The 2011 Subaru Outback is a top choice for when coping with nature's fury. It's a superb vehicle on dirt and gravel roads, in the snow, heavy rain, anything that calls of traction and sure-footedness.
The Subaru Outback, now in the second year of its fourth generation, was a unique sport/utility wagon when it was launched 15 years ago. The Outback is a unibody, all-wheel-drive crossover vehicle made in Lafayette, Indiana. Outback was redesigned for the 2010 model year, and there are no significant changes for 2011.
Subaru vehicles address utility as a form of luxury, based on the idea that a functional tool is a thing of beauty. With the Outback, there is the assumption of active outdoor use.
The Outback suspension, transmission and all-wheel-drive system are geared for control, comfort and stability on gravel roads and in inclement weather. All Subarus are all-wheel drive, aiming for sure handling and traction in marginal conditions. That may explain why they are most popular in the New England region, the Pacific Northwest, and mountain states. The engines feature horizontally opposed pistons, the so-called boxer layout that Porsche also uses. This results in strong torque for accelerating up hills while helping maintain a low center of gravity for improved handling.
We found the Outback to be an exceptionally capable car on unpaved forest roads. Extensive driving on Montana's back roads revealed that its tough, supple suspension could handle rough roads, and its superb all-wheel-drive performed well in all sorts of slippery conditions. Out on the open highway the Outback is smooth and comfortable and feels like a regular car.
We also drove it for one week of nasty Pacific Northwest winter, and it gave us a sense of security like few cars can. Confidence that with the Outback under us, we could breeze through whatever weather we were dealt.
Two engines are available, balancing efficiency and performance. Best government-rated fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 22/29 mpg City/Highway for the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). For maximum performance, a 256-hp 3.6-liter six-cylinder is available, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Neither engine uses forced induction or turbocharging to achieve its rated output, and both run on regular unleaded fuel.
Four-wheel independent suspension is standard. The revised rear suspension for 2010 incorporates a double-wishbone design, which delivers a smoother ride and enables a larger rear cargo area.
The Outback emphasizes cargo carrying, with large doors that swing open wide, and good interior dimensions for cargo room.
Possibly because the Outback is not exactly like anything else on the market, Subaru reports very high owner loyalty. More than 800,000 Outbacks have been sold since they were introduced.
The 2011 Subaru Outback is available with a choice of two engines, three transmissions, with Base, Limited or Premium trim levels. Outback 2.5i models come with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission ($23,195) or CVT ($24,195). Outback 3.6R ($28,195) comes with the 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission.
Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning with air filter, six-way manually adjustable driver seat, four-way manually adjustable passenger seat, 100-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with four speakers and auxiliary jack, remote keyless entry, power locks, power windows, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, two power outlets, anti-theft alarm, 16-inch steel wheels, 215/60R16 tires.
Premium trim for the Outback 2.5i with manual transmission ($24,495) or CVT ($25,495) or 3.6R ($29,195) upgrades with a 10-way power driver seat, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/60R17 tires and other features.
Limited trim for the Outback 2.5i with CVT ($28,495) and the 3.6R ($31,495) includes leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, 440-watt harman/kardon AM/FM/XM/6CD/MP3 audio with nine speakers, Bluetooth, heated mirrors, heated seats, power passenger seat.
Options include an All-Weather Package ($500) adding heated mirrors, seats and de-icing equipment along with other packages that combine features.
Safety features include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, quick brake assist, traction control, VDC electronic stability control, all-wheel drive, LATCH child safety locks, rear-door child locks.