Subaru remodeled the Outback for the fourth time in 2010, making it a little bit more like a small SUV rather than a station wagon, though it is still listed as a sport utility wagon at registration. Subaru loyalists have been debating about whether the change was good or bad for the brand; Subaru executives have made it no secret that they want to expand beyond their 1.8 percent market share and that by moving beyond the snowy regions where its practical design has reigned supreme.
While I would have been happy with a third generation (or even a second) Outback, I have been satisfied and proud of the 2010 Outback my wife and I bought as our sole car. We bought the Premium trim (middle of the road), with CVT (their version of automatic transmission, but with optional on-off paddles for shifting), and the 2.5i 4-cylinder engine – so it qualifies as a green “Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle.” I look down on the late-model Outbacks that have a 3.5i 6-cylinder engine without a trailer hitch (just wrong). I have had two 4-cylinder engine cars, a Mazda MX-6 and a Toyota Celica, and the Outback’s engine has much more roar in it.
In the process of choosing the Outback, my wife and I tested a lot of cars, including the Toyota Venza and Highlander and the Honda CR-V. A prime feature we looked for was how it handled in snow. The Highlander performed well, though it was still a truck and has the suspension of pickup – which is tiring on long highway road trips with vibration and road noise. The Venza is quieter and had the luxury we were looking for, but it is a car for mild climates… Don’t put skis and drive it to Aspen. It cannot handle the snow.
The CR-V could get out of a snow bank (I drove straight into one during the test drive to test the so-called all-wheel drive (AWD)) and it got out, but it had to slip before the four-wheel drive kicked in. The CR-V does not have true all-wheel drive, and instead conserves power to the front wheels except for when the computer determines it is needed.
Subarus have continuous all-wheel drive and is reasonably close to sharing power with the front and rear wheels equally because of their symmetrical all-wheel drive. However, a perfect 50-50 split of power is nearly impossible to achieve. This feature, common on all Subaru models, is dependable, according to scores of proud owners in the snowiest climates.
The real result was shown during the test drive; my wife this time drove it straight into a snow bank neighboring an elementary school. It barely even struggled and the wheels with traction helped the wheels that did not and we were out in moments! Of course, all-wheel drive is no excuse not to still carry a shovel and some salt or sand. If the snow had been slushy, even a Toyota Tacoma with chains may have been stuck.
As you know, we bought the 2010 Outback and are proud Subaru owners now. The 2011 Outback has changed very little, however our singular disappointment with the 2010 has been fixed (and even this is minor) : The side-view mirrors do not fold in on the 2010 models, but they do now for the 2011.
To have four wheels on the floor and a comfortable drive, the 2010 and 2011 Subaru Outbacks offer that in spades!
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