Car Review: 2012 Subaru Outback

Highlights: Like all Subarus, the Outback is only available in an all-wheel drive configuration. For those opting for the base model Outback, a manual transmission is available.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $30,110 (base model starts at $ 24,070)

Seating Capacity: 5 occupants

Standard Safety Features: all-wheel drive; an electronic parking brake; daytime running lights; traction control; front and side airbags; daytime running lights; tire pressure monitoring system; rollover sensor; and a brake assist system.

Standard Equipment (base model): 16-inch steel wheels; cloth seats;  reclining rear seats; manually adjusted cloth seats; air condition; cargo area mat; remote keyless entry; tilt/telescopic steering wheel; roof rails with integrated cross bar; and 8 cupholders

Trim Levels:

  • 2.5i
  • 2.5i Premium
  • 2.5i Limited
  • 3.6R
  • 3.6 Premium
  • 3.6 Limited

Standard Audio: a 4-speaker AM/FM with a CD player

Bluetooth Connectivity: available depending upon trim level

iPod connectivity: depending on trim level

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder/170-hp

Recommended Fuel: Regular

Standard Fuel Mileage: 22-city/29-hwy

What’s New: While the Outback is basically a carryover for the 2012 model year, Subaru has made the following package tweaks, adding a new 17-inch alloy wheel package and heated seats to the base model and for the higher end Premium and Limited models several new audio systems are now available.

Pros:  In a time and day where station wagons have become obsolete and have cleverly been disguised as crossovers, the Subaru Outback has remained true to its calling. For consumers looking for a roomy, stylish, affordable, versatile vehicle with an all-wheel drive system, the Subaru Outback is a great choice.

The Outback offers comfortable supportive seats, great visibility, an electronic parking brake, two engine choices (a 4-cylinder and a 6-cylinder), a Satellite radio system, a dual-zone automatic digital climate control system, fog lights, a power sunroof, leather seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support and a retractable/removable cargo-area cover - depending on the trim package selected. The Subaru Outback is truly an all-purpose vehicle capable of weathering any type of driving condition, especially with its high ground clearance.

Furthermore, we found the Outback’s gas mileage in the 4-cylinder we reviewed to be a pleasant surprise, especially since it’s an all-wheel drive. We also were able to achieve slightly over 400 miles on one tank of gas.

Cons: There were several quirks we had with this midsize Subaru wagon. First of all the 4-cylinder engine was quite noisy. In fact, the underpowered four-cylinder engine in the vehicle we reviewed sounded like a whiny lawnmower. Also the vehicle we reviewed not only lacked some of the latest technology (blind spot lane changing, push-button keyless starter and back up camera) that’s been infused into a number of today’s vehicles, it wasn’t equipped with automatic rolling lock doors. Yes, in this day and age where the vehicle do most everything for you except drive, we had to be reminded several times to both lock and unlock the doors manually.

Moreover, we found the upgraded premium 9-speaker audio system in the Outback we reviewed contained a lot of static. We were seeking more of a pure, crystal-clear sound.

Verdict: For buyers looking for a no nonsense vehicle that is truly a wagon and not disguised as crossover or some other type of vehicle, the Subaru Outback is the perfect choice. Unlike most vehicles these days, no owner’s manual is needed to figure out how to operate the controls. Now while we found the 4-cylinder to be noisy for a $30,000 vehicle, we would like to spend time with the 6-cylinder to see if it offers more power and less noise. We do realize the 6-cylinder will cost us more, while at the same time sacrificing gas mileage.  However, for consumers in need of a wagon, but can forgo the all-wheel drive system and have no plans on taking their vehicle off road, the Acura TSX Sport Wagon could be a perfect alternative for those willing to fork-out  around $32,000.

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him on Twitter/JeffCars.