Auto Corner: Let it Snow, The 2011 Suburu Outback

22 January 2011   John Dickerson
Subaru’s Outback remains sophisticated, practical, one of a kind.
Subaru’s Outback is a fusion of comfort and practical utility.

By the second week of 2011, we officially had snow in 49 of the 50 United States. In such blizzards, I often drive my 15 year old Toyota Land Cruiser, with its 230,000 miles. The old 4x4 beast can go anywhere in the snow. Unfortunately, it gets about 10 miles per gallon as it does.


Gas prices are destined to continue rising. But even today, many of the shiniest new SUVs get dismal gas mileage. Is there a vehicle that can frolic in the snow and ice – and still deliver normal gas mileage the rest of the year? Indeed there is, in Subaru’s practical, competent and sophisticated Outback.

{sidebar id=24}In case you missed it, Motor Trend magazine named the Outback its 2010 Sport-Utility of the Year – and for many good reasons, including its 29 mpg on the highway.

The Outback, like all Subarus, is all-wheel-drive. Meaning that at any time, the transmission is sending some power to all four wheels. This makes for great performance, safety and handling, not only in the snow, but also in the rain and even on dry pavement.

The new Outback delivers a true Subaru driving experience – controlled, competent and safe. And yet, this is the biggest Subaru ever. If you’re in the market for a “crossover” or other small to medium sized SUV, you owe it to yourself to test drive the Outback. You’ll find it’s in a class of its own on the pavement, as well as off.

I still remember my first time behind the wheel of the new Outback. I had just returned from one week in the seat of a “luxury” crossover. It was either the Cadillac or Lincoln. I honestly can’t remember.

What I do remember is that the Subaru immediately felt more sophisticated and competent. The transmission shifted more smoothly, the controls were more ergonomic and refined. The interior was less glitzy, but somehow more luxurious in an understated manner. The leather was softer. The controls were smarter. Then I looked at the window sticker and realized the Outback cost $15,000 less than the “luxury” crossover that it beat in every category.

“Sometimes I forget how great Subarus really are,” I commented to my wife. Of Subarus many all-wheel-drive vehicles, the Outback is the largest and offers the highest ground clearance. It’s the one most designed for camping, light trail riding and large load carrying.

Some Subaru purists have cried foul about this newest Outback, because it is a larger, taller vehicle with a silhouette more becoming of an SUV than the historic Subaru station wagon.

After multiple tests, I can calm the fears of Subara loyalists. The larger dimensions of the new Outback only create for more room for more Subaru-ness. The larger size does not change the essence of the Outback. The extra space simply creates more room in which to pack more stuff. This Outback is still, truly, a Subaru. And still capable of 29 miles per gallon highway (with the smaller engine).

It is unique. It drives with the control and sportyness of all-wheel-drive. It’s competent on dirt trails and incredibly comfortable at 75 miles per hour on the highway.