Subtle revisions to an established player
What it Isnew cars: 2008 Subaru Outback Preview – The Outback is a version of the Subaru Legacy with a reconfigured suspension that gives it better off-road capability. It’s no rock crawler, mind you, but it’s a great option for people who enjoy winter sports, go camping occasionally, or otherwise find themselves in mild off-road situations. The raised suspension is also more comfortable than the standard Legacy, so the on-road ride is quite nice as well. Previously available in wagon and sedan body styles, the sedan is dropped for 2008, returning the Outback to its original anything-you-want-as-long-as-it’s-a-wagon choice.
For 2008, the Outback and Legacy continue their separation into two distinct models by offering only one body style each. The Outback is now only available as a wagon, while the Legacy is only a sedan. While we doubt that the goofy-looking Outback sedan will be missed, the Legacy GT wagon might be. An Outback is separated from the Legacy by its big fog lights, raised stance and lower body cladding, intended to appeal to SUV buyers. While the current Outback tones this theme down considerably compared to its predecessors, the high-riding stance may throw off buyers who want a small wagon without the Outback’s styling gimmicks. But what about cabin space, long the bugaboo of Outbacks? That’s an issue that won’t be addressed until a thorough revision arrives.
What it Looks Like
The changes for 2008 are subtle. A new, larger grille and headlights are the most obvious change, and even then you have to look twice to notice. The rear is also mildly revised with new taillights that look like they were stolen off a Toyota Matrix. L.L. Bean editions also get new wheels that look too luxurious and out of place on the Outback. Overall, the Outback now sports a more mainstream, conservative look, farther away from its woodsy camping roots.
Inside, Outback models gain a redesigned instrument panel and revised interior fabrics. A telescopic steering column and a new integrated ignition key/remote entry unit join the standard equipment list for every 2008 Outback model, and electroluminescent gauges, formerly featured only on the turbo models, will now be included in the 6-cylinder models for 2008. Premium models get additional steering wheel controls, including the audio system, cruise control, the multi-information display and separate Si Drive controls.
What We Think
The revisions to the Outback are pretty mild, and only serve to reinforce the model’s position in Subaru’s lineup. The departure of the sedan version is no great loss, and while we think overall the styling revisions are a nice refresh for the line, it may be a case of the Outback growing up a tad too much: when the co-worker who always wears jeans and a polo shirt comes to work in suit and power tie, it’s a bit jarring at first. For the Outback, the loss of its more colloquial styling into a mainstream crossover/SUV competitor is at the cost of its unique charm. Photos courtesy of Subaru, Brian Chee