As Canadian as lacrosse and frozen wastelands
Outback has that unique Canadian combination of wagon and AWD that makes it ideal for just about any situation you could encounter in Canada.
There is probably no other vehicle as “Canadian” as the Subaru Outback – ironically, a car named after Australian geography.
You could argue that Yukon is more Canadian, or Tundra or Avalon. Maybe even Lacrosse, seeing as it’s our national sport. Perhaps the one that would come closest would be Acadia.
But Outback has that unique Canadian combination of two-box design and all-wheel drive that makes it ideal for just about any road situation you could encounter in our great land; and it mixes in Canadian values of environmental friendliness and frugality.
Power for Outback comes from either a 2.5-litre four-cylinder or 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine. Both have banks of cylinders pumping in opposite directions, in what’s affectionately called a “boxer” layout. Our test Limited model comes with the 3.6L H6 that puts out 256 horses and 247 lb.-ft. of torque, for a robust acceleration experience (both in feeling and in sound).
One of the benefits of the horizontally-opposed engine is smoothness, since internal engine movement is basically naturally counteracted. The other benefit is compactness, creating a package that is considerably shorter in height than the traditional V6 (think of a cube with the top of the piston heads at the top corners and the driveshaft at the centre point of the top side; as you pivot the heads up from level with the driveshaft, your box becomes taller and narrower), meaning an engine compartment that is shorter in height and can therefore lead to better sightlines for the driver.
The corresponding window space and height adjustable driver’s seat makes a very driving-friendly environment for the pilot. Narrow roof pillars all around aid in peripheral views and make the Outback probably one of the best vehicles in the segment in terms of visibility outward.
And speaking of eyesight, our Outback Limited has that too!
Subaru has created a system that uses two cameras, offset around the rearview mirror housing, that mimics human eyes, getting a view of the road ahead in a three-dimensional way similar to the way eyesight works (hence the name Eyesight). It works in a different way than traditional radar systems, but basically does all the same things and has as many drawbacks as positives.
One of the clever things it does is alert the driver that the vehicle ahead has moved (in case you’re in stop-and-go traffic and using the lulls in action to check emails … in those jurisdictions that still allow it). Another is not letting you accelerate at full throttle if you’re in front of a garage door (like when you want to back out of the driveway but erroneously slip the shifter into D).
One of the annoying things it does is beep at you for every single action (car has stepped into your adaptive cruise range – BEEP – car has moved out of your cruise range – BEEP – you’re crossing over the lane boundary –BEEP … you get the idea). I’m sure I could turn this feature off (at least I hope I can) but I haven’t bothered to figure it out.
You do learn to tune it out in short order, but passengers who aren’t as exposed to it will constantly alert you to its annoyance with smart-alecky comments like “Beep – your toast is done.”
Come to think of it, they’re more annoying than the beeping (and I know how to easily fix that!).
You’d think they would just concentrate on how comfortable they are in the Limited’s leather seats (smooth and silky, they make long journeys simply breeze by, though they don’t grip onto bodies as much as I would like during handling exercises).
And all the while, the interior puts forth an air of premium quality with its shiny high-tech-looking panels and woody inserts.
It’s probably more pretentious than a Liberal Party retirement gala, but then again you can’t get more Canadian than that.
2013 Subaru Outback
Trim level: 3.6R Limited
Price as tested (before taxes): $39,995
Options on test vehicle: Eyesight ($1,500)
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.6L H6/ 5-spd automatic w/ sequential shift
Power/torque: 256 hp/ 247 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Regular (70L)
Fuel economy ratings: 11.8 L/100km city; 8.2 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 9.6 L/100km over 658 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Ford Edge; GMC Acadia; Toyota Venza
Strengths: engine; utility and versatility; seat comfort; outward visibility
Weaknesses: little pretentious inside; intrusive Eyesight interface