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by Tony Souza



2008 Subaru Outback 2.5i
click on any image to enlarge

Subaru has always been a car company that has marched to the beat of its own drum. From the funky styling (I mean that in a good way) of their earlier models, to the high performance, big winged examples of its later models, this company has always offered cars that are unique and interesting. While I have always been intrigued by the marquee, this was my first drive in a Subaru.

Conditions for the test drive were spot on perfect, with clear skies and seventy-degree temperatures. I drove a combination of highway, city surface streets, and winding back roads. It would have been nice to test the all-wheel drive capabilities of this car in rain and snow, but that will have to wait for another day.

Pros and Cons

  • Quiet Ride
  • Good road handling capabilities
  • Handsome interior design
  • Storage capacity

  • Underpowered motor
  • Bland exterior styling
Subaru Outback badge

Build

The model tested was the 2.5i. It comes equipped with a 4 cylinder 2.5 liter motor that generates 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque. The motor is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission with normal and “sport-shifting” modes. Power is delivered to the road via an all-wheel drive system completed by 17 inch, seven spoke alloy rims shod with Bridgestone Potenza P255/55R17 tires.

Close examination of the exterior of this car revealed a well engineered vehicle. All of the body panels were properly aligned. There is significant heft in the doors, hood, and trunk. The doors closed easily and with a satisfyingly solid “thunk.” It’s apparent that Subaru did not attempt to cut costs in this vehicle with thin, insubstantial body panels. The only exterior area that raised any concern was a large plastic panel on the rear hatch directly under the window. This panel appeared a little loose and rattled when closing the hatch.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

Subaru put together a very pleasant interior for this car. The instrument cluster is easily visible behind a three-spoke steering wheel. The controls are laid out in an intelligent manner and easy to operate. This is a very “intuitive” vehicle. I was able to operate all of its controls almost immediately upon entering the vehicle without having to consult the owner’s manual.

The seats are very supportive and comfortable. I don’t think there would be any problem in taking this car out for the entire day. I sat in the back seats and found them adequate. I’m 5’9” and had no problem with legroom. However, while there is adequate rear-seat legroom, there wasn’t enough room to stretch out.

The stereo sounded very nice, but tended to struggle at higher volumes. Teenagers need not apply.

Fold down the rear seats and you now have an amazing amount of cargo room. I know that I would be able to fit one and possibly two bikes in the back of the Outback with little or no problem. The interior space is augmented by a roof-rack. This vehicle can easily handle all the gear you could need on a camping trip for two.

view of cockpitoutback back seat

Performance

The 2.5 liter motor was barely adequate with two people in the car. I would have taken 0-60 times, but I forgot my calendar at home. If you are interested in hauling around a family of four, especially if you are considering this vehicle for an outdoors lifestyle, opt for the turbo model. This car fully loaded with four people and their associated gear paints a grim picture when considering mountain roads. It just doesn’t have enough horsepower or torque. While this might be somewhat alleviated by a five-speed transmission, I just don’t see this as the motor to go with. As for the “sport-shifting” mode…waste of time with this motor.

Handling

I was surprised by the well-sorted handling characteristics of this car. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t handle like a sports car and wasn’t designed to. But this car was a pleasure to drive. Comfortable and very quiet on most road surfaces, this car showed some spirit in the twisties. It transitioned very easily, albeit with some body roll, and was very predictable. When pushed hard, the front and rear ends stopped communicating and the vehicle started to wallow. But for normal and slightly spirited driving, Subaru got it spot-on.

The down side to this vehicle’s handling, and something that I consider a very big down side, is its braking. 60-0 stops were not confidence inspiring.

Styling

When I first saw the car in my driveway, I thought, “station-wagon.” Well, it is a station-wagon, but one with all wheel drive and a heritage geared towards sensible all road adventure. However, the styling has none of that Subaru “funkiness” and is easily lost in the crowd.

subaru outbackengine baytrunk badge

Value

The MSRP for this vehicle is $24,595. Subaru is facing some stiff competition with the 4 cylinder Honda CR-V AWD coming in at $24,050 and the 4 cylinder Toyota RAV4 4WD coming in at $22,350. I think that the asking price for the Suby is a bit high. However, the Subaru’s quiet ride and build quality make a compelling argument for its purchase. In the end, you should test drive all vehicle’s that meet your budget and requirements. You might be surprised.

Conclusion

Build

Interior

Performance

Handling

Styling

Value

Overall

Rating

4

4

3

4

2.5

3

3.4/C

  • Solid, well aligned body panels earned a 4 in the build category.
  • Thoughtful, intuitive controls and comfortable materials earn this car a 4 in the interior category.
  • An asthmatic engine resulted in a 3 for performance.
  • Handling and ride quality were the pleasant surprise of this vehicle, 4 for handling.
  • There’s nothing to set this car apart from the rest of the crowd, therefore it gets 2.5 for styling.
  • Even though it faces a lot of competition in its market, I think that it is still a decent value, 3
This car is all about practicality. It can get you and your family, along with a fair amount of gear, to your chosen destination in safety and comfort. For those who lead active lifestyles, or those who want a little extra safety when the weather takes a turn for the worse, the all wheel drive is an attractive feature. Although the Subaru faces a lot of competition from other practical, all-wheel drive vehicles, this is still a decent bargain…just opt for the turbo model.
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