To most Americans, when the word outback is uttered, the vast, remote, arid area of Australia comes to mind – you know, the same region that is home to a diverse set of animal species, such as the kangaroo, emu and dingo. However, to another group of people, the Outback automatically means one of the best Subaru ever manufactured, although there is still a bit of uncertainty for some as to where the Subaru Outback comes from given its ambiguous name, so we were surprised to learn that there are still a number of Americans out there who think the Subaru Outback is an Australian car. Apparently 1980’s film star Paul Hogan’s appearance in some old Subaru ads paved this notion in with some people… but just to be clear, Subaru is owned by Fuji Heavy Industries which is a Japanese firm and the Outback is built here in Indiana at the first auto plant to ever put out zero landfill waste. So it’s really a Japanese/American hybrid built in one of the “greenest” plants in the world.
In any event, whether you call it Outback, or a wagon or an SUV, we and many of us in the industry call the 2012 Subaru Outback a station wagon on steroids and one of the most practical, safe and useful cars you can buy. The competition is fierce but without a doubt, this is one of the best wagon for the money. The Subaru Outback is a tremendously popular vehicle amongst New Englanders and many families that live where there is plenty of that white stuff during the winter months… The Outback features a high-tech all-wheel-drive system, and when the weather turns lousy, it’s the next best thing to a sled pulled by a squad of Alaskan Malamutes or a pack of Mackenzie River Huskies, it’s absolutely amazing the way this vehicle handles during severe weather.
Every time a car manufacturer tries to fit a particular model or concept into more than one class, the industry and many of us reviewers often recoil from the inevitable opinions and debates that arise as a result. That’s not the case with the 2012 Subaru Outback. This particular one is a well-rounded combination of midsize car, station wagon, and sport-utility attributes, and so many consumers especially those that are loyal, crossover wanna-be’s, and even those searching for an at least mildly off-road-capable SUV will find a lot to like with the Outback. The Outback’s formula for success is no secret. Many have tried to reinvent the crossover concept, but the Outback has tackled all of the essentials to make it a vehicle with plenty of utility, capability and drivability. Heck, a year after its redesign, this amazing vehicle has sold more than the competing Toyota Venza and Honda Accord Crosstour combined.
The Outback sits five people comfortably and one of the best attributes about this wagon is that there is nearly 41 cu. ft. of cargo space behind the rear seat, which is nearly as much as big SUVs like the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer and when you fold the seat down, you’ll find yourself with almost 71 cu. ft. of space which is plenty of room for carrying your groceries for the month, supplies from Home Depot, maybe your pet and its carrier or any type of small furniture piece, but if this isn’t space enough for you, there are roof rails with cross bars for a roof carrier and whatever else your heart will desire and your ingenuity will allow you to fit on the roof.
This versatile wagon comes with all-wheel drive on every model, but it’s lighter than most other AWD competitors, which means that the 170hp 2.5-liter flat-four engine moves it along just fine when paired to the Lineartronic continuously variable transmission or the 6 speed manual gearbox offered on lower-end models as well. However, one of the most fascinating pleasures of this wagon is its handling and the way you feel driving through rough terrains. The ‘boxer’ or horizontally opposed engine keeps the center of gravity low, so that despite its high ride height, the Outback handles better than virtually any other crossover or wagon, and it drives like a car, not a truck. Trim levels include the four-cylinder Outback 2.5i and six-cylinder Outback 3.6R, each of which come in three versions, the Base model, the Premium and Limited. As with all Subarus, all-wheel drive is standard.
The towing capacity with the 6 cyl powerplant is approximately 3,000 pounds which is 500 lbs. less than many competitors, and the 4 cyl engine has a rating of around 2,700 lbs which is not bad at all for a small 4 cyl powerplant. We were able to get around 20 mpg combined with the 6 cyl engine and the automatic t CVT and have been informed by Subaru that their 4 cylinder engine could get up to 25 mpg combined as well. Its car-based four-wheel-independent suspension since the Outback’s introduction back in the mid 90s gives it this amazing ride quality that handles most pot holes, bumps and road defects quite admirably.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, with larger discs installed on six-cylinder Outbacks. The pedal has linear response, making it easy very easy and comfortable to bring it to a stop. However, when you have a car full of passengers, you might want to start braking a little sooner as the stopping distance becomes a bit longer.
The 2012 Subaru Outback has plenty of good intuitive family features, attractive and friendly instrument panel and affable, easy to understand controls, an available rearview camera and Bluetooth music streaming. All in all a truly amazing wagon for any family starting with the basic model for around $23,000, or an almost loaded/luxury model with leather seats, navigation and top-notch entertainment features for about $35,000. Whichever way you go with this Outback, you are going to come out winning! We were impressed with the way it handled and how great the driving experience was, together with an excellent safety score and a level of practicality that other competitors would love to come close to.