Since the demise of the Subaru Legacy Wagon in 2009, the Japanese automaker has been focusing on its other wagon, the Subaru Outback. Essentially a Legacy with a taller ride height, and a few rugged extras, the latter was completely redesigned for 2015 and returns virtually unchanged for 2016.
While 4-cylinder BOXER models account for a large portion of Outback sales (which are steadily increasing, by the way), well-off customers turn to the 6-cylinder BOXER engine for its renowned flexibility and slightly higher towing capacity.
The power of 6 goes to 4 wheels
The 2016 Subaru Outback’s 3.6L mill develops 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. Unlike previous editions, it is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) dubbed “Lineartronic,” which improves fuel economy. Don’t expect this Outback to achieve hybrid-like efficiency, though: Urban consumption can get pretty high (officially 12L/100km). Said CVT can simulate gear shifts and even comes with paddle shifters for drivers who want to feel a bit more involved.
Of course, Subaru’s symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system is part of the package — and just as effective as it’s always been. Let’s not forget the X-Mode button that maximizes traction when things get tricky or slippery.
The perks of owning a wagon
Over the years, Subaru has developed a strong reputation for building durable cars, but not necessarily distinctive interiors. History repeats itself as the latest Outback is clearly more obsessed with function than form. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. In fact, most drivers will find it easier to live with.
The main HVAC controls are found below the navigation display, while other controls reside on the steering wheel (which feels good in hand). The driving position is outstanding thanks to multiple seating and steering adjustments. And this being a wagon, lateral visibility is nothing short of excellent.
There is plenty of room for both front and rear passengers, although some SUVs offer more. The real beauty of the Subaru Outback, however, lies in its ultra-capacious trunk. If you somehow need additional cargo space, just fold the rear seats and you’re set. A folding front-passenger seat would have been nice to really make the most of all that interior room, though.
More assertive look
As mentioned earlier, the Subaru Outback was redesigned last year, so don’t look for major changes now. Other than Venetian Red Pearl replacing Twilight Blue Metallic, there’s nothing to write your mom about. The roof rack system with swing-in-place crossbars once again comes standard, along with extra lower cladding in black plastic. The Limited models continue to stand out with a set of exclusive 18” alloy wheels.
Styling will always be a matter of personal taste, but you have to admit that the fifth-generation Outback looks sharper and more assertive than its predecessor, especially up front.
Is the Outback any fun?
Comfort, interior room, and build quality are all great attributes, but what about the drive? Does the 2016 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited have what it takes to put a smile on the driver’s face? While it may not be able to attack twisty roads at a torrid pace, this manly wagon has no reason to be ashamed of its overall performance. In typical Subaru fashion, steering is heavy and relatively precise (blame the fatter tires).
The raised suspension gives the Outback a definite edge when driving in deep snow, but don’t confuse it with a Ford F-150 SVT Raptor! What you need to remember is that the Outback is firm enough to deliver adequate handling in most situations. The solid chassis also makes occupants feel safe and allows them to enjoy the road that much more.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature was too kind to me during the test week, so I couldn’t really put the AWD system to the test. However, based on past experiences, I guarantee you that it knows exactly what it’s doing when traction starts to fade.
I must say the 6-cylinder BOXER is very responsive and happy to play as soon as you depress the throttle. The CVT does increase engine speed pretty quickly, but acceleration is not as noisy as the 4-cylinder equivalent. And when you reach your cruising speed, the Outback keeps quiet as it should. The only real downside of the bigger powerplant is fuel consumption, which amounted to a ridiculous 16.2L/100km in the city while on my watch.
Final word on the Subaru Outback
Despite being a gas guzzler, the 2016 Subaru Outback 3.6R remains one of the best family-friendly vehicles on the market. If you have 2-3 kids and a lot of gear to carry, this comfortable jack of all trades will serve you well (even more so with the accessory roof box).