For years, Subaru stayed out of the overcrowded crossover and SUV race by offering what it called its sport utility wagon: the Subaru Outback. Subaru used the 2009 New York International Auto Show to debut the fourth generation of the Outback which has grown in size to offer a more spacious interior. While its sedan counterpart, the Subaru Legacy (which itself was completely redesigned for the New York Auto Show), focuses on providing a sporty ride, the Subaru Outback aims at providing a more stylish alternative to crossovers and SUVs without giving up the interior space that makes the segment so popular. Since its initial debut in 1994, Subaru's sport utility wagon has been a key factor in Subaru's surprisingly positive sales numbers so far this year. The 2010 Subaru Outback will go on sale later this year competing against rugged wagons such as the Volvo XC70 and the all-new Audi A4 Allroad and Saab 9-3X.
Helping to give the new wagon a more rugged truck-like look and stance, the 2010 Outback features the requisite matte-grey lower plastic cladding, a more upright front grille and hood and, because its designed for off-road use, an improved 8.6 inches of ground clearance. Most of the rounded edges have been squared off to accentuate the vehicle's multi-purpose existence, but the Outback is still recognizably a Subaru. Adding to the Outback's versatility and its tall appearance, the 2010 Outback features an innovative roof rack system that can store the crossbars into the roof rails when they aren't needed to help reduce wind noise.
Although the exterior is all business, the new Outback's cabin focuses on comfort, style and luxury. One of the most noticeable changes on the 2010 Subaru Outback compared to the current model is the redesigned instrument and center stack which prominently features a navigation display screen that is about twice the size of what the 2009 Outback offers. Subaru used every opportunity it could to maximize interior space including replacing the center-mounted lever-actuated parking brake with a button-operated electronically actuated parking brake allowing for a wider, more useful center console. Compared to the current model, the 2010 has grown in almost every dimension which directly correlates to a larger cabin. Subaru says the cabin volume has grown by eight percent adding up to improved space for not only the wagon's occupants but their luggage and cargo, too.
Subaru's focus on passenger safety is also highlighted by the 2010 Outback's smart side-curtain airbags and the stronger front seats with energy-absorbing headrests to reduce whiplash injuries in the even of a rear-end collision.
Unlike the Legacy, the all-new Outback will be available in just two trim levels that will continue to pair Boxer engines with Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. The base 2010 Outback 2.5i will use a SOHC 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder Boxer engine capable of 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission on the 2.5i is a six-speed manual transmission, but it will also offer the all-new Subaru Lineartronicâ„¢ continuously variable transmission (CVT) as an option. The top-of-the-line Outback 3.6R offers a more powerful and fuel efficient engine compared to the current 2009 Outback 3.0R. Replacing the 3.0-liter engine on the current legacy, the top-of-the-line 2010 Legacy 3.6R uses a substantially larger 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder Boxer engine capable of 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available on the 3.6R is Subaru's all-new five-speed automatic. For now, there is no word of a turbocharged Outback 2.5XT model joining the 2010 lineup, but that could be available sometime after launch.
The benefit of the Boxer engine is a lower center of gravity for better handling and performance, and the 2010 Outback improves upon this idea. For 2010, Subaru has mounted the engine to a sub cradle instead of directly to the chassis which is aimed to reduce noise, vibration and harshness caused by engine vibrations. Fuel economy estimates have not been released yet, but all three models are expected to improve upon the current Legacy's EPA estimates thanks to reduced weight, improved engine cooling and Active Valve Control System (used on the Legacy 3.6R).