Subaru is an interesting brand; it’s perfectly content to sit out of the limelight as grab enough attention to be successful. While Ford, and GM and FCA fight it out year after year for total dominance, Subaru (much like Kia) continues to plod along, slowly climbing in sales. I’ll bet if we asked you where Subaru ranks among the 38 manufacturers now selling vehicles in the U.S., you’d put it solidly in mid pack. Well, the surprise is on you: Subaru sales are ranked eighth, ahead of Dodge, Volkswagen, BMW, Chrysler, GMC and dozens of others. Every month we get another press release stating that Subaru set another sales record. For 2014, Subaru sold 20 percent more than 2013, with total sales over 500,000 for the first time in company history; plus, it has over 3 percent market share. We know a lot of other manufacturers that would kill for those numbers. So how is Subaru doing this? Easy: it’s building great vehicles that people want, such as the all-new 2015 Subaru Outback.
Is the Subaru Outback a wagon? A crossover? An SUV? Does it really matter? What we know is that it’s great at being all of those things. So great in fact, that those who buy one usually buy another when it’s time for a replacement. We personally know two people who own them, love them, and repurchase every time. The Outback is going to have its best sales year since 2009, and that makes it Subaru’s second best-selling vehicle behind the Forester.
Seriously, what’s not to like? The Outback over the years has morphed from an unassuming people mover to a vehicle with purpose: much bolder and with cleaner, aerodynamic styling. The grille is prominent without being overly aggressive (lesson learned from the first Tribeca), and the sweep to the back is graceful, keeping in mind that Subaru customers really use their vehicles and need rear head room as well as cargo capacity. Form follows function truly applies here, and for the better.
Inside, the Outback is looking more upscale than ever before. In full disclosure, we did have the top of the line model: the 3.6R Limited, which means ours was fully loaded. While some journalists prefer a base model, we like the upper end because it gives us a chance to try out all the features Subaru offers. The Limited comes standard with a long list of features, such as perforated leather trimmed seating, a truly impressive Harman/Kardon Surround 12-speaker audio system with 576 watts of power, 10-way heated driver’s seat, woodgrain pattern trim and power rear liftgate with memory. Ours also came with the optional moonroof package and Keyless Access with pushbutton start and navigation. While a base 2.5i starts at $25,745 including delivery, our test model based at $33,845, and with options, went out the door at $36,040. This is a darn good value when you put it up against competitors like The Toyota Venza or Ford Edge.
Ergonomics are excellent, and the new soft-touch materials really help the Outback step up a serious notch in the premium arena. And while we know the woodgrain trim isn’t real, it sure looked good enough to fool a lot of passengers. The seats were comfortable, with plenty of room in the back for real people. We especially liked the touchscreen glass on the navigation/entertainment screen; it’s similar to the iPhone without the gimmicky haptic feel (sorry Cadillac). We did ponder why the hazard button is so large and prominent in the center console, though. Outbacks don’t usually get stuck in many hazardous situations like snow and mud.