaru has moved in to fill the gap they’ve left….and then some.


And of all the Subarus on the road, the Outback is their # 1 best seller…a five-passenger, all-wheel-drive, go-almost anywhere SUV.


While it won’t climb some of the rocky terrain that you’ll see in the Jeep and Range Rover commercials, that’s not what people buy Subarus for anyhow.


Rather, the soccer Moms and Dads are buying it for its’ all-wheel-drive and 5-star crash rated safety…plus it’s 25 city and 32 hwy MPG’s and easy-to-maneuver “Mama Bear” size.


And outdoor enthusiasts?    They are a big reason that Subaru continues to increase sales year after year at a double-digit pace.    The 8.7” of ground clearance and all-wheel-traction will get you to ski slopes and muddy canoe and kayak launch-sites and fishing holes that many others just can’t access.


But in addition to capability, we can’t ignore price.    Outbacks start in the mid-$20’s….alloys included….and it’s possible to drive out in a reasonably well-equipped Outback for less than 30 thousand.    That’s a lot of capability for around 30K.


We tested a “Premium” version, and for a $32,000 window-sticker, we enjoyed most of today’s most popular options like moonroof, a 7” display with nav and a three-year no-charge map update, pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings and assist, blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, high-beam assist, a power tailgate with memory, and 60/40 reclining rear seats.    In other words, almost everything except leather.


In you need more, leather and a heated steering wheel and upgraded audio et al can be had for a few thousand more….as can a 3.6 liter 6-cylinder.


Our test Outback had Subaru’s standard 2.5 liter, 175 HP four cylinder.   The four seemed to deliver all the power that the average driver would ever need….and can tow up to 2,700 lbs.


All Subies come with a CVT transmission.    While, personally, I miss the feel of gears changing, Subaru has one of the better continuously-variable transmissions that I’ve tested.   It provides a “kick-down” feel when punched….closely imitating the feel of a conventional automatic.


And one more thing.    Outbacks come with an absolutely ingenious roof rack system.   Crossbars are built into the side rails.   They swing out as needed, and otherwise remain tucked in…providing silent highway cruising…..and saving the expense and hassle of aftermarket roof racks.


Again, Subaru is one of the few manufacturers who are growing sales by double-digits….year after year.    The Outback is one of the reasons why.    And they’ve got a few more good reasons on the way in the coming year or two.   Stay tuned.


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